Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Polling Facts

Comedian John Oliver pointed out that according to a poll, one in four Americans is skeptical about the existence of climate change, to which he responded, "Who gives a [expletive]? That doesn't matter," Oliver continued. "You don't need people's opinion on a fact. You might as 
well have a poll asking: 'Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?' or 'Do owls exist?' or 'Are there hats? The only accurate way to report that one out of four Americans are skeptical about global warming is to say ‘a poll find that one of four Americans are wrong about something.'"

Now mind you, we are not talking about whether climate change is man made, but whether it exists.   Instead of polling about solutions to climate change, which 97% of all scientific studies do say man is at fault, people are being asked if it even exists.  This points to a problem with polls and how they are frequently used. There is a poll for everything and using a legitimate poll to ask questions about opinions and not factual ignorance. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, one poll in 2010 discovered that 40% of those polled believe that the Earth is 10 thousand or less years old.

There also "taste polls."  I  told students in my classes that such data is not valid.  These are the polls that ask "What do you like better? This or this? Taste is not quantifiable.  It is, after all, a matter of taste.  I am not going to change anyone's opinion on the basis of what I like.  I like it because I like it.  I know this is circular reasoning, but it is only valid if a company is trying to discover which flavor of a new product is going to be more popular.  In forming a reasoned and balanced opinion, such polls serve no real purpose.

My wife was called the other night for a poll.  It started out as a poll on general beliefs, but it soon became apparent that the questions were becoming more and more biased.  The poll, by the time it was finished, became clearly a tool that was going to be used for some political agenda of anti-abortion.  Polls are not only used now to find out opinions but form opinions.  They are used to find out if people are blindly following the red meat fed to their political beliefs.  They are used for propaganda. They are used to reinforce ignorance. They are used for more than finding out the lay of the opinion landscape.

What is more, these polls will be reported by the mainstream media. They will be used to shore up extremist positions that are founded in neither in reality or solidly informed beliefs. These polls will not be questioned or even validated.  So when you see a poll, you should always check to see what the questions were, who was sampled, and is the poll actually seeking opinion or opinion on a fact. Polls need to quit trolling, and so does the media by using polls. Sensationalism is not news.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fun with the Flag

Haven't done one in a while. And now....

A long awaited Stupid Meme...


And in answer to the question: "No." I even searched for "Obama holding the flag."

And here is a question: Do you know the story behind the picture of this meme?  

No? Well there was more than one taken.  This one:
There is also one of Bush holding it upside down, but that one is a fake. The one of him holding it backwards  is pretty well documented. Apparently, according to one source, after Laura explained to her husband that he had held the flag backwards, he did the photo op again.
Now another question: Have you, Mr. or Ms. Meme Maker, ever had a picture like this taken with you holding a flag?  No? Me either.  I actually searched for pictures of "president holding the flag" and found nothing for any other President...well there was this:

Would you ask this question about any other president? No?

One more question then: What difference does it make?

 If the biggest issue you have is who has a picture taken while holding a flag, you really should get a hobby or try reading a book instead of falling for this trolling piece of hate.

Actually there is perhaps one picture of someone with a flag you should be spreading on social media:

Stop the hate. Thanks.

Friday, June 6, 2014


We traded with the Taliban for PFC Bowe Bergdahl.  "We don't deal with terrorists" was the immediate cry.  Now while this is a supposedly sacrosanct and oft repeated phrase, it is slightly more complex than that.  The fact is we have dealt with lots of "enemy" groups over the years. I am not defending the terms of the trade, I just want to make it clear before we get caught up in all the politics played on Fox, MSNBC and Capitol Hill,  that deals have been struck before.

The deal was struck with the Taliban.  The Taliban, who are truly vile in how they have treated their people, are not terrorists.  They may have supported Al-Qaeda by letting the terror organization set up in Afghanistan, but the Taliban are not on the State Department's terrorist watch list. Now while I agree that it is hard to imagine why this group is not on a watch list, they aren't.  The Taliban was the government of Afghanistan before the US went in.  The capture of Bergdahl would actually then make him a prisoner of war.

There is more.  This is not the first time we have negotiated with people who took an American or two hostage.  Jimmy Carter negotiated with the Iranians when the Shaw was over-thrown and Americans were taken hostage in 1978.  In perhaps the most famous of hostages for trade was the secret trading done during the Reagan administration when a trade was brokered for the same Iran hostages in exchange for weapons.  This became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.  Bill Clinton negotiated with Gerry Adams leader of the Irish Republican Army, which actually was on the State Department watch list.  During the Iraq War, Bush negotiated with Sunni insurgents working with and even paying people who had been killing American soldiers.  Even Nixon set up deals for prisoners of war at the end of Vietnam, bringing home 142 prisoners in 1972 for the first release.

I am not going to comment on whether the deal was a good one or bad.  Both sides have their points.  I don't know, and from what I've read, no one knows yet what exactly were the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture.  I do not know if the deal will encourage more attempts to capture Americans by the Taliban. The trade though is not really the breaking of any sacred American maxim.