Spectacle & Intrigue

Cross-posted from P&L.

I’ve come to think of Walter Russell Mead as the “Mind of the Middle.” He’s not conservative or liberal; he just makes common sense. His article about noise versus knowledge once again strike me right where I am in the moment. I know that Team Obama has been trying their level best to amplify a noise machine of their own making and that there are some very smart minds out there who think this will work. I don’t, and I don’t know yet if that’s because I’m seeing clearly or because I am a cantankerous old fart who is not seeing clearly. It could be that the country is full of cantankerous old farts who are thinking similar thoughts and that this is the stream of consciousness I’ve tapped into.

Or maybe, as Mead suggests, we’re just following the spectacle too closely.

But at the same time, it must be clear to any serious observer of the contemporary scene that to follow the spectacle too closely involves a colossal waste of energy and time that could be more usefully expended on other pursuits. The media fixation with the minutiae of the campaign, the endless gaffe quest and mindless herd behavior by the journalistic pack, the bootless but inevitable speculation concerning the various coming landmarks and events from the Iowa State Fair through Election Night: all this is a necessary and unavoidable part of the process, and while the serious student of the contemporary world needs to keep an eye on the carnival, to be swallowed up in it and to spend undue time and mental energy on the meaningless and the trivial is to become less effective and less well informed.

I’ve also been thinking that for a while. I’ve wondered if I should step back a bit and try to re-gauge the big picture. That’s what I’ve been doing from time to time throughout this year and so far it has been a winning strategy for me. At this late date, with just less than 2 months left, how much information can be gleaned by paying attention day-by-day? Not much I suspect. Every weekend I keep watching as the left wins the info-wars on Memorandum and their ideas dominate throughout Saturday and Sunday, and often into Monday. But usually by Monday night or Tuesday morning, the right is back on top, or the middle is making headway. Noticing this pattern means I’m following too closely.

Mead pinpointed the problem, which is not with paying attention per se, but in locating the fine points among the infortainment nature of the media’s business model. I agree with what he says here:

In our country, we conceal in full view. The important news is mostly on the web and in at least some of the papers, rather than passed as handwritten notes between Henry Kissinger and Goldman Sachs. However the best newspapers often mix a few sprinkles of the good stuff in a vast tub of swill.  That’s often because the reporters and editors aren’t well trained to carry out a smart sorting process, but it’s also because the business model of the legacy media requires a lot of infotainment in the mix to keep a mass audience.

He goes on to compare it to cotton candy at the State Fair:

The legacy press is frequently attacked for being biased, which it often is, but the real problem is lack of discrimination: so much money and space go to what people used to call vanity (by which they meant emptiness and pointlessness rather than pride and conceit) that mainstream coverage is more like cotton candy than anything else: bright, sweet, evanescent and insubstantial — but hard to see through or keep clear of.

Thus it is in focus, not apathy, that we can find out what is going on with this American election. As I’ve said before, you can’t look at this year head on anyway, since there is so much political jacking going on. It takes a bit of sideways glance to figure out what is going on, a bit of hunting among the details, too. Take Gallup for example.


Just before the Convention season began, Eric Holder joined a “whistle-blower” lawsuit of Gallup that involved the alleged overbilling of hours for work that Gallup had done for various governmental agencies and an employee who was fired allegedly for complaining. The DOJ then filed their own suit against the company. I was alerted to this when I saw the top headline at Memeorandum four days after the GOP convention ended, one day before the DNC started. That headline showing no bounce for Romney. It struck me as an odd headline and I wrote about it at the time. In trying to figure out what I had noticed as a discernible change in Gallup’s tone, I stumble upon information about the lawsuit.

This discernible change in tone was confirmed last Friday when Gallup again had the top headline at Memeorandum, this time one day after the DNC ended, and this time showing Obama did get a bounce. How they can know that one day after a convention is beyond me, especially when it took the four days to find out the same thing about Romney. Curiouser and curiouser, no?

Consider that in that NBC article linked above, Michael Isekoff noted that Romney had an advantage going into the conventions.

Gallup — a Washington, D.C.,-based company that promotes itself as “the most trusted name in polling” — did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The announcement comes at an awkward time for Gallup, in the middle of an election season when the company’s polls are routinely cited in coverage of the presidential election. (In its latest tracking poll released Wednesday, Gallup has Mitt Romney ahead of  President Obama by a 47 to 45 percent margin.)

Also consider that in early July, just before the Labor department’s jobs numbers came out, Gallup published their job numbers as they always do, and the Implications section was very interesting indeed. Here’s the quote:

The employment situation in the U.S. remains fragile, which is reflected in the pullback in reported hope for a job. Job seekers may be reacting to less-than-optimistic discussions of the economy by the news media, as reflected in a lowered economic confidence rating in June. Just as likely, though, is that the decline is the result of real challenges Americans in the workforce faced during the job hunt in June.

Gallup’s drop in seasonally adjusted unemployment suggests that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics may report a decline in unemployment when the numbers are released on Friday. However, as Gallup’s unadjusted data show, little has changed month over month, and just as many Americans were unemployed in June as in May.

Then came Gallup’s August numbers, and a veiled warning was included in the Implication section this time.

Gallup’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in July, suggesting that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate will remain flat, or even increase, when released on Friday.


If there is to be true improvement in the employment situation in the coming months, unemployment will need to decline, and the percentage of people in the population participating in the workforce at their desired capacity will need to increase.

This was widely seen as a warning that any discrepancies between the Fed numbers and Gallup’s would indicate a “thumb on the scale” at the Federal level. 20 days later, just days before the GOP Convention was scheduled to launch, Holder filed his lawsuit.

Let’s think about this for just a minute. Gallup was showing movement for Romney in the days before the Convention season began. For 2 months in a row at least their jobs data was off somewhat from the Labor Department’s reporting, and in the month they were sued, they suggested there may have been a thumb on the scale. Suddenly, something that had never happened before happened: the government sue the most respected name in polling in the middle of a presidential campaign over what basically amounts to a tiny fragment of the billing corruption that goes on at the federal level.

We’re talking about a $2 million amount here, chump change in the vast scheme of the federal budget. The DOJ is not suing Defense contractors or other companies whose overbilling corruption runs in the billions of dollars. No, they are basically suing Cassandra to shut her up. And if you’re paying attention, you can figure it out. It is buried in the reams of verbiage being published every day, just as Mead said. Here’s another clue: there are e-mails between David Axelrod and Gallup that show the attempt at intimidation up close.

This, my friend, is what you call Chicago arm-twisting. It’s a variation of what Nixon and W. Bush did with the press, only it is much, much worse. It matters today because it creates a problem Mead outlined in his article–namely that it is nearly impossible for regular people to get the real facts they need because the sources of that information aren’t trustworthy. This is worse than Mead’s cotton-candy analogy. It means the cotton candy has been laced with cyanide. The purpose of Team Obama’s actions here are clear: amplify the noise machine and feed the electorate poison, because the only way he can win is if he fires up his base and depresses everybody else.

About Woke Lola

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49 Responses to Spectacle & Intrigue

  1. myiq2xu says:

    I refuse to believe any polls except the official ones on November 6th.

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’m gonna trust those either.

  2. wmcb says:

    The thing that did it for me re: polls was seeing several “reputable” polls showing Obama up by 6 or 7 points in Ohio.

    Obama only won Ohio by 4 points in 2008 at the height of the swooning insanity. You cannot fucking tell me he is going to do BETTER in Ohio than 2008. I may not know what you tinkered with in the sample to make it so, but I do know for certain that you are living in lala land. Ain’t no fucking way.

    • yttik says:

      I started noticing that, too.

      Something else I find interesting, Washington is pretty much going to stay in the Obama category, or so I assume because we’ve been blue for so long. Why then, are they running so many pro-Obama ads?? I have not seen a single pro-Romney ad, but “vote for Obama” plays constantly. I can only assume that A, these guys are idiots and are wasting their money trying to win an already blue state, or B, support for Obama has declined to worrisome levels.

    • those are bogus numbers. I live in Ohio—-watch our local pollsters. The Columbus dispatch polling 95% of the time is absolutely right. The last poll a few weeks ago showed a dead heat. Nothing has changed since then….

      • wmcb says:

        Yup. I’m not saying Romney will win OH. He likely won’t, though he might. But there is no way it’s going for Obama by even BIGGER margins than 2008.

  3. One thing that seems to have changed is that Gallup is no longer showing their cross-tabs. That’s huge.

    • DM says:

      Gallup has its reputation to preserve and I doubt very much that it would distort the numbers. Gallup may not show things that are moving a poll, but it will adhere to its methodology and sample selection.

      In any case, like I said above, it’s the trend over several polls that matters, not any given poll.

      • DM says:

        My comment about trends is below, not above.

      • Are you suggesting that Gallup will not act in the wake of a law suit designed to curb their behavior? That the lawsuit will have no effect? I’m asking because it’s hard to tell by your comments in this thread, not because I’m challenging you, ftr.

  4. DM says:

    Like a photo of a person that doesn’t show the aging process, one poll won’t tell what is happening. A poll must be looked at with prior polls and in context of the environment. It will take at least 10 days (Gallup’s tracking poll is a 7 day rolling average) for the numbers to settle down. One day reactions to a minor event (Bill Clinton speech) move polls for a few days, not permanently, like the price of gas at the pump.

  5. foxyladi14 says:

    Polls go up and down.like a freakin yo yo. :shock;

    • DM says:

      Yes. That’s why you want to look at the overall trend. Just take a look at the Dow chart. It too goes up and down, but there’s always a trend. Sometimes that trend breaks due to one or a series of events. That’s true for the market and elections.

  6. DM says:

    One more thing about polls. I watch if an incumbent candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. That is more important than poll fluctuations from day to day. Incumbents are a known quantity, and they can talk and talk, but if less than 50 percent of the voters don’t support him/her, that means voters are not willing to commit to reelecting him. That’s very important. Right now, Obama is below the 50 percent line, which to me says that at least 51 percent of the voters have decided to vote for Romney or are not willing to commit their vote to Obama. That makes the election a lean towards Romney, but he’ll have to reel those voters into his column.

    • DM says:

      Gallup always shows a chart with its numbers (2012 election and Obama’s approval). That’s what one should look at, even if zig zags.

  7. DeniseVB says:

    I’m surprised that I don’t know a real life person/friend/aquaintance who is voting for Obama or has ever been called by a pollster. And I’m in Virginia !

    • DM says:

      I notice that fewer polls seem to be published.
      A good poll only needs around 1,000 voters to be within a 3% margin of error. A bigger sample will not give that much better reading. A poll with a higher margin of error, one with a sample of 500 voters, is not very good. I usually dismiss them.

  8. DM says:

    This poll shows a 5 point change improvement for Romney.

    Race Tightens As Obama Advantage Narrows To 2 Points
    Published on Monday, 10 September 2012 18:11
    Written by TIPP Staff
    Hits: 6219
    President Obama’s lead over Governor Romney shrinks from 7 points in August to 2 points in September, according to the latest Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP Poll. Romney gains support from men, southern, rural, and Hispanic voters this month.

  9. DM says:

    And this CNN poll goes the other way. Obama improved its numbers from 48% to 52%, while Romney dropped 2% points.

    Even if the sample is heavy for a certain group, if both polls are similar in sample, then the trend stands.

  10. myiq2xu says:

    Limbaugh: The Campaign To Depress And Dispirit You Is Underway And It’s At Full Bore

    Yeah, I know, it’s Disgusting Pigboy. But he’s hardwired into the political system. So hold your nose and listen.

    • DM says:

      Rush can talk shit. Bill Clinton in 1996 campaigned until election day, and that campaign was over before it started. Dole never got close.

      • myiq2xu says:

        Did you even listen to the whole thing?

        • DM says:

          Yes, I did.

        • swanspirit says:

          I did too and it wasn’t easy. but I had already come to the same conclusion about the attempt to influence voters by way of polls . I have proof the Dems are losing . I have been attacked on FB by three Dem friends for supporting Romney ,none of which have anything close to resembling facts for reasons they support Obama . I anticipate more now because they are paying attention .
          One guy is a mason . He used to make $36000/ year and now makes $18000/year because of cheap mexican labor in his area, and still supports Obama and is MAD AT ME for not supporting him. how do you argue with idiots like that? I don’t .

    • votermom says:

      He’s right but it’s not just to depress turnout.
      It’s also a cover for massive electoral fraud.
      Mitt needs a big big margin – if it’s close they will steal it and claim the polls back them up.

    • DM says:

      I agree that polls are used to sway voters because most voters are not going to keep track of each poll to compare apples with apples. I don’t care if the PPP say 80% voters lean for Obama. I want to know if the prior PPP poll was 90% for Obama or 70%. When I look at the Gallup Tracking Poll, it looks like a flat line to me. The movement is there, but it goes back and forth. My take from that is that people are very much set on how they are going to vote, and the variation from day to day is noise. The few who have not decided, will make up their mind when we get closer to November. At this moment, Romney has the advantage. Undecideds normally move away from incumbents. The problem with undecideds gets difficult when the election doesn’t have an incumbent. They can move either way, but usually will go for the better known candidate, as we saw with Jerry Brown in CA.

    • DM says:

      I agree. The media is going all out to sell the idea that Obama has it wrapped up. I remember how Obama had it wrapped up in January 2008, but Hillary kept winning the big states and embarrassed The One. It’s the Chicago way.

      September and October are bad months when the economy is not working. Hedge funds make huge adjustments before year end. Europe and Asia are in recession already. Last quarter was miserable for most corporations, with lower earnings. That’s what matters.

  11. myiq2xu says:

  12. myiq2xu says:

    • DM says:

      The Survey USA/Civitas is a 500 voter sample, whereas the PPP is over 1,000 voter sample. The Survey USA poll has a bigger margin of error. Besides two poll takers will have different results. They stand on their own and should not be compared.

    • DM says:

      I don’t like what the word “slut” implies. It’s not a word a woman should use for herself. Obviously, I’m old fashioned.

  13. myiq2xu says:

    Romney pollster Neil Newhouse:

    It’s horses**t. Nobody in Boston thinks we’re going to lose. We’re in a tight race. We had a 4-5 point bounce after our convention and it evaporated when they had theirs. Now they have a 4-5 bounce. It’s going to evaporate in September. We feel good about the map. We’re up with advertising in Wisconsin and I think North Carolina is going to come off the board. On Ohio, they’ve been spinning for months now that it’s out of reach…

    I actually think the other side is in a panic. You look at New Mexico closing up. And they’re not above 50 in any of their target states. Look, we’re raising money, they’re raising money, and it’s tight. This is a dogfight. But the numbers actually point to a Romney win barring something unforeseen.

    • DM says:

      I agree the Obama campaign is in panic. A week is a long time during campaign season, and two months is an eternity, imho.

  14. OldCoastie says:

    I think the ghost of Nixon hanging over Obama in the graphic is just exactly right.

  15. Lulu says:

    Obama’s 5 point lead in Ohio is hogwash. The numbers are so cooked they are mush. I am not an Ulsterman fan per se but numbers are numbers.

    “You see, that PP poll was taken from a +4 Democrat sample. Right there the poll is hurting credibility wise. But dig a little deeper. That poll was also +9 for women sampled. That’s a huge gap for Ohio. +9 women polled over men? Cross check that data. You realize in Ohio women make up 51.2% of the population. This PP poll tries to alter that # so that it reflects women make up nearly 60% of Ohio population. Which is way off and totally breaks apart the poll’s credibility. Why would they do that? Because Obama is polling better with women and Romney is polling better for men. So cook the poll right off with a nearly 10 point advantage of women polled.”

    • DM says:

      The poll should be seen in context. The prior poll (find at Real Clear website):

      PPP (D) 8/9 – 8/12 961 LV 3.2 48 45 Obama +3
      After the convention:
      PPP (D) 9/7 – 9/9 1072 LV 3.0 50 45 Obama +5

      So the PPP measured a 2 point bounce. That’s not an exceptional bounce.

      You can make a case that the sample is tilted towards the Ds. Well duh, it’s a Democratic poll. I’m not against the averaging of polls because it smooths away the noise and sampling errors. Take a look at the chart, at Real Clear for OH, and what you see is Romney trending up. That’s what matters.

    • DM says:

      Also notice that another poll gave Romney +3 after the RNC convention

      Gravis Marketing 9/2 – 9/2 1381 RV 2.9 44 47 Romney +3

      So the truth is somewhere in between. With the DNC convention bounce, both candidates are closer, and maybe Obama is up, but Obama is far from saying that Romney has lost OH. It’s Chicago politics.

  16. votermom says:


  17. myiq2xu says:

    Dana Loesch:

    NBC’s headline concerning the Chicago teachers’ strike isn’t about how a broke state can’t afford yet another pay raise for ineffective educators who hold the top spot as the highest paid teachers across the nation. Instead, the news outlet chose to somehow make the story out as a negative for Mitt Romney, despite it occurring in incumbent Barack Obama’s backyard.

  18. Honora says:


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