Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More polling shenanigans

Back a week or so I blogged about how Gallup and USA Today buried a poll showing Senator Obama pulling ahead of Senator Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Now ABC News has gotten into the poll fixing act, this time to hide the fact that some people actually like Dennis Kucinich and what he has to say. Mother Jones reports that ABC's web poll on "who won the last debate" suddenly vanished from the front page of their site when Kucinich took the lead. A new poll replaced it, but it too was yanked when Kucinich tied with Clinton.

ABC is not only trying to bury the fact that Kucinich did well in the debate; they're trying to hide that he took part in it at all. They cut him out of a group photo of all the candidates posted on their web site.

ABC has not responded yet to how these "mistakes" could have accidentally happened. It's just another example of the mainstream media making corrections when the voters rudely get in the way of democracy in action.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.17

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.17 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy This week's entries into the carnival are all excellent, so I will dispense with any introductions and get right to it:

AllAboutVoting presents A predictable outcome posted at All About Voting.

Gavin R. Putland presents John W. Howard's Flowchart for Political Success posted at

Martin Bosworth presents Wrath of the math: Why did Karl Rove quit? posted at Scholars and Rogues.

Hell's Handmaiden presents Tancredo is bloody insane posted at hell's handmaiden.

Ian Welsh presents Jose Padilla, née Winston Smith, Found Guilty posted at The Agonist.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Bush Growls; Dems Kowtow (Limerick and Poll) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (September 3) with the Labor Day edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Who is reading your emails?

Here's the text of an email I received from True Majority Action:
If you sent an email in 2003, there's a good chance your government grabbed a copy of it. That's because in 2003, the National Security Agency set up a secret, 24-by-48 foot room in a downtown San Francisco telecommunications building to tap into one of the nation's largest Internet data hubs and illegally retrieve millions of emails and other communications. This is not a conspiracy theory; according to the sworn affidavit of an AT&T technician, this actually happened.

Tomorrow a federal court will hear two lawsuits against the NSA's unconstitutional "special project." The arguments will be long and drawn out, but in a sense our own Congress has already made it moot -- just before leaving on vacation they voted to make the administration's spying programs legal.

Congress will re-consider that legal protection in just six months, so we need to show them NOW that this is not the behavior we will accept. No more secret rooms siphoning off our e-mails and telephone calls.
Pissed off yet? If you've been reading this blog, and following the posts in the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, you know that this is not a lone, accidental violation of our civil rights, but is simply the way this administration has operated since day one.

It's not enough to simply wait for the next election and hope that things will be better. We've got to fight this today, now. That's why I reprinted True Majority's email and am asking you to click here and join me in signing their petition:
'We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal recourse, allow our phones and emails to be tapped without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any President. I insist that my elected representatives in Congress do the same.'
Thank you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Following up on yesterday's post about American's short life spans and problems with obesity, here's a study from the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on the Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences.

The study was pretty simple. They took food from McDonald's (burgers, nuggets, and fries) and food from the market (carrots and milk) and divided each food sample into two parts; half in McDonald's wrappers and half in unmarked wrappers. They then gave the food samples to a bunch of little kids, aged 3-5 years old.

The kids, of course, found the food in the McDonald's wrappers to be tastier, even when it wasn't the McDonald's food. The burgers in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded burgers. The carrot sticks in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded carrot sticks. Etc.

What the researchers claim to have proved is the power of marketing on young children, and they've done a darn good job of it. Dr. Thomas Robinson, who led the study, says, "Kids don't just ask for food from McDonald's, they actually believe" it tastes better than the identical unbranded food item.
"We found that kids with more TVs in their homes and those who eat at McDonald's more frequently were even more likely to prefer the food in the McDonald's wrapper," Robinson said. "This is a company that knows what they're doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children."
McDonald's has not denied the findings, and claims to be working on "healthier choices." McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker says, "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories."

Riker went on to say that "The fact is, parents make the decisions for their children." Not to let the big McD off the hook completely, but he's absolutely right. If the kid sees an ad for a "right-sized" chicken and apples meal, but the adult who brings them to McDonald's is eating a super-sized Big Mac, then there's plenty of blame to be spread around.

Meanwhile, if you want your kids to eat healthier, try wrapping your own food in McD bags and setting a better example yourself.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Live fast, die young, leave an uninsured corpse

A new report using data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics shows that Americans are living shorter lives than people born in other nations. Yes, our life expectancy is now 77.9 years. You'd have a better chance of living longer if you were born in France, England, Germany, Japan, Andorra, Singapore, or any of the other 41 nations that came in ahead of us.

What led to our dismal ranking at #42 (a drop from #11 two decades ago)? Well, much as Michael Moore and I would love to say it's entirely due to our lack of universal health care, that's just one of the factors at play here.

Also at play is our lousy eating habits. Obesity and the troubles it brings (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are a big part of what's killing us (no pun intended).

Class and race play a role as well (of course). After all, if you can afford to eat better (and be insured) you have a better chance at a long life than if you're raised in a low-employment inner-city ghetto.

So, why can't we see a way to rise above our health care and longevity issues? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we also now have the shortest population in the industrialized world.

Obesity and the lack of a national health care system are to blame for that one too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gallup: "We'll poll you till you get the answer right!"

Apparently, some weeks back, the USA Today/Gallup Poll did a "redo" when the public answered them with information they didn't want to report.

The poll was regarding the upcoming Democratic primary elections, and the people responded that Senator Barack Obama was tied with, and looking like he might pull ahead of, Senator Hillary Clinton.

But we, the public they polled, did not get to see that poll back in June because Frank Newport, USA Today/Gallup Poll Guru, openly admitted he redid the poll because he "could not believe" the information. Barely a week later a different poll did make it to press showing Senator Clinton still firmly in the lead.

I know what you're thinking, "I can think of an election or two that I couldn't believe the results of, can we have a redo?" But let's take a serious look at this for a second.

First, Gallup and USA Today are private organizations, and they can choose to publish or not publish whatever they like. There's no constitutional guarantee of fair polling ahead of elections. There's no legal "wrongdoing" going on here. But what about an ethical wrongdoing?

What is the point of polling anyway? One would presume that they're doing it as some sort of public service. That we, the public, might be interested in what candidates the rest of us like. And, that if we see a certain candidate rising, we might be inclined ourselves to take a closer look at that candidate.

If that were the case, then the poll would have been published, surprising information or not. I mean, really, if polls always showed us exactly what we expected to see, why would Gallup go through the time and expense of actually conducting the poll? If Frank Newport always knows the right answer, why doesn't he just write that up without asking us?

Or, perhaps, the point of the poll is to help push along a candidate that the pollster's editorial board feels is more acceptable or friendly to their business. Perhaps any information that goes contrary to their official position and policy is buried for business or political reasons, rather than questions about their own ability to conduct an accurate poll.

Let's ask another question here, "What harm, if any, was done by the hiding of the first poll?" The answer is we'll never know. It likely wouldn't have had a huge effect on the outcome of the November 2008 Presidential election. But, it may have had a minor effect during the primary season.

One poll showing Senator Obama pulling ahead of President Clinton may not have convinced enough undecided Democratic voters to assure him of victory this far in advance of the primaries, but it could have helped a bit with this month's fundraising efforts, and it may have brought in a few new supporters. And, in a campaign this long and this close, every little bit helps.

Welcome to Democracy, as brought to you by our kind sponsors at USA Today and the Gallup Organization.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.16

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.16 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy I've just returned from a long awaited vacation in Maui where the battle against declining democracy takes the form of native Hawaiian rights. Questions from land development to the newly appointed head of a local museum all include an element of this debate. If any of my readers are Hawaiian, I'd love to read your take on this and have you submit a posting to the next edition of the Carnival.

Now, on to this week's selections: Is Anarchy a viable alternative to Democracy? Silic0nsilence presents Anarchy posted at The Blog of silic0nsilence.

Troubled by too much democracy? Gavin R. Putland offers us Democracy vs. universal suffrage posted at /etc/cron.whenever/.

Tom explains what's wrong with politicians in general in no one to vote for posted at

Has Net censorship got you down? Jimmy Atkinson presents Free Speech Hosting: 11 Web Hosts That Won?t Dump You at the First Sign of Controversy posted at Dedicated Hosting Guide.

The decline of democracy (and the rescinding of our civil rights) did not begin with Bush's War on Terror, it began years ago in the War on Drugs. Ian Welsh explains in The War on Terror Is The War on Drugs... On Crack posted at The Agonist.

Finally, for the do-it-yourselfers in my readership, Madeleine Begun Kane presents Political Madness Bush Impeachment Poll posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (August 20) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

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