Monday 27 August 2012

Politics: It's not about doing the right thing, it's about winning.

I recently watched the six-episode mini-series called Political Animals about Washington politics. Sigourney Weaver stars as Elaine Barrish the current Secretary of State who is also a divorced former First Lady. Similar to Hillary? I think the writers may have had something more than just "similar" in mind when putting together the show but the claim is that this is a work of fiction. I enjoyed the series. Certainly I was thinking of The West Wing while watching people in powerful positions doing earth-shaking things, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

At one point, in a scene between Elaine Barrish and Paul Garcetti, the current president who appointed her to her position, Garcetti says that he is going to do something not because it politically advantageous but because it's the right thing to do. In light of recent events in the real world as the run-up to the November election in the United States, I have to ask myself if anyone can do something, anything at all because it's the "right thing" to do. Political expediency seems to be more the thing to consider than what's right or wrong.

Is that an odd statement to make? It certainly doesn't seem to be the least bit odd when I think of the rhetoric of the past year since the GOP started the process of selecting who was going to take the charge in trying to oust Barak Obama from the throne.

Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.
- UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell ("Red") Sanders

While this oft-used quotation is part of the sports landscape, one can easily see that the idea has spilled over into all areas of life whether it is business or even war. In mentioning war, is the ultimate in conflicts representative of this winner take all attitude? To the victor go the spoils? There is no honour in defeat? Would you lie, cheat, and steal to win?

"It's better to get something worthwhile done using deception than to fail to get something worthwhile done using truth."
- Carlos Castaneda quotes (Peruvian born American best-selling Author and Writer, 1925-1998)

While the above statement seems to follow the idea that you must win at all costs, the keyword here and the keyword everywhere is "worthwhile". How does anybody know that what they're doing is worthwhile? Can they prove it or is it a question of faith? Yes, faith that you are right and everybody else is wrong. Osama bin Laden thought he was right. Jim Jones (of the Jonestown massacre) thought he was right. And I know I'm going to get flak for making this comparison, but George W. Bush thought he was right in invading Iraq while we now know there were no weapons of mass destruction and there was no connection with al-Qaeda.

In writing "Is the right answer counterintuitive?" ( Part 1, Part Deux) I wanted to point out some of the crazy rhetoric being passed around as the gospel truth.

50% of Americans pay no taxes
Those 50% are so poor; their tax credits wipe out any taxes they have to pay.

Raising taxes on the rich is class warfare
The lower 50% of Americans own 2.5% of America's wealth. The top 2% of Americans own 80% of American's wealth. Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the United States recognises this disparity and doesn't think it's fair.

We all need to be scared s**tless of terrorism
More Americans are killed on average each year by furniture falling on them than by acts of terrorism. Yes, you heard me, furniture.

Voter fraud is rampant in the United States
Studies have shown in various state elections that the percentage of fraud has amounted to 0.0001%. Now figure that out. That is one ten thousandth of a percent. Negligible? I'd put that just this side of nonexistent.

Cutting taxes for the wealthy creates jobs
If you say it often enough it becomes true? How about no matter how many times you say it, it still isn't true? Why do people keep repeating this over and over again like blind faithful lemmings when the evidence doesn't support the statement?

Obamacare: people should get what they can afford to buy
Out of the 50 million uninsured people in America, eighteen thousand die each year for lack of proper health care service.

Obamacare: it will cost a fortune to insure everybody
The U.S. already provides by law health care services in the emergency of all hospitals. Leaving people uninsured is not free; the system currently pays for all those free emergency room visits. It can be argued that somebody going to a family doctor would be cheaper than the person going to emergency. Plus, eighteen thousand people a year might not die.

Years ago I was having a debate with somebody about truth and politics. I said that two plus equals four and that truth is immutable. The person smiled at me slyly and replied, "You don't understand that sometimes two plus two does equal five." Now I realised that the point the person was making is that at certain moments, if the politician has the ear of the populace and has hammered home his message and gotten the loyal followers to believe in him that yes, the answer is five. Unfortunately, sooner or later the truth is going to come out. Yes you may have faith in the message and based on that message of "Follow me you'll be safe" you decide to jump out of the airplane. But sooner or later somebody else is going to figure out that the last person who jumped fell to their death and maybe it might be a good idea to strap on a parachute.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
- Abraham Lincoln, (attributed), 16th president of US (1809 - 1865)

Final Word
The election this coming November is not about the truth. It is not about what's right. It's about winning. And since it's about winning, that means exploiting the electorate or should I say the ignorance and fear of the electorate. Running a country is a complicated process. Making the right decision when there are many economic factors to consider including globalization is really, really, really difficult. You do not... let me repeat, you do NOT distill this down to some slogan like, "Vote Romney. Let's take back America." Take back America from whom? From the Chinese? From the Muslim Brotherhood? From Obama? One in four Americans think Obama was not born in the U.S. (CBS news - Apr 21/2011) One in six Americans think Obama is Muslim. (Huffington - May 10/2012) Michele Bachmann alleges connections between Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Muslim Brotherhood and goes on to claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is directing the Obama Administration's approach to the Middle East. (Wikipedia)

This is going to be a crazy campaign. Don't forget to vote on November 6, 2012.


Wikipedia: Political Animals
Political Animals is a six-episode American miniseries created by Greg Berlanti and Laurence Mark. The series aired in the United States on USA Network from July 15 through August 19, 2012. Sigourney Weaver portrays Elaine Barrish, a divorced former First Lady and Governor of Illinois, as well as the current Secretary of State. While the lead character does have some similarities to Hillary Clinton, Weaver has said in interviews that the show is "very much about families who have been in the White House and the price they've paid for being in the White House and the fact that families who have been in the White House often try to get back in the White House or continue to try and get in the White House."

Wikipedia: Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing
Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing is a well-known quotation in sports. Its assertion about the importance of winning has been touted as a basic tenet of the American sports creed and, at the same time, identified as encapsulating what is purportedly wrong with competitive sports.

Wikipedia: Spoils system
In the politics of the United States, a spoil system (also known as a patronage system) is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.

The term was derived from the phrase "to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy" by New York Senator William L. Marcy, referring to the victory of the Jackson Democrats in the election of 1828.

my blog: Is the right answer counterintuitive? Part 1
Two plus two equals four. There doesn't seem to be any room for debate about that one, does there? However there are many things in life which are open for debate.

my blog: Is the right answer counterintuitive? (Part Deux)
I have found over and over again that people say things as though it's the gospel truth without having one shred of evidence to back up what they're saying. I keep running into misinformation, a distortion of the truth or even outright lies all designed to support a point of view which may in no way reflect the reality of the world.

my blog: Stephen Colbert: And the #1 threat in America: terrorist furniture!
In the June 21, 2012 episode of The Colbert Report during the segment entitled "Threat Down", our humorous pundit declared the number one threat in America to be terrorist furniture. Referring to an article in The Atlantic which in turn refers to the recently published 2011 Report on Terrorism by The National Counterterrorism Center, Colbert notes that of the 13,288 people killed worldwide by terrorist attacks in 2011, seventeen were private U.S. citizens or 0.1%, one tenth of one percent of the total. The article, in referring to a 2011 consumer report, states that in 2010 (the last reported year) twenty-one people died from a falling television, piece of furniture or an appliance.

Wikipedia: Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theories: Claims about Huma Abedin
In July 2012, Representative Michele Bachmann delivered a letter to the State Department's inspector general's office in which she tied Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the Muslim Brotherhood and claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood was directing the Obama Administration's approach to the Middle East. Bachmann's letter also questioned how Abedin was able to receive security clearance.

Wikipedia: Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories about the citizenship of Barack Obama claim that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore not eligible to be President of the United States under Article Two of the U.S. Constitution.

Wikipedia: Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories
Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories—allegations that he secretly follows a non-Christian religion, or that he is the antichrist—have been suggested ever since Barack Obama began his campaign to become President of the United States in 2007. As with the Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories, these false claims are promoted by various fringe theorists and political opponents.


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