Wednesday 11 January 2012

What the @#$%^* do I know about politics?

I have the right to vote. The right. Not the privilege; no, the right. However, how well do I know the issues? How well do I know the candidates? There are many sources of information vying for my attention whether it be print media, radio, television or various people including family, friends, neighbours and colleagues at work. How do I separate the wheat from the chaff? How do I distinguish between good and bad or right and wrong? How do I sort out fact from opinion or even fiction? Who do I believe? Who do I trust? But more importantly, who should I believe? Who should I trust?

I have previously stated that in life, all of us accept certain immutable truths. Two plus two equals four, for instance. Okay, some wise guy is going to point out that two plus two equals "10" in base 3, but let's stick with base 10 for the moment and go along with the idea the correct answer is four. (Geesh, there's always a smartass in the crowd.)

However when we look at politics and the idea that somebody is going to tell me the correct answer, I discover I am no longer in the arena of immutable truths. First of all, just what is the question? Is it two plus two or is it two plus three? I certainly don't know but there's a politician standing over there telling me he not only understands the problem, he knows what the right answer is. Does he? Really? He does seem to know how to knot his tie and a nice tie it is. Well, that's enough for me; I'm voting for him!

I guess you can tell where I'm going with this. The politician tells me the problem is two plus two and the answer is four. My simple example will fool you just as it fools me into thinking the entire issue boils down to knowing the question and figuring out the answer. Unfortunately, part of the problem and sometimes it's a major part of the problem is figuring out just what the question really is. What does that mean? A friend of mine told me he spent one summer during high school working at an appliance store. He would assist in going out on calls to repair machines. Apparently about 50% of the time, the repair consisted of nothing more than plugging the appliance in. Yep, that's right; just plugging the appliance back into the wall socket. It might have been the plug behind the refrigerator or the lamp cord which ran behind the couch but whatever the case the person in question had inadvertently unplugged the device and not realised it. My friend told me the repairman from the store would fiddle around for 10 minutes or so in order to give the impression they had actually done something to repair the "defective" appliance in order to justify the minimum charge for an on-site repair.

Sarah Palin
Ever since the McCain camp in a fit desperation elevated this airhead to the national stage, I have been bombarded by a litany of uninformed, ill-conceived and just plain inane pronouncements the likes of which would embarrass Forest Gump. I have not figured out what this means for American politics, the fact that Momma Grizzly is front and centre or that there seems to be a percentage of voters who think this woman is the second coming. While I'm sure feminists everywhere are waiting in great anticipation for the day the first woman in history takes office in the White House, I have decided that if I ever see Ms. Palin with her hand raised while being administered the oath of office, I am going to move to Timbuktu. While I don't always agree with Hillary Clinton, she would be hands down the more admirable choice for the first female president than this piece of political eye candy.

Sarah Palin: Refudiate this! 2010-08-06
A plan to build a mosque near the Ground Zero site in New York generated quite a bit of controversy. People have been jumping on the bandwagon saying that this is offensive to America in light of the events of 9/11. On July 19, Sarah Palin, on the social networking site Twitter, wrote asking "peaceful Muslims" to "pls refudiate" the plan. She then corrected herself by then calling on "peaceful New Yorkers" to "refute the Ground Zero mosque plan". Well, refute isn't quite right either and while repudiate might fit, reject would probably be better but by then, it was too late. The rest of the world got a hold of this and have both savagely and delightedly gone after her for this "creative" use of the English language.

3.8 Trillion Reasons to Think of Sarah 2010-08-10
Sarah Palin has been putting out the following message: Barack Obama and the Democrats are going to institute the largest tax increase in the history of the United States, an amount of $3.8 trillion. Is this true or not true?

The curious aspect of such statements, especially for an average guy like yours truly, is to confirm this. Exactly where can I go to find out if this is, in fact, a true statement? Do I have to go a hold of a copy of the budget and read through a zillion pages trying to decipher God only knows what numbers? Do I have to become a budget expert well versed in the ins and outs of government spending?

Well I did and Ms. Palin is so full of manure, I'm surprised she doesn't explode.

We always come back to Hitler 2010-08-26
In the middle of 2009, debate was running hot on Barack Obama's proposed health care reform. On August 7, 2009, Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page a note in which she described how the Obama plan would enable "death panels". Supposedly, elderly people would go before a review panel that would judge whether the person received health care or not. Palin characterised this as the panel would determine who lived and who died. All of this was linked to a Nazi euthanasia program called Action T4. Fair? Reading about the actual T4 program is horrifying and making such a comparison to Obama's health care plan is not just unjustified; it's downright insulting.

Of course, none of this was in the least bit true but that didn't stop an already misinformed and scared public from quickly making the connection between Obama and Hitler. Death Panels? Next stop: death camps! PolitiFact.Com conclusively proved that all this was just a bunch of nonsense but then went on to award Sarah Palin the dubious distinction of "Lie of the Year" for 2009.

Starting around the middle of 2011 up until now, America and the world has been witness to the witless trotted out as potential contenders to unseating the current Democratic president. Sometimes I chuckle away at the inanity of it all while watching The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, It is all quite amusing. Other times when I'm reading a more (supposedly) objective and serious account of what's going on as reported in the newspapers, I am stunned that we are even giving any weight to these proceedings. In fact I do see that yes, the GOP is serious and yes, there are supporters who would not only vote for these various candidates, are actively out trying to drum up support for their particular candidate to be the one sitting in the Oval Office with the launch codes.

You're sh*ttin' me, right? This is a joke. Any second now, somebody is going to come out of the wings at the debate, take the microphone then announce the Republican party has punk'd America. "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. It's been a fun evening. So now, we will bring out the real candidates."

Michele Bachmann
I have sat in front of television set with my mouth wide open. Has the pollution count gone up over the continental U.S. and the level of oxygen has dipped from its normal 21% to, let's say, 18% and the public is now loopy and not thinking correctly? I have laughed at this woman's ridiculous pronouncements only to come to realize that there was a segment of the population, albeit thank God a small segment, which felt she was a viable candidate. I shake my head as I just don't understand how she managed to get as far as she did. Other than a few wisecracks, nobody should have been sticking a microphone in front of her... at all!

Michele Bachmann: the next president of the WTH!?! 2011-07-15
Ms. Bachmann has now signed a pledge written by a socially-conservative advocacy group in Iowa called the Family Leader, led by Bob Vander Plaats. The pledge “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family” endorses the view that homosexuality is a choice rather than a biological trait.

FYI: I loved the video on YouTube where an eight-year-old boy says to Michele Bachmann that her mother is gay and he doesn't think she needs to be fixed.

Michele Bachmann, a Corn Dog and the Oral Office 2011-08-14
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll with 28.6%. While various news analysts and Ms. Bachmann herself have supposedly called this an important win or a solid or resounding victory, an article in the Huffington Post by Richard Greener points out something so obvious, so overwhelming obvious, it is surprising at how these people could be so blind. 71.4% of the voters did not pick Michele Bachmann. At a GOP-sponsored affair where the most fervent supporters of the Iowa Republican Party come together and nearly three-quarters of those people do not vote for Bachmann, how can anyone, media or Bachmann herself, say that this in any way resembles a victory?

Michele Bachmann and the far, far, far, far, far right 2011-08-17
Reporter Michelle Goldberg in an article entitled "A Christian Plot for Domination?" describes how Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are closely associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. Let's touch upon a couple of points to ensure we all know the details. Theocracy is a form of government in which a state is understood as governed by immediate divine guidance provided to ruling clergy or other ruling officials. Dominionism, in the context of politics and religion, is the tendency among some politically active conservative Christians to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action, especially in the United States.

Ms. Goldberg writes: "Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions."

For a long time, I have heard people make the statement that Christianity has been one of the most imperialistic movements throughout history. It would seem that Ms. Goldberg is pointing out a worrisome recrudescence of this imperialism however this time; it is making its way into mainstream politics. For a country which supposedly promotes the idea of the separation of church and state, there are many within its ranks who believe otherwise.

She's here to help: Michele Bachmann, at your cervix 2011-09-16
Here's the premise for this article. Medical science backed up by statistical evidence shows that by taking the HPV vaccine, you can reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer by thousands. Yes, thousands. Then a politician vying for public office stands up and recounts a supposed personal experience which makes her completely doubt the safety of the vaccine. The politician is not a medical doctor. Based on anecdotal information... no, based on a single anecdote, the politician who is in a position to influence millions suggests that people should not take the vaccine.

Rick Perry
What? I sit perplexed every time this man takes to the podium. Does he know how to give a speech? Does he drink beforehand? The rambling, the forgetfulness is such that I question the man's (mental) health.

Rick Perry, the NAR and the Rapture of Morons 2011-08-22
As the United States gears up for its election campaign 2012, much attention is being paid to who will win the GOP spot to run against the Democrats. Who will get a chance to topple the current leader and make him a one term president?

A lot of ink has been spilled about Sarah Palin, an intellectual featherweight who is so dumb, she... well, there are so many metaphors deserving to be written, where can one possibly begin? If McCain did anything, he gave the most undeserving presidential contender in the world 15 minutes of fame by elevating a complete idiot to being one step away from the Oval Office.

Michele Bachmann is another twit whose cerebral cortex defies categorisation. While I can make a humorous reference to tourettes in order to explain this woman's compulsive vocalisation of whatever random thought enters her brain, the truth is that Bachmann's singular obsession with leadership is not in any way accompanied by a thorough and profound grasp of the issues and a comprehensive, well thought out strategy for dealing with said issues. She is sustained by a religious fervour which has clouded her judgement and blinded her to anything outside of her own small realm of experience.

The new right wing pin-up boy is Rick Perry, a frightening amalgam of personal conviction and religious zeal which seems to be capable of arriving at leaps of faith in the face of logic where two plus two equals five because the interpretation of an obscure Biblical passage by some obscure self-proclaimed lay expert says so. Fifty percent of the time I'm right and fifty percent of the time you're wrong. If I jump out of an airplane without a parachute, Jesus will save me. Of course I'm not sure how "God helps those who help themselves" is supposed to fit into any of this.

Rick Perry and Sex Education: Abstinence works! 2011-09-01
Time Magazine (Aug 31/2011): Gov. Rick Perry's Weird Science: Teen Pregnancy Aside, "Abstinence Works": Texas has the highest teen birth rate and the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute. So when Gov. Perry turned down $4.4 million in federal funding for pregnancy prevention programs and decided to continue with state-funded abstinence-only education in October 2010, a reporter from the Texas Tribune asked him why. Specifically, why, in the face of rising teen pregnancy rates, would the governor stick with a method that didn't seem to be working?

"Abstinence works," Perry replied to a roomful of laughter. The reporter pressed on, asking for data to back up the assertion that abstinence education leads to lower teen pregnancy rates. Flustered, Perry said that he knew abstinence worked from his "own personal life."

Newt Gingrich
Would you want this man as president as opposed to Barack Obama? Family man: married three times. Frugal financially: the controversy surrounding huge lines of credit at Tiffany's. As speaker of the house from 1995 to 1999, Gingrich had eighty-four ethics charges filed against him. He was sanctioned $300,000 by a 395–28 House vote and this was the first time in history a speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing. (Wikipedia) Is it just me or is there something odd here?

Dearborn, Michigan: Watch out for extremists! 2010-08-18
In June 2010, this city played host to the 15th Annual Dearborn Arab International Festival, a family event with food, a carnival, an interactive children's stage, Arab merchandise, calligraphy and bread making. Every year some Christian groups have set up booths at the festival but there have never been any reports of any conflicts.

At this particular event, a well known militant "Christian" group whose sole purpose is to convert Muslims to Christianity decided to create a ruckus with the express purpose of making a name for themselves by getting free publicity from the media. A Christian missionary from a different group at the festival called the police about this Christian militant group to report them as disturbing the peace. The Christian police chief in consultation with the Christian mayor sent in Christian police officers who arrested the members of this group. When this hit the major news outlets, the story somehow was transformed into a story of Dearborn Muslims taking over the city to instill Sharia law and push out any and all Christians. I investigated this and discovered, no I proved that none of this was true. The police arrested people who were disrupting a family event. Period. End of story. But because this happened outside of a Muslim festival, all the right-wing conspiracy nuts jumped on a soapbox to denounce the islamization of the United States.

The militant group videotaped their arrest but it was discovered they edited the video tape to portray themselves in a sympathetic light, to make it look like they were being subjugated by a Muslim influenced police. Not true.

The response from the public was a clear indication of how some circles in the United States have erroneously equated anything relating to Muslims and their faith to terrorism and Osama bin Laden. The sky is falling. Terrorists are everywhere. We are in grave danger. Has everyone forgotten that until 9/11, the largest single act of terrorism on American soil was the Oklahoma City Bombing committed by one Timothy McVeigh, an American-born Christian? Did you hear me? American-born!!! Christian!!!

As well as the negative reaction on the part of some of the public, fearing a "Muslim take-over" of the U.S., Newt Gingrich held himself up as a shining example of understanding and tolerance. The Detroit Free Press of August 4, 2010 reported:

In a letter published last week on the Human Events Web site as well his own Web site, the former U.S. House speaker says that the jailing of the four Christian missionaries is an example of Islamic extremism coming to the U.S.

"This is a clear case of freedom of speech and the exercise of religious freedom being sacrificed in deference to shari'a's intolerance against the preaching of religions other than Islam," Gingrich wrote in a letter published last week.

Gingrich said the missionaries were handing out copies of Christian literature, which is "of course, forbidden by shari'a's rules on proselytizing."

A Christian police chief in consultation with a Christian mayor send out Christian police officers who at first warn the finally have to arrest Christians who are disturbing the peace. The only thing Muslim about this entire story is that it happened outside an Arab festival. Okay, what if it had been a Jewish festival? Or a Roman Catholic festival?

What Gingrich said is just plain wrong. It's not true. Those aren't the facts. It is spreading a lie and misinformation and it is fear mongering. Am I going to vote for a guy who says stuff like this? Newt Gingrich, shame on you! What you said was terrible!

Final Word
At university I took a course in macro-economics. I've never forgotten how the professor explained the idea of how economics has in a 10 year cycle while politics has a 4 year cycle. The obvious conflict of interest is that what's expedient for political gain may in fact not be in the best interest of the longer-term economical goals. As I stand back and watch things unfold, I realize that we, the individuals making up the voters, are many times looking only at our own self-interests. Yes, I don't want to pay taxes but then where does the government get the money to build and maintain the roads I the tax payer drives on? Sometimes the government or the collective will of the people has to force me to do something like pay my taxes for the greater good even though I personally may not like it.

However I also saw in that course on economics that economics is not a simple subject. It is not a science like two plus two equals four; it is much more and I mean much more imprecise. In theory if you know the value of each variable of an equation, you should be able to calculate the "right answer". However the reality is that the equation is so big with so many variables and so many variables with unknown values that you can never really come up with the "right answer". The best you can do is some sort of guess.

As a consequence, when a politician stands up and tells me he or she knows the right answer; I am very much a Doubting Thomas. I find it far more believable to hear a leader tell me he doesn't know everything, that he doesn't necessarily have the right answer but that if we pull together and work hard we can head in an agreed upon direction. I don't expect to win the lottery but if I have a job and work hard, I expect to get paid at the end of the week. That's believable; the lottery is not. Of course, some people like to gamble, even with their vote in the vague idea things will work out and God will provide. Hmmm, the Lord helps those who help themselves but what the @#$%^* do I know?


What the @#$%^* do I know? 2012-01-03
When I first started to stick my nose where it didn't belong, those dark hidden recesses where the sun doesn't shine (I secretly wanted to be a proctologist?), I discovered things. (Okay, now is this where I insert something like I was looking for the scoop but found the poop?) When I first looked at the idea of blogging, I quickly realized that bloggers use their blogs to state their opinion. Nothing wrong with that but as time wore on, I began to find a number of people stating opinions which didn't match with reality or at least my impression of what reality is.

God does "not" help those who help themselves 2011-01-03
I read a blog dated January 2, 2011 called Another Child Dead, Another Christian Parent In Jail by Al Stefanelli about a woman in Florida who refused medical treatment for her 9 year old son and he died. Apparently she belongs to a faith-based healing church and was relying strictly on prayer to cure her son. Mr. Stefanelli, a self-professed atheist, talked about her actions or should I say inactions and how the Journal of Paediatrics examined a group of such incidents and concluded that in 4 out of 5 of the cases, medical intervention would have saved the person in question.


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1 comment:

BigLittleWolf said...

Don't get me started. (I was nearly apoplectic following the one debate I allowed myself to watch last weekend.)

Insert image of Tiny Woman gesticulating wildly at dusty television screen...

But hey. Then again, I can't see Russia from my window. So clearly, I've no experience with the global issues at stake.