Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Heart of the American (Political) Problem

As an author, it is my job to engage my readers with substantive characters and plot-lines that get them invested in my books. I enjoy hearing their passionate responses, when we have an occasion to chat, whether in-person or through social media engagement. While it is rewarding to me as a fictional author it scares me to the core when it crosses over to the non-fiction world.

A few weeks back I wrote an article asking the question: What Happened to Civility in America. In it, I pointed the finger of blame at politicians and pundits who have worked hand in hand to ramp up the level of acrimony in the United States for their personal gain.  They have gotten remarkably good at being bullies, but when there is pushback, they play the victim card. Now I am here to tell you that the heart of the problem is not that they do this, but that a large swath of the U.S. population actually believes them.

To be fair this truly is bi-partisan and has been going on for a very long time. It is a condition that has plagued both the Right and the Left. In fact I have spoken out about this in the past: The End of Political Party Dominance in America.

But now the lies, half-truths and attacks, like a proverbial snowball, which started its glacial existence as a magnificent little snowflake, have metastasized into a malevolent icy mass that threatens all in its path.

Case in point this tweet from Senator Kamala Harris (D - Ca.)

Now, it’s not so much the tweet from her that bothers me, but its existence as a vehicle. See, I get the fact that she is trying to score political points and that is what politicians do. No, what truly bothers me is the vast amount of replies, likes and re-tweets that serve to take it to its intended destination, Kamala’s political base.  My first inclination was to reply directly, but I fundamentally know that it is a waste of time, so I decided to use this as a premise for this blog.

You see, Senator Harris is engaging in one of three things: Lying, telling a half-truth or she is simply incompetent.

Now that may sound like some serious accusations, but give me a moment to spell this out for you.
Consider the premise. An article by Vox, which boldly claims “Senate Republicans exempt own health coverage from part of latest proposal,” coupled with Senator Harris’ reply, a simple, but substantive: “This is a disgrace.”

The casual reader, as exemplified by the replies to this tweet, would take away two things from this. 1) Republicans are disgusting, greedy, and unethical hypocrites and 2) Sen. Harris, who by virtue of her position as a United States Senator, intimately understands the issue and concurs with the Vox piece.

You would believe that, but you would be wrong.

The opening paragraph of the article charges that: “Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan.”  It goes on to say that “This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage.”

That would be pretty staggering, and point to a serious disconnect between politicians and the people, if it were true, but it’s not. Unlike the thousands of folks that responded to that Tweet, I’m not a casual reader.

The underlying problem with this whole issue goes back to semantics.

Did the Republicans include a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan? The short answer is: Yes, which is precisely where Senator Harris wants you to stop reading and re-tweet her post. However, as is true with most things in politics, the long answer is not as cut and dry.

Now we can debate the entirety of the health care issue in America, but the truth, as it pertains to this matter, is that the Republicans are getting ZERO support from Democrats when it comes to this. As a result, they have to pursue this through a process which is called Reconciliation that is bound by several conditions, often referred to as the Byrd Rule, after former Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Bumper sticker version: Without the hope of Democrats coming on board, there is no chance to get the 60+ Filibuster-proof votes needed to pass any health care legislation. Therefore, Republicans have to go for a simple majority (51) vote and this this now becomes an issue of the Rules of the Senate as it pertains to Reconciliation.

What that means is that committees (in this case: Finance and HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions)) drafting a bill cannot make changes that are the jurisdiction of other committees (In this case: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee). A Senate parliamentarian could rule that any proposed insurance change for members of Congress would rightly fall to the HSGAC, which covers insurance issues for members of Congress, and that ruling could jeopardize the bill’s reconciliation status. If this were to occur, then the entire bill would lose privilege and it could then be filibustered. 

But wait a minute; shouldn’t a member of the Senate know this stuff?

The long and short answer is a resounding YES.

So if Senator Harris knows this, then why is she posting something as fallacious as this?
It’s a good question.  

As I mentioned earlier, it’s my belief that she is engaging in one of three things:  Lying, telling a half-truth or is simply incompetent.

Prior to becoming a United States senator, Kamala Harris served as the District Attorney for San Francisco (2003-2011) and California Attorney General (2010-2016). So the idea that she is simply incompetent has little traction. That brings us to lying or telling a half-truth.

Conveniently, Senator Harris never actually makes the false claim against her fellow (Republican) senators, so she escapes the mantle of liar. Rather, she simply tosses out the link, along with her commentary, in an attempt to bait her constituents into running with the lie, which, since they are already pre-disposed to disliking Republicans, they gladly do.

And therein lies the true Heart of the American Problem: US.

We need to understand that politicians and pundits sell a product. One does it to get elected (or re-elected as the case may be) while the other does it for ratings, but in the end we are the consumer that supports it.

I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Animal House, where Dean Wormer says: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I fear that is what we have become in America.

We have become fat through all the things available to us here in the U.S. Say what you will about systemic poverty, but the truth is that for the overwhelming majority of folks that live here, we know nothing about what true poverty is. It’s kind of hard to claim how bad things are when you’re lamenting about how miserable your life is on a social media post that you uploaded from your smart phone.

We have become drunk in our own hubris. We have come to believe that we are smarter than we actually are. Yesterday I was talking to my wife about things I consider generational shortcomings. I remarked that when we were younger there was actual work involved in research; including numerous trips to the library where we studied and took copious notes. This generation literally has access to the entire world, at its fingertips, yet they rarely touch on anything more than the surface of a particular topic.    

We have become stupid in our belief that we are being told the truth.  

At worse, the pundits and politicians lie to us simply because they know they can. Often they skew things so that it is only a half-truth, as is the case here, but it is still wrong.  I truly believe that things will not change in this country until we, as Americans, wake up to the deceit that is being perpetrated against us.

It is interesting to note that, in the early days of trying to put together the Affordable Care Act, Democrats were roundly criticized for exempting Congress and their staffers from the exchanges. Ironically, it was the Republicans who pushed the idea that if the exchanges were good enough for other Americans that they should be good enough for Congress. It was an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R – IA) to the Senate bill that required the federal government offer only health plans that were part of an exchange to members of Congress and their staffs.

Maybe we should demand actual facts and not skewed talking points.

Maybe we should hold politicians and pundits accountable.

Maybe we should, but that won’t happen until we stop being casual readers and start educating ourselves about the issues, rather than relying on cute sound bites.

Maybe we should, but honestly I think we just might be too far gone. I think we have become too invested in all the lies to admit that we have been duped, but that is a topic I will discuss at a later date.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Wussification of America

When the hell did this country go from the amazing place that I grew up in to this? 

Yes, it was tough back then. 

We didn’t have smart phones, we were lucky to have a house phone. We didn’t have 1080 dpi HD televisions in our bedrooms, we were lucky to have a color TV in the living room and YOU were the remote (as well as the antenna adjuster) for whichever adult wanted to watch one of the dozen channels we had. We didn’t have Facebook, or Twitter, or any of the hundred or so other social media websites that this generation uses to validate their existence. Hell, Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet for us plebes yet…… (that’s a joke).

No, we rode bikes for miles, played sports, along with hide and seek in active construction zones. We called each other disparaging (and very politically incorrect) names, got into fist fights, and made up, all within the span of a few hours. And we got beat by our parents and our teachers. Not some sissy lecture, but honest to God beat, because we deserved it. If you don’t know what a switch is, look it up.

Thin skin was molded into toughness on gritty streets and you know what? We Survived!

We also learned respect. We called our elders by their first name: Mr. or Mrs. or, at the very least, Sir or Ma’am and we held doors open for the fairer sex. We learned personal responsibility and didn’t blame anyone else for doing something stupid, unless we really wanted them to get into trouble as well. Parents didn’t resolve our disputes, we did. Usually while they sat on the stoop watching their idiot children make asses of themselves. A law suit was something that happened in big business, not in Middle America.

If you flunked school, it was your fault, not the teachers. If a criminal was killed by the police we didn’t stage a protest or demand an excusal from testing while we coped with the psychological trauma. To be honest we couldn’t care less because they were: (repeat after me) a CRIMINAL !!

If the job we worked at didn’t pay enough, you got another job, but you never quit the 1st job till you had that 2nd job. Welfare was a crutch, to help you get back on your feet, not a suitable alternative to actually working. You want to know why you are having a hard time finding a job? Because there are limited career opportunities for degree programs that specialize in: Diversity, Privilege, Feminism and Sensitivity

No one went to therapy, no one needed to find themselves, and we certainly didn’t need a safe place to escape criticism or different viewpoints.  

Sorry junior / junior-ette, despite what the professor in your SJW degree program course told you, life in-fact DOES NOT owe you anything. You also don't get extra points for being a 'warrior' by confronting the police, ala that BlackLivesMatter bullshit, over some manufactured outrage. 99.9% of the police PROTECT you and your right to be an idiot, even as you are chanting about killing them. Go try that shit in another country and see how well that works out for you.

You want to show me just how tough you are on the issues, you and your fellow man-bun wearing hipsters head on over to Chicago (Englewood is nice this time of year) and protest the real epidemic of murder. Alas, that's not gonna happen because the folks there don't play well with idiots. Chances are pretty good you're gonna end up being a statistic. 

Why? Because, life truly is hard. It has always been hard since the dawn of time. It is why we have the motto 'survival of the fittest.' It is exponentially harder if you are stupid.

This wussification, or coddling, of our young is not helping them. 

The rest of the world does not move in lockstep with the U.S., quite the contrary. We are teaching our special snowflakes to go to their safe spaces when they are offended or upset, while somewhere in the Middle East a family is sending their kid to a 'terror camp' to learn how to wage war. No, that is not a joke, there are literally 'summer camps' for future Jihadists. We send our little munchkins to a place with pools, crafting programs, and courses on diversity, while 'Jihad Johnny' learns to field strip an AK-47, slit the throat of infidels and build a suicide vest.

I have no problem with people seeking a Utopia, but understand that the world actually doesn't work that way. Contrary to our esteemed President, that really is not who we are. Pacifist, vegan, man-bun wearing cavemen, who tried to live in harmony with nature, often became bait and or dinner. You might choose to evolve, but understand that the vast majority of the world will not.

Like the old saying: 'Those who beat their swords into plowshares, usually plow for those who didn't.'

The best we can hope for is to raise warriors who pray for peace, but have no problem looking you in the eyes and saying Molon Labe. What we have right now is a bunch of peace activists who like to lecture from 'gun free zones' and we have seen time and again just how well those work.

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