Now that we’re well and truly launched on 2012, we’ll see no more of those tedious retrospectives about 2011—high points, low points, deaths, regrets. For my part, my only regret, apart from not being a Powerball winner, is that “spritzing the bonobos” as an expression of futility did not catch on last year.
I should mention to you, though, in case you got an early start on Hogmanay, Friday’s post on why you should pay no attention to cranks complaining that this, that, or the other is “ruining” the language.
Looking forward, you might want to check out Pam Nelson’s summary of the basics of fact-checking for copy editors. In fact, if you’re a writer, you should probably use it as a checklist, since what is left of your copy desk, if any, is now operating out of Upper Sandusky or somewhere.
Looking further forward, this is a presidential election year—and a leap year, which saddles us with an additional twenty-four hours of campaign noise—and HeadsUp is bravely trying to educate you about the interpretation of polling numbers. You’ve already been warned that averaging different polls conducted at different times with different wording and different samples is nugatory, not that that seems to stop anyone.
And today you are cautioned about “the journalistic belief that non-evidence-based results are meaningful, as long as enough people say them in the same way. Hence, the obsession with talking about who has ‘momentum,’ or who's ‘surging,’ without regard to whether ‘momentum’ has been measured or whether the results differ from the previous measurement at better than chance levels.”
(Also, after Wednesday, once the Iowa caucus numbers have been masticated and we’re off to New Hampshire, you can forget about Iowa for another four years.)
What the polls do tend to indicate is that the Republican Party has a likely candidate whom nobody likes and a shifting rota of alternatives, all of them defective. This leaves me with profound sympathy for Republicans, because this is the pattern the Democratic Party has followed for decades.
Pull up your socks. It’s a long, dreary slog to November.