Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

Chutzpah

No doubt Armed Liberal at Winds of Change introduces some of his readers for the first time, to the term Chutzpah, “Chutzpah is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The word derives from the Yiddish khutspeh...”

Sometimes Yiddish captures that essence of a thought, event or object as well as any language can. With onomatopoeia to boot. “Chutzpah” always makes me think of someone hacking up a great big honking gob of… well, you catch my drift, which in turn seems a helpful metaphor for that AL was talking about. Ahem. \digression.

AL follows his Yiddish lesson with a discussion about RFK, Jr.’s now widely discredited assertions about the “stolen” 2004 Presidential elections. Tinfoil redux, one might suggest, but not AL. He thinks the election process -- its vulnerability to error, possible fraud, and even the mere fact of the public’s diminishing faith in its soundness – poses a serious issue for our Nation and its institutions.

I’m halfway there, but not entirely.

I give him a lot of credit. I got through Kennedy’s Rolling Stone piece (might I describe it as “fraudulent?”), but it was exhausting, and as AL likewise supposes, not a good use of our time. That he waded back through a flying re-buttress of a piece in Salon by Steven F. Freeman, even linked through to non-representative quotes from other sources, I find almost superhuman. How do you do it, AL.

I would find the issue of election process and its soundness more pressing, if those most vocal in denunciation of results showed any evidence in pressing for a fair and balanced set of solutions. (Not those designed specifically to favor one party or outcome.)

To the extent that the election process needs improvement, it will need to be a cooperative effort from well-intentioned people from all political perspectives. If one (minority but large) side continues to accuse the other of fraud and bad faith, the god faith essential to reform is destroyed.

No political party has a lock on ethics or morality, but both parties often use ethics and morals (or lack thereof) as blunt objects to beat their opponents about the head.

Election process is one such blunt object.

Since 2000, I observe that those most vocal in alleging election fraud are very selective in which results they want "done over," and which population segments they think are "under-represented" in results. Always.

Al Gore didn't want a state-wide recount of over and under votes. He wanted a recount of one type of vote in 4 Democratic stronghold counties to gain only one objective: more votes for Gore, not a more "accurate" result.

And so it goes. It must be a tactic being discussed in those "smoke-filled rooms."

I hate telephone surveys and hang up on them. Polls, at their best, rely on the feelings, opinions, and motivations of those polled towards who or what they perceive as either the polls subject, or its sponsors. People don’t always tell the truth. If they have reason to doubt you or your motives, they are even less likely to do so. That, and a fair number of people even make mistakes, get confused, aren’t sure what’s been asked, or for whatever reason, don’t want the questioner to know what they really think (or did).

Some husbands and wives wisely choose not to discuss politics when they differ, and I’ll bet no pollster is going to get them to start a fight that will last well beyond that night or the next morning.

If you asked those poor unfortunates (yes, perhaps more Gore supporters than otherwise) who couldn’t figure out the infamous Democratic-election-supervisor-designed butterfly ballot, they’d have told exit pollers they had voted for Gore, when in fact they voted for Buchanan. (Then again, maybe they voted for him on purpose, just for spite. He generates that in some people.)

This is no different than media reports about "perceptions" about fact. Facts are facts, polling about perception of fact only tells you how naive, ill-informed, biased, or ignorant are those polled. Provided, of course, you know what the facts are. Which until election results, tallied in as fair a manner as can reasonably be accomplished, are not known.

Polling in place of facts can be a very poor substitute. 1-6% deviation? I'm surprised it’s not higher.

Maybe the data on the deviation has been manipulated...




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