Patterico's Pontifications


Strawman of the Day

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:51 pm

The Strawman of the Day comes from New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt:

The Times was immediately accused — in The New York Post and the conservative blogosphere, and by hundreds of messages to the public editor — of portraying all veterans as unstable killers. It did not.

Here is the New York Post article in question. It doesn’t accuse the Times of portraying “all veterans” as unstable killers.* Rather, it focuses on the poor statistics of the NYT article — the same issue that the conservative blogosphere emphasized, and that Hoyt eventually admits is the article’s major weakness.

Hoyt’s piece is written in the fashion that readers have become accustomed to: mischaracterizing critics’ points early in the column, while burying admissions of error somewhere near the end.

Newspapers should figure out how to give these ombudsmen real independence, or scrap the whole concept. Phony representation of readers’ views is worse than no representation at all.

*Only a highly tendentious reading of an isolated sentence taken out of context could possibly justify such a mischaracterization. The piece acknowledges that the Times pointed to 121 cases — which hardly amounts to “all veterans.”

The First Men in Space Sub-Orbital Flight? (Updated x2)

Filed under: International,Space — DRJ @ 9:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This 2001 Pravda article on the first men in space may end up as a footnote in history but it’s news to me:

“As 40 years have passed since Gagarin’s flight, new sensational details of this event were disclosed: Gagarin was not the first man to fly to space. Three Soviet pilots died in attempts to conquer space before Gagarin’s famous space flight, Mikhail Rudenko, senior engineer-experimenter with Experimental Design Office 456 (located in Khimki, in the Moscow region) said on Thursday.

According to Rudenko, spacecraft with pilots Ledovskikh, Shaborin and Mitkov at the controls were launched from the Kapustin Yar cosmodrome (in the Astrakhan region) in 1957, 1958 and 1959. “All three pilots died during the flights, and their names were never officially published,” Rudenko said. He explained that all these pilots took part in so-called sub- orbital flights, i.e., their goal was not to orbit around the earth, which Gagarin later did, but make a parabola-shaped flight. “The cosmonauts were to reach space heights in the highest point of such an orbit and then return to the Earth,” Rudenko said. According to his information, Ledovskikh, Shaborin and Mitkov were regular test pilots, who had not had any special training, Interfax reports.

“Obviously, after such a serious of tragic launches, the project managers decided to cardinally change the program and approach the training of cosmonauts much more seriously in order to create a cosmonaut detachment,” Rudenko said.”

I grew up in the main years of the space race and everyone was fascinated with news about the space program – either because of pride in American accomplishments or concern about the Soviet’s. Chief among those accomplishments was the ability to bring astronauts/cosmonauts home alive so it’s little wonder the Soviets didn’t make this public, but I think it makes NASA’s early accomplishments that much more impressive.

H/t Instapundit.

UPDATE 1: In other space news, watch out for an uncontrollable US spy satellite the size of a small bus and containing hazardous materials that will fall to Earth in February or early March. Here’s my favorite part, where they explain past falling satellites were directed to a controlled re-entry (which is not possible in this case):

“In 2002, officials believe debris from a 7,000-pound science satellite smacked into the Earth’s atmosphere and rained down over the Persian Gulf, a few thousand miles from where they first predicted it would plummet.”

Heh! The prediction missed by only a “few thousand miles” or as Maxwell Smart would say “Missed it by THAT much.”

UPDATE 2: Several comments raise serious doubts about this story.


South Carolina Democratic Exit Polls (Updated x3)

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 5:58 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

UPDATE 3 @ 11:45 PM EST – Here are the final CNN South Carolina exit poll results. They’re interesting but too lengthy to reproduce in full so here’s my summary:

— Obama’s voters were gender neutral while more women voted for Hillary and more men for Edwards.

— As to age, under-60 voters preferred Obama while over-60 voters preferred Hillary.

— When you add race and age, all black voters preferred Obama and non-black voters over 60 split between Hillary and Edwards. Non-black voters 30-60 picked Edwards.

— Voters who attend church, even those who only attend occasionally, voted for Obama.

** End of Update 3 **

There is some interesting information in the preliminary data from exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks in today’s South Carolina Democratic primary. Here’s my abbreviated version:

— 1/4 of whites voted for Obama.
— 40% of white women voted for Hillary.
— Bill’s last-ditch campaigning made a difference.
— Edwards surged at the end.
— Black men and women voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Here’s the long version reprinted at The State:


Black voters in South Carolina voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, with eight in 10 supporting him. Nearly all the rest voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton. While a quarter of whites also voted for Obama, three-quarters of whites split their votes between the two white candidates, Clinton and John Edwards, about evenly. Edwards’ support came almost exclusively from white voters.


In the historic battle that pitted a black man against a white woman, the question on many minds was how black women would vote. They went overwhelmingly for the black man, in the same eight in 10 proportions as black men. Nearly all the rest voted for Clinton.

Clinton wasn’t even able to win a majority of white women, a group she won with just over 40 percent of the vote. Edwards was not far behind Clinton among white women, and Obama won about 20 percent of them.


Three in four voters said the country is ready to elect a black president, and about the same said the country is ready to elect a woman. Nine in 10 Obama voters said the country is ready for a black president, but fewer Clinton voters said the country is ready. Nearly all Clinton voters and two-thirds of Obama voters said the country is ready to elect a woman president.


Just over half the voters said they were looking for candidate who could bring about needed change, a group Obama won handily. Fewer than 15 percent of voters said they were mostly looking for a candidate with experience, the only candidate quality that Clinton dominated. Edwards and Obama split the votes of those who want a candidate who cares about people like them, and Clinton and Obama split the votes of those few voters who were looking for a candidate who can win in November.


Given three choices, half the voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the country, up from 38 percent in the New Hampshire primary in early January. Economy voters lined up behind the candidates in a similar fashion to the overall result, with Obama winning about half, Clinton coming in well behind and Edwards in third.

About a quarter of voters said health care was the most important problem facing the country. Obama won their support by an even greater margin than he won economy voters, with Clinton getting just a quarter of their support. The war in Iraq was judged most important by only one in five voters, and they also voted mostly for Obama.


Given the choice, 6 in 10 voters said the issues were most important to their vote, and they voted for Obama. Clinton did a little better among those who said leadership and personal qualities were most important, but Obama still won that group as well.


Over half of those white voters who decided within the last three days voted for Edwards, with the rest going to Obama and Clinton about evenly. But this late shift in support was not enough for Edwards to win convincingly among whites. Slightly fewer blacks said they made up their minds in the last three days, and nine in 10 late deciders who were black went to Obama.


It appears that Bill Clinton’s campaigning for his spouse helped her in the state, but not enough to get her the win. Nearly six in 10 said former President Clinton’s campaigning in the state was an important factor for them, including a quarter who called it very important.

Blacks who said his campaigning was important were almost 10 times more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton than those who said it wasn’t important, although Obama still won most of those blacks who said it was an important factor. Clinton also did better among those whites who said Bill Clinton’s campaigning was important, while Edwards won among those whites who said it wasn’t important.


After the contentious Democratic debate Monday night, three in four Obama voters said Clinton had attacked Obama unfairly and slightly fewer than half accused their own candidate of attacking Clinton unfairly. Edwards voters were more likely than either of the other candidates’ supporters to say Clinton and Obama attacked each other unfairly.”

UPDATE 1 @ 9:50 PM EST: Mickey Kaus and Tom Maguire both point out that Obama got 25% of the white vote compared to Jesse Jackson’s 5-10% in 1988. From Kaus:

“Attempted Ghettoization: Now that Bill Clinton has explicitly belittled Obama’s South Carolina victory by comparing it to Jesse Jackson’s, how does Obama’s share of the white vote compare with Jackson’s in 1988? Obama got about a quarter of the white vote, according to exit polls. … Was there even an exit poll of the 1988 caucuses? I can’t find one. … Update: Alert emailer L finds the following in a Christian Science Monitor story from March 17, 1988:

Although Jackson’s white support was significantly higher in South Carolina than in 1984 – it is estimated this year at between 5 and 10 percent of the voters – he has not made much headway with populist, blue-collar whites … [E.A.]

25% vs. 5-10%. It looks as if Bill Clinton’s comparison will not work to his wife’s advantage.”

UPDATE 2 @ 10:40 PM EST – CNN exit polls show Bill Clinton didn’t do Hillary any favors: [EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to add the link earlier. — DRJ]

“Bill Clinton’s aggressive campaigning in South Carolina in the days leading up to the state’s primary may have had a net negative effect among South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters, CNN exit polls indicate.

Roughly 6 in 10 South Carolina Democratic primary voters said Bill Clinton’s campaigning was important in how they ultimately decided to vote, and of those voters, 48 percent went for Barack Obama while only 37 percent went for Hillary Clinton. Fourteen percent of those voters voted for John Edwards.”

Joe Gandelman is not impressed with Bill, either, and labels him “the MOST UNDERSTOOD man in America” in a ‘Read the whole thing’ post.


Media Calls South Carolina for Obama (Updated x3)

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 4:18 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

With no votes reported, Fox News, CNN, ABC News, and MSNBC have already called South Carolina for Barack Obama. (MSNBC even called it a rout.) That means they’ve called this race based on exit polls. Here’s what CNN’s exit polls look like:

Democratic vote by Gender:
Male – 39%
Female – 61%

Democratic vote by Age:
18-29 — 10%
30-44 — 23%
45-59 — 37%
60+ — 29%

The most interesting issue to me will be how the female vote breaks out but I haven’t seen anything reported on that yet.

UPDATE 1 @ 8:40 PM EST – Here are the latest numbers from The State website with 43% 68% of the vote in:

Obama – 119,282 186,421
Clinton – 62,586 92,534
Edwards – 43,921 64,580

It looks like Edwards had a last-minute surge. I’m starting a separate post on the exit poll information.

UPDATE 2 @ 9:00 PM EST – With 85% of the vote in:

Obama – 228,323
Clinton – 113,892
Edwards – 78,821

UPDATE 3 @ 9:25 PM EST – This will probably be my last update but with 95% of the vote in:

Obama – 277,123
Clinton – 133,058
Edwards – 89,569

One last note: There were approximately 400,000 votes cast in the South Carolina Republican primary and over 500,000 in the Democratic primary.


Hillary Clinton Wants Delegates Heard (especially from Michigan and Florida)

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 1:37 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This year Michigan Democrats moved up their primary to January 15 in order to have a greater influence on the selection of the Democratic Presidential nominee. However, under Democratic National Committee rules, only Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are allowed to hold primaries before February 5.

As a result of this dispute, Democratic candidates Obama, Biden, Richardson, and Edwards withdrew from the Michigan primary and agreed not to campaign in Michigan. Hillary Clinton, Kucinich, Dodd, and Gravel also agreed not to campaign in Michigan but their names remained on the ballot. Those four candidates split the Michigan vote with Hillary as the big winner.

A similar dispute arose in the Florida primary scheduled for January 29.

Now Hillary Clinton has issued a statement urging that the Florida and Michigan delegates should nevertheless be seated at the Democratic Convention so the voices of Michigan and Florida voters will be heard:

“I hear all the time from people in Florida and Michigan that they want their voices heard in selecting the Democratic nominee.

“I believe our nominee will need the enthusiastic support of Democrats in these states to win the general election, and so I will ask my Democratic convention delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan. I know not all of my delegates will do so and I fully respect that decision. But I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention.

“I hope my fellow potential nominees will join me in this.

“I will of course be following the no-campaigning pledge that I signed, and expect others will as well.”

Hillary’s having a “Me-Me-Me” moment.


Are the Clintons Trustworthy? To the Brink and Back with Jonathan Chait

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 12:22 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

We all have moments in our lives where we begin to doubt a long-held belief. It seems that Jonathan Chait of Opinion and The New Republic (in an op-ed published in the LA Times) is having one of those moments:

Is the right right on the Clintons?

Hillary’s campaign tactics are causing some liberals to turn against the couple.
January 26, 2008

Something strange happened the other day. All these different people — friends, co-workers, relatives, people on a liberal e-mail list I read — kept saying the same thing: They’ve suddenly developed a disdain for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think we’ve reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons.

The sentiment seems to be concentrated among Barack Obama supporters. Going into the campaign, most of us liked Hillary Clinton just fine, but the fact that tens of millions of Americans are seized with irrational loathing for her suggested that she might not be a good Democratic nominee. But now that loathing seems a lot less irrational. We’re not frothing Clinton haters like … well, name pretty much any conservative. We just really wish they’d go away.”

Chait continues with a litany of Clinton-engineered moments denigrating Obama: The misrepresentations about Obama’s comments on Ronald Reagan; New Hampshire emails that Obama was suspect on abortion; Robocalls emphasizing Barack Hussein Obama; and BET founder Robert L. Johnson’s comments about Obama’s youthful drug use.

But the hardest part for Chait to deal with was apparently Republicans gloating that Democrats finally see the Clintons the way they have all along:

“Am I starting to sound like a Clinton hater? It’s a scary thought. Of course, to conservatives, it’s a delicious thought. The Wall Street Journal published a gloating editorial noting that liberals had suddenly learned “what everyone else already knows about the Clintons.” (By “everyone,” it means Republicans.)

It made me wonder: Were the conservatives right about Bill Clinton all along? … “

Fortunately for Democrats, Chait can still pull himself back from the brink of Clinton-hating to the comforting safety of disdain for the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and stupid Republicans. Let’s pick up with Chait’s answer to his cliff-hanger of a question:

“It made me wonder: Were the conservatives right about Bill Clinton all along? Maybe not right to set up a perjury trap so they could impeach him, but right about the Clintons’ essential nature? Fortunately, the Journal’s attempt to convince us that the Clintons have always been unscrupulous liars seemed to prove the opposite. Its examples of Clintonian lies were their claims that Bob Dole wanted to cut Medicare, that there was a vast right-wing conspiracy, that Paula Jones was “trailer trash” and that Kenneth Starr was a partisan.

Except Dole did vote to cut Medicare, there was a vast right-wing conspiracy and Starr was and is a rabid partisan. (“Trailer trash” is, of course, a matter of opinion, and it’s a cruel thing to say, but as far as whether it’s a lie — well, it’s not like they called William F. Buckley “trailer trash.”)

So maybe the answer is that the Clintons would have smeared their opponents in the 1990s, but lying is unnecessary when the other party is doing things such as voting to slash Medicare to pay for a big tax cut for the rich.”

What a relief it must be for liberals to learn it’s okay to “Don’t Worry. Be Happy” when it comes to the Clintons, even if the Clintons had to resort to lying about Hillary’s Democratic opponent.

Of course, if Hillary is nominated/elected, Chait implies that she better not take her power for granted or Democrats may abandon her:

“But the conservatives might have had a point about the Clintons’ character. Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky jeopardized the whole progressive project for momentary pleasure. The Clintons gleefully triangulated the Democrats in Congress to boost his approval rating. They do seem to have a feeling of entitlement to power.

If Hillary wins the nomination, most of us will probably vote for her because the alternative is likely to be worse. But what happens if she’s embroiled in another scandal? Will liberals rally behind her, or will they remember the Democratic primary?”

Nice try, Mr. Chait, but I doubt that’s the message Hillary will get from Democrats if she’s elected President.


Robert Novak: President Obama and AG John Edwards

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 11:11 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Robert Novak reports President Barack Obama would offer the Attorney General’s post to John Edwards:

“Illinois Democrats close to Sen. Barack Obama are quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration.

Installation at the Justice Department of multimillionaire trial lawyer Edwards would please not only the union leaders supporting him for president but organized labor in general. The unions relish the prospect of an unequivocal labor partisan as the nation’s top legal officer.

In public debates, Obama and Edwards often seem to bond together in alliance against front-running Sen. Hillary Clinton. While running a poor third, Edwards could collect a substantial bag of delegates under the Democratic Party’s proportional representation. Edwards then could try to turn his delegates over to Obama in the still unlikely event of a deadlocked Democratic National Convention.”

I guess this means Hillary won’t be picking John Edwards as her running mate.


L.A. Times Uses Dead Marine As Propaganda (UPDATED) (UPDATED AGAIN)

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 11:06 am

A Marine is murdered, and the L.A. Times puts a huge picture of her coffin in Section A, with a caption that would lead the casual reader to falsely conclude that the Marine was one of our returning war dead. Okie on the Lam explains.

P.S. For it to work, editors would have to assume that a substantial number of people wouldn’t read the subcaption — that they would just glance at the picture, make their assumption, and then turn to the part of the paper they usually read. Like the Sports section, or the comics, or the horoscope.

The editors don’t think anybody does that, do they?

UPDATE: OK, I sloppily read Okie’s post. Very sloppily. It’s no excuse, but perhaps an explanation, that I tapped out the post on a Treo while my kids were doing their swimming lessons. Okie says the picture was on Page A-15, but somehow I got the mistaken impression it was on the front page. I changed the post to replace the phrase “on the front page” with “in Section A” and removed the following language:

The editors knew damn well what they were doing here. Newspaper editors think carefully about how their front page will appear to the reader.

How does this mistake change the post? Pretty significantly, I think. Someone who bothers to root around in the back pages of Section A is much less likely to be misled by a picture like that.

Okie has something of a valid point — many people do flip through the pages of Section A without reading all the articles, and a more meaningful caption would have removed any misimpression that the casual reader might have gotten. But if my inattentive brain had processed the information that this appeared on Page A15 and not Page One, I would have seen this as a far less significant issue — as I do now.

UPDATE x2: After some thought, I’m not comfortable with the assumption I made in this post, that this indicated any attempt by editors to use the picture as “propaganda.” I do think the phrasing of the main portion of the caption has the possibility of misleading the very casual reader, who flips through the pages and glances at things that catch his eye. But it was uncharitable of me to assume that this was deliberate on the editors’ part.

Dick Morris: Clintons Count on Racist Americans

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 10:56 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Dick Morris is a politically well-known former advisor to Bill Clinton and that relationship means he has inside knowledge of the Clintons and the way they triangulate political decisions. (After all, Morris is even credited as the inventor of triangulation.)

That’s why we should take notice when Morris asserts the Clintons are counting on white Americans to vote based on racist, anti-black backlash. Morris believes that backlash will assure Hillary defeats Barack Obama, the choice of black voters:

“Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly lose the South Carolina primary as African-Americans line up to vote for Barack Obama. And that defeat will power her drive to the nomination.

The Clintons are encouraging the national media to disregard the whites who vote in South Carolina’s Democratic primary and focus on the black turnout, which is expected to be quite large. They have transformed South Carolina into Washington, D.C. — an all-black primary that tells us how the African-American vote is going to go.

By saying he will go door to door in black neighborhoods in South Carolina matching his civil rights record against Obama’s, Bill Clinton emphasizes the pivotal role the black vote will play in the contest. And by openly matching his record on race with that of the black candidate, he invites more and more scrutiny focused on the race issue.

Of course, Clinton is going to lose that battle. Blacks in Nevada overwhelmingly backed Obama and will obviously do so again in South Carolina, no matter how loudly former President Clinton protests. So why is he making such a fuss over a contest he knows he’s going to lose?

Precisely because he is going to lose it. If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama’s ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It’s one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don’t read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.”

I don’t want Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency but I care a lot more about race relations in America than I do about whether she wins or loses. Unlike the Clintons, I think most Americans are past the point where a person’s skin color matters. If this election tells us anything about race, I hope it tells us the Clintons are wrong and I’m right.


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