Tag Archives: politics

Words People Use

I like language.  I think it’s interesting how we can communicate what we want just by using the right words in just the right order.  Sometimes I feel like I do a pretty good job of communicating, but many not right words sometimes have not been unused badly too much.

From time to time words people use bother me because they are imprecise – sometimes, intentionally.

Speaking accurately about sensitive topics can be seen as politically incorrect, so more palatable and less accurate words are used. 

After September 11th, 2001, we started (or joined, already in progress) the “War on Terror.”  Right from the start, that struck me as incorrect.  Terror is a strategy, like embargoes, guerilla warfare, cyber-attacks, etc.

Whether it is a white supremacist group or a radical Islamic group, terror is the means by which they fight for their cause.  Terror isn’t the enemy.  The group using terror is the enemy.

Being against radical Islam isn’t the same as being against Islam, any more than being against white supremacists is the same as being against whites.  Being at war against terror means nothing, and yet, we are. 

Likewise, “illegal” and “undocumented” have very different levels of political correctness when speaking of uninvited guests in our country, but mean the same thing.   

Recently the terms “fake news” and “alternate facts” have become popular.  But what do they mean?

Fake news can be news that is false, and presented as true for nefarious reasons.  However, sometimes that term is assigned to news stories that contain information that is debatable, or just plain wrong, but not intentionally false.              

Alternate facts is a term that stems from a White House spokesperson’s comments.  It is ludicrous, of course, because a fact is a fact.  The capital of Wisconsin is Madison, for example.  There is no alternative fact to refute that.

However, if you look at the term differently, it is anything but ludicrous.  For example, if I told you that the car I’m selling is a 1999 blue Buick, those are facts.  The alternate set of facts might be that it has no gas tank, and hasn’t run since 2001.   A better term would have been “additional facts,” but either way, the facts someone chooses to share, or not share, can help them further their agenda.

I guess we all have to pay attention to the things we hear, and process them through the filter of who is saying them, and what they’re trying to achieve.  Surely, there are plenty of people of all political stripes ready to mislead us if they can. 

And Nigerian princes too.

                                                                                                 

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Filed under 2017

Who Trumps Who?

(From June)

As I may have mentioned, I’m not much of a game player, and especially cards. I know some of the terms, and that’s about it.  Trump, for example, denotes the suit or number that supersedes other cards in a game like bridge or pinochle, if I have that right.

It’s funny to have a presidential candidate with the name Trump who seems to be superseding the others.  But it depends on the game.  If we’re playing Uno, or Yahtzee, somebody else might be winning.  Or surely “go fish” would go to a more relaxed contestant.  Someone in favor of amnesty could win a poker game with a full house, or a socially conservative plumber might win with a straight flush.

Pro-business candidates might like running a campaign to the rules of monopoly, but one particular candidate may end up going directly to jail without collecting $200.  And one anti-business candidate might learn some things about how business works by playing monopoly, but will probably quit if he can’t bring a printing press to make more money, or get the other players to give their money to him for the greater good.

Maybe the most entertaining debate format would be a pajama party with a rousing game of truth or dare.  Or maybe, truth, dare, or with draw from the race.

I heard somebody talking on the radio the other day who made an interesting point, and some other incidents have happened since then that have supported his point.  He made the observation that this election isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, or even liberals and conservatives.  To paraphrase, it’s about common sense.

Now, that doesn’t mean that Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders actually HAVE common sense, but since the current president and congress don’t seem to, perhaps doing the opposite of what they’ve done will make sense.

I understand the sentiment, but not the logic, any more than I understood the logic of voting for someone because of their color, or voting for someone because of her gender, or voting against someone because he was a Mormon.  There are plenty of points of evaluation for each candidate, but none of the above make any rational sense to me.

I think a president should be tough, also dignified.  A president should be both forward thinking and conversant in traditions and international relationships.  Respect for other nations and for friends and foes in our own country is essential.

Being candid is a good thing, but not when it takes future negotiating options off the table.  Repeatedly and purposefully lying for political expediency is short-sighted and a character flaw.

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Filed under 2016

A View

I inadvertently stumbled on the television show known as “The View” the other day.  I am clearly not the target audience of “The View,” so I generally don’t watch it.

During the three minutes I watched, host Whoopi Goldberg quoted candidate Donald Trump as saying that all Mexicans are murderers and rapists.  Trump says a lot of intemperate things, of course, and would benefit greatly from a lengthy bout of laryngitis, but I was remembering the speech in question, and I didn’t remember it that way, so I looked it up.

It turns out that what “The Donald” said was this: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

So, what he said isn’t what Whoopi said he said.  It was not very kind, nor was it diplomatic.  But he didn’t say anything about “all Mexicans.”

Just for the sake of clarity, let’s break down what he said.  First, he asserts that Mexico is sending people.  While it is true that the Mexican government has supported the emigration of people from there to here, partly because of the many millions of dollars that those emigrants send back to their relatives in Mexico, it isn’t officially “sending” anyone.

Are the Mexicans who come here Mexico’s best people?  Good question. By definition they can be considered law breakers, but our country’s immigration policies have not been strong, and many Mexicans have taken advantage to find a better life.

The people who come over the border can also be said to be motivated, risk-takers, driven, and entrepreneurial.  Those are good things.  But, some of them are also motivated by the criminal gains they can make, or by gaming the system.

And, unlike legal immigrants, people coming over our southern border aren’t vetted for criminal records.  So, yes, some are bringing drugs and crime.  And, if you read the paper you’ll know that some are rapists and murderers.

Trump’s biggest error was in saying that he assumes “some” are good people.  He might better have said that while “most” are good people, it is probably not the wealthy or well- educated Mexicans who are escaping Mexico, and some are dangerous criminals.

So, Trump said what he said, for better or worse.  Whoopi and others mis-remember his quote as being much more extreme than it was in reality.  I don’t think that helps anything.

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Filed under 2016

Belief and Fact

                A couple of things happened within 24 hours of each other, and it occurred to me that they were related, in a way.

                The first involved a weak moment on my part.  I shared a post on Facebook that was very nice and not at all political.  One of my grade school classmates “liked” the post, and added a snide comment about a presidential candidate.

                To quote comedian Mike Birbiglia, what I should have said was “nothing.”  But, instead I replied with what I thought was a fair response regarding another politician.  Her reply indicated that she believed I was such an unbelievable idiot that she couldn’t believe her eyes.  She didn’t actually say that, but she may as well have.

                The thing is, my original reply to her snide remark was easily defendable, based on real information and real facts.  But, her belief to the contrary was too strong to have made any of that relevant, so I just shut up at that point. 

                The next morning I saw an opinion piece that discussed the topic of biological facts that conflict with strongly held beliefs.  It dealt in part with the North Carolina hub-bub over bathroom choices, but was broader than that.

                He referenced the woman who was in the news a while back because she “identified” as black, though she wasn’t.  He also pondered about a hypothetical adult man who might “identify” as 13 years-old, and how we as a society would view that person dating another 13 year-old.

                In both cases the person in question might very sincerely believe that they are, in one case black, and in the other case, 13.  Beliefs are very powerful, and when they are so strong, the facts seem irrelevant.

                To further complicate things, people with unsavory motivations can claim to “identify” as black or 13 or whatever, and there is no way to know what is their minds, let alone their hearts.

                The author – a psychiatrist — offered the opinion that the laws should honor the facts, and not the beliefs, not to disrespect people with those beliefs, but to maintain an orderly society.  So, he’d say that the white woman identifying as black wouldn’t qualify for affirmative action, and the adult couldn’t date the 13 year old.

                I’m sure I have some deeply held beliefs that don’t hold up well to facts and logic.  Like my classmate.  And, to be fair, although religion is based on facts as they have been passed down over the ages, it’s mostly about faith and deeply held beliefs.

                I guess I don’t want to – and I don’t want government to – decide what beliefs are valid and which ones aren’t.  Maybe, then, the laws should avoid that side of things all together, and focus on what is known.

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Filed under 2016

A Different Way To Nominate

(From April)

                Watching the process we go through every four years of electing our national leadership can be pretty painful.  According to historians it always has been.  Modern media probably makes it worse, because we can see it all in high definition, and let’s be honest, some people should not be seen in high definition.  I’m sure I’m one of them.

                The punches and counter punches (terms actually used by one of the candidates in particular) are entertaining, to a point, but mostly discouraging.  I find myself picturing the various contenders sitting across the table from an adversary from a foreign country and wondering what in the world that person would think.  To be honest, I’m not sure what they think now with our current president, or the one we had before, for that matter.

                In my career I’ve served on a number of committees charged with selecting a job applicant for a position opening.  It occurred to me this morning that the presidency is, at its core, a job, and that the president really works for us.  And, as such, we are actually a gigantic human resources department that is ready to make the hire.

                The primaries, then, are like two search and screen committees that are charged with bringing forth the two best candidates. 

                So, the way it works in the real world is that candidates for a job submit a resume and a cover letter.  Let’s say each of the candidates had done that.  It would show their experience, education, accomplishments.  The cover letter could indicate why they want the job and what they’d like to accomplish if they are chosen.

                As the committee, we could look through each resume, and check them for accuracy, and put them in order of preference.  Then we could interview each one.  It would be like a debate, without any shouting.  Just questions from the committee, and answers from the candidate. 

                Then we’d choose.  By “we,” I mean the Democrat committee (all Democrats) and the Republican committee (all Republicans).  A resume, an interview, a vote, and done.

                This plan couldn’t work, of course, for a number of reasons, mostly the First Amendment, but it’s true that if you block out all the shouting, the information above is pretty much all available if you look for it.

                Be of good cheer.  Only eight months to go!  (As long as we don’t go into overtime again.)

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Filed under 2016

Folksy Quotes

(From February)

                I thought it might be fun to hear some quotes from speakers who really capture the imagination of large segments of the American public.  Obviously, their directness and glib wit makes them excellent contenders for the presidency.

                Here are some great quotes:

If you can’t stand a little sacrifice and you can’t stand a trip across the desert with limited water, we’re never going to straighten this country out.

A weak currency is the sign of a weak economy, and a weak economy leads to a weak nation.

If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.

The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, the public debt should be reduced and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled.

Most new jobs won’t come from our biggest employers. They will come from our smallest. We’ve got to do everything we can to make entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules.

There are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written; and to write what is worthy of being read.

Which one of the… candidates would you want your daughter to marry?

                And who was this silver-tongued orator?  H. Ross Perot, the two-time, third party independent candidate for president.

                Perot did better than most third-party candidates, but never seriously contended for the presidency.  He was kind of like the Dr. Phil of politics.  Here are some of Dr. Phil McGraw’s quotes:

You don’t need a pack of wild horses to learn how to make a sandwich.

You don’t need a rope to pinch a stranger’s butt.

It’s hard to see your own face without a mirror.

I think you’re running into a lot of trouble if your idea of foreplay is, ‘Brace yourself honey, here I come!’

I’m not a politician.

                So, what have we learned today?  I’d say… nothing, other than that Ross Perot and Dr. Phil are both from Texas, as is former CBS News anchor Dan Rather:

Don’t taunt the alligator until after you’ve crossed the creek.

I’d much rather wear out than rust out.

“…but again that’s like if a frog had side pockets he’d probably wear a handgun.

Never eat spinach just before going on the air.

This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex.

Their so-called samples of opinion are no more accurate or reliable than my grandmother’s big toe was when it came to predicting the weather.

It’s an egomaniac business, filled with prima donnas – including this one.

And now the sequence of events, in no particular order.

I wish they could all be president at the same time!

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Filed under 2016

False Comparisons

The internet is a rich tableau of interesting ideas, expressed by people with many views, and all in all that’s a good thing.  Now and then, something is said that, on the face of it, seems right, but upon further review, as the referees say, is really less than right.

Something was posted on Facebook the other day that struck me that way.  It was a comparison of Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler.  No kidding.

The basis of the comparison was that Hitler promoted fear and hatred of Jews, while Trump, it said, promotes fear and hatred of Muslims.

Now, I’m no expert in German history, but I’m pretty sure that Germany had not been experiencing terroristic threats and attacks domestically or to its worldwide interests by Jewish groups prior to World War Two.

I don’t believe Germany was experiencing a mass resettlement of poorly vetted Jewish refugees from a war-torn area where thousands of blank passports were known to have been stolen, and where authorities admitted to having no idea who the good and bad guys were.

Jews were demonized as being the reason for Germany’s financial problems, and said to be an evil and inferior race, not a military or physical threat to Germans.  For their part, I think Jews mostly wanted to be left alone.

Most modern day Muslims also want to be left alone, a point to which I think Mr. Trump would agree.  But, even three percent of a billion people wanting to kill or enslave all of us infidels is problematic.

I’m not a fan of Donald Trump for president, and I think he pretty consistently overstates his points and lacks any detectable finesse.  But I think it’s pretty irresponsible to compare him to Adolph Hitler.  That would be like comparing Franklin Roosevelt to Hitler because they both put people in camps during World War Two.

There is a balance between acting humanely and acting in our national interest, and I fear we have not honored the later obligation.  Time will tell.  Unfortunately, people who believe in Jihad are more committed to their values than we are to our values of compassion and kindness to those in need, even when they are the recipients.

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Filed under 2015