Fun with numbers.

I’m wondering if I need to stop paying attention to politics for a while. It was a beautiful weekend, and while checking e-mail Saturday I surfed over to Memeorandum to see what was going on with the teabaggers. Michelle Malkin’s blog proclaimed the march at 2 million strong. I rolled my eyes, shut down my browser and went back downstairs to think about what to do with the pattypan squash I bought at the farmer’s market.

I’m one of the worst crowd-estimators in journalism, in keeping with the long tradition of people who are good with words being stupid with numbers. I always avoided making crowd estimates in stories I wrote, and when I was pressed to do so, fudged with time-tested phrases like “a packed hearing room” or “scores,” or else found a less numerically challenged source to give me a number. But even I know 2 million is plain and simple balderdash. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com explains how the whopper came to be — the very short answer: Someone lied to Malkin — and adds:

Malkin herself did not lie; she merely repeated a lie. It does not particularly call into question her character. It does, however, call into question her judgment. The reason is that if there had in fact been 2 million protesters in Washington yesterday, there would have been no need to lie about it — the magnitude of the protests would have been self-evident. I was in Washington for the inauguration, an event at which there really were almost 2 million people present — and let me tell you, it was a Holy Mess. Hotels, charging double or treble their usual rates, were booked weeks in advance. Major stations on the Metro system were shut down for hours at a time. The National Guard was brought in. At least 3,000 people got stuck in a tunnel. Essentially the entirety of the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, was dotted with onlookers. Heaps of trash were left behind. The entire city was basically a warzone for a period of about 20 hours, from midnight through mid-evening.

“It does, however, call into question her judgment.” That’s it in a nutshell. That’s the problem with journalism as practiced by mere mortals, but it’s especially the problem with mortals who are proudly partisan, who scoff at “objectivity” as a fiction, etc. I’m not one of those journalists — and lately, I should add, I don’t consider myself much of one; I feel like I’m on a floe that has broken away from the main icecap and is steadily drifting away — who worries what will happen to Journalism when all the newspapers have been hollowed out or killed. That’s because I already know (and excuse me if I’ve said this before; I think I’ll be saying it for a long time). We’re headed into an age when we will flock to the media source that flatters our own prejudices with a unique set of facts. We had that for a long time, in fact; although nearly everybody here is too young to remember when even middling cities had multiple dailies to reflect every reading niche, from labor to plutocrats. You could even make the argument that the vaunted value of Fairness and Objectivity, which in J-school you learn was handed down from Mt. Olympus, is really just a cold-eyed business tactic, that once the Workers Daily and the Plutocracy Times folded, the net needed to be cast a lot wider and the masthead slogan changed from Screwing the Proles since 1851 to Shining the Light of Truth.

Most reputable crowd estimates put it in the “tens of thousands,” perhaps as many as 100,000. The Daily Mail in London, relying on “Mail Foreign Service,” went with “up to two million.” Damn liberal media.

This isn’t really about politics, anyway; it’s about numeric shenanigans. I love Silver’s blog because he’s that rarity, a genius with numbers and more than competent with words. I love stories that make a splash because someone challenged numeric conventional wisdom. One of the Denver papers won a Pulitzer in the ’80s for pointing out that the numbers of missing and abducted children were wildly inflated, that if every face on the milk carton belonged to a kid who’d been snatched by a stranger, virtually everyone in the country would know someone whose child had suffered such a fate. And yet, we repeat these whoppers over and over.

Oh, well. It was a lovely weekend. Spent a chunk of it at a local block party, which featured a DJ. I took a moment to marvel how it only took a cute dance to turn “Y.M.C.A.” from a tune about anonymous gay sex in a public gymnasium (as Garry Trudeau amusingly put it), to a song adorable toddlers tumble to while their parents look on and snap pictures. Which Village Person are you? I think I’m the construction worker.

If a woman this size shook her tennis racquet at me, I don’t know if I’d feel in fear for my life, but I might tremble a little. What a whiny baby; she deserved to lose that one. And what is it about tennis that seems to breed these uniquely awful tantrum-tossers?

And speaking of rude…

So another Monday begins? The Magic 8 ball says yes.

Posted at 7:40 am in Media, Popculch |
 

58 responses to “Fun with numbers.”

  1. Jolene said on September 14, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Nancy: Need to fix sentence that begins w/ “We are headed into an age . . .” You’ll see the pronoun problem when you look at it again.

    Oh, and good morning.

    N here: Thanks!

  2. Peter said on September 14, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Sad but true. Unfortunately, we are way past headed into that age; I’m afraid in a few years people will cite TMZ as a standard in objective reporting.

    Saturday I got a view of what will pass for journalism: the local PBS station had a half hour program of English language Pravda, and their top story for September 12 was the ceremony in New York commemorating 9/11. Except the ceremony they covered was a protest on Wall Street by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, who kept shouting “Two planes – three buildings – you do the math!” (I’m not sure; do they mean 2+3, or 2×3, or x2/y3?) The reporter, by questioning several protestors, came to the logical conclusion that Americans now realize that 9/11 was just another evil directive of the Bush administration.

    I know throwing red meat to the yokels sells papers, but I always thought that one mark of an advanced society was the opportunity to arrive at one’s own opinion based on the ability to read an objective review of the facts and arguments in the case.

  3. Julie Robinson said on September 14, 2009 at 9:04 am

    “an floe” Is that a journalistic usage I’m not familiar with? It must be nitpicker Monday.

    My Dad the journalist would be rolling over in his grave had he not been cremated. His mantra was two independently confirmed sources. The CNN Coast Guard training exercise fiasco of 9/11/09 would never have happened if this was being followed today.

    I started tuning out about the time of the birthers. I’ve come to believe it isn’t healthy for me to follow minute-by-minute all day long. Instead: more musicals!

    N here: This is what I get for posting before coffee.

  4. nancy said on September 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Peter, there was a really good piece on “On the Media” a couple weeks ago, in which one party being interviewed (dunno who) said that being able to read foreign pubs via the internet is no substitute for the foreign correspondent. S/he works as a bridge between cultures, filling in backstory, telling you why this one is the guy to watch and this one isn’t, etc. And yet, there are a lot of people in the world who say we no longer need a man in Moscow if there’s an English-language Pravda available via the web. Madness.

  5. Susan said on September 14, 2009 at 9:12 am

    What did you end up doing with the pattypan squash? I’ve had one from our neighbor sitting on the counter for days – no idea what to do with it.

  6. nancy said on September 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Haven’t decided yet. That’s the thing about squash — it almost always has another day of refrigerator life. Maybe the class will have some suggestions.

  7. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Seems to be a lot more of this stuff cropping up:
    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2009/09/scottsdale_musician_eric_luke.php
    There’s a savagery implicit in this that makes you wonder how many shallow graves Eric has left in his wake. He might just be a pathetic snuff fantasist, but I’d prefer to think even those were restricted from any unmediated social contact. Actually, I’d prefer them to be on gurneys in an induced coma, but my gut level responses are usually pretty reprehensible.
    Is it even possible to fix goods as damaged as this nutter?

  8. MichaelG said on September 14, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I thought it was just us old folks who were set on ice floes and left to drift off into the mist.

  9. Sue said on September 14, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Number-crunching, local version: A common council meeting last week regarding library funding brought out a pretty-evenly split group of speakers, although those against the funding seemed to want to get across the point that they spoke for lots of others. One of these said he had spoken to thirty of his neighbors and they all agreed with him, although unfortunately none were able to actually attend the meeting. I leaned over to my husband and whispered that nodding politely while someone talks at you does not necessarily constitute agreement.
    It’s all about how you want to view the issue, I guess.

  10. del said on September 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

    The problems addressed in Nance’s post will be exponentially compounded when the Roberts’ court unbridles corporate “Free” Speech in the Hillary documentary case. The justices will likely drape themselves in the American flag in so doing, protecting our cherished freedoms. The Magic 8 ball says it’s so.

    Nancy, you oughtta move to the Park. Saturday’s block party on Nottingham included a couple who’d protested against the Tea Party in Troy. They also joined us in the adult time on the Moonwalk/Bouncehouse, no mean feat given that they’re grandparents and it’s exhausting. Cops shut the party down later.

  11. moe99 said on September 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

    del, Nothing chills my soul like your prediction on unleashing the corporations to fund our elections. Without an independent press to stand fast against this, our lowly internet takes on more importance. We are returning to the time of robber barons without a Teddy Roosevelt in sight.

  12. jeff borden said on September 14, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Del,

    You are terrifyingly right on with regards to the SCOTUS decision on corporate funding of campaigns. If you think we have a government of the business, by the business and for the business now, the flood of moolah this will unleash even more greed and cowardice among our elected officials.

  13. brian stouder said on September 14, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Regarding credible news/credulous “reporters”/what to believe: Grant (our 14 year old) and I had an extended conversation the other day about reading critically – and how to decide what you’re going to believe. He had stated that Kurt Cobain’s wife got away with murdering him(!) – and when I asked where he read that, he named some website or other.

    Interestingly, later on I was flipping channels and came across a formal debate (on C-SPAN) around the proposition “Winston Churchill was more of a liability than an asset to the Allied cause”…one could watch two credentialed historians (plus one pop-history/pundit – Pat Buchanan!) arguing in favor of that flatly ridiculous proposition, against three other scholars and authors.

    Grant came and watched a little with me, and enjoyed how the crowd applauded Churchill’s defenders, and rejected his detractors…and we pondered the fact that all of those people had published books, vigorously espousing their respective points of view

    It just went to show that some folks will sincerely believe all manner of odd things, and some few of them will even marshall facts and figures and citations to buttress their beliefs – and they may even make a salient point or two.

    But in the end, even if we refer to a scientifically measured, carefully applied dosage of bullshit as “organic fertilizer”, it’s still bullshit.

    (and, of course! – there’s money to be made in the bullshit market)

  14. LAMary said on September 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Kanye West is not talented enough to justify what an asshole he is. Offhand I can’t think of anyone who is.

  15. LAMary said on September 14, 2009 at 10:53 am

    You can always peel the squash, cube it, and make a nice gratin. Make sure you add some garlic or the squash will taste like nothing.

  16. MichaelG said on September 14, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I kinda liked the cute haircut. No, I didn’t watch the whatever award show. I saw it on the news.

    Brian, if you bake a pie does that make you a Stouder-baker? Nyuk Nyuk. OK. Shoot me. Or set me out on an ice floe.

  17. Linda said on September 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

    We aren’t headed for, we are already there. I was reading a thread on freerepublic.com, and someone said that Fox was getting “too liberal” for them–now they only got their news from free republic or Newsmax.

    The difference is, nowadays, you can create your own multimedia wall of sound–radio, TV, internet–to reinforce your favorite prejudices. Even Fark, which is fun if juvenile because you see the opinions of people you don’t agree with, has an “ignore” feature, so you won’t be disturbed by people disagreeing with you. As if you couldn’t ignore people without software.

    BTW, I like winter squash cubed up and roasted with other winter veggies–carrots, turnips, and the much-underrated parsnips. You can use savory herbs with them, or a little maple syrup for a sweet side dish.

  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 14, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Not quite a gratin, but you can make most any ratatouille out of squash. Replace the zucchini and/or eggplant with it.

    Did anyone else catch Pres. Obama on 60 Minutes last night? He’s getting his feet on solid ground with tying health care reform to managing deficit growth based on current entitlements alone — if he’s trying to outflank to the right, i think he will find an open field to maneuver across, since the GOP still hasn’t figured out how to explain the prescription drug benefit justification in their own terms (probably because anything coherent would have forced an explanation of how we were paying for Iraq/Afghanistan).

    One of Nate Silver’s 538 cohorts posted a good look at the relative socialisms at work in Medicare – http://is.gd/3gh9H – which indirectly makes the point that it’s intergenerational socialism that seems to get people riled, while seniors are generally (regardless of stated politics) more willing to accept intragenerational socialism/redistribution.

    Which means, i guess, that folks are fine with “soak the rich,” but not “soak my rich grandkids.” Not saying it’s rational, just trying to discern the politics of it.

  19. Catherine said on September 14, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Number-crunching, local ver­sion, pt 2: The Tournament of Roses Parade is locally notorious for overestimating the crowd. The local newspaper editor and his Caltech stepfather showed that it’s mathematically impossible for more than about 500,000 people to line up along the parade route, but the 1 million number gets touted every year.

    It must have been a big weekend for disco everywhere. My 9 YO asked me, “Why do they have a song about the YMCA?” Uhhhh, it was a place men could live inexpensively in the city? No follow-up questions about the costumes, please.

  20. ROgirl said on September 14, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I love the roasted vegetable idea. In addition to Linda’s selection and depending on what I can find, I like to use different colored peppers, eggplant, sweet potato, even cauliflower, sometimes onions. Toss them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper, a lot of herbs (cumin is really good), spread them out on a baking sheet in a hot oven (450). Check them in 30 minutes. I like to cook them until they get really soft and caramelized, with some a little charred around the edges, and leave them in longer.

  21. Connie said on September 14, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I have been thinking for some time about why I am a liberal and what I think is wrong with our country. I’m not a pro writer like many of you, but here’s what I’ve come up with.

    America is no longer a democracy. Democracy has been crushed by capitalism. It’s all about the money and the shareholders and the rest of us are just cogs in the big money making machine. Why is shareholder profit the only real goal of big business? I believe that employees and communities should be just as important as shareholder profit. All three of equal importance. Instead we see business screwing their communities (asbestos mines, superfund sites, sudden shutdowns) and their employees (low wages, pension plans gone,)in order to build bigger profits for shareholders and bigger bonusses for executives.

    I don’t think this makes me a communist, but it might make me a socialist which I no longer think is a bad thing.

    And that explains why I have not shopped at a Walmart in 7 years.

  22. adrianne said on September 14, 2009 at 11:48 am

    What is this epidemic of people behaving badly in public? Joe Wilson, Serena Williams and Kanye West – get a grip, people!

  23. Connie said on September 14, 2009 at 11:48 am

    My roasted veg recipe is much like ROgirl’s,except 450 degrees and must have summer squash or zucchini or even fresh pea pods. I will also sometimes add a can of diced tomatoes near the end, and usually add a can of drained garbanzo beans. And sprinkle with parmesan as it comes out of the oven. My original recipe came from the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook, long before she had a TV show.

  24. nancy said on September 14, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Michael’s never going to forgive me for describing that California horndog as an old man and therefore too gross to have sex with. In my defense, I was basing that on the grainy long-lens video. I’m sure you’re still on the hawt side of 70, M.G.

  25. mark said on September 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Connie-

    “Why is shareholder profit the only real goal of big business?” Actually, it’s the only real goal of all businesses and for good reason.

    “Profit” is what is left over, if anything, after you pay all of your obligations- material costs, wages, rent, debt service and taxes- and before you pay the owners anything. If you make no profit, and just break even, the owners get nothing and next year there will be no raises for the employees, no money for extra benefits and no cash to fund expansion or product research. If you don’t “break even” and you want to stay in business, you have to reduce your expenses, often by reducing the number of employees or the wages paid. Or both.

    The absence of profits is what has added 5 million or so to the ranks of the unemployed and has caused federal, state and local tax receipts to plummet in the last year. My father retired from Chrysler years ago, where he was a maintenance foreman. While Chrysler was profitable, he had a good job and good benefits. Later, he had a good pension and good benefits. When the profits dried up, the benefits (for retirees) were cut and then taken away. When the deficits continued and bankruptcy was filed, the pension went away- for good.

    Let’s assume you save something for retirement or for college expenses. Being a little bit liberal, you also donate some money for charities and your community. Being prudent, you budget these things so that your charitable and community contributions don’t prevent you from being self-sufficient and providing for your dependents. You’re a conservative investor, putting your money where you get a return (profit) sufficient to meet your plans with risk (or no risk) with which you are comfortable.

    Tomorrow you get a letter from your 401k plan or mutual fund manager or whatever. It tells you they have changed their philosophy and from now on all of the money they make (profit) from the money you and others have entrusted to them will be divided equally between employee bonuses, contributions to the community and people like you, who invested the money. This does mean, however, that the return (profit) on your savings will be about one-third of what it used to be.

    Do you shout with joy at their new-found enlightenment? Or do you say I hope that works for you but I have to take my money elsewhere. If I can’t get the return I need I won’t be able to donate as much to my community and my charities, which are just as important as yours (maybe more so since they reflect your values). And I won’t be able to provide for myself in retirement or send my children to college. So goodbye.

  26. LAMary said on September 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    That Orange County guy’s hotness deficit was not age related. He was just flat out not Mr. Sex Appeal. His choice to yak it up about his sex life made him even less desirable. He was revolting.

  27. mark said on September 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    After my post I read that Lilly, where my brother works and where I hope he continues to work, announced that they will cut 13% of their workforce over the next two years. Lilly has paid great wages, provided excellent benefits, only recently started to phase out a traditional pension plan and has a long history of philanthropy. Without profits, none of those things can be maintained.

    And, of course, they are part of the evil health industry that will be forced to disgorge some of their ill-gotten gains to fund Obamacare.

  28. Jeff Borden said on September 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I used to think there might be a form of “compassionate capitalism,” but my thinking was utterly fallacious. It’s like asking a shark not to eat the whole fish. It won’t work.

    Generally, I do believe the marketplace solves most problems, but it isn’t perfect. Orphan drugs are a great example. There are drugs that could be an enormous help to certain people, but because the pharmaceutical company cannot generate a strong return, they go unreleased. I’m also not sure I want the lowest bidder running everything in my life. I don’t want the cheapest air traffic controllers, for instance, I want the very best people, and if that means paying them a handsome salary, so be it.

    The health care debate has gotten completely out of hand and neither side has done a good job of explaining itself. President Obama continues to be awfully vague about how this will work and how it will be financed. The Republicans absolutely should declare their opposition if they must, but none of them have suggested any kind of option other than leaving things alone, which is ultimately unstainable.

    It’s easy for someone like Joe Wilson to shout “you lie” and not worry about the consequences. Mr. Wilson has enjoyed excellent health care by virtue of his status in the National Guard and as a member of Congress. All four of his children are in the armed forces, which mean they all receive government-funded health care. In short, he doesn’t know a frigging thing about what millions of others face because he has never been in their shoes.

    All those folks marching in Washington, whether it was 60,000 or whatever, make me wonder what they thought of the trillion-dollar Bush tax cuts, the expansion of the prescription drug benefit without additional funding or, of course, our most excellent adventure in Iraq, which could wind up cost up to $3 trillion when it’s all said and done. Apparently, these wild spending sprees were okay by them.

    One last note on these gatherings: why do none of the organizers of these marches try to remove the blatantly racist posters some of these idiots are carrying? Some of these signs would’ve been appropriate in Selma in 1962 or at a weekend KKK dance. It’s sobering to see that there is a still a very large, wide and deep strain of racial hatred in our land. Sobering, sickening and sad.

  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=621

  30. Rana said on September 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Mark – somehow, it seems that nonprofits manage it…

  31. Connie said on September 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Yup Mark, exactly the kind of response I expected.

    I am reminded that those who protested the actions of President Bush 2 were called traitors and told to move to some foreign place, (used to be Russia). Those who criticize President Obama in the same way consider themselves patriots.

  32. Sue said on September 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Jeff, maybe there were no arrests because this heinous behavior took place in the protest zones blocked off away from Bush. Far away from Bush.
    As opposed to, say, bringing a gun to a rally. No mention if this gentleman was arrested.
    http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/watch-man-carries-an-assault-rifle-outside-obama-event.php

  33. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    All the rebel flags were a sweet touch, too. It’s good to see that “grassroots” movement so thoroughly dominated by people who don’t even usually bother with the formality of a spit cup. It’s even better that they’re now lining up behind shakin’ Joe Wilson. I look forward to them running that clown for president almost as much as I look forward to him turning up on Raw Story with a puppy hanging out his ass. You just know it from his pedigree. I’m betting on Plott hounds.

  34. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Oh, and my health insurer just jacked our rates up 200.00 a month. Yay profit!

  35. crinoidgirl said on September 14, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I’m currently doing freelance editing and proofreading while I’m collecting unemployment. I used to love the serial comma, but I’m having a touch of cognitive dissonance if I have to use Chicago or AP style. Ack! And no insurance or money to pay my psychiatrist, so now I’m in the hole for $2000, for his bill alone. Forget all the other medical bills and miscellaneous bills I owe. Dammit, I want universal health care now!

  36. ROgirl said on September 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    The FBI is digging in an old lumber yard in Detroit. Could they be looking for, I don’t know, Jimmy Hoffa?

  37. jeff borden said on September 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Also missing from those photos cited by Jeff TMMO are any black people mocking W. for being a honky pig. Gee, now that I come to think of it, I’m not sure I saw any black people in any of the photos of the protest.

    If you want to see and hear some of these folks, check out the brief (six minutes) video produced by gadfly Max Blumenthal, who waded into the protest with cameraman in tow. When you’re not laughing, you’ll be gagging.

  38. nancy said on September 14, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    If you were a real American, c’girl, you’d buck up and not see a psychiatrist at all. Shrinks are for weaklings, not Sarah Palin.

    If it’s the FBI, it’s gotta be Jimmy. I think they do this from time to time just to keep the muscles limber. The last place they excavated, the people got a nice new horse barn out of it. I wonder what this property owner needs?

  39. jeff borden said on September 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Speaking of La Palin, have you seen that her speech in Hong Kong, for which she will receive well into six-figures, will be closed to the press and that she will not take any questions?

  40. Jolene said on September 14, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    What’s really amazing about the Palin speech is that they invited her in the first place. I don’t know the name of the group, but I heard that it’s a high-level audience interested in international investment. What could she possibly have to tell them? Seems unlikely that her ability to see Russia from her house would give her insights that would be useful in making investment decisions.

  41. Jeff Borden said on September 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Your guess is as good as mine, Jolene. Aside from her recipe for moose chili, what is she knowledgeable about?

    My original thought that bringing her in to speak would generate a lot of press coverage is negated by the fact that no scribblers are allowed in the room.

    Previous speakers at CLSA Forums have included Bishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger. How this featherweight wound up on the same dais as these heavyweights is an unknown.

  42. MichaelG said on September 14, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    It’s come to this? All I’ve got left is maybe being on the hawt side of 70?

  43. Rana said on September 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Jolene, Jeff, I’m betting that she’ll be talking about oil companies. That is something that she does actually know a bit about.

  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 14, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I haven’t looked at the story for a while, but i thought it had come out that the Hong Kong speech was actually a spoof? There’s a firm in HK that does that to public figures from time to time, and it turns out to be more of a Borat kind of thing. Is it still on?

    As for numbers and press coverage: Saturday i was the speaker for a community event, dedicating a clock that honors Victoria Woodhull (check her Wikipedia page, fascinating lady) which had not operated for 25 years and more. No controversy in the village, which was and is ecstatic that we’d taken the effort to get this working again. Big turnout, local paper sent a reporter — nice, conscientious guy — and a photog.

    From where i stood, i could easily tally around 200 people and a dozen kids underfoot (as a pastor, i can count the house without thinking about it; it’s a reflex). The next day, the news story is posted, and Russ says “50 in attendance.” There’s a picture with the story in print and online, and you can count, from the high spot in library where it was taken, over 70 just in that view, and the toes of those pressed up against the building below to get some shade.

    Was Russ against our event? Was he spinning the expectations? Did he have an agenda? No, no, and no. I have no idea why he said 50 showed up, and i’ll admit to being mildly miffed when i first read it. (And in the online version, i tacked on a comment mentioning we had over 200 in attendance, yay the internets.) But that’s neither here nor there — he was distracted, he thought 50 sounded about right, he confused it in his notes with one of the other three stories he covered before getting back to the newsroom. I dunno.

    Either way, it just doesn’t matter all that much. The longer term record can consult the aerial photos and the traffic cams if it really matters. I do think that the House & Senate Dems write this off as a small gathering of nasty racists at their electoral peril, but if they do, and it works, i’ll have been wrong. As is often pointed out here, it’s not like the GOP has a happy-happy record on spending and deficits right now, and there’s room for a clever Dem to outflank on the right if they want, or at least feint that way. No less than Pres. Obama himself, let alone Sen. Boxer seem to be taking this weekend as a sign that gestures to revenue-neutrality will be well-received regardless of party. The rally was neither anti-Obama or pro-GOP, whatever the numbers, it was simply a call for smaller, less intrusive government. Argue their consistency or party fidelity all you want, but there they were, however many you think they counted for on the Mall or at home.

  45. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    A heartwarming story from the all too short-lived Pax Americana:
    http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid:16759
    Obama has trampled these days of freedom under the jackboots of the Oak Panthers. We’ll never see the like of them again.

  46. Jolene said on September 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Jeff: It may well be that the crowd on the mall on Saturday was not especially pro GOP (although they invited at least three Republican members of Congress to speak), but to say that they were not anti-Obama strains credulity.

    Look around a little. You’ll find that the protesters demonstrated great creativity in generating new insults to the president–signs that attacked his intelligence and integrity, that questioned his legitimacy, and that placed him in the company of some of the worst monsters in history. I somehow doubt that all that venom and disrespect stems from opposition to cap and trade or the public option.

  47. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Nah. No racists to see here. Move along now, folks.
    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/09/tea-party-patriotism.php

  48. brian stouder said on September 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    The rally was nei­ther anti-Obama or pro-GOP, what­ever the num­bers, it was sim­ply a call for smaller, less intru­sive gov­ern­ment.

    Poppycock.

    As one poster at Coozledad’s link cleverly said about the demonstrators –

    “They are clearly for a principled shrinking of government. That, and no cuts to Medicare ever.”

    I heard Karl Rove go on, with great unciousness, about how “hard-left” Obama “really” is – how he associates with hard leftists and how he doesn’t bat an eye at doubling the national debt!!

    But the disingenuous old turd blossom glossed right past the fact that in 2001, when the Great, Patriotic and All American Republican party took control of the White House, they inherited a budget SURPLUS of $128,000,000,000. The previous (and God-less) Democratic leftist draft-dodging perjurer had reduced the deficit every year he was in office, up to and including turning surpluses and reducing the public debt.

    And what did that get him, from the All American, Right Thinking, God-Fearing, Smaller, Less INtrusive Government Republicans in Congress?

    Impeached, that’s what!!!

    Our Great Patriotic and Godly Leader, President George Bush, ran a deficit every single year he was in office – doubling and then redoubling the deficit numbers ’til it hit $413 billion dollars in 2005.

    His brilliant, smaller, less intrusive government initiative was to CUT TAXES while fighting two wars on the other side of the world!!

    Where were these shit-for-brains callers “for smaller, less intrusive government” when the white republican was potentially tapping any phone in America without warrant, grabbing people anywhere in the world and then whisking them to our own archipeligo of secret prisons, and asserting that the president and vice president were beyond the reach or restrictions of any mere law, whenever they decided that they needed to do anything in the name of national defense?

    If they were angrily protesting for “a smaller, less intrusive government” back then, I surely missed it.

  49. Linda said on September 14, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Mark, I get what you are saying when capitalism works like it’s supposed to–businesses make profit, workers get good wages, charities get money, etc. Except, those things are often achieved when someone forces businesses to give it up. I’m glad your father had a good job at Chrysler, but if the Reuther Brothers did not unionize the Big Three, his wages would have been lousy.

    Nowadays, this seems to have gone in reverse. Bigger businesses buy up perfectly profitable smaller businesses..but they are somehow not quite profitable enough. And there are threats of moving to the south. Or to Asia. And workers are re-negotiating for their jobs. Or the union is broken entirely, and the workers are replaced with nonunion, or even alien workers, who will work a lot cheaper (read Methland for more detail). And it’s not because there was no profit. It’s just that businesses now have the idea that if you only nick someone once, you are a chump. Nick them at least twice.

    That’s the philosophy behind endless bank charges, and rises in credit card rates with the flimsiest pretextes. People want to love capitalism in America, but capitalists keep making it hard.

  50. derwood said on September 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Connie, I have been Wal-Mart free for 4 years. Everyone can do it…it isn’t that hard.

    daron

  51. coozledad said on September 14, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Hey, I can’t really bitch about someone cussing, but then again I’m not fucking running for the governor of fucking Virginia as a fundie whackjob am I?
    http://notlarrysabato.typepad.com/doh/2009/09/holy-shit-or-as-bob-mcdonnell-would-say-holy-fucking-shit.html
    I’m anxious to hear his twelve fucking point plan.

  52. brian stouder said on September 14, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Well, as Otter once said – face it; he f*cked up!

  53. moe99 said on September 15, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Speaking of royally fucking up, this former Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky has done so:

    http://www.kentucky.com/latest_news/story/935131.html

  54. Dexter said on September 15, 2009 at 3:00 am

    This time celeb-deaths arrived three at a time again; Jim Carroll died over the weekend . Jody Powell and Patrick Swayze passed also. If Carroll doesn’t ring a bell, you get a pass. Not a household name, he was in the set of Warhol and Mapplethorpe in New York in the 70s. He wrote the classic “Basketball Diaries”
    which DiCaprio starred in when the movie was made.
    Everybody knows who Swayze was, youngsters might not know who Powell was:
    Craig Crawford of CQ worked with him:
    http://blogs.cqpolitics.com/trailmix/

  55. brian stouder said on September 15, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Dexter, I’m taken aback by news of Powell’s passing. To me, he always presented a pleasant southern demeanor, when he was part of the new Carter Administration; and he communicated that same southern-everyman essence as one of the voice actors for Ken Burns’ arresting mini series The Civil War

  56. Danny said on September 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Brian, I only have time for a quick note, but I wanted to let you know that I took a tour if the Indy 500 museum yesterday and a group of us went around the track in a tour bus. Unlike you and some others here, I’m not very much of a motor sports enthusiast, but it was dang interesting. In the museum, my eyes kept drifting back to two particular cars: This Corvette and this Lotus. Beautiful machines.

    Very cool. I’ll never look at the race the same way again, but I can’t say that it would be a very enjoyable event on a very hot day. Lot’s of concrete and sun exposure coupled with a crowd of 300k would probably get old quick.

  57. mark said on September 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Linda,

    You raise a lot of good issues, many of which I agree with in whole or in part. Some want to throw a really great baby out with the bathwater. I don’t.

    Markets, businesses and people need government to protect against force and fraud, at least in my limited government world. The last thirty years of big business didn’t see a lot of “force” in the traditional sense, but huge amounts of fraud. It also saw, I think, the rise in the coopting of government by big business, with Republicans leading the charge and Democrats close behind. To me, it’s “force” of a different kind, with government using it’s coercive powers to force taxpayers to subsize business deals with tax benefits, grants and other legislation. Deals that benefitted the business and the politician, but not the public.

    Perhaps the topic will come up again. Enjoy your day.