Charts of the Day

Apparently, Republicans are increasingly living in their own bubble of Fox news distortion (Pew via Kevin Drum):

In other words, Democrats and Independents have changed their viewing habits only slightly while Republicans have flocked to Fox and dropped both CNN and MSNBC in droves.

Yowza.  Is it any wonder, then, Republicans have become so obtuse? (i.e., the half who supposedly believe Obama wants to help impose Sharia law on America).

Meanwhile, Yglesias goes to the same report and highlights the dramatically different viewing habits of young and old:


Well, I sure wish young people read the newspaper more, but in many ways they are making the smarter choices and leaving O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, etc., to the old folks.  I guarantee you’ll be a much more accurately informed American from the young-skewing Colbert Report and/or Daily Show.

The Liberal Indoctrinator

So, a couple of weeks ago one of my students in my current class, Campaigns and Elections, hands me an Op-Ed in the student newspaper about a “biased professor” and says, “I know this is either you or Cobb.”  I laughed, and laughed more when a quick perusal revealed me to be the callous, impervious-to-fact, liberal indoctrinator.  Much of the column extensively relates an incident from my Intro to American Government class last Spring (clearly, it really stuck with this poor, misguided columnist):

For example, my introductory political science professor decided he would give a lecture and argument about the questions people raise about whether there is racism involved in the death penalty. He showed statistics and slides, but decided he would conclude the lecture with, “My examples are proof that the death penalty doesn’t work. Just look at Texas; they are gung-ho about the death penalty and yet they have one of the highest crime rates in the United States.” As a student who has been taught never to simply take just anyone at their word, I made sure I checked his information before I commented. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C., counted among the states, has the highest crime rate in the U.S. Texas is at No. 16. I show him my data, after which he bellows through the classroom, “I don’t care!”

This kind of behavior was both immature and unnecessary. Being in position 16 on the list may not be an excellent crime rate, but it’s certainly not top 10 and certainly no Washington, D.C. When someone is so wrapped up in their side of the argument they can’t even look at data, then they are simply impossible to persuade or even argue with.

Wow, sounds like an awful professor, huh?  Of course, in reality, only an idiot (and most definitely not a social scientist) would ever make a statement like, “”My examples are proof that the death penalty doesn’t work.”  Anyway, Ms. Kelly quickly googled state crime rates, though I don’t have to tell you I mentioned homicide rates.  Regardless, she kept pointing out that Washington, DC has the highest crime rate “of all the states.”  Again, I don’t have to explain to you why comparing DC to actual states is not a meaningful comparison, but I did quite calmly explain to the class why you would not want to do so.  In fact, it was a nice “teachable moment.”  Alas, Ms. Kelly insisted that we consider DC a state, because “it’s the District of Columbia” and damnit, the website listed it as a state!.  To this last point of hers, I did, in fact respond, “I don’t care.”  Doesn’t quite come across that way in her column, does it?  If she had actually mentioned my name, this might actually be a case of libel (not that I ever plan on suing my students).  Another of my current students who was in that class had a nice response in the paper.  Anyway, pretty interesting example of education going awry despite my best efforts.  I blame Fox news.

Democratic dream in Delaware?

Just last week, the Post ran a story about how Joe Miller’s very surprise win in the Alaska Republican primary had given enough of a scare to Delaware Republican front-runner, Mike Castle, that he would take his tea party challenger very seriously and not suffer the same fate as Lisa Murkowski.  Apparently, it’s not good enough just to be warned.  Especially, when you truly are a very moderate Republican this year.  The reason that Castle is favored to win the Senate in Delaware is that his reputation as a true moderate will bring in many Democratic votes.  That reputation may now be an albatross in the Republican primary, though.  Here’s the latest from PPP:

It looks like there’s a real possibility of a major upset in the Delaware Senate primary on Tuesday night, with insurgent conservative Christine O’Donnell leading longtime Congressman and Governor Mike Castle 47-44. That 3 point lead is well within the poll’s margin of error.

If Castle is indeed defeated Tuesday night it will be yet another sign that conservatives have a strangle hold on the Republican Party and moderates may or may not be welcome anymore. Castle has an overwhelming 69-21 lead with moderate voters but they only make up 33% of the likely primary electorate. O’Donnell has a 62-31 lead with conservatives that’s more than enough to propel her to the overall lead.

It’s clear that Castle’s popularity has taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction over the last month. An August PPP poll found his favorability with Delaware Republicans at a 60/25 spread. Now his favorables within the party are negative at 43/47. That’s largely a product of 55% of voters in his party saying they think he’s too liberal compared to 37% who think he’s about right.

If O’Donnel wins this election, it is the Tea Party basically handing a Senate seat to the Democrats.  I suppose you’ve got to admire their passion, but stategery is not their forte.  A conservative Republican simply does not win the Delaware Senate seat.  A moderate one, can, and would then vote with Republican Senators 80-90% of the time anyway.  If O’Donnell wins, the seat will almost surely go to a Democrat who will vote with Republicans 10% of the time at best.  Go O’Donnell!!

How GWB Ruined America

So, I was sitting in the Friday discussion section for PS 201 Intro to American Government to observe the TA on Friday (he did a good job).  The TA brought up the federal appeals court ruling on “state secrets” used to protect the torturers (and their facilitators).  I found the resulting discussion revolting and as morally shallow as about any I’ve heard (probably, because I don’t watch Fox news).  Basically, almost the entire class seemed to be in agreement that if an action “saves American lives,” it is appropriate for the government to undertake, no matter what else.  [If you don’t get what’s wrong with this, I’m not going to waste my time explaining it to you].  When one student said, “if the government tells us they need to keep something secret to protect us, I don’t see any problem with that” there was nary any dissent.  I was tempted to step out of my role as an observer and rant against the short-sighted and amoral crowd, but I realized that would accomplish little.  Mostly, it left me sad, as I realized this is what 8 years of George W. Bush did to America.  He gave us a world where your typical 18/19 year old simply thinks torture in service of American aims is just fine and that the government’s role is to protect Americans at any cost.   I really don’t think the conversation would have been at all the same 10 years ago.  And, in fact if Al Gore was president on 9/11 (as he should have been, of course), I don’t think the conversation would have been the same.  Thanks, GWB, for America’s moral obtuseness.

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