Tag Archives: politics

Words are all I have…or do I?

Background

I’ve been trying to stay aware of current events since I got home from Mount Rainier. This is very hard on me because they often make my stomach turn.

The US was part of bombing a school bus full of kids in a busy market place? Children, some still babies removed from their parents and put in cages?

I decided to stay in the know, as much as I can stomach, because it seems like outrage is the only thing that gets attention. That is a really stupid way to operate. Especially for a nation that is supposed to operate by rule of law.

I observe that we seem to have a bit too much regard for attitude over actuality.

#saythisnotthat

The speaker was Jill Wine-Banks, I can’t remember the program, in the short segment she suggested using the word “conspiracy”* instead of “collusion”, and talked about #saythisnotthat. Totally agree with her premise. I’ve been uncomfortable for a long time about the words people are using, corrupting in some cases.

While I have you: There are a couple of other words I think we should stop using. One is “right” to describe people holding radical, and often racist, political positions. The problem is that the word “right” also has the meaning of “correct”. Instead of the “far right” (which can be a way to say “very correct”) they should simply be called “Trump Supporters”**. Using a word that means “correct” to describe a racist is wrong. (I do not believe that Trump Supporters are necessarily racists, however, evidence suggests that those who are not are either willing to be tolerant of racism or afraid to say anything, which is its own problem.)

Another word that should go away is “conservative”. A conservative has respect for institutions, like the court system, schools, government and so on, realizes a need for a rule of law and respect for the constitution, and realizes that you have to balance income with expenses. Someone like George Will is accurately described as a conservative. Many people currently claiming this identity are not conservatives; they should simply be called “Trump Supporters”. While I would, before my media blitz, have said that the word should be reserved for true conservatives I now believe that, like I can’t have a “tea party” anymore, the word is too far gone to be retrieved.

Probably we need to let “Liberal” go as well. It is mainly used by Trump Supporters to mean someone they want to bait into lashing out at them so they can play victim.

“Mainstream” ain’t what it used to be

Another term we may want to let go is “mainstream”, because it means too many things to too many different people. In my attempt to try and understand things I have been driven to watching several different venues. A thank you to someone who posted as a response to Fandango a link to a chart that judged the various media sources as right or left biased. I made a mental note of a few, trying to get different viewpoints in my media consumption. When I went back I couldn’t relocate that exact reference to share it with you here, but if you Google “right left media chart” there are a whole bunch of them…and they are not all the same.

I think, but am not sure, that this post: US Media Bias Resources, might contain that first one. I find that I am more in concurrence with the one posted in Partisan Bias vs. Journalistic Quality. The reason is that I think the person/people who put the first chart together are using how much the labeled groups like, or the opposite groups dislike, the reporting as an indication of bias. The chart seems to me more like a warning for people who have opposing views that they may not like what they see than an assessment of true bias.

You have to take into account what really happened. For example: If I love cats I can like a story about rescuing kittens, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that kittens were rescued. If I am a dog lover, maybe I don’t like the story about rescuing kittens, but that doesn’t mean that kittens weren’t rescued.

I find that these charts, in general, have a couple of problems:

  1. They over generalize. You are considered either left or right or liberal or conservative. I find that many real people, myself included, don’t fit into those categories neatly. To use my example from above: I love both cats and dogs, so I can like stories about both kittens and puppies, so long as I don’t bring any more animals home (my husband, the cat, and both dogs agree on that).
  2. The media venues have a variety of programs and the level of bias varies considerably from one show to another. I found this true of both MSNBC and Fox “News” (It really needs the qualifier, they seem to simply not report about half of what is going on because it doesn’t fit their agenda.)

Much factual news today doesn’t suit the Trump Supporters worldview so they claim bias. I don’t like news about bombing school buses…but it really happened. I don’t claim reporters are biased because they tell me about it.

When I was a kid on the evening news they always had the death toll for the Vietnam War…whoops I mean Police Action (although everyone called it a war at the time, one kid in my Kindergarten class’s dad died fighting over there). Now, just within my family, some people supported that war and others did not. But no one, on either side, claimed that there weren’t any deaths.

Rant over for now. I wish I could find out more about the #saythisnotthat stuff, but I’m not a twit…wait no, I should report accurately: I do not have a Twitter account…and I stopped using Facebook a while back for practical reasons (it ate up my cell phone battery trying to update itself).

Grace and peace to all, we sure seem to need it.

 

*Couldn’t help but notice that it could be re-punctuated to read: “con’s piracy”.

**My opinion is that when you get too extreme, on either “side” of the political spectrum, you should be referred to as a “wing nut”, but that sounds judgmental, and didn’t some famous dude say “judge not that ye be not judged”? …I wonder what he would have said about the current situation? Based on years of Bible study, I’m guessing that bombing school kids and folks out buying food wouldn’t fly very high with him, nor would storing children in cages. Just sayin’.

Random Reflection on Power

What, after all, is liberty?

I have been feeling very powerless lately. So have others. There have been several posts about liberty lately, as it was a prompt for the “just jot it” challenge within the past few days.

In spite of our connected world there is no way for a regular sort to get the ears of people in power. Extremists organize marches, burn things, and run people over with cars. They fill social media with pithy knee-jerk phrases, memes and trolls. More moderate sorts can’t get a word in edgewise; we’re too polite, waiting for people who never stop talking to shut up and listen, then think before responding to complex, nuanced discussions.

Since people like me can’t get any message through to those in power the dominant voices are those of extremist nut jobs and special interests, some of them hostile foreign powers. I sometimes think that the divisiveness we are being told so much about is a result of reasonable people being cut out of the communication loop. Maybe if there was a way for moderates to get some serious press we’d find that things aren’t so polarized. But that wouldn’t make for good copy, just good living and good government. Sex scandals, wars and other conflicts sell and “that’s what it’s all about!” (welcome to the Hokey Pokey world).

It isn’t supposed to be this way. Our forefathers (mostly not mothers, although there were some pretty strong ones and they may have had more influence than we think) didn’t intend for our government to end up this way: with DC lobbyists, big corporations and the KKK having more input and influence than tax paying citizens.

“Taxation without representation” was the rallying battle cry of the revolution. It wasn’t that the leaders then didn’t see the need to provide for “the common defense and promote the general welfare”; those are front and center as the goals for the constitution.  They saw the need for things like roads, schools, and military, but that need wasn’t being met by a far away government making decisions based on what was best for the United Kingdom using the colonies primarily as a source of resources for the good life back home, or by a loosey-goosey every body do whatever they wanted to confederation.

Liberty, as seen generally at that time, was really about having a say, freedom of speech and religion were very important. In the old country libel meant you were saying something the lord of the manor or bishop didn’t like, even if it was the truth, a key difference in the United States is that it isn’t libel if it is true!!!! Accountability and individual responsibility was important also, the reason why we have tort laws. People were not to be trod on, they had rights.

Having a government that was looking out for the people being governed, not people far away, was key to having both the needed provisions for common life and liberty. It wasn’t so much the my-way-or-the-highway attitude you see today. It was recognized that balance was necessary. The checks and balances system was created. It was intended to slow things down and make debate over major changes necessary so that a simple majority couldn’t roll over everyone else leaving 49% of people dissatisfied. Ideas had to be good enough to stand up to scrutiny.

Of course those times were somewhat different: the population was much lower, as was the number of states, so there were fewer voices to balance. There was less ethnic, racial and cultural diversity as well. However, there were a lot of the same types of tension we are seeing today. Examples include: agriculture versus industrial economies in different states, densely populated areas versus sparsely populated ones, different religious traditions in different areas (in those days it was mostly different Christian sects, but they were quite different in both values and lifestyle. Some of the worst violence ever has been between different groups calling themselves Christians.).

So back to “liberty”. How about the people who are affected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (a.k.a., DACA)? How free are they?

In this morning’s paper David Brooks was dissing the Democratic Party pretty badly. Normally I find a lot of points of wisdom and commonality in his op-ed pieces (he writes for the New York Times and a few days later the pieces show up in the Seattle Times, which is where I see them). Today I was disturbed because he was all about politics. I was perturbed a bit for a few reasons, but the one that bugged me most was this: what the Democrats did Friday was exercise one of the checks and balances built into the constitution. I think it is an important tool, all-be-it one that should be used with surgical precision.

However, given the complete lack of trustworthiness and responsible behavior demonstrated by the Republicans in congress, and the fact that 689,000 people are basically being held hostage to that dishonest irresponsibility, this was a case where one can argue reasonably that surgical precision was warranted.

We disagree with the use for the purpose, and, for what it is worth, I agree with Mr. Brooks that there’s a very good chance the Democrats botched it. In my view, however, the thing they did wrong was cave too soon for too little. They played too nice.

The deal they should have made: A one week spending bill with an up/down roll call vote on DACA exactly as it existed one year ago scheduled for Friday at 9 am in both houses simultaneously.

No wheeling and dealing with people’s lives. If the administration wants added border stuff they can figure out how to do it rationally (say within the 2018 budget that should have already been passed, and which should have been a higher priority than a tax bill nobody fully understands that guts the financial stability of our nation) without holding a bunch of innocent people hostage. That Republicans are stooping to this makes me think they don’t have a rational plan, it’s all just extremist hot air, and hostage taking is all they know.

 

Who is my neighbor?

I can always tell when my next-door neighbors are going somewhere, because my bark alarm goes off. Asta’s high pitched barks start it, followed by Ginger’s lower, but lilting “Wooowoowoo”. If it is just a squirrel or bird, or the wind, Ginger doesn’t go off. But: is the bark alarm the best definition of who is my neighbor? (In which case it also includes everyone who walks their dog in front of our house, our mail carrier, and miscellaneous other delivery folks.)

This question was asked of Jesus when he said to “love your neighbor as yourself”. As usual, he didn’t give a straight answer. He launched into the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s in Luke, chapter 10. Since there are so many translations out there the exact words you know may differ a bit.

Seeing this mornings Daily Post Prompt, followed by skimming the morning paper, brought that vignette from the Bible to mind.

Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you think the Bible is literally true or not, there is a power in this story that has shaped much of the Western worldview. This is the gold standard for how we are to treat each other..or is it?

Two articles in the paper show the two sides of this. The front page headline this morning was: “GOP tax plan a boon for business”. I can’t find a link for it, the story originated from the New York Times and the Seattle Times doesn’t seem to have a link for it on their site. However, the real story, the one that should have taken up the entire front page in my opinion, was this: Who wins and who loses in the Republicans’ tax-code rewrite. Every citizen in the US should read that one. There is a stark contrast between the winners and losers and the story of the Good Samaritan. This is the party that supposedly represents conservative Christians? Hmmm…Reminds one a bit of the priest and Levite who crossed the street so they wouldn’t have to go near the injured man, before the hero of the story, the merchant from a different area, came along.

The second article was in the local section, also about taxes, but with a different slant:  “How would candidates spend your money?” In it the lefty loose-y Seattle mayoral candidates are debating how they will try to solve the homeless crisis*. The article was gentle on them, after all at least they are trying to be humane, but the bottom line is that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

We don’t have the resources of the rich merchant who paid for the care of the injured man. There is some talk of trying to get the money out of our local rich merchants (and developers) via taxation. Our local rich merchants are better known for buying football teams then hitting the taxpayers up for the cost of a fancy new stadium, funding U.F.O hunts, and things like that. (The Gates Foundation is a notable exception, and I am not saying that there is no charity from others, just that it isn’t as notable as using huge influence to make regular citizens subsidize their businesses.)

In trying to be both truthful (about my ignorance) and fair, I digressed from my trajectory: The contrast between the behaviors and perceptions related to “Christianity”.

To hear Fox “News”, and even loonier right-wing nuts, you’d think that the lefty loose-y’s are Godless, evil people and the Republicans are the chosen people. And yet, if one uses the Good Samaritan test, we see a very different story. The Republican tax plan and health “care” plan will likely add to the homeless problem over time: more people will be bankrupted and lose their homes as health care becomes increasingly expensive and unavailable, and we are hobbling the future for our youth with the huge increase in national debt meaning more of them will lead lives farther down the economic food chain.

Alms are fine, but that is not a good excuse for creating a system that deliberately, and it is deliberate, drops more people into the steep sided pit of needing them.

Sorry about being both a bit religious and a bit political, which I mostly am not, but I am trying to figure out how to vote.

* My personal opinion about how to approach homelessness:
Since turnips don’t bleed, I feel these mayoral debates are about everything that they can’t do as a mayor (meaning a waste of time). Homelessness is not a local problem. It isn’t even just regional. It is  nation-wide, assuming closed borders, and should be addressed at the national level.

Instead of Seattle’s candidates spouting off solutions that can’t be enacted, and, if successful, will just create a vacuum to suck more people into the area, there should be a nation-wide approach that has some consistency and cohesiveness to it (don’t let the US congress loose on it!). Mayors and governors should get it going instead of trying to go it alone, which is using a band-aid to try and stop a hemorrhage.

Mine’s not a slick easy answer, but homelessness isn’t one problem. It’s one symptom which can result from many underlying causes.

I’ll stop now.

‘Tis the Season

The prompt “Bludgeon” immediately brought to mind my feeling when I returned home from China on the 20th of last month: it is the election season and, to make matters worse, Christmas is just around the corner. Going through the pile of mail awaiting me were two Voter’s Pamphlets (County and State) plus innumerable vote-this-way-or-that mailers, and several holiday catalogs. Both of these represent bludgeons to me…and I hate that feeling.

This year there are 39 items on our ballot!!!! If, for the sake of argument, you assume that the average per issue is five mailings and 5 phone calls that equals 195 items of junk mail and times of getting up to answer the phone to be disappointed that it isn’t an emergency (the reason I always answer the phone is in case it is Grandma or Dad). The “do not call” registry doesn’t apply to political contests.

In addition to the Christmas catalogs (more arrive daily) I have already received two “black Friday” ads.

Rant #1: the election…but its not what you think

7 initiatives, 2 advisory votes, and a proposition!!! I appreciate the idea of democracy, however, the basic idea of “representative democracy” is that you elect competent people, who are paid to research and make intelligent decisions that “provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare”.

I am a good reader, and have higher than average computational and reasoning skills and it often takes me  an hour or so to go through and reason out the pros and cons on these issues, even at that I often feel like I can’t make an adequately informed decision. How many people do you think do even this much? I am guessing that the average person just reads the top level description and votes a gut reaction. That means that people who do not actually understand the issues are calling the shots.

If the duly elected and paid for professional services representatives can’t do the job then we really need to do some soul searching: on what grounds are they elected? Right now it feels like we are selecting people based on their favorite color (red or blue) not their intelligence or skills.

Rant #2: “the holidays” are far from holy

The reason for the “black” in “black Friday” is that it is the day of the year when businesses, especially smaller ones, move from being “in the red” to “in the black” for the year’s accounts. Everyone is desperate to make ends meet. The desperation comes out in marketing that screams at you and jerks you around emotionally, in bright and flashing lights, louder than usual music (sometimes shockingly bad), and cinnamon and pine scented everything, for me this is a sensory overload.

This time of year I often feel bludgeoned when I go out to buy basics: the general bustle of busier than usual stores with bright and/or flashing lights, singing snowmen and loud music has more than once caused me to turn tail and run home…who needs bread and eggs?

I understand the desperation of stores trying to make money: although I have a bit more trouble with TarWalOsco acting desperate than with local independently owned stores.

Here is what I believe: Christmas won’t be a life changing event because you give or get just the right electronic gadget…and if you use Thanksgiving just to get energy for the mad dash to get that electronic gadget (probably made by someone who is living in pretty miserable conditions) you will lose out on the things that matter.

That said: Merry Consumer-fest!