Infected: Hysteria And Politics

fbloggedonI planned on keeping quiet about the election. Between trolls and obsessed true believers, in many circles the interweb has become a nasty place.  But a friend mine on Facebook sincerely asked me for my thoughts. I hesitated.  Then I realized that leaving the pool to the trolls and those who can’t play nice in the sandbox is assuring that the situation will only continue to get worse.

My response to election 2016 is maybe I was a little more surprised by the result then I should have been. (Polls are partly responsible for that.)

However, I think those in the media that play up the angry white vote angle for Donald Trump, continue to do a disservice to the public by acting like the school yard instigator and contributing to the divide.  Trump basically got the amount of votes consistent with a republican candidate regardless of the opposing candidate, previous president, or current circumstances.

Hillary Clinton received fewer votes than President Obama did in 2012, (including among blacks, Latinos and women) which when you consider that many, rightly or wrongly, felt that between superdelegates going to Clinton in states and caucuses she lost, and the DNC shenanigans that we became aware via wikileaks, the will of the people was subverted in the democratic primary.

Further, again, rightly or wrongly, we knew as far back as the primary that HRC came with baggage that President Obama (and likely Bernie Sanders) did not, so it is not a shock that while Clinton won the popular vote in the general, she could not inspire the voter turnout as much as President Obama, and thus lost the electoral.

How Did We Get here?

For years there has been this negative feedback loop between politicians, the media, (main and social), and the public, that escalates and accelerates the ugliness, hypocrisy, arrogance, condescension, and close-mindedness that pervades our elections, and “discussions” (if you can call it that) of politics and social issues.

It gets worse every election cycle and makes it harder to govern for whoever is in charge.  The “loyal” opposition (both parties depending on who is in power) do what they can to obstruct and get to the next election where they hope to get more senate/ house seats and or the presidency. Politicians do it to save their jobs and as part of their means justify the ends thinking. By individual partisans and the media, this obstructionism is seen only as unidirectional where one side blames the other for doing it, and is in denial about doing it when it serves them. Or they acknowledge and justify obstruction behind either:

  • A-Self righteousness (means justify ends) 
  • B-The childish defense of, “they did it to us so we’re going to do it too!”

Too many people talk at or down to others, and are unwilling to listen and compromise. Their voices are louder and drown out the attempted voices of reason. Partisans not only troll their counterparts, but those who would dare attempt to have a neutral position or try to find a middle ground.  I’m sure I have already angered some with this post and what they would call false equivocating.

Where have you gone respectful disagreement? Yes, I understand there are very serious, even life and death issues at stake. Passions are high. That makes it more, not less important to really hear and respect each other.  How is the other way working out for us?  Think outside of the microcosm of one election.  Think about the progressive dysfunction of the government, the growing chasm between compatriots, and the ignored and or mounting issues we face as a nation.   

Aside from the malevolent, I don’t want to say these adverse behaviors/reactions are things most of us have been guilty of at one time or another, because it is more like a hysterical emotional/ psychological virus (HEPV, sorry True Blood fans) that we are victims to, and then spread.

I don’t say this to  judge or invalidate any beliefs, just that even valid beliefs are subject to HEPV, that then morphs otherwise good and reasonable people into a semi-delirious uncompromising versions of themselves. Not the most effective way to communicate. I exaggerate to make a point.

Speaking of exaggerating.  Another effect of HEPV is vulnerability to Fake news websites, social media, exaggerated/ false meme’s, and unsubstantiated “facts”, oh my.  These things do not seem to matter to many when they align with existing opinions.

The media is biased, most of us know this.  Depending on the outlet, it may tilt left or right. The less talked about media conundrum is its sensational predilections which is partly why star power and charisma trump, pardon the pun, qualifications and experience when it comes to covering/ promoting candidates.

Further, the tabloids and internet websites created a frenzied rush to get stories out first. Cable news created the need to present it in an entertaining/provocative way. Objectivity, accuracy, and truth are often casualties of this war.

Many in the media have betrayed the public trust.  As a result they are not trusted, even when they are accurate. NO ONE should get their news from ONE source. 

As for our president-elect, he is a true wild card who does have the potential to surprise us in good ways.  Or, be the worst nightmare that many think he will be. Time will tell. I voted third-party (for the 3rd or 4th time in my life) because I truly believe the country needs a viable 3rd party, and in this instance because I live in a non battleground state. In case you’re wondering, if I lived in a battleground state, I would have un-enthusiastically voted for the devil I know in Clinton as opposed to the devil I don’t know in Trump. However, I do not fault those in battleground states who did vote third-party for too many reasons to go into here.  

Barring the start of WW III, (not an impossibility given current state of world affairs) Susan Sarandon may be on to something when she inferred maybe we have to hit bottom (with Trump via a Marxist Revolution) and start over.  I certainly hope not, but don’t know.

I’m not sure how we get out of this cycle of an escalating divide…this hypnotic trance we are in… but if we don’t, and if Trump is as bad as many fear, if THAT is not bottom, then the next war might not be WW III but CW II. 

The things I am speaking of, (HEPV) are generally easier to see in others than it is in ourselves. It is important that we try. Hate to sound cataclysmic but the fate of our democracy and more rides on it. #wakeup & #snapoutofit

Tips For Moving Forward:

  1. Get news from more than one source.
  2. Fact Check.  (For The Love Of GOD, Especially Memes!!!)
  3. Know that you’re not right about everything therefore those you disagree with must be right about something.  
  4. Be as tolerant of others as you would want them to be tolerant of you.  
  5. Breathe and say a mantra before you react to others.  Or let yourself cool off before posting on social media.  
  6. Don’t be a hypocrite (substitute other name(s) or group(s) to see if you think something is okay or not).  
  7. Don’t lose friends over politics.  
  8. Stay engaged outside of election season and find positive ways to interact and make a difference in causes you care about.  
  9. End conversations with a handshake, or a hug, or a positive emoji/smiley face 🙂
  10. Stay humble, stay grateful and stay hungry. 

Going forward, of course I, and I hope you, wish for the President-elect to succeed in his role in matters of national security and the economy.  For social issues, the environment, I share concerns that many of you have and I encourage everyone to get or stay activated, peacefully protest when desired, and engage in civil discourse. 

 

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How I Will Decide On Who To Vote For As The Next President Of The United States

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For reasons that do not matter, almost two years ago I decided to become a cord cutter. Meaning I no longer have cable TV. And with the exception of some sports, all of my boob tube watching is compliments of Netflix.

Aside from saving money and not missing TV, one unanticipated benefit has been disconnecting from cable news and the hysterical bombardment of subtle and oftentimes not so subtle partisan political white noise. And once I started ignoring (mostly) similar said political white noise on my facebook stream, I was really home-free.

  • Free from attempts at brainwashing, and manipulation.
  • Free from subjective opinions based on selective truths, and bias that is potentially rooted as much in personal history and issues, as “objective” intellectually formulated conclusions.
  • Free to watch my own personal bias’ and positions, I had become maybe a little too comfortable with, fall away.

In other words I have moved closer to a neutral position. The exact position that our justice system is predicated on when, in its ideal form, it finds twelve completely unbiased jurors, without preconceived notions, prejudices, and so on, to pass judgment on innocence or guilt.

I am not saying that there aren’t a lot of good and far more intelligent people than me out there… but sifting through the minefield of spin, rhetoric, and talking points has become tiring and unproductive. And to my learned friends, you can have a mensa IQ and still be emotionally skewed… especially when it comes to topics like politics.

So I will attempt to get as close to a pure state as possible for the next presidential election. How? By ignoring 98% of the babble. I will pay attention to the primaries but not get emotionally invested in any candidate. Why? Because politicians lie.  More than usual during primaries. In primaries, candidates generally run to the their base with the knowledge that if they win the primary they will have to move or “pivot”, as the talking heads like to say, to the middle.

So no point in getting all caught up in it or even playing the “gotcha” or he lied game, cause just about all of the winnable candidates do it. What about authentic candidates? The ones committed to their values? They know they can’t win and likely have some other agenda. Perhaps angling to be a VP candidate. Whatever, I am not biting anymore.

hannitymaddow

I won’t watch hyper partisan “news” shows or softball interviews. There is little point in watching Sean Hannity interview a republican candidate or Rachel Maddow interview a democrat. I am not member of either choir so no need to be preached to by these cheerleaders.

Here is what I will do:

  1. I will watch all debates.
  2. I will fact check claims made in the debates.
  3. I will measure fact checked claims against preexisting records of the candidates and weigh them against the issues I think are most important.

I will watch and or read substantive interviews and editorial content that take place between and or are about debates, and or are close to the finish line. I will watch and evaluate based on the merits. If anything of consequence comes from such interviews I will not allow it to move my needle until I fact check its contents as well.

American Politics

If there is one thing today’s rush to get the story out media has taught me is that today’s “facts” can wind up as tomorrow’s retraction. So slow your roll playa, and take everything in with a grain of salt. My loyalty is to the truth, what I think is best for the country, and myself. IT IS NOT TO A DONKEY OR AN ELEPHANT!

Hence, if the candidate that comes out best in my process is an independent, or libertarian, I will vote for him or her. If it is republican or democrat, I will vote for he of she. This process will guide me and I will trust it to lead me to as close as an objective verdict as I am capable of rendering.

Why We Need A Salary Cap In POLITICS!

Dollars funnel.

The Failure of Proposition 522 in Washington State got me thinking.  And before jumping to calling me an UN-American, socialist, commy, whatever.  Let’s take a look at team sports.

Football, basketball, hockey and even baseball all have some form of salary cap, and or revenue sharing.  Technically baseball has a luxury tax for spending beyond a certain threshold.  Of course the owners have their own economic reasons for supporting this.  But the sports media and the fans have wildly supported this for purer motives.  And for the sake of this blog I will now refer to fans as voters.

The voters and the media support this, in part, because it helps to level the playing field.  The rich teams that either generate more revenue because of the market they are in, or who have wealthy owners willing to spend money earned outside of the sport, had a seemingly unfair advantage.  They could spend money on players other teams could and still to a degree cannot.

How can competition be meaningful if the scales are tipped in advance of the competition?  This is also why the worst teams in one season get the best draft picks for incoming talent in the following season.  Draft selection order and salary caps are an attempt to give leagues parity, and all teams as fair a chance as possible to put together their resources, and to make their case on the field, through their play, that they are the best.

salaryjesushatesFor years, the highest spending team in sports, the team most vilified for it, and its championships diminished by others, was the New York Yankees.   The Yankees would spend close to more on one player than an entire team’s payroll.  Opposing voters didn’t applaud their championships, they said they bought them.

On to politics and the failure of Washington State’s ballet initiative 522 which would require companies to label their food if it has been genetically modified.

Do we want elections and ballot initiatives to be bought?  For example, opponents of proposition 522 spent a record (for Washington State) of approximately 22 million dollars to defeat it.  Outspending those in favor by about 12 million.  In California, a similar measure, proposition 37, was defeated when those against raised 48.6 million versus 8.7 million for those in favor.

In the grand scheme of things, sports are unimportant.  Trivial.  A welcome distraction to the toils of everyday life.  Not life and death!  The Yankees or other large market teams, having an “unfair” advantage over others will not effect whether you get cancer, whether we go to war or have healthcare.  Politics and ballot initiatives do.  Don’t we want these elections and votes to be as fair as possible?  Shouldn’t there be some maximum bar of how much money can be raised and spent to persuade the voters that their side is good and the other is evil?

In the justice system there is an axiom.  “You get the justice you can afford”.  The implication being that the rich have access to better lawyers and resources that can disproportionately influence a jury.  Thus they can “buy” their outcome.

It is not hard to see where money can enable a disproportionate advantage in the courtroom and on the sports playing field.  Nor it is difficult to see in politics.  It is just not nearly as widely reported on or condemned.

salaryO&MIn the 2008 presidential election Barack Obama outspent John McCain nearly 3 to 1.  I have a feeling if it was the other way around we may have heard more about that, but that is a blog for another day.

I sincerely state that maybe props 522, and 37 would have been voted no if closer to even money was spent.  Then Senator Obama still could’ve just as easily defeated Senator McCain.  But shouldn’t voters be treated to roughly the same amounts of exposure to both sides/points of view?  Should elections be or have the appearance of being buy-able?

Would we want to let a prosecutor call 2 witnesses and let the defense call 10?  Would we say to the defense you only raised enough money to speak for 2 minutes during your opening and closing statements but the prosecutor can speak for 20?  Would these factors, if they existed, disproportionately influence a jury?  I think so.  Is this what we have and want in politics?  What does that say about our democracy if so?

Even in sports the money gap never allowed the Yankees to bat for 7 innings and the other side for 2.  However, in essence, with the massive amount of differences sides can raise and spend on campaigns, the airtime, advertising and media equates to letting one side have grossly more access to the hearts and minds of voters.  And given that all sides of any issue past and present have proven they are capable of playing fast and loose with the truth… isn’t this dangerous?

Why not cap fund-raising to a reasonable amount?  People smarter than I can come up with a formula based on the region, economics, etc… It would be up to the sides and parties involved to raise it.  So for example, say the cap on 522 was 15 million and those in favor of a no vote raised the 15 million.  And say those in favor raise 12 million.  The no people would still be able to spend their 15 million but at least the gap is closer and more reasonable.

Such a system would create the possibility of equal fundraising and minimize the potential for disproportional spending and advertising which, would most importantly, give the voter the best chance at reaching a conclusion in his her best interest or inline with their thinking and true wishes.  And isn’t that kind of the point of elections?

To Intervene or Not To Intervene… A No Win Situation For the U.S.?

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There are many issues that polarize us in the United States.  The list includes: Gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, health care and taxes.  When to use and when to not use military force is another.

The reports that Syria may have used chemical weapons on its own people have some anticipating this debate once again.

No matter the atrocities being committed in certain areas of the world, there are Americans who believe, that in most circumstances, America should not intervene.   One reason is the collateral damage of innocent civilians being killed.  Though not the policy of the U.S., it does occur, and should never be taken lightly.

The argument is then put forth that by our actions to stop evil in conflicts that do not directly involve us, or to defeat terrorism, we are creating more terrorists for the future.

However, on Meet The Press, yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) raised an interesting counterpoint:

**“… the Syrian people are angry and bitter at the United States. I was in a refugee camp in Jordan, and there are thousands of people and kids, and this woman who’s a schoolteacher said, Senator McCain, you see these children here, they’re going to take revenge on those people who refuse to help them. They’re angry and bitter. And that legacy could last for a long time, too, unless we assist them.”

Before you reach a conclusion about that, please allow me to ask you two things:

First, let’s look at two other polarizing issues in this country: health care and taxes.  There are 35 to 50 million people in America who have do not have health insurance.  Then there are those 1%ers.  The highest income earners, who many feel should be paying higher taxes to help pay for the affordable care act, (Obama Care), and other needs.  Forget whether you agree or disagree with the tax component for a moment.  That is irrelevant to this discussion.

classwarOne look at an Occupy Wall Street rally informs us that there are many in this country that do feel there is inequity between the rich and the poor.  They resent the 1% for doing nothing, or not doing enough, when so many are suffering.  Imagine how the Occupiers would feel about those 1% if instead of lacking health coverage, their family member died in a bomb explosion or chemical attack that they believe we could have stopped?  Is it possible this person would grow up a terrorist?

Second example.   Imagine a gang with guns is harassing you and your family.  While this is going on, out of the corner of your eye, you notice person after person walking by.  Every person that walks by has a gun in his or her hand.  They could attempt to stop the gang harassing you and your family but they don’t.  Two members of your family die.  How do you feel about those people who walked by and did nothing?

Now imagine this occurred in a war-torn foreign land and the surviving victim  is angry and bitter about his loss.  Then a terrorist group comes knocking on his door explaining how “the Great Satin” could have stopped it but they were working with the enemy.  Could this possibly enrage and manipulate this person enough to join their cause?

This isn’t about right and wrong.  It is about perception.  Many will correctly blame the gang committing the actual crime.  But some if not many may either blame or worse will be manipulated into seeking revenge against those who did nothing when they could have done something.

So the dilemma is that the possibility remains that we can create future terrorists by our actions and or by our inaction.

If action or inaction can potentially create a future enemy, with all things being equal, do you think we should defend an innocent family against that gang, terrorists or possible genocide?

This isn’t a call to arms for military action in Syria.  In fact, Senator McCain, in the same paragraph as the one I quoted above also said:

But the worst thing the American– the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria. That would– that would turn the people against us.

It must be stated that, even if negated, the potential of creating future terrorists or enemies is but one concern over the use of force.  The loss of our own blood and treasure is very real and paramount to such a discussion.

Idealistically, I never believe we should stand by and watch innocents get slaughtered because it happens outside of our borders.  However, practically we are one nation in a sea of many.  Economically we are struggling.  Our own house is not in order.

In the hypothetical example of those people walking past that family that were being terrorized by the gang– They all had guns, but some of them may have been out of bullets.  Doesn’t mean they couldn’t do anything, but it explains why they didn’t want to intervene alone.

flagsMilitarily, when the situation calls for it, there are other countries that can, should and must share certain burdens of responsibility with us.  Our aid, and intervention should always be contingent on:

  • Burden of proof being met.
  • conditions at home.
  • The coalition(s) we are able to form
  • when time permits, exhausting other non military options first.

These are obligations the government owes we the people, before we ask our young men and women to risk their lives.

So there are no easy answers.  Each situation will present unique circumstances.  Depending on the time in history we may have a different ability to help.  Situations are also fluid and minds should be opened to being changed as circumstances change and new evidence presents itself.

When it comes to creating future terrorists, if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, than we should be free to do what is right independent of that consideration.

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**For an entire transcript of the John McCain interview on Meet The Press, click here.