Category Archives: Politics

There Are Always Trade-Offs

When it comes to politics who you do or do not support in politics there are nearly always trade-offs. One should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good but equally one should always be aware and owe up to the causes that may have your sympathies but cannot have your support.

For example one may have sympathies for both marriage equality and for right-to-life, but finding a political entity that enthusiastically supports both is near impossible. When it comes time to cast your vote, or donate your hard earned money, one will have to support one cause and leave the other. This is the nature of the beast and one can rail but ultimately one must accept it.

What I dislike is when someone claims the mantle of supporting two positions but yet their actions always fall in support for only one. Express your sympathies but also be honest about where your support is placed.

I have sympathies for firearm rights but for more than a decade now my support has been for politicians and parties that are hostile to those rights. It’s quite simple, there are other issue that matter more to me, that carry greater moral weight, and that ultimately compel my attention.

I hope someday that this madness that has produced the current administration will soon burn itself out, but one cannot close your eyes to the reality and in the end reality is what you must deal with.

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A Foolish Waste of Time

Among Conservative, particularly the ‘Tea Party’ set it’s nearly axiomatic that Government cannot solve any problem. Go far enough down that line of thought and you will discover those who advocate private enterprise ‘solutions’ to law enforcement and the courts.

As foolish as that line of thought becomes it is also foolish to think that every problem can or should be solved by government action. Right now there is an idiotic fad of people eating detergent ‘pods.’ They do not do this alone and in secret, but rather video record their idiocy and then spill it out for all to see on the Internet.

Okay, these people are fools and we need to spread the word that eating detergent is a stupid and dangerous. However, there is a push by some that the government needs to step in and regulate the appearance of these soap delivery systems so that they are less appetizing to idiots.

No.

This is not a problem solved by government. You cannot have the mechanism of laws, and law enforcement chasing down every dumb thing people do. It is not the enlightened man’s burden to save ever fool from his folly.

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A Power Historical Drama: Conspiracy

Monday night, when I came home from my local writers group meeting, I developed a migraine and was unable to write or read. After taking my medication I pulled up HBO Now on my apple TV and browsed for something to watch while I waited for the pill to work.

I selected the 2001 HBO/BBC production Conspiracy. It is a movie I have seen twice before and being something familiar that would work well with my migraine and I could watch just enough until the headache subsided and I could retreat to bed.

I watched the entire film.

Conspiracy is about the 1942 Wannsee conference where Nazi General Heydrich calls, at Hitler verbal directive, a meeting of the top ministries and military divisions of the Nazi government to settle the ‘Jewish Question.’ It is the meeting where the murder of millions was decided. The meeting was held under conditions of extreme secrecy, each participant was given one copy of the meeting notes and instructed to destroy them after reviewing the record. (Luckily for history Foreign Minister liaison Martin Luther failed to destroy his and the record was captured after the war’s end. It is his copy that the film script is based upon.)

With an impressive cast including but not restricted to Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, and Colin Firth, the film is nearly a play. Set primarily in a single room, it is a large group of men talking, arguing, and giving vent to their hate. And yet with so little ‘action’ it is utterly captivating. The banality of their evil is a chilling reminder just how easily people slip between prejudice and murderous hate. How anti-Semitism comes in a sickening array of flavors, from the knuckle dragging brutes of the SS to brilliant legal minds warped by conspiratorial thinking and imaginary world spanning cabals.

The crux of the piece is of course how this meeting set the holocaust in motion, not by accident, not by lack of foresight, but by premeditated intent to murder millions.

It did not start here. It did not start with the hate, though plenty bathed in that hate and weaponized in their poisonous politics. No for Germany and its population it started with the scapegoating, the blaming, the lies and finger pointing to a marginalized population as the source of all of Germany’s troubles. It started with words.

Pay attention to the words hurled by others and those repeated by yourself, what starts as a political tactic can all too easily end on horror on unimaginable scales.

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Watch Your Units

When I took chemistry, both in high school and in college, a common warning from the professors was to ‘watch your units.’ Make sure that you tracked if the equations were in milligrams or whatnot and not lose track of those units, because mixing up units produced wildly erroneous results.

This is good advice in general. Always make sure that you are measure by the same methods and units otherwise you can’t compare things. A good example is unemployment.

Do you know what I have not heard from conservative talking heads and friends throughout the year of 2017? Labor Force Participation.

During the final years of the Obama administration, as unemployment fell, it was a quite common rebuttal from advocates on the right that that the raw unemployment figures were not the ‘true’ story and that one had to look at the terrible labor force participation, the percentage of the adult population that took part in wage labor to see that the Obama policies were actual failures covered-up by the falling unemployment figure.

Over the last year the Labor Force Participation rate has remained basically at the same level as it was during the last year of Obama’s presidency. Since now those on the right want to crow about a good economy they have changed out measuring sticks, throwing aside their former ‘truths.’

By the way this is in no way a fault that lies purely on the right. During the tail of Bush II’s administration I heard quite about ‘underemployment’ as the ‘true’ measure of the economy, and argument that vanished with the election of a Democratic president.

What’s really sad is how often these partisans will honestly forget that they ever used a different measure. With a new situation they’ll abandon their old certain truths for new certain truth that support their current position. This human failing is one of the great weaknesses in democracy, people rarely operate by purely rational means and that puts us at the whim of emotion, tribalism, and popularity.

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Ignore the Circus

Well, we’ve endured a year of Trump’s Presidency and many people, including nearly all of the press, have failed to learn the most basic lesson; ignore the Circus.

The only things that people should focus on are policy and corruption, everything else the realm of tabloid gossip and salacious titillation.

Focus on the 1-2 trillion dollars added to the nation’s debt, not the idiotic ‘Fake News Awards.’

Pay attention to the fact that his administration reduced to budget of the CFPB to zero and reduced the fine on Wells Fargo for defrauding customers, not that he clearly lies about his weight.

Saber rattling with Korea and pulling out of international agreements, surrendering our position of leadership, is far more consequential that bedding a porn actress.

Refusing to enforce sanctions against Russia for meddling in our elections greatly outweighs any Twitter tirade with another celebrity.

It must always be remember that not only is Trump an attention whore but he has no shame. You cannot embarrass him talk of bedding a porn star that only feeds his ego. You cannot cow him by talking about him that only empowers his narcissism.

Ignore the Circus, Ignore the Monkey, watch the money, watch the policy.

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Misleading Language

On Facebook there is a news article being passed around about how the most recent spree shoot/killings represented the 11th school shoot of 2018 and one person on a friend’s page responded shocked that we have become so used to these events that they no longer become major news items.

Her confusion we led by the deceptive language of the headline and far too many people simply do not read beyond that.

When she read ’11th school shooting’ her mind conjured up the image of mass shootings, of vile people or persons stalking the hallways killing at random, of the horrific images of Columbine and Sandy Hook, but have there been 11 of those in just three weeks?

No.

So what are the details of those 11 shootings?

2 are suicides, a man who shot himself in a school’s parking lot and a 14-year-old boy who killed himself in a school bathroom.

3 incidents were bullets fired from unknown people outside of the school for unknown reasons that shattered school or bus windows .

1 was an accidental discharge after a firearms instructor left a live firearm in the classroom and students mistook it for a training device.

2 more were shots fired from vehicles, 1 person was injured but the reports do not state that the injured person suffered a gunshot wound,

1event followed an altercation at a fraternity event at a university that resulted in a death.

1 was a teenage girls shot in the cafeteria by a teenage boy. No one else of the 45 to 55 people present were shot.

And the final event was the mass shooting with two deaths at the Marshall county High School. That brings us to 11 shooting in or around schools but it is clear why nearly all of these failed to make national news.

Every murder is vile, every suicide is tragic and there is no doubt that we are in the midst of cultural crisis. As I have stated in other posts I think that we will reach of critical mass and there will be a state change in the public debate on this issue. (One that might be sped along by the degradation of the Republican Party by Trump.)

All that said, the deceptive language doe not help. The purpose of language is clear communication and it doesn’t matter if your are classifying every shot fired near a school as a school shooting or rebrand torture as enhanced interrogation, abusing the language is not the way to go.

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The Framing

Whenever a story or narrative is presented there is also a framing as to how that story is presented. The frame, a negative space of assumptions and implicit understandings, guides in both how the story is told and how the story is understood. When you can see this supporting scaffolding you have a better understanding of what was left unsaid.

Usually the framing is not a conscious choice. All of us work from assumptions and things we simply accept implicitly so all of us use these shortcuts as foundations, but it is a good exercise to think about and search out these assumptions. Sometimes there are true, sometimes they are harmless fictions, but sometimes they reveal an uglier set of cultural biases.

Consider America’s current opioid crisis. There are tons of stories out there about the economic hardship, cultural devastation, and despair that have acted as the engine driving this addiction crisis. In addition to those factors others narratives portray the major pharmaceutical corporations as the bad guys, pushing drugs onto a weakened and depressed population.

There are several aspects to this framing of these narratives. There is the condescension, about theses economically and emotionally depressed people and how they have turned to drugs to alleviate their distress. There is also an element of agency-less. These poor people are victims of circumstance and forces beyond their control, pushed and pulled into a terrible addiction without the ability to determine their own course of action. It is not coincidence that the narratives tend to be crafted by elites in great urban centers about people and sub-cultures that the authors have little or no direct experience with.

But there is another layer to the framing and to see that one you need to think back on other great addiction waves and the narratives associated with those health crises.

When the crack cocaine epidemic swept the nation’s urban centers throughout the late 80s and into the 90s do you remember such sympathetic narratives? Did the author of article after article go into the terrible economic conditions of the decaying urban centers? Were column inches devoted to the hopelessness and despair that swept through the effected communities?

I will leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusions why the framing narratives have changed so radically.

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No Oprah in 2020

I have nothing against her as a person or her talent and considerable achievements but Oprah Winfrey has two large strikes against her for being a serious contender for POTUS.

First, she has no experience in government, and this is scarcely the place for On the Job Training. Even in the best of times that is a bad idea and following the correct occupant this nation will need someone with mastery and knowledge in government, diplomacy in all their intricacies to help begin repairing the damage. Some of which may take decades if ever to undo. We cannot trust that to a novice.

Second, the most important characteristic in selecting a person for leadership is judgment. We are not installing someone to simply mirror the public mood, polls can do that, we need someone who can weigh evidence and come to consistent sound conclusions. In many area it would appear that she can do this, but her repeated instances of giving platform and support to pseudo-science and quackery including anti-vaxxer madness, disqualifiers her as clearer as if she were a climate denier. Truly it is the same thing just pushing different crackpot ideologies.

She is a tremendous woman, a talented businessperson, and a passion advocate, but she should never be president.

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Running for President for Fun and Profit

There is an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House where Wolff reports that Trump did not want to be president and that he and his people fully expected to lose. The gist of the story is that Trump and others ran the campaign as a method of creating branding, expanding media connections, and in general as a moneymaking operation. (Wolff also reports that Trump went through a number of stages of shock and fear before becoming certain that he was going to be a great president. He lacks nothing in grandiose self-image that is not backed up by anything resembling talent, intelligence, or taste.)

Now some have taken issue with Wolff’s report and poked holes where the details do not align with history so we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that judgment. However I find it entirely credible that Trump at least started the campaign as a moneymaking and image enhancing

The Republican Party has allowed charlatans and grifters access to the presidential nominating process, business people, second tier politicians turned TV personalities, and flash in the pan conservative celebrities flooded the fields, turning the solemn and serious affair of selecting the person to lead the most powerful nation on earth into a cash grab and celebrity stepping stone platform.

It’s really should not have been a surprise that eventually this charade, coupled with a base that had been purified to that rejected facts for ideology, would eventually shove aside any serious politician for the flashier, louder, and most grandiose snake-oil pusher.

This is the doom that the GOP has visited upon America and on the world. This is the end result of their cynicism, their abandonment of principal, and the surrendering of all their honor.

There are a lot of things in traditional conservative thought that are worth considering, worth valuing, worth upholding, but covered in gold plated, celebrity apprentice crap, it all becomes crap.

The nation needs a new conservative party.

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Franken Resigns and the Democratic Party Strengthens

So after eight women came forward and leveled accusation of misconduct at Minnesota Senator Al Franken the Senator announced his resignation from his position. Now Franken tended to provoke strong reactions, I know people who adored him as a senator and dreamt of presidential plays and I also know people for whom it seemed impossible to mention his name without a personal insult travelling along side I had no such passions about the man. His comedy was so-so and his political positions were fairly solidly liberal and predictable.

All that said the party forcing his resignation was in my opinion the best move that they could have made. Did the Democratic Party lose a high profile member with name-recognition? Yes. Did they lose a member whom could be counted upon as a consistent liberal vote? Yes. Will the Republicans be shamed into taking action against their members accused of sexual misdeeds? No. So how is this good for the Democratic Party?

It is the long game and there are two advantages in what has happened.

First, you cannot claim to be a party of values, standards, and principles unless you live up to them. Sweeping Franken’s accusations under the rug would be a bold loud proclamation that political victory matters more than any principle. That these women’s trauma matters less than getting a vote on policy. That is damaging. It corrodes the Party’s brand and helps erase any distinction between them and their opposition. For liberals it may hurt to lose one of their favorite stars but you can only hold the moral high ground by consistently being moral.

This is a lesson the Republican Party failed to learn. Over and over again when faced with this sort of thing they chose the path of political expediency and destroyed their claim to any moral standing.

Second, it builds a bulwark against sliding into chaos and angry politics. If the party turned a blind eye to Franken then when another crisis of principle arises it becomes that much easier to turn that blind eye again. When called out on it the only course to defend against such blatant hypocrisy is stoking anger and hatred in the Party’s base for all those who are not lock step with the Party. Personal destruction of all enemies, within and outside of the Party, becomes the norm and acceptable discourse plummets to the gutter. Soon only the loudest, angriest, voices carry any weight.

Does this sound like a familiar history? It should. No organization sets out to corrode what they fight for, and yet so many do. It happens because when faced with expediency over principle they take the easier path and like getting turned by an enemy intelligence asset, each step makes it that much harder to regain your proper course.

As I said I have no strong feelings for Franken, but my analysis is that the Democratic Party did the right thing and they should continue doing the right thing. And if you still think that his votes, his policy matters more than the things he is accused of then you are making the precisely same argument as those who intend to vote for Roy Moore. Choose politics over morals and eventually you will be reduced to no morals.

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