Hillary 1984


The best political ad of the season isn’t on television and (as far as we know) isn’t even by a professional. Nobody knows who came up with this variation on the classic Apple ad to attack Hillary Clinton. The ad ends with “BarackObama.com” but the San Francisco Examiner reports that Obama’s campaign denies involvement. More likely the attack on Hillary came from either a supporter unaffiliated with the campaign, or from someone who wanted to both “call Hillary Clinton a pabulum-spewing pseudo-fascist” and possibly also create headaches for Obama’s campaign.

Regardless of who made this, it sure does sum up the feelings of many about Hillary Clinton as compared to Obama’s new look. In 2004 the Swift Boat Liars placed an ad on a small number of television stations knowing that the right wing noise machine, and later the mainstream media, would show the ad to millions, giving them a tremendous amount of publicity at a minimal cost. Now it isn’t even necessary to pay to put the ad up anywhere. Anybody with a computer and a powerful enough message can get publicity just by posting to You Tube.

Prayer Still Doesn’t Affect Medical Outcomes

Last month I commented on evidence questioning the reliability of studies claiming that prayer increases the chances for a woman to get pregnant using in-vitro fertilization. Skeptico examines other such claims, finding no evidence that prayer affects medical outcomes. Previous posts there have argued that prayer doesn’t work, and prayer still doesn’t work. Today they looked at a claim from David R. Hodge, an assistant professor of social work in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University that prayer was effective. NeuroLogica Blog noted that this was a flawed meta analysis of earlier studies which provides no new data and did not prove any medical benefits of prayer. They concluded:

As others have pointed out the introduction of magic in general, and faith healing in particular, into modern scientific medicine should not be viewed as benign or harmless. It is often defended with the tired and lazy notion of “it couldn’t hurt, so why not give it a try.” But the introduction of supernatural forces into mainstream medicine can have an insidiously destructive effect, eroding the scientific and intellectual quality and integrity of the culture of health care.

This meta-analysis by Hodge is scientifically worthless and publicly misleading. I await the latest round of news stories saying that “A new study finds that prayer works,” even though it is not a new study (meaning there is no new data) and the entire approach has serious flaws. The later more detailed analysis that is sure to come will be largely overlooked. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, but I doubt it. For those of us interested in scientific integrity, the best we can do is damage control.

Romney Bungles Speech–And Tries To Cover It Up

Presidential campaigns are to an unfortunate degree about who can avoid making serious gaffes. In 1967 Mitt Romney’s father was the front runner for the ’68 GOP nomination until he said he was brainwashed into supporting the Vietnam war. With such a family history people might be looking more closely at Mitt Romney to see if there are any major gaffes on his part. I doubt this will be as serious a blow to his campaign as his father’s statement had been, but if the Republican nomination comes down to Florida, Mitt could be in trouble:

People chuckled when presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon raised in Michigan and elected in Massachusetts, bungled the names of Cuban-American politicians during a recent speech in Miami.

But when he mistakenly associated Fidel Castro’s trademark speech-ending slogan — Patria o muerte, venceremos! — with a free Cuba, listeners didn’t laugh. They winced.

Castro has closed his speeches with the phrase — in English, ”Fatherland or death, we shall overcome” — for decades.

”Clearly, that’s something he was ill-advised on or didn’t do his homework on,” said Hialeah City Council President Esteban Bovo. “When you get cute with slogans, you get yourself into a trap.”

Romney’s fumble demonstrates the potential snags for state and national politicians trying to navigate the Cuban-American community of South Florida.

Ever since Ronald Reagan enthralled exiles by crying, ”Cuba sí, Castro no,” in a landmark 1983 visit to Little Havana, politicians have clamored, with mixed success, for the Spanish-speaking vote.

Update: It appears Romney is attempting to cover up his gaffe. Foreign Policy reports, “The text of the speech has been changed in the version now available online.” There’s also buzz around the blogosphere, including comments on conservative blogs, claiming that the video was taken down from Romney’s site as well as the sites of some pro-Romney blogs.

It was too late as even many conservative bloggers had already criticized Romney for his gaffe. Some of these are quoted in the comments in response to a Romney supporter who tries to pass off the “revised” version as Romney’s actual text. Besides, we all know that the cover up can hurt worse than the crime.

Update II: More on the political fall out today at The Boston Herald.

Pessismism Growing Among Iraqis

Conservatives got excited yesterday about one poll which appeared to show progress in Iraq, even though it was contradicted by other reports discussed yesterday. Another poll conducted by ABC News, the BBC, USA Today, and a German television netowrk provides different findings.

Less than 40% of those polled said things were good in their lives, compared to 71% two years ago. Only 18% said they had confidence in US and coalition troops, and 51% said they thought attacks on coalition forces were justified. Fifty-three percent ave a close friend or relative who’s been hurt or killed in the current violence. That ranges from 30% in the Kurdish provinces to almost 80% in Baghdad. One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. Eighty-six percent worry about a loved one being hurt. Many report limiting their daily activities to minimize risk. Seven in 10 report multiple signs of traumatic stress.

Far more Iraqis blame the United States or George Bush than blame groups such as al Qaeda for the deteroriation–hardly what is necessary to win the battle for hearts and minds. Less than thirty percent believe adding more troops will help.

Yesterday many conservatives were claiming that poll findings justified the decision to go to war. Basing such arguments upon polls is dangerous as such findings can change quickly, and are often contradicted by more comprehensive studies. I bet today’s polling won’t attract as much attention in the conservative blogosphere–unless they come up with arguments to claim that this is untrue as they usually due when confronted with the fact that reality is typically biased against them.

John Kerry on Fighting To Pass Efforts to End the War

John Kerry appeared on Fox News Sunday, and the efforts to begin a withdrawal were discussed. This portion of the transcript begins with discussion of the fact that those supporting withdrawal are short of the necessary votes:

KERRY: Well, actually, Chris, we’re 19 votes short because you need 67 to overcome the veto. And there would be a veto. We all understand that.

But last summer when I brought that resolution to the floor, I got 13 votes, 48-13. That is an enormous change in a very short time.

And what we’ve learned in the great fights of the Senate and historically in this country is you have to keep fighting. You keep trying.

The Civil Rights Act didn’t pass immediately. Important pieces of legislation take time. We will change this policy over time.

But the reason I wanted to interrupt you there is because you and others in the media, and particularly on the Republican side of the aisle, continually characterize the plan we put forward as a complete withdrawal of all the troops and as a precipitous withdrawal.

It is not a complete withdrawal. It specifically allows the president the discretion to leave troops there, to complete the task of training the Iraqis, and that is fundamentally all we ought to be there for.

It allows the president to leave troops there to chase Al Qaeda and prosecute the War on Terror, and it allows him to leave troops to protect American facilities and forces.

Now, six years into the war, really, what more could you want for our troops to be doing? This has got to — this debate has to be real, not a straw man debate where you set up a phony deal which is precipitous and complete withdrawal. It’s a responsible plan that allows us…

WALLACE: Senator?

KERRY: … to stay positioned against Iran and do what we need to protect American interests.

WALLACE: Senator, let me just say for the record, I never said it was a complete withdrawal or a precipitous…

KERRY: Yes, you did. If you go back and look at the transcript, you said all the troops out.

WALLACE: Well, but I never said a complete or precipitous — I also said that it was a goal, not an absolute deadline. But you’re right. It is not a complete withdrawal.

Update: A Daily Kos diary by Beechmom catches Fox at altering the transcript.