Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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This and that
This afternoon Antoine Clarke and I, all being well, will be having a recorded chat about the US presidential election.
[LATER: Here is the recording. Not everything went well. If my computer’s response is anything to go by, you will hear this through only one speaker, and in somewhat imperfect sound. But nobody listens to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom sound files to be knocked out by their superb sound quality. What we both say is audible, and the good news is that the file is far smaller than usual. I hope that, if you listen, you enjoy it. It lasts just under 45 minutes.]
Meanwhile, here is another attempt to embed a video here. This time it’s John McCain, talking about just how badly Obama screwed up this Benghazi business.
That got shown on CBS. How many people have watched it, or will watch it before the election, I have no idea. The importance of this and all the other Obama scandals is not that they are scandalous, but whether or not large numbers of Americans are hearing about them.
I have been speculating that the “mainstream” media would maybe desert Obama. Well, a few people in it are expressing doubts, but on the whole media bias has never been more blatant and brazen. This is because Obama is, far more than any previous Democrat, their perfect candidate. Hard left, and determined to inflict (in a thoroughly bad way) fundamental change on America. I really want these media people to get the kicking of their lives.
Obama’s enemies are still trying to sort out whether they think Obama is merely crass by nature, or evil on purpose. We may never know. Successful people (and Obama has been very successful by most measurements) do what they are best at.
I cannot for the the life of me see how re-electing Obama could possibly be anything but a giant act of folly and self-destruction on the part of America.
The BBC, by the way, are still saying that this election is a dead heat. Or this is what they said on the 9am news bulletin on Radio 3, just before CD Review last Saturday. Others say Obama is going to get landslided. I think landslide, but ... we shall see.
If the video isn’t working properly, please let me know. Not that I will then know what to do, but it will influence my enthusiasm for further such attempts.
As in me photographing Kreod, and as in me photographing someone else photographing Kreod. Kreod is a rather odd little sculpture that has been near the Dome for a short while, now passed.
The photographer I photographed looked very dramatic, partly because the late afternoon sun being directly behind him:
But he also looks dramatic because I am so far below him. I feature him here because he is an example of how you can make someone look heroic, just by getting yourself below them. As I discussed in a recent posting at Samizdata, about a sculpture in the City, which is at ground level and hence looks non-heroic, unless you did what another photographer did and lie down in front of it and still contrive to photograph it from below.
And here are a couple of snaps I took of Kreod itself:
In itself, I found Kreod unremarkable. It’s one of those things that starts out in the design stage feeling, at any rate to the designer, like it’s going to be really pretty, but which ends up looking tacky, in a seventies lava-lamp sort of way.
I, and others who have photoed it, think it looks better if you put a bigger and more impressive Thing behind it, so that’s what I did. Twice.
The photo bottom left was taken at exactly the same time as the one at the top. In Real Life, light turns things lighter. But with photoraphy, a bright light source darkens everything else. Strange, yes?
Well, well. I just added, to the posting below, this:
Actually, I think I got the first two sentences of the paragraph above wrong. It should read: “What polls tell you is not what voters are thinking. They tell you what the pollsters think the voters are thinking”. What I actually put is indeed “not entirely true”. This explains, I think, and as my original version does not, why pollsters don’t get the result right, but do get right the direction in which opinion is heading at any particular moment, which, as I introspect, I have been letting them tell me about. Because they do get that right. The misleading samples of people that the pollsters each talk to include a few who change their minds, and the pollsters do pick up on this. So, now, the pollsters are getting right that opinion is flowing steadily away from Obama and towards Romney. But at no stage in this process did, or do, or will they register how bad things were, and are, and will be, for Obama.
And mere hours later, I read this:
One way of avoiding this error is to look at the same poll over a long period of time. The numbers themselves might be off, but as long as the same flawed methodology doesn’t change, you should still be able to pick up trends.
But he’s not even sure that Obama will lose, although he definitely inclines that way. I incline that way more and more definitely with every day that passes.
And now, it seems I’m only one of a stampede.
Already, I am turning my mind to a piece about Romney, entitled something like: Okay, he’s going to win, but then what?
In particular, the pollsters do not have to know. I think the polls have, all along, been wrong about this election, wronger than ever before. The polls are not being told what people have been, are, and will be thinking. The polls were wrong when they said Obama was walking it. They are wrong now that they are saying it’s close. They will be wrong when they say Romney will just about win, as they soon will. But on the day, in the real poll, Obama is going to be slaughtered. Romney will win all the “battleground” states and several which are not now even thought to be in contention.
What polls tell you is not what the result will be. They tell you what the pollsters think the result will be. How do they know what they know? Same way I do. They guess. (In this respect, poll results remind me of economic models.) Okay that isn’t entirely true. I myself factor in what the polls say when I make my guesses. But the polls are sufficiently wrong to be very wrong indeed, for an event that can be bent into a completely different shape by single figure percentage point errors.
[LATER: Actually, I think I got the first two sentences of the paragraph above wrong. It should read: “What polls tell you is not what voters are thinking. They tell you what the pollsters think the voters are thinking”. What I actually put is indeed “not entirely true”. This explains, I think, and as my original version does not, why pollsters don’t get the result right, but do get right the direction in which opinion is heading at any particular moment, which, as I introspect, I have been letting them tell me about. Because they do get that right. The misleading samples of people that the pollsters each talk to include a few who change their minds, and the pollsters do pick up on this. So, now, the pollsters are getting right that opinion is flowing steadily away from Obama and towards Romney. But at no stage in this process did, or do, or will they register how bad things were, and are, and will be, for Obama. End of LATER.]
We shall see, etc.
Romney’s final burst of adverts will have further impact. Obama’s adverts have accomplished little. They said Romney isn’t likable, is a right wing nutjob, etc. Debate One negated this message. They said something about “Big Bird”. Ridiculous. But that doesn’t prove that adverts accomplish nothing, by their nature. Just as in the debates, and unlike Obama, Romney (and Ryan) have plenty of persuasive things that they want to say.
In a comment on this, I noted that the TV Umpire lady in the Vice President debate did Biden no favours by allowing him to behave so very badly. Had she told him early on to stop his giggling and interrupting, Biden might well have won that debate. But give TV Umpire lady her due, she did at least interrupt Ryan, whenever his speeches were starting to sound too eloquent.
But Romney’s adverts can correct that, by saying everything Team Romney now wants to say, and which the mainstream media have until now stopped them saying by less expensive means. And, they can use the exact words which will work best.
Plus, Team Romney will have, I believe, another two debates worth of Obama waffle to use, like they have already used Biden’s laughing.
Like Jim Bennett said:
John, let me suggest that the criteria for victory are changing. The debate no longer ends when the debaters walk off stage. And now it no longer ends when the TV spinners have, like cuckoos, laid their eggs and flown away. There is now the long, long reverberation in social media, where the basic debate footage serves as raw material for mash-ups and parodies and treatments for the rest of the election cycle and beyond. And Biden’s performance, which won him some tactical advantage in the debate, has set him up as the target for rich satire and a way that Ryan’s conventional performance didn’t and cannot do. His performance is comic gold, and although within hard-core Dem/left circles he will be celebrated as the warrior, everywhere else, and especially for basically apolitical young YouTube viewers, he will be the jackass supreme. I suspect that by Election Day, the various parodic videos will have had a larger viewership than the debate itself. By this criterion, the tactic was a massive miscalculation.
If the same thing happens to Obama, between now and the election (I believe it will), he really will be slaughtered.
But … we shall see.
LATER: Mitt Romney in a landslide.
I love it when this happens:
That was yesterday morning, and the Insta-link was to this. (I went looking for the posting in the picture, but already it has disappeared off the bottom of Instapundit, into the archives of history. I could find it, but if you really want to, so can you.)
The great thing about being linked to these days is that you, by the nature of things, get to tell your side of the story, in exactly the words you choose. In the days of “Hey, I’m in the newspaper!” you had to just hope that what they said was approximately accurate. Often it was almost absurdly inaccurate, to the point where you wish they hadn’t mentioned whatever it was.
By the way, I am finding myself taking more trouble over the titles of blog postings, more than in the glory days before Proper People got hold of blogging and started Doing It Properly, often for money. Then, you could call what you put anything and there would still be a million readers.
I wonder, for instance, if Instapundit would have done that latest link, to “Azhar Ahmed - and I - and every British citizen - should all have the right to say offensive things” if I hadn’t written that micro-essay at the top of it. Maybe yes. But such a title saved him the bother of having to find out and then say what the piece was about, and it already said something he wants people to be told. So, he just copied, pasted and linked.
I wanted to put the words “and informative” in between “long” and “titles” in the title of this posting, but Expression Engine wouldn’t allow a title that long and hence informative.
I stayed up, not so much to watch the Vice Presidential Debate, as to see what would be made of it by others, most especially the BBC.
The BBC’s lady with big blond hair said (a) that it was too close to call, but then (b) called if for Ryan. Two reasons for making Ryan the winner. One, Biden had to win, to get some momentum back for Obama. A draw was enough for Ryan. So Biden actually lost. Two, Biden actually did lose, because of all his smirking and interrupting and condescending. Biden did all that wrong. Ryan did nothing wrong. So, Ryan won.
The BBC agreed, in other words, with PJTV drunk blogger Steven Green, who also had Ryan winning. It’s not a knockout, but it is a win.
My personal take?
At first I was rather impressed by Biden, but then I started to find his air of forced merriment unsuitable for the grim things he was arguing about. I was glad to see that others thought that too and that it wasn’t just me.
Biden was the more obvious “performer”. Which is not good. He was the one trying to create an atmosphere, like an old school stage actor. Ryan seemed more himself. Which could just mean that Ryan is a better performer.
Because Ryan was defending while Biden attacked, it looked like Ryan was the actual Vice President, defending four defendable years of him being Vice President and Romney being President, rather than Romney and him being the challengers. But that may have been because I had the sound switched off for quite a lot of it, while I read other stuff.
If you had seen those two faces in a thirties or fifties political movie, you’d have said Ryan was the young brainy lefty Democrat, while Biden was the old country club Republican President. But old Republican President is not the persona you want for an attack.
As it was, Young Ryan was under pressure from both Old Biden and the big blond American TV lady. Ryan kept his cool. He proved himself a better guy than lots of those watching may have realised. The general American opinion of Ryan will surely go up, even if only a bit. He was under big pressure. He did not buckle. He was the one who proved he had the Right Stuff.
Mail Rail Fungus Tunnel Wins London High Line Competiton
But frankly, from then on it’s all downhill:
A winner has been chosen for a competition seeking new green ideas for London. Fletcher Priest Architects won the High Line competition, named after New York’s famous linear park, with a design that melds abandoned rail tunnels, glass fibre sculptures and a fungal garden.
“Pop Down” would reuse the old Mail Rail tunnels, 9 foot-wide tubes for the transport of mail, which run just north of Oxford Street and were mothballed a decade ago. The underground garden would be lit via fibre optic ducts up to the surface, where sculptural glass mushrooms would harvest light, allowing real fungi to grow down below. The concept of an underground park fed by surface light isn’t a new one, and resembles a slim down version of New York’s proposed Low Line.
I followed that New York link, and I must say it looks much better than the London idea, which is just a long dark tube you walk along. Fibre glass sculpture and fungal gardens don’t disguise what’s really happening.
The point is, most Art galleries are quite nice places, sometimes spectacularly so. They would be pleasing to visit and to chat in, even if there was no Art present at all. I mean, you can just as easily stare at the fire extinguishers, if you really, really want some Art but there isn’t any. Fire extinguishers are often at least as good as Art, if you want something to stare at, to save having to make eye contact with your companion when they say something particularly stupid or threatening. But a big long narrow tunnel is a crap place to walk along, and stuffing bits of Art in it isn’t going to change that.
I participated in an interesting exchange today at Samizdata, on the subject of this posting, about why I support the Tea Party. But the exchange came towards the end of a longish, and nearly dead now, comment thread, so few will read it, and I at least want to remember what was said.
I disagree with this article for one main reason: the Tea Party has been nearly entirely co-opted by the social conservatives. The small-government folks seem to accept this as a necessary compromise, without realizing that they have lost control of the movement.
If you took a poll of people identifying themselves with the Tea Party, you would find that religious issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.)) are more important than government spending. From an article from 2011: “Tea Party supporters … are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues.” (Emphasis mine)
Farther down in the same article: 42% of Tea Party supporters agree with the conservative Christian movement, while 11% disagree. The remainder are somewhere in the middle, but the dominance is clear.
The Tea Party was a great idea, until the religious zealots got ahold of it ...
Some of what you say is obvious and not bad news at all. None of what you say is definitely bad news.
Much depends, in surveys, on what questions are asked.
It’s obvious that Tea Party Christians get their social issue opinions from their Christianity. Who has ever doubted it? This does not prove that they will use the Tea Party primarily to spread or to enforce these Christian views to or upon others.
Even the claim that they take social issues more seriously than government spending, though suggestive of what you are arguing, does not prove it.
If any question had asked: What do you think the Tea Party is for? Cutting government spending? Or: propagating (or even enforcing) Christian values? Then, the answers would be interesting, and very troubling if the Christians mostly said: For propagating and enforcing Christian values. The government spending stuff is just something we say, in order to spread Christianity.
But a quick read of the piece you link to tells me that no such question was asked, or if it was, the answers was not reported. What this survey seems to be about is what else Tea Partiers tend to believe, besides believing in the Tea Party. Nothing in it surprised me, or lowered, or even altered, my opinion of the Tea Party.
By the way, not only am I a libertarian, I am also a strong atheist. I think Christianity is not just untrue. I think that Christian beliefs about such things as the virgin birth and the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ are downright daft. If I thought that the Tea Party was either founded to create a Christian theocracy or if I ever think in the future that it has degenerated into such an enterprise (as it certainly might), I would not merely stop supporting it, I would, for whatever difference it would make, oppose it. Meanwhile, what seems to unite Tea Partiers now is, see my posting, the belief that the US government does too much, spends too much and borrows too much, and making that idea stick is what the Tea Party is for. Nothing in this survey says otherwise.
I agree that Christians loom very large in the Tea Party, but Christianity is not the Tea Party’s publicly agreed purpose. As of now, I remain optimistic that whereas most Tea Partiers seem to be Christians, and as such profoundly influenced in what they think by their Christianity, these Christians do not think that the purpose of the Tea Party is to spread Christianity, and that the government spending stuff is just a front.
If your response to that is: well, of course they wouldn’t say that. My response to that would be that nothing is this survey settles that particularly argument about what these Christians are trying to accomplish one way or the other. Are you aware of any other evidence that Christian Tea Partiers are actually engaged in a huge deception of this sort? I am not, but that proves very little. What I do know is that your link does not supply such evidence.
An analogy. The libertarian movement seems to consist largely of men. (It’s certainly that way in London.) But this absolutely does not mean that the libertarian movement’s purpose is to spread the idea of male domination of the world generally. To say that “libertarianism has been taken over by men” is sort of true, in the sense that it is indeed mostly men. But as an attempt to describe what the men in the libertarian movement are really trying to accomplish, such an observation would be seriously misleading.
As yet there has been no reply, and probably there won’t be. That’s not itself any sort of argument. Just because you had the last word, if you did, that doesn’t mean you won. Merely that communication ceased.
More to the point, if there is any news or evidence that Tea Party Christians are indeed trying the old Popular Front routine rather than supporting the public agenda of the Tea Party in good faith, I would very much like to learn about it.
Well, I near enough hit the nail on the head with my previous prophecy about the Obama v Romney debates, certainly as far as Debate One was concerned. Deep thanks, again, to Natalie for telling the world. (We’ve yet to see if I am right that Romney will win the whole thing, which is what my posting is really about - the debates were only part of it, but I am more than ever optimistic about that.)
I said Romney would surprise many with his debating excellence, and that Obama would have no answers. Debate one went exactly like that.
At first, everyone said: Who saw that coming? I did!
Then they said: That was actually very predictable! So, why didn’t they predict it? I did!
Let me now throw all my winnings back on the table and hazard some more predictions on the same subject. Romney has a 1-0 debate lead. I now expect the final result to be 3-0.
In response to the claim that Obama is arrogant, lazy, uninvolved, and behaved in Debate One as if he had only to show up to win - in other words to the accusation that he did not show up - Obama will not so much lose his cool as set it to one side. He will argue “passionately” that he must be allowed to finish the job he has started, in other words he will turn up the frenzy nob. He won’t say that what he wants to do is finish off America as most Americans know it and love it, but by the time Romney has explained it back at him, that’s how it will sound. That will be the story of Debate Two.
Debate Three, one way another will be an even greater catastrophe for Obama. He will either go completely berserk, i.e. dial the frenzy nob up even higher, perhaps even to the point of melt-down or just give up, or maybe a bit of both. By the end of Debate Three, he will not just be (pardon the racism) toast. He will be obvious toast. And then he will really be in trouble.
The Mainstream Media are already turning against Obama, as I predicted in that Samizdata meltdown piece already linked to above. This will not improve his mood one little bit.
But it’s not a stampede yet, nothing like. As of now, their story is mostly that Obama failed to present Obama-ism properly, and most are already saying that next time, he’ll be back, and will present it brilliantly in Debates Two and Three.
Apparently Reagan got a bit of a pasting in his first re-election debate with whoever it was. And he then stormed back in the later debates. Obama will do the same, say those still backing him.
But Obama-ism is a crock, see the graphic, which Instapundit found here. I hasn’t worked, it won’t work and it can’t work. Obama’s problem is that while he can perform all he likes, he has now, just as in Debate One, nothing persuasive to say. (As many are now pointing out, the only thing Obama has done for the last two years has been to perform.)
As the above few links illustrate, I am not the only one saying this kind of thing, to put it mildly. But, for what it may be worth, I am now saying it.
It really doesn’t help Obama that his foreign policy has now blown up in his face. This was an area of strength for Obama, because he at least wants to reduce American assertiveness in foreign parts. So he says, anyway. America wants this too, so far as I can tell. (So, I rather think, do I.) The Repubs don’t even pretend to believe this. But now, foreign policy isn’t a story that Obama will find it easy to talk about either.
Oh, and whereas the Rise of Obama was paid for by Arabs, the re-election of Obama is being financed by the Chinese. As the US Mainstream Media desert the Sinking Ship Obama and start trying to suck up to About-To-Be-President Romney, these sorts of stories may get a bit of serious notice, and sink SS Obama some more. That will only add to the impression that Obama’s foreign policy is for foreigners, rather than for Americans.
Nothing like bright sun, from the side, through a Venetian blind, to tell me that my computer screen could use a bit of dusting:
I am a godless supporter of gay marriage, but I do love this, not just because it says Don’t Vote Obama, but because it says it so eloquently. He is such a great speaker.
Proof that eloquent speaking straight to camera is more than good enough for the YouTube age.
Thanks, yet again, to Instapundit.