Monday, January 10, 2005

HUGE MISTRUTH: Alternet Lowers American Investigative Journalism to a New Low

WARNING: The following blog-post contains crude uncensored angy words to emphasize the obscene nature of the article reported on here.

You know journalism in America is in dire straits when the non-mainstream alternative so-called "left-wing" sites are churning out utter crap like the stuff I discovered today. This Alternet piece has inspired me to take what free time I have today and dedicate it to exposing it's glaring non-sequiturs. There is a problem, though. I don't know where to begin. The ol' "so much to write about, so little time" axiom comes into play here. So what I will do here is expose the mistruth in one section of the story and let you (and other bloggers) comment about the others. The section of the article I will cover is on a particular topic Newsclip Autopsy has been following closely since November 2. Russ Baker, the so-called "investigative journalist" of this report calls this particular subject "the central issue".


The exit polls.
Election 2004: Stolen or Lost

By Russ Baker, TomPaine.com. Posted January 10, 2005.

Charge: Exit poll results were more accurate than actual ballots
Finding: False
Explanation of Problem: Imperfect nature of polls

Now to the central issue: the claim that exit polls, which never lie, showed Kerry winning. Our understanding of this – and the argumentation in the Contest – is based largely on an analysis by Steven F. Freeman, Ph.D. But Freeman is not an expert in polling. According to his affidavit, he is a visiting scholar in the Graduate Division, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Center for Organizational Dynamics.
O.k. First off, Baker tries to discredit the exit polling analyses based on Freeman's credentials. Notice he does not mention the fact that no "expert" has ever disputed his conclusions since the report first came out in mid-November. He also conveniently neglects to mention the most recent analyses by STATITICIAN Ron Baiman who confirms Freeman's findings.
To get some insight into this issue, I spoke with a source who, in the common parlance, is "familiar with the thinking of" Warren Mitofsky, the "father" of the exit poll.
Baker's UN-NAMED source is "familiar with Mitofsky's thinking"! How's that for covering one's journalistic back!! Well done, Baker!!!
Asked about Freeman's analysis, my source told me that it is "all wrong." We spent several hours going through Freeman's specific claims, and reviewed how exit polls – and Mitofsky's in particular – work.

Much of the belief that the election was stolen was based on "screen shots" of raw numbers provided by CNN. In exit polling, raw numbers mean almost nothing – since the essence of a successful exit poll is to interview a sampling of voters, and then apply a variety of methods in order to adjust to the most probable accurate assessment. "To say you want the raw data is ludicrous," said the source. "You can't use it until you do something with it. You're talking about a bunch of naïve people that had [only] the first course in statistics."
Forgive my extreme bluntness here, but that is COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLS**T, HORSES**T, PIGS**T -- WHATEVER -- THIS IS THE MOST VILE EXTREMENT THAT I HAVE EVER COME ACCROSS DURING THE POST-ANALYSIS OF THIS ELECTION. Raw numbers don't mean anything?????!!!!! Is this guy on crack????!!!! "You can't use it until you do something with it????!!!" NO FREAKIN' SH******T!!!! Both Freeman and Baiman both adjusted the sample to compensate for gender bias, etc. In fact, it is the final numbers produced by the networks which bear no resemblance to reality. These "final" numbers were adjusted so that they would agree more with the actual results. It's the statistical equivalent to "adjusting the bell curve" when a professor finds that the majority of the students did poorly on their mid-terms. And Baker has the gall to smear Freeman's name a second time by calling him "naive". This is incredible!!!
Bill Leonard, a former CBS News VP who was a polling pioneer, has called exit polls "blunt instruments." The widely circulated notion that they are always right is dead wrong.
BULLS**T, HORSES**T, PIGS**T....MORE UTTER VILE EXCREMENT!!! Exit polls are used by UN organizations all over the world to determine whether an election is fair. The most recent and a most obvious example was the exit polling done in the Ukraine. This exit polling, by the way, was managed by the U.S.!!!! It was also the number one reason why the U.S. disputed the first Ukraine election results, immediately following the outcome. Furthermore, NOONE IS POSTULATING THAT THE EXIT POLLS CAN NEVER BE WRONG!!!! Freeman et al. are merely pointing out that THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT DISCREPANCY -- which cannot be explained by sampling error. PERIOD
The notion that a single definitive number showing Kerry winning ever existed is also wrong. "We never had unadjusted unofficial totals," said the source. "As we get more data, we're always adjusting."

In this case, what most likely happened was that more Bush supporters failed to complete exit poll surveys than Kerry backers. The reason for that can be as trivial as a sampler skipping someone who looks unfriendly or voters not liking the race or demeanor of the sampler.
Nowhere in this putrid piece of journalistic bunk has it been mentioned that Mitofsky -- "THE FATHER OF THE EXIT POLL" -- is doing an investigation into this discrepancy. In fact, Mitofsky was first reported to be doing an investigation into his exit polling in November. I have not heard whether he has reported any findings yet or indeed, whether his investigation is continuing (perhaps someone can provide me with more information about that?). Mitofsky's hypothesis -- which is mentioned above -- is what blogger Joseph Cannon calls "the chatty democrat" theory. Although, the explanation painted above throws a twist on it. Baker mentions that the one doing the sampling could be skipping unfriendly looking voters -- which all happen to be Republicans, of course!!!! Not only is this a politically racist comment (is that a term?) -- it is highly unlikely. In order for this particular theory to hold water it would have to be SYSTEMIC. That is, a significant number of the exit poll personnel would have to have been not only judging the way people look in a similar fashion -- they would all have to be breaking the rules of the "random sample" procedure. The random sample procedure implemented in this exit polling selected people based on a certain number (eg. every 10th person is chosen).
(For what it is worth, I learned that Mitofsky is a lifelong liberal and apparently holds no brief for Bush. But a job's a job, and a professional is a professional.)
Yes, and you, Russ Baker, are doing nothing to strengthen the integrity of your profession in your country.

I will state it again as I stated it before. Freeman and Baiman's analyses state that either:

1. There is a systematic bias (not statistical error) which has skewed the exit polling.

or

2. There was counting error (benign, malicious, or both)

It should be duly noted (which Baker has not) that THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT number 1. The same can also be said for number 2, however, there was not a proper complete random and fair recount done in Ohio.

Mr. Baker -- if there was a journalistic equivalent of being "disbarred" -- you should be be a prime candidate for this dishonour!! Shame on you!!!

Now, does anyone else have any comments about the rest of the crap found in this article??!!

ADDENDUM:

I picked up this little excerpt from www.russbaker.com:
"...Baker is involved in the development of the Fourth Estate Society, a new not-for-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing investigative journalism in America..."

Good luck, America!


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