Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I'm obviously ecstatic about the results last night. New Yorkers were literally dancing in the streets. Spontaneous outbursts of emotion everywhere. I've never seen anything like it. On TV, that is. I'm in a little pocket of McCain-land here, which is weird. But I saw it on TV and talked to friends and co-workers today, and their stories were all interesting. Of course this was a historic choice.

I was addicted to this campaign, in both good and bad ways. I followed it more closely than any campaign since I've been old enough to vote. A few things I learned this time around:

  • This was the year the pundits collectively talked themselves out of a job. About two dozen times during the election results, I actually yelled "shut up!" out loud at my TV. At one point I just put the damn thing on mute. It used to be that to talk about politics on TV, you had to actually know something about politics. And there weren't that many people on TV doing analysis, so the ones that did exist were experienced, were trusted and were usually right. But these days, they're more often than not just random people off the street who know less about politics than I do.

    This video might only tangentially illustrate my point, but it's also funny as hell so I'm posting it:

    It's really the professional "analysts" that I think have screwed themselves this year, though. They're so cocooned in their own little world that they've got less connection to reality than even most politicians.

  • Racism is still unfortunately alive and well in this country. Yeah, Obama won, and that's great. But he got 52% of the vote? In a year when 89% of the public say the country's on the wrong track, when we just had a $700 billion financial industry bailout, when the stock market's tanked by 40% and a lot of people are saying we're headed for a depression? He was called a muslim (as if there'd be something wrong with that if it was even true), he was called a terrorist, he was called every racist code word in the book. Matt Drudge packed into his top slot as many photos of Obama playing basketball as he could find, as did Fox News, reinforcing racial stereotypes. (As far as I know, he played basketball just once during the entire campaign).

    I don't believe in the "Bradley effect", but I think plenty of white people were totally up front about the fact that they weren't voting for Obama because he was black.

    Then there's McCain's concession speech (which even some liberals have called "gracious"). I sure heard it as a big "fuck you" to black people. What else can you make of this?
    A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

    In other words, racism is over, so shut the fuck up about it because you've no longer got any reason to complain. Watch this become the new mantra of the Republican party when issues like affirmative action and progressive taxation come up.

  • Related to above, the Republican rationale for why they lost the race is that there were "headwinds" against them, namely the economy (for which they are responsible, so I consider it less "headwinds" and more their own dumbass policies). They say no Republican could have won this year. But think about the "headwinds" against Obama. A black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. Yeah. Like anybody would have thought this guy had a chance. The Republicans had all the built-in advantages this year.

  • The polls were mostly right, as they usually are. Mostly. But you know who was right more than anybody? Nate Silver and his amazing site

    Open that photo up and look at it closely. Look at the projected electoral map vs. the actual electoral map. The only state he got "wrong" was Indiana, and that wasn't really "wrong" as he only had it as "lean GOP" with the Republicans ahead by about 2 points. Look at the electoral projection vs. the actual projection. Look at the projected vote totals vs. the actual vote totals. And look at the projected senate seats held vs. the actual number of seats held - keeping in mind that there are still several seats outstanding, two of which the Dems have a good chance of winning. (In other words, the 57 seats he predicted might still turn out to be not just very close, but exactly right.)

    This guy's a prodigy. He put this site up a while back and everybody was shocked when it predicted a couple of surprising results for Hillary Clinton in the primaries; results nobody else saw coming. They dug deeper and discovered that he's actually a baseball statistician who's partly responsible for publishing the Baseball Prospectus, which from what I gather is kind of a bible for fantasy baseball team owners looking to predict the performance of players over the next year.

    He took the methodology he uses for the Baseball Prospectus and applied it to elections. Basically, he has a computer model that looks at all of the polls (state and national), weights them based on things like date taken, sample size, past performance and "house bias", then runs 10,000 simulations per day to find the most likely results. He then publishes all sorts of stats from those simulations on a daily basis. I don't have them all pictured there, but he publishes things like "chance of Obama win if losing OH", "chance of Obama win if losing OH and PA", "chance of an Obama landslide", etc. (and obviously, all the same numbers for McCain, though they were all very small for him this time around).

    And he's not some jerk who thinks he knows everything, either. He doesn't pretend that his site could ever be 100% accurate. He just thinks it's the best method of prediction available. And it sure was this time around. I read this site several times per day leading up to the election. It was my daily reassurance whenever I'd see news about the polls "tightening" because one outlier somewhere had a one day sample that showed a race closer than all the others. It was my check against media spin. Which brings me to...

  • The media can no longer be trusted. None of it. I didn't used to feel this way. I'm really cynical in some ways but I also think that cynicism can sometimes be used as cover for a lack of critical thinking. Trusting nobody is the same as trusting everybody - it's just as naive. I used to think the media got a bum rap; that by and large journalists had integrity, they had experience, and they were a lot better schooled and trained in what they do than most people gave them credit for.

    I still think that about specific people. The problem is the news is no longer considered a public service. It's considered a ratings and advertising driver, no different than any other TV show. It's entertainment. CNN even sells t-shirts of their headlines on their web site these days. How is that not a conflict of interest?

    Because of the quest for ratings/page views/t-shirt sales, it's in the media's best interests to keep elections close. They'll do almost anything these days to equalize the race. They'll look for moral equivalency where none exists - one example I remember being a story that said both McCain and Obama were guilty of negative campaigning because while McCain had brought up Ayers and Palin had said Obama "pals around with terrorists", Obama had created an attack ad about the Keating Five. There is no moral equivalency there whatsoever. That would be like me running around your neighborhood knocking on doors and shouting at your neighbors that you were a child molester, and somebody else saying you were no better because you once told them that I sometimes drink straight out of the milk carton. And I did drink out of the milk carton.

    Another example are all these "the polls are tightening!" stories. If you actually search on that term, you'll find that the media has been reporting this same story since August! You'd think if the polls had been tightening for that long, the result would have been a little different. The obvious truth is that polls go up and down; they have a margin of error, and some are just outliers. The media knows this as well as I do. And they all know about sites like too. It's disingenuous for them to post stories like this when they know full well that they probably aren't true. (Of course, this then generates a flurry of "are the polls tightening?" stories from other "watchdog" sites, who themselves are fishing for page views from the same polls.)

    That's not to even mention guys like Matt Drudge, who have an obvious Republican bias but claim they don't. I don't mind sites and publications that make no bones about their leanings. I read the Huffington Post and Gawker - these are liberal sites and they don't pretend to be anything else. But I have a problem with guys like Drudge and sites like FoxNews who proclaim they have no political bias at all when it's clear to absolutely everyone with half a brain that they do. Because you know why? Some people believe them. (Not everyone does have half a brain.) And when you get your news through this warped prism thinking it's unbiased, mainstream news reporting, your entire view of normality ends up being completely skewed.

    The Republicans will tell you that the media was biased in favor of Obama. Bullshit. The media was biased in favor of a close race. They ran more positive stories about Obama because there were more positive stories to report. But they also ran more positive stories about McCain, and more negative ones about Obama, than either deserved.

    I'm not saying you can't believe anything you read. I'm saying you can no longer take anything the media says at face value.

  • Sarah Palin is finished. Again, the media is wrong about this - she's finished. (The McCain camp seems to be trying to put the final nail in her coffin today, not that there's any surprise in that.) The media's trying to prop her up because she looks good in pictures and she gets a lot of page views - it's in their interests that she remains popular. But she's a lightweight politician.

    Let's not forget what happened to Dan Quayle, which is still the best equivalent, and he actually was vice president for a while. She's going back to Alaska where she'll be governor of a state smaller in population than Rhode Island for the next four years, 5,000 miles away from Washington and out of the media sphere. Unless someone else makes her a surprise pick for VP again, any chance she had for national office is gone. She had her one shot and she blew it.

    The only chance she's got is to appoint herself to the US Senate if Ted Stevens ends up being removed. But that's a longshot to begin with, and it'd be a pretty risky move politically. Not that I'd put it past her.

  • By the way, 11 of the 13 original colonies that fought for and gained our independence as a free nation voted for Obama. That's "real America", Sarah and John. Suck on it.

I'm not trying to take anything away from what was a great night. It was a great win and for once, I'm actually looking forward to the next four years. I'm hopeful that this country can finally right itself and get back on track.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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