Did Blogs Tip Election 2004?

by Henry on November 1, 2004

For CT readers and others in the DC area …

DID BLOGS TIP ELECTION 2004?
IHS and Reason magazine present Ana Marie Cox, Daniel Drezner, Henry Farrell, and Michael Tomasky debating the role of blogs in the election on November 18.

WHAT:
A free-for-all discussion on the role of blogs and politics featuring Wonkette’s Ana Marie Cox, blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, blogger and George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, The American Prospect’s Michael Tomasky, moderated by Reason’s Nick Gillespie.

Drinks and hors d’oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

WHEN:
Thursday, November 18
7:30-9:00 pm

WHERE:
Topaz Bar
1733 N Street NW, Washington, DC
“Washington Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/entertainment/profile?fid=5&id=1067031

Space is limited, so please reserve a place by RSVPing to Alina Stefanescu
at astefane@gmu.edu. Free drink tickets will be given to the first 50
respondents!

Wanting to find out the truth about Iraqi civilian deaths

by Chris Bertram on November 1, 2004

I’m very glad that “Daniel has taken on the job of addressing the statistical arguments”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002780.html around “the Lancet study”:http://image.thelancet.com/extras/04art10342web.pdf because, quite honestly, I’m not up to it (though I did spend part of yesterday trying to get impromptu tutorials from friends on concepts like “confidence interval”). Reading the text of the Lancet piece, I was struck by three points especially. First, they let us know exactly what they did, so that critics can address their claims. Yes, there’s a highly controversial headline figure which the Guardian and others seize upon, but what the study actually says is that they asked such-and -such questions of such-and-such people, and extrapolation of the responses would generate such-and-such a number. Second, they notice a big difference between the numbers of people apparently shot by US troops (hardly any) and the numbers killed by aerial bombardments (lots). Third, they remark on the fact that the coalition forces have an obligation to find out for themselves how many civilians have been killed but have shown hardly any interest in doing so.

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“Glenn Reynolds”:http://instapundit.com/archives/018780.php and “Roger L. Simon”:http://www.rogerlsimon.com/mt-archives/2004/10/prediction.php tell us that if Kerry wins, it will be the fault of the mainstream media, and that the blogosphere will have its revenge. Simon’s post is especially creepy.

bq. If the Kerry does win, the mainstream media will have gotten him elected with their biased coverage and they will pay for it more than they could imagine. And it will be the blogosphere and you, our supporters, who will make them pay. Our strength will grow incremently [sic] with a Kerry victory in terms of influence and even economic power. And both will be at the expense of the mainstream media. Yes, we too have “plans.”

This is surely the blossoming of blogosphere triumphalism into a fully-fledged pathology. A self-sustaining narrative about the perfidy of Big Media is allowing certain bloggers to “explain” why their preferred candidate might be defeated, without any uncomfortable re-examination of prior beliefs that have turned out to be wrong. As a bonus, this provides them with a sort of tinpot revanchist mythology. If Kerry does indeed win, I’ve no doubt that Reynolds, Simon and company would be able to maintain a Regnery Publications-style alternative narrative about how they were robbed, how the invasion of Iraq really would have been a success if it weren’t for those perfidious newspapers’ insistence on ignoring “adorable little kitten stories”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002273.html etc etc. But given that warbloggers, like the rest of us, aren’t great shakes at going out there and digging up actual new information, the best they can realistically hope for is to become a distributed version of what the Drudge Report was during the Clinton years, dishing out dirt, conspiracy theories and the odd bit of useful information, but fundamentally parasitic on the mainstream media that they claim to despise.

Update: see “here”:http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2004_10_31_fafblog_archive.html#109935816604258290 for the unmissable Giblets remix.

Light Relief

by Harry on November 1, 2004

Nothing on the election or the war from me. Instead, a mention of one of my favourite radio comedies, Men From the Ministry. My younger daughter gave a CD with numerous episodes to my elder daughter for her 8th birthday; the look on the elder’s face was one of unalloyed joy when she realised what it was. UK readers of a certain age know what I’m talking about. But the Finnish readers, lucky things, know what I am talking about regardless of their age. Extraordinary. The rest of you, if you have 30 minutes to spare, can learn why you should envy the Finns by clicking here. Only in English, not Finnish. Sorry.

For those of you who think your tastes are more sophisticated, Radio 4 is running a 4-part life of Peter Cook, the funniest Englishman who ever lived, presented by Michael Palin, who now, sadly, has one competitor fewer for the title of the nicest Englishman alive. The first part will be available till Friday. If your candidate loses tomorrow, it’ll cheer you up. If you don’t know before Friday, listen anyway.

Mystery figure identified

by Chris Bertram on November 1, 2004

The hitherto anonymous votemaster at the excellent “electoral-vote.com”:http://www.electoral-vote.com/ website “has outed himself”:http://www.electoral-vote.com/info/votemaster-faq.html . He is Andrew Tanenbaum, professor of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and already mildly famous as the author of MINIX (an important precursor of Linux).

Is That a Promise or a Threat?

by Belle Waring on November 1, 2004

Mark Steyn promises to resign if Kerry is elected.

Having failed to read correctly the mood of my own backyard, I could hardly continue to pass myself off as a plausible interpreter of the great geopolitical forces at play. Obviously that doesn’t bother a lot of chaps in this line of work — Sir Simon Jenkins, Robert ‘Mister Robert’ Fisk, etc., — and no doubt I could breeze through the next four years doing ketchup riffs on Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I feel a period of sober reflection far from the scene would be appropriate. My faith in the persuasive powers of journalism would be shattered; maybe it would be time to try something else — organising coups in Africa, like the alleged Sir Mark Thatcher is alleged to have allegedly done; maybe abseiling down the walls of the Presidential palace and garroting the guards personally.

I doubt he’s quite up to it, but at least his heart’s in the right place.

Tomorrow’s race

by John Quiggin on November 1, 2004

As usual before the first Tuesday in November, Australians are closely studying the papers, trying to predict the winner in tomorrow’s race, and planning the well-lubricated parties that are essential as we wait for the results. A critical question here, and one that has been the subject of vigorous debate, is whether betting markets are efficient predictors. While some have argued strongly in favor of the markets recently, long-standing Australian tradition holds that they are utterly unreliable. There’s also a lot of debate about whether the whole turnout may be affected by the weather, and if so, in whose favour.

The level of interest is so high that the event is almost impossible to avoid. Even those who are completely apathetic have found it easier to pick an allegiance at random than to admit to not caring one way or the other.

Work will stop around the nation as we try to digest the results, and the champagne. Victorians, who take all matters of this kind more seriously than other Australians, will take the entire day off.

Update 2/11 A triumph for the betting markets, as the favorite Makybe Diva came home on the inside, the first mare to win two successive Cups. I managed a successful arbitrage on the office Calcutta buying the favorite for $25 in a pool of over $150, as opposed to market odds of 5/1 or less.

Talking rubbish about epidemiology

by Daniel on November 1, 2004

As Chris said, with respect to the Lancet study on excess Iraqi deaths, “I can predict with certainty that there will be numerous posts on weblogs supporting the war attacking the study”. Score several Cassandra points for Chris, they weren’t slow in coming. You can have the know-nothing rightwing flack variety or the handwringing liberal variety. And to be honest, the standard of critique is enough to make you weep.

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Trick or Treat

by Kieran Healy on November 1, 2004

Or, “Anything for Halloween?” as we used to chant at doorways when we went around in the Days Before Television. Other differences between Halloween in Ireland then and the U.S. now include the absence of pumpkins and the stricter dress code — we had to dress up as _something_ frightening, whereas in the U.S. it’s more like a fancy dress party. A final difference: the apartment across the way from us has a pumpkin carved with “W ’04”. I get the sense that there’s a bit of strife between the college girls who share the apartment, as one of them keeps turning the pumpkin around so that the uncarved side faces outward. If the carver comes trick-or-treating I’ll be sure to ask why she expects a handout from me. Let the market provide you with candy, I say.

Loot

by John Quiggin on November 1, 2004

With the recent emergence of stories about the looting of high explosives and pre-1991 chemical weapons from UN-secured sites, I’d like to remind everyon that this was not simply the result of negligence or inadequate numbers of troops. The Coalition forces explicitly encouraged looting. While the war was still continuing, I noted a report in The Times (4 April 2003), saying that the British were encouraging looters. The report said

The British view is that the sight of local youths dismantling the offices and barracks of a regime they used to fear shows they have confidence that Saddam Hussains henchmen will not be returning to these towns in southern Iraq.

One senior British officer said: We believe this sends a powerful message that the old guard is truly finished.

My London Times link is broken, but the report is reproduced, with attribution in the Daily TImes of Pakistan . As far as I know, there was no denial of this report at the time. Although the US forces aren’t mentioned in this report, it’s clear they were equally supportive of looting, if not more so.

As the various UN officials quoted in the story observe, once you’ve started encouraging looting, it’s going to be difficult to stop, especially in a situation where neither the troops nor their commanders had any idea about what was where. The one crucial site that was secured immediately was, of course, the Oil Ministry.