Poodle Balling and Blogging

This began as a brief discussion in the comments on another post, but which has shifted to some interesting discussion on blog traffic, stat counters, and RSS feeds with a few bloggers by email. It raised a number of points which I though should be elevated from the comments to a main post. This began when I was alerted of a slur elsewhere. While I haven’t verified this, the points raised remain of interest even if the attack didn’t actually occur.

The discussion began with reports of a claim being made that Liberal Values gets most of its hits by searches for “poodle balling.” If so, that would be the interpretation of someone who is ignorant of both math and how search engines work.

At the time of the first comment, 84 out of the last 4000 hits came from searches for “poodle balling.” Poodle balling is mentioned on the blog due to quoting from the episode of Will and Grace with Britney Spears. Britney plays a character who acts as if she is a right winger, but then confesses: “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”

As a consequence of quoting this, about 2% of the hits involved searches for poodle balling. As this is a specific phrase, those looking for it generally put ‘poodle balling’ into the search engine exactly the same way. There are also thousands of searches based on specific political questions. These account for the vast majority of searches to the blog, but each individual search was only used once or twice, so these don’t rank as high as searches for ‘poodle balling’ or for other leading searches such as Paris Hilton and Heroes.

Incidentally, one of the top searches at the blog where this claim was allegedly made is for “Ann Coulter Nude.” Before anyone gets too excited, or repulsed, it is a picture of a monster without clothes. (Literally a monster, not Ann Coulter.)

This is one of the reasons I pay more attention to RSS subscribers than hits on the blog. Those who subscribe to the RSS feed are interested in the content of the blog. With search engine hits we get primarily people searching for meaningful comments, but there’s always a fair number of other searches. That is not to say that looking for discussion of Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace isn’t a decent reason to search for the blog. After all, there is a substantial amount here on non-political topics such as television, and Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace did have its political aspects.

It’s also interesting to look at search words ranked by visit length as opposed to visit number. As people looking for non-political topics generally visit briefly, the topics on this search are generally more serious ones. Current top searches include “growing libertarianism among the liberals” and individuals such as Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. However “poodle balling” still leads this list, indicating that people searching for “poodle balling” wound up reading much more of the blog.

The portion above was already noted in the comments, but this raised more questions regarding RSS readers as opposed to stat counters and the strategy of using RSS readers. Some argued for only placing a portion of a blog post on the RSS feed, forcing readers to click through to the main post. In contrast, I have preferred to place the entire post on the feed. My feeling is that I would rather have 3000 people reading the entire post on in their RSS reader, as opposed to stopping at the end of a brief excerpt, and it doesn’t matter whether they click through and are seen by the stat counter. Of course those who hope to maximize ad revenue by increasing hits may have reason to limit what is on the RSS feed.

Another topic of debate was the value of page loads versus unique readers, and there was really no clear answer. On the one hand, fifteen separate people who come to read the blog might be more meaningful than one person checking the comments to a post fifteen times during the day. On the other hand, one person who follows the links and reads fifteen old posts is more meaningful than fifteen people who quickly come from a search engine but wind up not reading much on the blog. Even that is difficult to determine since, as I noted above, even many of the people searching for “poodle balling” wound up sticking around to read more of the blog.

It’s almost a running joke in the blogoshere that if you put up a picture of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan the hits will increase. We seemed to have figured out a little more as to why that sometimes happens and sometimes does not. The major variable appears to be how the picture comes up in search engines such as Google and MSN which allow searches for pictures. There are typically multiple copies of each photo on line, and some sites with the picture wind up coming up earlier and some several pages back, obviously determining whether this results in a flood of hits. Nobody involved in the discussion was clear on how this worked, but most likely it involves the usual web search karma which determines what winds up higher in a search.

Why American Policy Should Shift to Diplomacy and Leaving Iraq

Last week we were involved in a discussion spanning several blogs regarding the views of those possibly erroneously named hawks and doves. My reply got postponed to the point where most may have lost interest in the exchange, but I did think I should return to clear up some loose ends raised by Kevin Sullivan‘s last reply. While I don’t think it is feasible to settle an entire debate on how long we should remain in Iraq, I hope that this will at least provide better insight into the views of those who disagree with Kevin on remaining for several years.

Some of the points I wish to discuss are significant to the issue beyond this debate, but the first pertains specifically to the terminology used in our posts. I noted that Kevin was using labels in a manner in which it appeared he was applying one word (progressive isolationists) for those with views he disagreed with and another word (liberal) for those who supported staying in Iraq. Kevin questions why I refer to leaving Iraq as the liberal position. The answer is simply that this is the view held by most liberals, as well as the general population, and I am dispensing with playing the label game here to arbitrarily apply labels to others.

Most of the objections to leaving Iraq can be dispensed with by noting that there is no reason to believe that staying longer will do anything to prevent them, but there is reason to believe that the ultimate outcome will be worse. If the concern is the entry of other countries, this only proves that the primary emphasis of US policy must be shifted from a failed military strategy to a diplomatic strategy which includes Iraq’s neighbors.

Kevin used World War II era examples of nation building to argue that we just need more time in Iraq. I noted that the conditions in Iraq are considerably different, and thought that this point was so obvious at the time that it didn’t require further elaboration. Iraq has far more internal division than any of the countries that the United States has occupied in the past. To keep these divisions in check, it required that Saddam utilize suppressive measures which the United States would not, and should not, consider. There’s also the problems of foreign influence. We didn’t have other countries meddling as we do with both Iraq’s bordering countries and with al Qaeda.

The primary battle we are engaged in is one for hearts and minds. As long as we appear to be the invader and occupier of a Muslim country we will be seen as the enemy, even by many moderates in the region. Israeli and Saudi studies have demonstrated that the primary opposition to the United States comes not from long time radicals but from people newly radicalized by the US intervention. The bumper sticker slogan is really true when it warns that we are creating more terrorists than we are able to kill. The Israeli experience also demonstrates that occupation is a difficult process with no clear end point.

Kevin then refers to some mysterious Middle Eastern Playbook “which incidentally has been filled with arrogant and condescending assumptions about how Arabs ‘can’t do’ democracy for decades.” The question isn’t whether Arabs can establish democracy but whether our policies promote or hinder this. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. Democracy advocates working in non-democratic countries complain that many see the US invasion as reason to oppose democracy. Many see what is occurring in Iraq and respond, “if this is democracy, I want no part of it.” Some of them turn to Islamic fundamentalism in response. If the Arabs cannot establish democracy for decades, it may very well turn out to be because of United States policy in the region.

Update: Kevin has responded, and I respond with criticizing his Argument By Labels Rather Than Logic on Iraq

Doctor Who: From the End of the Universe to The End of the World


Doctor Who continues to end the season in a strong manner in this second part of the three part finale with The Sound of Drums. (Spoilers ahead.) Last week’s episode, Utopia, was a run of the mill episode until it turned out to be a means of bringing back The Master. The episode ended on a cliff hanger as The Doctor was being chased by the cannibal race of Futurekind at the end of the universe, but by this week we were far more interested in what The Master was up to. The cliff hanger was quickly dispensed with as The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack returned to 21st century earth using one of the means I suggested in last week’s review. The Doctor quickly repaired Captain Jack’s vortex manipulator allowing them to escape. We never do find out if the surviving humans make it to Utopia.

Upon returning to earth, we find that The Master had returned eighteen months before The Doctor left for the future and has been posing as Mister Saxon. He uses his powers of hypnotism to transmit The Sound of Drums using cell phones over the Archangel communications network to convince people to vote for him. Once elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, he uses his authority to have The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack chased as terrorists. There’s even conflict between Prime Minister Saxon and the President of the United States. Ultimately we wind up in a U.N.I.T. ship flying above the earth where Mr. Saxon assists the invasion of earth with droids as seen in the clip above.

As with most episodes, there are many holes in the plot but they don’t distract from the fun. This episode was especially notable for all the points of continuity, although some might feel some details have strayed from previous works. We see a tribute to previous versions of The Doctor as he offers jelly babies and U.N.I.T. once again plays a part. While the Time Lords were pretty much ignored up until now, we do see images of Gallifrey (which turns out to not really be located in Scotland). Further events from this season become more significant, as with The Master using the technology from The Lazarus Experiment to make The Doctor too old to be a threat. Even Captain Jack’s affiliation with Torchwood becomes a point in the story.

There are many loose ends to tie up in the finale. With all the references to previous episodes, I do hope that the droids don’t turn out to be new homes for the Daleks. The Master tell’s The Doctor that the contents would break his heart I wonder if this means a connection to the Time Lords, or perhaps to the Cybermen with Rose somehow involved. Will The Doctor return to his normal age, or will he have to regenerate despite the claims that David Tennant is returning? The Master has turned the The Tardis into a Paradox Machine but this has not yet been explained I wonder if this will ultimately provide a cosmic reset switch to return everything back to normal.

Fred Thompson Takes Lead In The Sex Appeal Primary

If security was the big issue in 2004, it now looks like a new issue might determine the 2008 race, at least for the Republican nomination–sex appeal. Fred Thompson is taking the lead on that issue. When asked about his personal life by Republican Congressmen, Thompson recently answered, “I was single for a long time and yep I chased a lot of women. And a lot of women chased me. And those who chased me tended to catch me.”

Thompson quickly turns this potential negative into a point in his favor by receiving the endorsements from several of his former conquests. We learn, “Fred is a perfect example of chivalry. He’s the kind of man little girls dream about marrying, who opens doors for you, lights your cigarettes, helps you on with your coat, buys wonderful gifts. It’s every woman’s fantasy.” And those are exactly the criteria we are most concerned with in choosing a President. I bet Thompson wouldn’t grope German Chancellor Angela Merkel as George Bush did. He’d be a true gentleman.

As for national security, we are told, “I think he has a great chance of capturing the women’s vote. He’s majestic. He’s a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred’s ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us.”

Margaret Carlson, a columnist for Bloomberg News, states “He’s handsome, he’s charming, he sounds like a president. He’s smart, he’s articulate, he knows his line, he can hit his mark.” I think they should definately sign him to be play the President on the next season of 24, especially if he sounds like a president.

As silly, and perhaps nauseating, as this all is, receiving this sort of praise from former girl friends is an improvement over all the “man crush” articles we’ve seen on Mitt Romney. Will the Republican nomination come down to whether Thompson or Romney can attract more women voters, and who will ultimately win the women vote if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee? Those of us who hope for elections which are determined by issues might be disappointed yet again this year.

Judge Warns Against Loss of Civil Liberties While Fighting Terrorism

Royce Lamberth, a district court judge in Washington and former chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has criticized George Bush’s use of wiretaps following the 9/11 attack.  At the convention of the American Library Association he warned that “what we have found in the history of our country is that you can’t trust the executive.”

Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, warned about the loss of civil liberties while fighting terrorism. He said, “We have to understand you can fight the war (on terrorism) and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war.”

The Seven Words You Can Never Say On The Internet

Like Jennifer Ouelette, better known for Cocktail Party Physics (as if we’d do physics any other way), Liberal Values has earned an NC-17 rating.

Just as we can blame Dick Cheney for the false claims of a connection between Saddam and 9/11, we can also blame this rating on Cheney. The rating is based upon words used on the blog, and by far the worst word here, by their ratings, is Dick. We used Dick, as in Dick Cheney, twelve times. Other “naughty” words include abortion five times, hurt three times, sex (as in referring to someone’s sex), twice and shoot once. Other blogs report similar ratings for similarly innocuous words.

While many other bloggers also report an NC-17 rating, PZ Myers was rated G. It must mean something that it is more acceptable to have posts bashing God than Dick Cheney, and all that cephalopod sex wasn’t even found objectionable.

I had thought that the blogosphere was more liberal on these things than other media. George Carlin’s routine on The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV just would not have been the same if he had used Dick, Abortion, Hurt, Sex, Shoot, Death, and Corpse.

Maureen Dowd on The Vice President Without Borders

Maureen Dowd must have had lots of fun starting out her column on Dick Cheney:

It’s hard to imagine how Dick Cheney could get more dastardly, unless J. K. Rowling has him knock off Harry Potter next month.

Harry’s cloak of invisibility would be no match for Vice’s culture of invisibility.

I’ve always thought Cheney was way out there — the most Voldemort-like official I’ve run across. But even in my harshest musings about the vice president, I never imagined that he would declare himself not only above the law, not only above the president, but actually his own dark planet — a separate entity from the White House.

I guess a man who can wait 14 hours before he lets it dribble out that he shot his friend in the face has no limit on what he thinks he can keep secret. Still, it’s quite a leap to go from hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the capital to hiding in a secure, undisclosed location in the Constitution.

Dr. No used to just blow off the public and Congress as he cooked up his shady schemes. Now, in a breathtaking act of arrant arrogance, he’s blowing off his own administration.

From there, she reviews the recent report of Cheney declaring he’s not part of the Executive Branch. She both dismisses that theory as well as Cheney’s Cheney for cooking it up:

Cheney and Cheney’s Cheney, David Addington, his equally belligerent, ideological and shadowy lawyer and chief of staff, have no shame. After claiming executive privilege to withhold the energy task force names and protect Scooter Libby, they now act outraged that Vice should be seen as part of the executive branch.

Cheney, they argue, is the president of the Senate, so he’s also part of the legislative branch. Vice is casting himself as a constitutional chimera, an extralegal creature with the body of a snake and the head of a sea monster. It’s a new level of gall, to avoid accountability by saying you’re part of a legislative branch that you’ve spent six years trying to weaken.

But gall is the specialty of Addington, who has done his best to give his boss the powers of a king. He was the main author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects, and he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission. He led the fights supporting holding terrorism suspects without access to courts and against giving Congress and environmentalists access to information about the energy industry big shots who secretly advised Cheney on energy policy.