Response, Katrina, Iraq

This post is a response to a post on toehold. I put it here because (1) I haven't posted lately; and (2) this is an awfully long comment.

In my defence, my statement (though perhaps poorly phrased) was more to illustrate the point that, if you are protesting the current administration, you really want to concentrate on things other than just being anti-Bush. By being primarily anti-Bush, you're really hoping that people vote for your side, as opposed to not voting, voting for a third party, writing "Mickey Mouse" on the ballot, etc.

Concerning the abysmal public opinion - it appears that it might be going back up. RealClearPolitics (which is, as far as I can tell, reasonably non-partisan), lists several polls and the current approval looks to be rebounding to about 45%. Considering the pounding he took over Katrina, that's a pretty decent recovery. One does wonder what would happen if the media spent as much time recanting all the inaccurate stories of murder, rape, etc - I doubt that he would top a 50% approval rating, however. (I did read an interesting quote (transcript here) from Hugh Hewitt (partisanship aside, it's still a good point):

The central part of this story, what went on at the convention center and the Superdome was wrong. American media threw everything they had at this story, all the bureaus, all the networks, all the newspapers, everything went to New Orleans, and yet they could not get inside the convention center, they could not get inside the Superdome to dispel the lurid, the hysterical, the salaciousness of the reporting. . . .

There weren't stacks of bodies in the freezer. But America was riveted by this reporting, wholesale collapse of the media's own levees they let in all the rumors, and all the innuendo, all the first-person story because they were caught up in this own emotionalism. Exactly what Keith was praising I think led to one of the worst weeks of reporting in the history of American media, and it raises this question: If all of that amount of resources was given over to this story and they got it wrong, how can we trust American media in a place far away like Iraq where they don't speak the language, where there is an insurgency, and I think the question comes back we really can't.

Anyway, getting back to the approval rating (though the quote above might get revisited in another post), I believe that Clinton, even during the impeachment and afterwards, had an approval rating greater than 60%. Evn so, he was not used in Gore's 2000 campaign precisely because Gore was worried that Clinton would actually hurt his chances with the electorate. (Whether or not this is true is unknown - had Clinton been more involved, Gore might have won more states, or he might have lost votes.) Anyway, the point is that even a popular President can have a negative coat-tails effect. The real test will be the 2006 elections - if the President still has a low approval rating, and the Democrats can offer a positive alternative to the Republicans, they should do fairly well. If, however, the Democrats continue to maintain a more "anti-Bush" strategy, then they may not do nearly as well.


It helps to have a focus

It really helps to have a focus when you are staging a rally. I've been watching the video (off and on) of the anti-war/pro-peace rally on the Ellipse, and, if I didn't know better, I'd be hard pressed to say what exactly the rally is about. If I had to compress things into bullet points, this is what I would have:
  • George W Bush is a war criminal.
  • Israel is bad.
  • George W Bush is responsible for the deaths caused by Hurrican Katrina.
  • George W Bush is a war criminal.
  • Palestinians just want peace, plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • George W Bush should be impeached, because he is a war criminal.
  • Iraq is an illegal and immoral quagmire.
  • George W Bush is a war criminal.
  • PNAC and an pro-Israel cabal are responsible for the war in Iraq.
See, not much focus, other than GWB=Antichrist. He's not running for anything - it's not as though you can defeat him personally next time at the voting booth. Likewise, if you are marching for an end to the war in Iraq, don't diffuse the message with all sorts of ancillary things, like Hurricane Katrina, Palestine, Haiti, racial equality, PNAC conspiracies, etc.

(I thought about making a drinking game, but quickly realized that I do not have enough alcohol in the house to take a drink every time I heard Haiti, Palestine, PNAC, or war criminal.)

If you want to protest, that's kewl. That's better than kewl, that's great - it shows that you actively care about the directions in which this country is moving (and the same applies to the counter-rally scheduled for tomorrow). But, if you want to actually convince people to share your point of view, it's probably not a good idea to blur your focus so much. For all of Nader's call to focus like a laser beam on Congress, I kept hearing a lot of different speaches, with little unifying theme other than a strong dislike for the current president.

If were just a case of people carrying random signs to that effect, I probably wouldn't have even noticed. But this seems more like an invite went to anyone who wanted to make a speech against Bush/US foreign policy/Israel/war/racism/hurricanes/government/PNAC/little globs of cheese/etc. That could be controlled - if you want to keep some semblance of a focus, don't invite speakers that have a history of speaking on topic X when you want to protest topic Y.

For example, if I wanted to do an anti-gun-control/pro-NRA rally, there is no point in trying to get speakers from other conservative causes. While they might share certain viewpoints on the role of govenment, they're probably not going to stay on my topic, which is (hypothetically) that "gun control is a bad thing." If I have too many pro-life/pro-border control/tort reform speakers (as in, more than 0), I run the risk of diluting my core message until it is lost in the noise.


Just because a lot of people believe something doens't make it right

Okay, I'm going to rant slightly. First of all, not all memes are created equal - some are good, some are bad, some are brilliant, and some are just stupid. With that in mind (and believe me, I plan on writing something more about memes in general later), I was reading this post, and came across the following comment:

Still, something's going on. One person can be a tin hat but if so many people smell smoke in the air, there must be a fire nearby.

Bzzt! Nice try, but sorry, thanks for playing. A lot of people can believe in something, and it is still a stupid idea. Something like 6% of the US population believes that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings. That means, based on the 2000 census, that approximately 16,885,314 people believe that the moon landings were faked! As I said, just because a lot of people believe in an idea, it doesn't automatically confer some sort of credible status to it.

The mere existence of urban legends ought to be proof that belief is not the same thing as the truth.


Who decides what comments are posted, anyway?

Several days ago, I came across this post on the Huffington Post blog site. In a nutshell, Michelle Pilecki quotes a story about Dick Cheney's office calling to assert that restoring several substations vital to the "Atlanta-based Colonial Pipeline, which moves gasoline and diesel fuel from Texas, through Louisiana and Mississippi and up to the Northeast." This was to be done before restoring power to several hospitals and other agencies in the area. Since then, TalkLeft has picked up the story.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this post, anyway? Simple - I refuse to use my real email in order to post a comment on any overtly political site, whether it is TalkLeft or RedState. That doesn't, however, mean that I won't find some junk email address and use it to fill in the requisite field on the comment section. I've had a couple posts get through in this manner, sometimes in support of a posting, sometimes in opposition.

In this case, I attempted to post a comment along the following lines:

This might not be as evil as you are trying to make it. All the rescue vehicles (be they Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA, or private individuals) are going to be needing gas. And, this would have been before Labor Day weekend, a period of heavy driving, where fuel could well be in short supply. A truck loaded with food, water and other emergency supplies does little good if it cannot get gasoline. Just as (in an airplane) you are told to place the mask over your own face before helping others, fuel needs to be avaible for the relief efforts to be moblized.

Civil, and, I think, with a valid point. If this pipeline is the primary one for the eastern seaboard, then all the relief efforts coming from Georiga, Florida, the Carolinas, etc are going to face potential fuel shortages, in addition to hazardous roads and debris. Plus, you'll need a supply of available gasoline to run generators and keep rescue vehicles going. It sounds calloused, but there is the chance that this decision was made because it was necessary for the relief effort, not in opposition to it.

Anyway, my post still hasn't gotten through. There's one post (out of nine) that asks if it is Bush that the author hates, or conservatism. All the others are comments critcal of Cheney, Bush or the administration. I vaguely wonder if my comment was rejected because (1) I debated the validity of the inital post; and (2) it was felt that I was supporting the President. In my opinion, neither of those are valid reasons for refusing a comment, especially considering the vitriol that so often is used in lieu of rational discourse on some blogs.


E-mail? Who needs it?

Just in case anyone who reads this is trying to contact me: The ISP who provides my primary e-mail address is down for the indefinite future. This may cause e-mail sent to me to start bouncing. If it's important, you'll just have to try later.

Of course, what really sucks is the number of people who have my primary e-mail address, but do not know about the blog or my alternate e-mail addys.


Half marathon

Well, I ran my first, official half marathon yesterday. It appears that this is a copy of the official times - you have to scroll down quite a bit, but I came in at #310, with a final chip time of 1:58:36.