Innoculate Yourself For the Week
Jimmy Breslin, venerable columnist for Newsday, gets far less attention in the blogsophere than he deserves.
"What? Jimmy Breslin? Jimmy Breslin?" I hear you saying. "Isn't he the guy who wrote that hilarious book decades ago about The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight? Is he still alive?"
Yep. He turned 75 two weeks ago. He might be a really old guy whose focus primarily is on New York City, but he's been bashing Bush with the reality stick and poking a finger in the eye of hypocritical pols, media moguls, cardinals, big wig journalists, and assorted other thugs a lot longer than "the internets" have been around.
Regardless of the results, times like tomorrow and the days to follow will be difficult to navigate as we are inundated with the blowsy prose and puerile bilgewater that passes for political commentary among the usual media suspects. Alas, there are no nationally syndicated newspaper political columnists around (except, perhaps, for Paul Krugman) with the intellectual integrity and perspicacity of a Marquis Childs, Scotty Reston, or Walter Lippman. So other than the better blogs, what we are mostly left with are a few veteran writers with a largely local slant who've seen it all and only occasionally comment on the national scene. We could do worse than sit at Breslin's knee and listen to a guy who's been through more wars and seen more elections and cut through more baloney than all the pretty heads on Cable News put together.
For starters -- and not merely because I have discovered he agrees with my own skepticism about pre-election polls -- I recommend Breslin's October 17 column, Election Rides on the 917 Vote. It is a succinct critique of how all the pre-election polls have completely missed the cell phone crowd:
On Sept. 15, there were 168,900,019 cell phones in America, according to the cell phone institute in Washington.
Not one phone user was called by the political pollsters reporting with such marvelous accuracy on the Bush-Kerry race.
A month later, on yesterday afternoon, there now were 170,475,160 cell phones in America, according to the cell phone institute.
In one month, 1,575,000 new cell phones have been bought.
Not one cell phone has been called during the presidential campaign. This is because there is no method for polling cell phones. Nobody has their numbers. Nor do they know who the users are, where they live and what they do. You have 170 million phones and you talk to none of them and then try to say you know what the public is thinking.
Two days after his 75th birthday and a week before OBL released his videotape, Breslin was predicting a "917" landslide for Kerry:
there are about 40 million between 18 and 29 who only use cell phones. They are heavily Democratic. The usual view is that they vote sparingly. This time, with the word "draft" in the air the young breathe, and with a general and intense dislike of Bush, the number should be higher than usual. Even if it is disappointing, the numbers are so huge to begin with that Kerry will be your president on a 917 vote.
He may be right about that. He may be wrong. No one, and certainly not Breslin, is a perfect prognosticator. But there is no doubt he's absolutely right that the mass media have been over-reporting pre-election poll fables while ignoring the real news:
The reporters basing their coverage on these polls are lazy, unimaginative and irresponsible. That everything is based on an untruth could be the reason for the dreadful election coverage. What they write or say so often has nothing to do with the times in which they are supposed to live and report.
In the week ending Oct. 17, there were 23 American soldiers killed in Iraq. I saw no prominent mention anywhere. If there were 23 policemen killed in New York in a week, the city would shut down. If there were 23 police officers killed in the nation in a week, it would be a national calamity.
But the 23 dead American soldiers went virtually unmentioned. I watch the "Today" show and they say that now we are going to see all the good things happening in Iraq. Insanity.
I think common sense says that the issue of the campaign is the dead soldiers who are in Iraq because George Bush lied to get us into the war. Younger people might feel a little closer to a casket holding the young.
Bookmark Breslin as an antidote to the poisonous claptrap that's about to infect the airwaves and newspapers.