The Eclectic Quill

September 4, 2009

Taking Repbulicans Back to School

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 8:36 pm

First a history lesson.

What was George W. Bush doing on 9/11?

Indoctrinating children.

Now for a civics lesson.

Fascism is the opposite of  Socialism.

There’s your lessons for today. It helps to stay in school and study hard. Then you don’t need to be taught these things when you are a parent.


August 24, 2009

Godwin’s Law Hits Mainstream

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 4:42 pm

There was a time when the worst political rhetoric was reserved for the internet forums. There is a segment of society—those who have the lowest acumen for political discourse, and the most appetite for it, who will troll every political sight and offer such dignified debate as "Commie." That’s OK though, because you know what they are, nothing more than ignorant wannabes who have all  the capacity to learn of an over-oxygenated gerbil. They’ll believe anything ugly they want to and spew it back with all the force of knowledge they can muster, yet without the slightest realization that they are ignorant. As long as they stay where they are it’s easy enough to just click "ignore" and simply avoid their spewing rants. There was a tendency though to remain civil in person. Yet, when it started becoming apparent that Obama might win the election those rules went out the window and the hate which gradually became "acceptable" in public, is now shamelessly exhibited publicly, with utter disdain for anything like knowledge, sense or good taste.

I help out a Christian group on a college Campus and as I was walking by one young man who offered me a nefarious smirk and a tract, asking me, "Did you get your picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache." I responded by telling him he was sick and just continued walking. Remember Godwin’s Law? That rule which says that the first person to start bringing up comparisons to Hitler or NAZIs loses the debate? Yeah, I think we know who just lost. And what it is that have them so riled up? It’s Obama’s "socialist" health care policy. So I’m walking and I’m thinking about this and I ponder to myself "Is it worth it? Should I go back and explain to him that Hitler was actually a fascist which is the exact opposite of a socialist? Should I go back there and explain to him that the very fact he’s handing out pictures of a black man with a Hitler mustache on it belies a complete and total ignorance that is almost beyond telling? Should I tell him that ideologically, while Bush wasn’t actually a fascist, he was a heck of a lot closer to it that Obama? Should I explain to him that the cornerstone of fascist economic policy is that corporations essentially write policy, which is precisely the position he is supporting by opposing the public option? Should I tell him that it is the fascist ideology which determines that the people are not able to make moral decisions for themselves, so they need the government to make it for them?"

And as I consider these things it occurs to me, Godwin’s law has hit the mainstream. People are taking off their public masks and shamelessly accusing whomever of whatever simply because they want to. These are the worse kind of braying sheep. They will follow their "shepherd" wherever he goes. They will repeat whatever he says. They will mindlessly echo everything, and the only place they will go to "learn" is him. They will look you straight in the eye and give you patently false information as though it is gospel, and no amount of logic or fact will ever convince them they are wrong. I recently had a friend tell me with all the certainty of gravity that you can get a Hawaii Certificate of Live Birth" if you were born in a foreign country. He’d read that dagummit, and it doesn’t matter that it isn’t true, that the Hawaii’s own official government website says otherwise. If something doesn’t fit their view, they skew it. If something doesn’t match their "knowledge" then YOUR facts are wrong, not theirs—source be dammed. The only reliable sources to them are Newsmax, Fox and Rush.

So as I’m mulling over this for a couple of hours, mourning the death of any possibility of civil political discourse in our country ever again because the hate mongers are just going to yell anything civil down, it occurred to me, we eventually figured out a way to get around the Godwinnian offenders on the internet. Internet forums gradually gave way to blogging, and blogging became a great source of information for the reasonably minded. The fair-minded were able to look at the "liberal" view and compare it to the "conservative" view and many begin to realize that it was they, not we who were the extremists. Perhaps there’s hope that this too can have a similar result. As the kooks and screamers and blamers screed their hate in public the fair minded might take a look at how offensive that is and say, now what’s the other point of view? Sure they may score a few points at first by just offending away conversation, but usually the purely offensive rhetoric has a way of snapping back to the offender. The neutral person wants to disagree with the offensive just because it’s offensive. Perhaps the offended could leave the ranks of the disinterested and disengaged and ask those with a reasonable voice what is going on. After all, in the end, remember the first one to cry "Hitler" loses the debate.

August 12, 2009

Reviewing Kathleen Parker’s “Balanced” Comments on HB 3200

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 8:47 am

Kathleen Parker today has an opine piece on “easing the death panel” fears. She calls out Palin for her comments that are “made for tabloids” and then goes on to explain that because of this “hyperbole” we “risk overlooking troublesome language in the end-of-life section of the House health bill, a.k.a. Section 1233 of H.R. 3200.” Precisely what this “troublesome language” is is never made quite clear, because she never actually quotes from the bill, rather she interprets it, and in so doing, gives credence to the extreme position by landing somewhere in the middle between reality and insanity. This demonstrates the problem with the media’s constant creation of the perception that both sides are always valid and the truth is in the middle. If one sides distorts the truth to ludicrous proportions, then the “middle” can be completely out of balance. Such is the case in Parker’s piece.

She creates for us the artificial argument of how we, as a society need to balance the needs of the patient with the needs of society in an age where we can be kept alive artificially, longer, and expensively. The problem here is in the premise that this has something to do with the bill, and without this premise everything else falls flat. The bill has nothing to do with that. The bill is not trying to reconcile the needs of society with the needs of the patient. It is not dealing with those eventualities of end of life care. It is dealing with how to pay for the counseling long before end of life care becomes an issue. All the bill is allowing for is the patient the opportunity to be the exclusive person that determines what happens to him or her in a situation where they are in a situation where death is inevitable at a time when they are able to do so. Again, let me repeat this, the bill is about paying for end of life counseling, it is not receiving end of life care. All the confusion about this bill are a direct result of conflating these two entirely separate things.

These other “vague” issues that aren’t discussed in the bill aren’t discussed for the same reason that ice cream isn’t discussed, they don’t have anything to do with the bill. She’s asking, quite literally, why things that have nothing to do with the bill are not in the bill. There are no vast, unspecified powers left to the Secretary as she implies. Essentially the powers addressed to the secretary are specifically enumerated and really boil down to determining who is qualified to be a counselor for end of life care, who can serve as a proxy in emergency situations, and what constitutes a hospice. In short there’s absolutely nothing in the bill that implies, or that can be inferred to mean that the government in any way, shape or form can overturn a decision made by an individual.

Parker then goes on to “elucidate” that, “It would be nice to think that everything goes as patients intend, but we can safely assume that when human error collides with bureaucratic efficiency, nightmarish enforcement scenarios could ensue. Likelihoods morph into certainties when, as this bill sets out, primary-care physicians aren’t necessarily involved in the consultations. As proposed, a variety of health-care practitioners would do.” So allow me to elucidate her “elucidation.” We can safely assume that because of bureaucrats a nightmarish scenario will certainly ensue because health care practitioners aren’t involved in the decision making process. So what we’ve got now is the logical equivalent of a death panel, just dressed up in prettier language. The problem though is that her possibility that turns to inevitability isn’t even a possibility. It’s all built on the false premise that what this legislation is about is the balance of social needs versus personal needs. All this legislation does is allow people the opportunity to legally say, when they are able to, what should happen to them. Period. There’s nothing, no hint that “bureaucrats” can override your decision. The variety of health care practitioners are just that, health care practitioners. And they are counseling you on end of life services, not making determinations for you, and certainly not overriding decisions made by you.

Building upon her now wholly fallacious argument Parker goes on to add outright law to fallacy. “Not least, the bill is an enabling document that leaves great discretion to the secretary of health and human services to develop guidelines that ultimately could change the character of what seems to be offered.” Where does it say that? Nowhere. One has to wonder, if this is the case, why haven’t you quoted from the actual bill anywhere in your piece? She then goes on to suggest that if patients don’t participate in end of life consultations there could be penalties attached! This is complete fiction! There’s nothing to suggest that anywhere in the bill.

She finally concludes that everything would be settled if there were simply language indicating that it was not mandatory. What Parker doesn’t acknowledge though is that there is nothing in the bill that says it is mandatory. In fact the bill only says that end of life consultations will be paid for, not mandated. There’s nothing in the language that even remotely suggests that this is mandatory. The great irony of this debate is that the intention of the bill is the exact opposite of what it’s being portrayed as. The intent is simple, you, and you alone should be able to make the decision about what happens to you. It is fair and reasonable that you should be able to have a discussion with a physician in reaching this decision, and that discussion is going to cost money. All this bill does is say that discussion is going to get paid for. All it does is say that not having the money shouldn’t preclude you from being able to make this decision. It is patently wrong to describe it as anything else, or to suggest that nefarious forces, or well meaning, but ill fated forces are going to result in your early demise against your wishes. So, Kathleen Parker, you can dress it up in prettier language, but your argument is built on the same premise, and it remains just as much hyperbole as the argument you condemn.

August 11, 2009

Crackpot Comes Armed to Obama Town Hall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 3:12 pm

A man brings a gun to the Obama town hall meeting and there are actually people defending him! It’s incredible that anyone would even remotely consider this reasonable. I don’t care what the law is; there’s obviously a threat implied here. When you’ve got this much rhetoric being ratcheted up by the right, when you’ve got people defending murder already, when you’ve got people equating Obama with Hitler, this is too much. Add to the fact he held a sign, "The Tree of Liberty Needs Watering," a Jefferson quote in which the "water" was the "blood of tyrants." I’m worried that there’s going to be people killed before this ends. It seems the ignorant would rather kill than learn.  They would rather kill than have sick people healed. And they’re worried about where Obama is taking the nation?

A Perfect Example of the Problem With the Health Care Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 1:34 pm

Just take a look at this article and you’ll see what the problem is with the health care debate right now. It’s not the nut jobs who don’t know when they’re being lied to about things that should be obvious, like your government not wanting to kill old people. It’s not even the fact that the mealy mouthed Republicans like Sarah Palin saying things about bringing old people and babies with Down’s Syndrome in front of Death Squads or whatever. It’s the refusal of the mainstream media to call this crack-pottery what it is.

The article presents the debate as to equally legitimate sides of the argument, just reporting what the dispute was about, not interjecting what is actually true. So those reading it, or viewing it are seeing it as at least somewhat legitimate. The media needs to stop giving the “birthers” and “deathers” real air time and start calling them what they are, crack pots. Instead of a headline, “Specter faces hostile audience at health care forum” they should have the headline, “Crack pot right wingers attempt to highjack another town hall meeting.” That’s probably not as “unbiased” sounding but it’s a heck of a lot closer to the truth. The MSM has a responsibility to report the truth, not the middle.

August 10, 2009

Knee Jerk or Just Jerks? An Open Letter to Closed Minded Conservatives

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 4:50 pm

All of the news this last week has been about whether the “citizens” who are upsetting the town hall meetings are really just random, angry citizens or if the commotion is being orchestrated by the corporate powers that are trying to prevent the passage of health care reform. Whichever it is to me is really irrelevant. It’s either the knee jerk reaction of an ignorant few who spend all their time listening to drug addled blow-hards disseminate false information about what the reform means, or its people pretending like they care and are really just jerks who don’t are doing it for a paycheck more than for a conscience. If this is you, then I’m talking to you now. Honestly, I don’t care if you’re angry. I’m angry too, but the difference between your anger and my anger though is my anger is justified.

I’m tired to death of your sanctimonious, ignorant attitude. I’m tired of ignorance, and willful ignorance at that, being presented as some sort of virtue shrouded in words like “ordinary American” or “common Joe.” I don’t believe that ignorance is “ordinary”, a though around the gaggle of geese you associate with it’s probably far more common than it should be. Ignorance, my fellow citizen, is nothing to be proud of. If you are literate then ignorance is either the product of laziness or closed mindedness, and neither of those is a virtue. Instead of going out and prattling endlessly on about, “Just say no!” why don’t you take the five minutes it would take to learn what the heck you are saying no to? As the conservative talking heads keep coming on the TV and telling me what you don’t agree with it strikes me that nothing that you don’t agree with is actually what’s being discussed. If you’ve heard yourself talking about “socialized medicine” or “single payer” or “Canada” then you are ignorant. Now I want to be clear, that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. It’s not a matter of interpretation and it’s not a matter of spin—it’s a matter of truth. None of the proposals on the table are any of those things. Now it’s true that some of us wish those things were on the table, but they aren’t.

Furthermore I’m tired of knowledge being treated as anathema. I’m tired of being called a “MSNBC” watching “liberal” and “elitist” and “thinking I’m better than everyone else” because I have the unmitigated gall to learn. Learning is not the end of all evils. And one really has to stop and wonder just what the heck is going on in this country when we have to start defending things like learning. If you think learning is bad then you really need to stop and think about what your position.

Now, you might say, “It’s not just learning, it’s what you learn.” Well, hey, I’m fine with that. I’m all for an informed debate, but the debate should still be centered on facts, and there should be a reasonable discourse and acceptance of things that are proven, and disproven. So, for instance, the word “Socialism” has a definition, an actual meaning. If your definition of socialism is different from the meaning of the word socialism, it’s not a matter of opinion what the word really means. The English language isn’t dependant on your definitions, and your attempt to dress things up in wrong, inflammatory language, doesn’t change it. Calling something that isn’t socialism socialist doesn’t make it socialist, it makes you wrong. Or, for another example, declaring resolutely that Barack Obama was not born in the United States is not acceptable argument. The fact is indisputable, and telling me that some old lady in Kenya claims differently doesn’t change reality. We’re living in a real world, and in the real world Obama was born in the US. Your inclination to take her word over the word of over 50 journalists, a governor, and whoever else who have actually handled Obama’s birth certificate is not a matter of “opinion” it’s a matter once again of willful ignorance.

But this is all just frosting on the cake isn’t it? You keep wanting to talk about how Obama is going to ruin the country. The fact is, it’s already been ruined by the Republicans, and no, I’m not exaggerating in the least. To create an analogy it’s like some drunk got behind the wheel of a car and ran it into a brick wall, over and over and over again. Then they rolled it down a giant hill end over end, smashing it into a pulp on the way down. Then they picked it up with a helicopter flew up 200 feet in the air and dropped it on the ground. Now, Obama wants to hook the car up to a tow truck to take it to the repair shop and your complaining about how he’s risking scratching the paint. Your guys already ruined the country! You had control of the entire government for six years, and all you did was pile drive it repeatedly and mercilessly. The reason we are in a recession, the reason we had to have a bank bailout (and let there be no mistake about it, there is far more blame for that on the Republicans than the Democrats), the reason we had to have an auto bailout is all because you spent the last eight years doing exactly what you wanted to do. Don’t piss and moan that someone wants to fix what you broke now.

You inherited the largest surplus in the history of the country and turned it into the largest deficit, and now you want to pass yourselves off as fiscally responsible? You’ve got to be kidding me! Every time a Republican gets in the White House all he does is spend, spend, spend. Yet, that doesn’t matter to you because he’s not spending the money on people, he’s spending the money on “defense.” The only problem is that the money isn’t going into defending our country it keeps going into attacking other countries. Now you want to get all upset over the notion that we’re going to spend money on healing people? You’ll spend unlimited amounts of money on killing people, but you won’t drop a dime to heal a person. And then you want to talk about how you are “pro life.” It seems the only life you want to preserve is the unborn one.

You with your high minded, self righteous rhetoric don’t even pause to think before you just start reacting to things do you? Has it occurred to you in all your “pro life” ideology that the best thing for reducing abortions in this country is not making it illegal, but making delivery viable? It’s been a well established fact that money is the number one reason women get abortions. I know it doesn’t jibe well with your cackling witch mentality of women who get abortions, but most of them who would be able to bring healthy babies to term that get abortions do so because they simply can’t afford the process of birth. Are you aware that the abortion rates in the US are higher than in Western Europe or Northern Europe where all those “liberals” live? Where they have that “socialized medicine?” In fact the US abortion rate is 50 percent higher than what it is in Western Europe! So, in all your talk about the evils of abortion, how about supporting national health in care in some way, shape or form? I know, it’s so much easier to make it about how the “mother should have thought of that before she had sex” and be pompous about it, but how about making this about the baby’s life. If you want the baby to be born so bad, why not pay for it?

In all your banshee screaming about how we are going to become a communist country if we allow a public option to pass has it dawned on your small world view that, if in fact you are right, this is your big opportunity to prove it.? The whole notion that has driven the fiscal policy of the conservatives for the last 30 years is that all things private are better. Well, a public option is just what it says it is. It is an option for public health insurance. It’s the opportunity for public to go head to head against private. This is the big ho-down, the Wrestlemania of economics, the opportunity to once and for all prove that private enterprise works better. But where’s the spirit of competition now? All we hear about is how private insurance won’t be able to survive if there’s competition from the public sphere. Look, you either believe that private enterprise will work better or you don’t. Let the competition happen, what do you have to lose except your opinion?

In your topsy-turvy world of ignorance you’ll shout the very opposite of what is true, just to be sensational. You want to make it sound like legislation (introduced by Republicans incidentally) that actually protects your right to determine what would happen to you if you were in a situation where you were being kept alive solely by machines, is the exact opposite. Those who tell you otherwise are lying to you. There’s no secret plan to kill old people here, there’s nothing that’s going to tell you have to die. All there is a way to pay for a living will, a protection of your right to determine whether you will be kept alive or not. These accusations that the government is going to tell you to die are untrue. It’s just a flat out, bold faced lie, and that’s the fact. It’s just easier for you to believe that we are “evil” and you’ll accept anything any of the liars from your side of the aisle say that support that notion. How about you accept, just for a moment, the notion, that “liberals” are human beings that don’t just want to tell you what to do?

And perhaps the most disingenuous thing of all the arguments you present is that somehow, opposing national health care is the “Christian” thing to do. While I suppose one could argue that national health care is not in the Bible, insurance companies sure as heck aren’t either. And near as I can tell Jesus never asked anyone for their insurance card before healing anyone. I’m tired of you shrouding all of your non-Christian faith in my faith. Would you please (and I mean this literally) for the love of God stop making it look like He hates poor people? Whenever you cloak your diatribe in the Bible you cause people to blaspheme God (Rom. 2:24).

So I’ve got a suggestion for those who WANT to have a debate and not get shouted down by the kooks on the right who have no knowledge, only hate and anger and ignorance to spew. Remember that duct tape you were told to buy to protect yourself from chemical weapons? Find where you stored it, take it out of that dusty drawer and bring it to a town hall meeting, and the next time one of these bone-headed ignorant blathering Rush wannabes stands up and starts yelling, combat terrorism and tape their fool mouths shut. Show them they aren’t the only “angry Americans” with a view.

July 30, 2009

He’s not a Banana Eating Jungle Monkey, He Just Acts Like One

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 9:52 am

Did you hear the one about the guy who said he wasn’t a racist, he just calls people who are mad that they are getting arrested in their own home “banana eating jungle monkeys” because they are black? It almost sounds like there should be a punch line here, but it’s reality and it offers us a poignant view of t modern face of racism. Racism isn’t always overt, always obvious, it lurks insidiously, and then every once in a while it pokes out its head in an incredibly ugly turn of phrase and leaves the speaker declaring, “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black.” The problem with today’s racism isn’t what you think of the black people you know it’s what you think of the black people you don’t know.

Boston Police Officor Justin Bartlett is doing precisely that. In an email he authored he referred to Gates as “acting like a banana eating jungle monkey.” In defending his actions he said that he didn’t say Gates was one, but that he was just acting like one. Of course my question for him would be had he ever said an angry white person was acting like a “banana eating jungle monkey?” My personal query might also be, precisely how does a banana eating jungle monkey behave? It seems to me that a monkey with a banana would be quite happy, but that’s really sort of a moot point. It is unbelievable to me that anyone would make that comment (four times no less, and about two different black men) and then say that it had nothing to do with race.

This incident, the reaction to Obama’s reaction to it, the Sotamayor nomination and the “birther” conspiracy all point to a veiled racism, this notion that somehow whites are now the victims here. Sotamayor’s comment, when reviewed in context, is the exact opposite of racist (unless of course you would like to defend the Dred Scott decision). The leaping all over the President’s comments as a “rush to judgment” turns out to have been the rush to judgment after all, as it is apparent that Crowley lied in the police report on at least one detail (calling the rest into suspicion). The willingness to accept the word of the white police officer over the black professor is telling, station in life, character and success are all irrelevant here, all that matters to them is they believed the white guy over the black guy. Even the whole “birther” conspiracy and the willingness to believe that he’s not really American (in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he is) is again, an inherent willingness to believe something is wrong with the black guy.

It’s not just by inference either. Glenn Beck stated on Fox News that Obama hates white people. Rush Limbaugh has said that white police officers and firefighters are under attack from the “East Wing of the White House.” His logic seems to be that if you aren’t protecting white privilege then you are racist. Of course all of these white men are quick to quip they aren’t racist, heck some of their best friends are black. I’m not saying they are banana-eating-racists, I’m just saying they act like one.

July 24, 2009

Rush and the Media Rush to Judge Obama on Rush to Judgment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:26 am

The rush to judge Obama on his calling out the Cambridge Police department is both wrongheaded and hypocritical. It’s wrong in its projection of what Obama meant when he said “I don’t have all the facts,” it’s wrong in how it is portraying the police department as doing its job and it’s wrong in what all of this actually has to do with race relations. All of this can be summed up in one rhetorical question: Does anyone really believe that Gates would have been arrested if he were white?

Let’s face facts. If he were white and the police had arrested him, there wouldn’t have been any kind of confrontation when he showed his ID, there would have been an apology, a have an nice day and that would be the end of the story. So let’s take a look at what facts are apparent. Firstly, we know that Gates and his limo driver broke into his house because he’d forgotten the key. Second, we know that the arresting officer was aware of this when he made the arrest because he was arrested for creating a public disturbance, not for breaking and entering. Thirdly, and most importantly, we know that the charges were dropped. It’s not hard to draw a line from charges that are dropped to charges that had never been made. In other words, for Obama to draw a reasonable conclusion that it was stupid to arrest someone for breaking into their own house, when in fact they have proven that it was their own house is, to say the least, reasonable. Also, Obama didn’t actually call the officer stupid, he called his action stupid. While some will say this is parsing words, it isn’t, it’s understanding English. All people do stupid things from time to time, but not all people are stupid.

One has to be aware of the smoke and mirrors surrounding this issue. Some argue there were break-ins in the area and the officer was just doing his job. That’s fine. Doing his job ended when he confirmed that Gates was the legal resident of the house he was in. Some argue that Obama shouldn’t be attacking police officers and men in uniform. He isn’t. He’s saying that in a specific situation, in which men in uniform acted stupidly, that they acted stupidly. That’s not attacking men in uniform, it’s criticizing specific men who happen to wear uniforms. There’s a mountain of difference between these two things, but it’s often a conflation that the Republicans are often guilty of. Some say that Gates, perhaps, acted angrily and for this reason he was arrested. First, in all of their casting of dispersions at Obama’s feet for “rushing to judgment” on the police, aren’t they in turn rushing to judgment on Gates? Particularly when you pause to consider that the charges were dropped almost immediately it seems that perhaps the officer in question, not Obama acted to hastily. Furthermore, when you consider that Gates is one of the top legal minds in the country and a professor at the best university, it should cause one to pause one to consider if that station really befits a man who is so hot-headed that he’s going to fly off the handle to the point that it requires detention. Finally some are pointing out that the officer taught about racial profiling. That’s fine, this isn’t a case of racial profiling, so it’s a red-herring.

It’s not unreasonable to draw a conclusion that the officer had at least his own part in causing the situation to escalate—and it’s in fact his job to try and do the opposite. Additionally consider that Obama has a personal relationship with Gates, and has himself shown a sometimes almost irritating habit of gathering all the facts before he makes statements on it. Remember “I like to know what I’m talking about before I say anything?” So what makes this situation different for Obama, who literally talked about it without gathering all the facts first? His personal knowledge about the person and character of Gates is the distinction. While he doesn’t know “the facts” he does know Gates and he apparently knows him as someone who isn’t going to fly off the handle screaming “It’s because I’m a black man isn’t it?!” when the police came. To me it’s apparent there was something beyond the police doing their job and making a reasonable inspection of the people breaking into the house that provoked the incident. Again I ask, does anyone really believe that the situation would have arrived at the same destination were Gates a white man?

Consider the two possible scenarios. First, Gates starts screaming and bellowing for no reason whatsoever, and in order to maintain the peace the officer has to put Gates in custody. The other is that Gates says something that offends the offends the officer and then a power play ensues consummating with the officer placing Gates under arrest. If we don’t’ know either of the players then it’s not really fair to speculate, but if you do know one of the players, it’s not unfair to draw a conclusion. Obama knows one of the players. Logic suggests that there was, at the very least, a level of civility and respect that was not afforded Gates that should have been afforded. It’s not a matter of whether someone is being racially profiled or not. It’s a matter of whether police exercise the same disposition in how they treat all citizens. We have a long history in our country that suggests they don’t, and the media, in rushing to their own judgment, have blithely ignored this fact most of all. We often excuse such treatment by saying “he brought it on himself.” Clearly this was not the case here. Clearly race was involved, and clearly race is involved in much of the way the right wing media is responding, and effecting the response of the mainstream media. Furthermore, if a white President had made the comment, then there wouldn’t be the same kind of reaction to it. In all of this hoopla about how this isn’t about race it’s being proven just how much it is

July 10, 2009

It’s Official the Michael Jackson Reporting Has Gotten Out of Control

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 4:24 pm

When I saw this headline on the CNN feed I knew, the Michael Jackson story had gotten out of control.

Psychics see magic in Michael Jackson’s life

So I’m wondering, is this supposed to be actual news? Are things so desperate that we are actually interviewing psychics and numerologists to try and get more insight into the whole thing? What’s really pathetic is the way they report it as though there’s something credible here. Is this what the MSM has been reduced to? What comes next, a medium interviewing Michael Jackson about his death and what to do with his kids? Note the idiotic bullet that elucidates that in 20 years he will be reincarnated.

The Congress is battling over health care reform. The troops are pulling out of Iraq. CIA is lying to Congress. The Republican party is in shambles and the so called “C House” is emerging as one of the most bizarre and influential groups in the country The CNN feed has nothing about that. Who has time for such trivial things when they can interview Psychics about “Magic being in Michael Jackson’s life”

Can we put the “News” back in the Cable “News” Network? Or maybe they figure if a comedy channel can do comedy as news a news channel can do news as comedy.


July 7, 2009

Palin, Quitting and Intellectual Honesty

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 12:06 pm

There are two kinds of blogs. The first is blogging to an event which happened. It’s isolated and about that one thing. The other is more of a commentary, and sometimes these brew for a very long time until a certain confluence of events causes it to rise to the surface and spill itself out into an entry. There’s been a blog brewing in me since I started blogging and that has to do with the whole notion of “balance” in political reporting, how this is different from intellectual honesty, and how much and how desperately we need much less of the former, and much more of the latter.

The way that political reporting is done now is that there are two talking heads that come on, one representing the “Republican” side and the other representing the “Democratic” side of things. Ergo everything that happens is seen in this prism. Objectivity then becomes defined as what lies in the middle, what is in between those two sentiments. Truth is not the goal, the center is. If we are searching for intellectual honesty though, truth matters, not the middle because truth and the middle might not always be the same. Much concerning the events of Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin in recent days demonstrate the difference here.

With Sarah Palin the “balanced” story that is beginning to take shape is that she was harangued by a host of meritless ethics charges that forced her to spend so much money on defending herself that she simply had to step down as governor in order to go on speaking engagements that would allow her to make the money to pay her legal bills. This has the semblance of neutrality in appearance, diminishing her fault in quitting. It also amplifies the effect of some of the more frivolous ethics charges. Additionally it lets slide a certain suggestion that the ethics charges and investigations are all the fault of the Democrats. Finally, by extension it provides that all of the “attacks” on Palin are unfair. Palin is being rendered a victim who is being forced into doing the only thing that she can.

As to the ethics charges the fact is that the laws are the reason that she has had so many of them filed against her. Certainly the majority of them are frivolous—and cheap to defend. I don’t know exactly how she’s spending her money on her legal team, but I don’t think that wearing the Arctic Cat logo is what cost her half a million dollars. The major allegation for which she has been investigated and not cleared of is the Troopergate scandal, where she was found guilty of breaking the law to unduly use her position to get a man fired for personal reasons. She launched her own investigation of herself and surprise, found herself innocent but she didn’t need to spend money to defend herself against her own investigation. So here’s the bottom line on this and the line that you aren’t getting from the mainstream media, the ethics violation she spent the majority of that money defending herself against was true! There’s no “balance” there, no middle ground, only truth. The truth is she acted unethically, got investigated for it and convicted for it, and now she has to pay for it. That’s the intellectually honest position here. It might be “biased” in the sense that it paints her in a bad light, but truth and bias can go together.

Furthermore the “unbiased” version has the media “unfairly attacking” her. Precisely which “attack” is “unfair” is hard to say. Often Katie Couric’s “hard-hitting” interview is cited as an example. Again though, we have to distinguish between truth and intellectual honesty here. One of the favorite tactics of the right is to question, “What if Obama….” Well, let me poise this question then, “What if Obama weren’t able to cite a single Supreme Court case other than Roe vs. Wade?” Would the Republican talking heads be all over that? (Being fair to Katie Couric, her question wasn’t “Can you name another Supreme Court case, it was “What other (than Roe v. Wade) Supreme Cases do you disagree with?” It never occurred to her that Palin wouldn’t be able to name any. She asked the same question to Biden, who answered it). It’s incredible to me that from the conservative crowd Couric took more heat for asking Palin the question than Palin took for not being able to answer it. It wasn’t a “Gotcha!” question, it was a legitimate question, and the outrage over again demonstrates that there is a difference between balanced and honest. Incredibly, the right wing spin machine is encompassing this, and other valid questions regarding her qualifications which arose during the campaign in with the unfair ethics violations. In essence what has become the middle ground is that any and all criticism of Sarah Palin is unfair. The truth is that the vast majority of the criticism of her is valid, but since that validity paints her in a bad light, it’s perceived as bias, and in order to remove the bias the msm has to remove the accusations.

Lest I get carried away with this train of thought though, my point here isn’t that Palin is an unqualified candidate, that she’s unlawfully used her position, or that she has all the curiosity of a 100 year old cat, it’s that there’s a different way of thinking that conservatives and liberals have, and we can see it in the Palin scenario. The conservatives begin with what they believe, then based on their belief, they form a thought process. Finally in order to support that thought process they utilize certain facts. For instance Palin quits. The right wing faithful “believe” that she is right. Therefore they need a thought process to vindicate her quitting. That thought process is that she was being unfairly attacked and she would do a better job of serving if she didn’t have to defend herself against these unfair attacks. Then, in order to qualify their thought process they point to some unfair attacks on Palin, and since some attacks are unfair, they all must be unfair. In their mind the only way to be fair is to be free of bias, even if that bias is steeped in fact.

Liberals on the other hand begin by establishing the fact, then based on the facts they form a thought process, and then based on that they form a belief. So here for instance, they begin with determining things about Sarah Palin. She isn’t able to answer basic questions about civics, she has been found guilty of using her position to get someone fired, and she quit her job Governor of Alaska in the middle of her first term. Putting those facts together (and they are facts) we form a thought process that suggests her interest is not in somehow bettering her state or the nation (as evidenced by a rudimentary knowledge or curiosity in civics) but rather in utilizing her position for gain (as evidenced by her history of doing so). Then based on all of this we form a belief or bias that her quitting is not due to her inability to adequately help her people out and pursue some higher calling as she suggests; rather it is base gain, again as her history suggests. This may be bias, but it is fair bias.

Taken from another perspective look at Obama’s recent trip to New York, and the cost it entailed. The Conservatives began with the belief that it was wrong, then they calculated the cost, and then they determined that Obama wasted that much tax payer money by going to New York. They don’t question their belief structure on this at all to determine whether their questions are fair or not. They don’t ask whether they (or for that matter the Democrats or anyone else) ever questioned Bush for doing similar things, when he took trips to Crawford ranch, or to Maine, or to anywhere else for that matter. They don’t question whether or not a sitting President should take a public airplane to get to New York, without any sort of security detail if he is on personal business, and they don’t question whether a sitting President should ever be allowed to go outside of DC for personal reasons. A new, bizarre and thoughtless standard is raised around a “belief” and only the facts that fit that belief are allowed to be considered.

Recently I was talking with an online friend about Palin quitting and in response he said that Obama had already spent more money than Bush. While this is so blatantly and completely untrue on so many different levels that it’s literally mind boggling that someone could believe it, people believe it. I Googled the argument just to see what would come up and sure enough, there’s all these “projections” of how much money Obama is going to spend verses Bush. How exactly these projections are targeted is beyond me, but somehow I don’t believe they are unbiased. What’s striking though is that these “projections” have turned into “already spent”. Now there’s one detail that is omitted in all of these things. Relatively speaking Obama hasn’t spent that much money, even considering the wars, the auto bailout and the stimulus package. The reason for this is that Obama has yet to pass a budget. The current fiscal budget was passed by Bush, so when I see these charts showing how much money Obama has spent, I note that it’s categorized as money spent “under” Obama. Yes, Obama is President, but that’s not his money he’s spending. Secondly, the higher the deficit goes, the greater the amount of money to pay off the interest on the debt goes. Ergo, Obama has less money to play with than Bush, but that’s on Bush, not Obama. Thirdly, more than 80 percent of the entire debt has come under Reagan or the Bushes. Now the Republicans want to make it out that they are these budget hawks, though they never were while Republicans were President. Again, their belief comes first, and the facts that don’t support their beliefs are not considered.

So then all of this ends up back to this whole middle ground argument, where the less curious voters say, “well you have you your talking points and they have their taking points.” The conclusion then is that since both have talking points, both sides must also have valid points. However, talking points are only valid if they are 1) true and 2) intellectually honest. Very often on the conservative side they are not—not because conservatives are stupid—but because they begin with belief. The ones making the points can either be deliberately deceptive (which I think is the case with the likes of Cheney and Rove) or ignorantly deceptive, such as with Bush and Palin. Either way though it is deceptive. Meanwhile, those like Obama, who go out of their way to be fair, to speak both sides, are portrayed as the other extreme. So the average, moderately informed voter sees that there is even truth and even deception in both sides, although one side is trying to deceive (or has been deceived and is honestly being deceptive) and the other side is trying to be honest. If you take the middle of that then you end up with something is unfair, and though it is midway, it is also biased in the sense that it paints the truth different than what it is, and this in turn has a more favorable representation to the deceiving party than the honest one.

The extreme right is dragging us down a path cloaked in fallacy and dishonesty and the MSM in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle seems eager to appease. Recalling the type of rhetoric that was used in Palin’s speeches, I hope that this gets curbed very soon. There’s only so much half truth the country can take. The media, not the blogosphere needs to be the place that checks the truth and reports it. They need to do so fairly, and without bias, and the best way to do that is to get away from talking heads and interpretations of the news, but to simply just get back to saying what the facts are. The truth may not be “balanced” but it is unbiased.



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