Your Daily Mindjob
This is my personal blog where I'll offer up some political straight talk as well as thoughts on technology and pop culture. That should give me plenty to talk about. The world can give you one heck of a mindjob. Think like me and get your daily dose.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Poor Yahoo/AP News Journalism Stirs The Pot

With rising costs of running government programs, certain decisions will be necessary. Some programs will face cuts. Others will be deemed wasteful and cut altogether. The fact remains that in order for Americans to continue to enjoy services offered at the federal level and to remain a major military power in the world, we are going to have to find money somewhere. We also owe a few countries some money. No bones about it. We need to figure this out.

But what has Yahoo News thrown into the mix? Fear over a VAT, a value-added-tax. In simplest terms, that's a value based form of tax where an expense gets tacked on to a product which represents its journey from creation to market. Not many like the idea of a VAT, but that's not the point of my post, at least not directly.

What Yahoo News has done is write an article with a daunting headline striking fear into the minds of taxpayers, specifically wingnuts, and stirring the pot of anti-Obama sentiment a little more.

What the article mentions, yet fails to responsibly convey, is that President Obama is not actually considering, nor his he proposing, a VAT. As expressed by the Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, a VAT “is not something the President has proposed nor is it under consideration.”

Can't get much clearer than that. The only people who should predictably fall for such an article already feel Obama is a liar. The truth could hit them in the nose and Obama would still be a liar.

But wait, there's more.

Like another recent debacle over a fishing ban spawned from one editorial piece on ESPN which got the wingnuts all riled up, the dubious VAT proposal is only being purported by Yahoo News. Anyone linking to a story about a VAT coming from the Obama administration leads directly back to the same Yahoo News Article. Read the article for yourself and follow along carefully. The headline asserts that Obama is considering a VAT, yet at every turn in the article, the message being sent in response is that a VAT is not being considered. What Obama did say is that many options are on the table. Perhaps he misspoke slightly, making himself appear as though in fiscal matters, he is remaining open minded. Blame poor question/answer prep.

Take the research one step further. Michele Bachmann tried to spin this VAT notion the other day when she went up against Chris Wallace. He called her on it, plainly stating that a VAT is not being proposed. Paul Volcker might have suggested that we as a country might have to consider it to pay our way out of the hole we've been left in, but that's as far as the idea goes. We all know Bachmann is nuts anyway.

Come on now people, crack some heads over this. Call me when Congress has moved beyond committee proposing an all out VAT. Otherwise, spare me the tin foil hat diatribes. The Senate just went 85-13 against the idea of having a VAT.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To the "Small Towners"

Lately in the debate over President Obama's approval numbers, people on the Right, the Tea Party ilk especially, are trying to use their insulated and isolated groups of friends to justify widespread disapproval of anything Obama proposes. While I know attempting to explain the interactions involved in this dynamic may be a matter of futility, I will try nonetheless.

The logic follows as such. If all the people I know dislike what Obama is doing, then it stands to reason the rest of the country feels the same. Let me fill you in on some extra aspects of the interaction going on.

1. I have to ask about the specifics regarding "everyone you know."
2. I have to ask whether or not you have any liberal friends to begin with.

Have these liberal friends questioned you? Have you wondered why?

They are tired of repeating themselves when confronted with outright lies and misinformation. Repeating oneself is not a fun thing to do. Ever sit around with a group of friends? How often to disagreements arise? You are a group of friends for a reason. Those outside your circle never participate in your get togethers. You seldom hear from opposing views.

I can sit around at the barber shop and never once hear anyone agree with Obama. Why? I'm in the South at a white barber shop. I'm not going to hear anything other than dissent, justified or not. That should raise a red flag. I can proudly say that I no longer waste my money on such nonsense and get my hair cut elsewhere.

It is this sort of social dynamic that perpetuates the idea that those who surround themselves with people of the same ilk refuse to see what is right in front of them. It is why FOX News is a single entity and other news organizations are labeled as "liberal media." While the Right continues to claim the "liberal media" controls what you hear, it is more true that FOX News and the talking heads on the Right follow the pattern which exemplifies controlled information and parroting of ideas because the information being passed around is often done in a circular fashion among themselves. They are an insulated entity. Everyone else is scrambling for a story and a career in journalism.

Take where I live, for example. None of my local news outlets are fair and balanced. They all stink. They use Rasmussen polls. Anchors have their own Right-leaning web sites and columns. Reports only report what the viewership around here wants to hear. Polls in local news broadcasts often perpetuate misinformation by using said misinformation as the premise for the poll, thereby legitimizing something that never was true to begin with. They get numbers in favor of something that does not exist. None are FOX stations. Well, one is, but I never watch it. My local NBC, CBS, and ABC affiliates are all Right-leaning.

Two perfect examples:

A poll I posted on here at the blog asked whether or not we approved of the Obama health care bill. At the time, no Obama health care bill existed. There were multiple bills in the works and no one bill stood out as the leading piece of legislation. When asked the question, the ideal response is not yes or no, but rather "Which bill are you referring to?"

The second example is a recent one. The poll had to do with whether or not voting out career politicians would bring about repeal of the health care bill. It has already been pointed out by many, including Republicans, that it would take a miraculous number of wins in the midterm elections and even then, the chances of repealing the health care bill simply don't exist. The news disregarded this point, instead, choosing to fire up the Right wing base over anger related to the passage of the health care legislation to justify voting out elected officials.

But this is to be expected. You see, quite often, political differences are different because of a discrepancy with one premise. Often is the case that the premise on the Right is severely flawed, covered up with more animosity than real critical thinking. When one side of a debate operates from a very different premise, it is next to impossible to make your point shine through without drawing unnecessary and unrelated fire from the opposition.

I will never be able to point out the irony in - a Texan who feels abortion is a selfish arrogant act - to an actual Texan. Why? They will ask what Texas pride has to do with abortion. They are completely oblivious to the irony I see. The epitome of a Texan is that of an arrogant and selfish ass and in turn, I would not expect someone so selfish to have a problem with another so-called selfish act. An additional ironic point to make is that this is the new platform of the Religious Right component of the Republican party. Do as I say, not as I do. David Vitter exemplifies this utter hypocrisy in Christian Conservative thinking. But I digress. Hopefully you get the point of the example. The problem is premise.

You will never understand the broader picture until you step outside of the small town way of thinking. While Mayberry can be an enjoyable place, it operates under a very strict system of control. Those with power in small towns are able to manipulate anyone and everyone in the town. Those who question the power structure are chastised and cast out into the cold. There is nothing wrong with having pride for living in a flyover state, but you cannot suggest that you are any more American than someone living on the coast. It happens in coal mining towns. It happens in farming towns. It even happens in somewhat larger cities.

By limiting your argument to the opinions of only your friends, you have just introduced a hell of a lot of bias. I have very few friends where I live, but that is largely because they would prefer to have nothing to do with me as I'm not a church going, Right-leaning redneck. No, I'm not stereotyping. I'm simply telling you that the population of this town is largely comprised of this group and they are very selective about who they choose to surround themselves with. I highly doubt they are getting additional perspectives from anyone like me seeing as how I, myself, have very few friends as a northern transplant in the South. I've seen the outside world with my own two eyes living among the natives, not stationed on an army base.

To this accusation of corruption and arrogance, I expect anyone on the Right to respond with the well scripted "Liberals do it too." While I agree several on the Left insulate themselves, they do not follow the same pattern of limited information flow that occurs on the Right. The information being passed around outside of your circle is much more varied and open to interpretation whereas the information inside of your select group is limited by your own townsy lifestyle. This is why the "regular guy" has been pitted against the "elite" so as to prevent open interpretation of information from being accepted as legitimate. Your modus operandi should not be to screw over liberals every chance you get. I do not wake up every morning plotting to make life a living hell for conservatives. That is what has become of our political system. No longer is the statement "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" true. Nowadays, it's more about whether you win or lose. Much of the anger circulating among the Tea Party has more to do with being a sore loser than being a true conservative.

Prior to Columbus, the notion that the world was flat seemed almost painfully obvious. Look how that turned out. Things are not always that simple and seldom follow what Billy Bob considers common sense.

To steal a line from Pulp Fiction, move out of the sticks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Michael Steele and the Slim Margin of Error

Some media networks today are covering aspects of a question asked during an interview between George Stephanopoulos and Michael Steele.

GS: "Do you feel that, as an African-American, you have a slimmer margin for error than another Chairman would?"

MS: "The honest answer is yes. It just is. Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It's a different role for me to play and others to play, and that's just the reality of it. But you take that as a part of the nature of it."

I agree with Steele, for the most part. I disagree with some of the commentators on major network TV. Listening to Al Sharpton right now on The Ed Show. I'm agreeing with most of what Sharpton is saying. It seems criticism over Steele's comment is largely partisan in nature and not focused around issues of racial disparity.

African Americans are under greater scrutiny and offered a much slimmer margin of error. It is a fact of life, but it is not one we should accept. It's not playing the race card as many have implied. The GOP does not have a stunning reputation when it comes to embracing ethnicities that are not Caucasian. The question is a reasonable one in light of this trend. Steele using Obama as an example is also legitimate and helps point out the drive from the Right towards criticizing Obama because of the color of his skin, although I do not think Steele meant for that conclusion to be drawn from his answer. When a white guy screws up, on average, he is going to get some leeway. When a black guy screws up, he is likely to be fired. Plain and simple.

That being said, Steele should be held to the standard by which any GOP Chairmen should. Whether or not he is being crucified as a result of his race has yet to be revealed, and perhaps never will, but the question is there. The "race card" is only a race card when it is played to avoid personal responsibility for matters unrelated to race by dragging race into an argument where it does not belong. The notion that perhaps Michael Steele was being set up or is simply taking the fall for this, in part, because of his race has been in my mind from the moment he took heat for Voyeur-gate. I'm not saying he should be excused, but I am saying that the reaction might be accentuated by matters of race.

We are not out of the (back)woods yet with regard to racism in this country.

Hitler, Fascism, Extremism, and How it All Started on the Right

The dialogue present in today's politics among the people, not our elected officials, is that of a divided finger-pointing banter aimed at advancing opinions of oneself and not of historical fact. While I admit at face value, the title of this post can be seen as unbalanced finger-pointing aimed at continuing the nonsense, I would ask readers to indulge me for just a moment out of the spirit of listening, not waiting for me to finish talking so you can interject the thoughts welling up inside of your head. Take ten deep breaths and continue reading.

When journalists these days talk about all the extremism and violent rhetoric on the Right, "true conservatives," "patriots," and the tea party ilk have one very common response that comes in a few different flavors.

The Democrats did it first.
The Democrats do it too.
The Democrats are a bunch of hypocrites.

While the second on that list might be true and violent behavior most certainly has been exhibited by groups on the Left, Democratic party leaders have not stood out in front of said groups, egging them on to elevate their own ideals. The lines on the Right between activist and politician have been blurred. Democrats have kept a clear separation between their own statements on the Hill and the protesters down below. Only media outlets and talking heads on the Right attempt to merge the two. Just because some on the Left resort to violence certainly does not excuse anyone else to do the same. I openly criticize violent actions, regardless of the cause.

However, if it were true that Obama, for instance, were a radical, I would not condone it. I know that wingnuts will cling to things like Ayers and Obama at this point, claiming close ties, but that simply isn't true. Google the terms Factcheck, Obama, and Ayers. Let's move on beyond the obvious stalemate to the real meat and potatoes. Distraction is their game, no matter how much they believe themselves to be true and those people cannot be reasoned with. They need to face that lots of misinformation has been flat out debunked. Move on to the next topic already.

But Hitler comparisons? Do you realize where the accusations of Fascism, Communism, and Socialism originated?

The exchange over Hitler and Fascism did not originate with Democrats. The sentiment originated on the Right and the defensive posturing explaining the absurdity was situated on the Left.

Go back to before Obama was elected. Go back to the Bush years (No, this isn't about blaming Bush). Look at some of the book titles that were circulating at the time. Several compared Liberalism to Fascism. On discussion boards, Right-leaning individuals opened up the flood gates by calling Liberals Fascists and Socialists at the same time. Astute Liberals on these forums stepped up to point out the idiocy in such a comparison.

Pick one, but they can't be both.

Followed by...

History lessons on Hitler, Mussolini, Fascism, and Socialism.

Followed by...

If you really want to see Fascism and Hitler like behavior, look at some of the Bush policies, the Religious Right, and the notion that if you don't like America, you can leave it. Nationalism. Blind patriotism. Corporate control.

These were defensive comments against an already implied statement that Fascism (read Hitler) and Socialism (read Mussolini) were all Liberally held tenets, not the other way around. I'm not denying that Liberals used the Hitler comparison. What talking heads on the Right fail to disclose is the timeline and series of events which lead to these comments. Those on the Right were directly comparing Liberals to Fascists and Socialists. You can't talk about either without understanding Hitler and Mussolini.

No. I'm afraid the stones being thrown over Hitler and Fascism came from the Right, not the Left. Only the keen eye accustomed to reading how debates arise will be able to spot it. I suspect wingnuts who go back to read the exchanges will see only what they wish to see and not the text in black and white on the page of their web browser.

And therein lies the real problem.

One group is compromising and living in reality. The other is uncompromising and living in some world of magical thinking. One side recognizes a difference between what you hope will happen and what will actually happen. Nuance is something only those on the Left seem to understand. Nuance is scoffed at by those on the Right.

We will never again see reasonable debate and that is unfortunate for this country. We are on the down and out. It was nice knowing you. The arguments used by the Left for so many years are now being incorrectly employed by those on the Right to project an unrealistic series of events leading up to what we are facing today. We can't fix our country if we botch up the story like a bad game of telephone. Sad, indeed.

I hate to say it, but as a Liberal, I fail to see any benefit from indulging ideas from those on the Right spewing vitriol, favoring those who are ready to work to get things done and casting aside those who would prefer to mangle everything in sight.

...At least for the time being. Once we get back on track, maybe we can start talking again. I welcome that day, but I do not see it happening. There is no arena of ideas when misinformation dictates half of the public opinion. When Democrats are no longer considered legitimate leaders by those on the Right, those on the Left will question the legitimacy of ideals held by those who stand on the Right.

Our best option is to put our ideas and laws into place and watch them succeed just to show the nuts that they were wrong. We cannot continue to argue over matters of reality and imagination. Put common sense back in the hands of those who actually have it and not those who toss the term around in a stump speech to win votes and support.