Wednesday, April 13, 2016

DON'T FALL FOR PUNDITS' TACTICS



Most people don't take note of the trickery used by media "experts" when expounding on their latest political prognostications. What these so-called experts do could be classified as sleight of hand as they try to recover from their latest erroneous pontifications. In the cool light of day, these seers do a great job of predicting the past. They are so often wrong that fulfill the requirement for the logical fallacy of appealing to misplaced authority.

But the tactics these "pundits" use are mostly overlooked as they get listeners to accept a host of "facts," as if they are uncontested facts. These axioms usually buttress their latest prognostications. Take as an example the run-up to the ill-advised Iraq war. Just about every assertion of its merits was preceded by a discussion of the possession of WMDs—until it was universally accepted by the listener that just having such instruments of annihilation was ample cause for preemptive war. And, even though most "experts" have been duly castigated for leading us into an unjust and now protracted conflict, the notion remains that if Iraq had WMDs the invasion would have been totally justified. The outcome, unfortunately, would be just the same. We'd still be mired in an intractable never-ending conflict, WMDs or not. Also, no one seems to want to discuss the fact that many countries (especially the US) possess such weapons and we have no interest, stated or implied, to invade them. In other words, that justification is so totally subjective as to be entirely false.

Another example of this hewing to a false narrative occurred when John McCain was running for president in 2012. At one of his campaign stops, a lady said she didn't like Obama because he was an "Arab." McCain got huge plaudits for taking the mic and announcing that Obama wasn't an Arab but a decent family man. What was left hanging in the air was the notion that being "Arab" would be a legitimate disqualifying factor. McCain should have pointed out that in our country the election of any candidate for any office does not require an ethnicity litmus test. His response was hardly deserving of the accolades he received.

In the current presidential campaign we are continually reminded that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced candidate in the running. She has this fantastic resume that includes first lady, senator and secretary of state. Implicit in this largely uncontested statement is that the mere holding of high positions qualifies one as having great experience. Compare this with George W Bush's resume, a man who widely ranks among America's worst presidents. He was elected Governor of Texas, and president, twice. I doubt the same people who tout Hillary's "experience" would cede that W is more qualified simply by virtue of positions held.

Vastly more important than one's resume is a their performance in those jobs. And a closer look finds Hillary Clinton's accomplishments to be quite lacking. Even while first lady, Hillary insinuated herself in her husband's decision making, and she often got it wrong. Thus it is fair to hold her accountable for the crime bill that her husband signed, which caused a 60% upswing in incarcerations, mostly of the nation's non-white minorities. Add to that the debacle on Wall Street following repeal of Glass Stegal—which led to the nation's worst economic meltdown in history

As we well know, Senator Clinton voted for the Iraq War—something she now admits was a mistake. However, when she was running in 2008—nearly seven years later—she defended that decision. As secretary of state, Clinton seemed to revel in her globe-hopping as if the number of frequent flyer miles and capitals visited qualified as "great experience." In fact, she had no positive effect on the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the chilling experience of "running for cover" from a mythical attack after landing in Bosnia. She vigorously supported the deposing of Syria's Assad and for providing military aid to questionable rebel groups. Her emails clearly reveal that she was more intent on following Israeli policy and having the country become fragmented. This strategy resulted in thousands killed and created millions of refugees who are now inundating Europe.

Clinton's adventures in Libya reveal a woeful misunderstanding of the dynamics of that country's uprising, and her meddling has left yet another failed state in her wake—with the concomitant number of fatalities and emergence of terrorist groups.

So, should we accept the prima facie notion that this candidate has great experience—as the media would have us do? After all, the pundits know what they're talking about—don't they?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

BOTH POITICAL PARTIES PROMOTE THE STATUS QUO



In gearing up to halt any late surge by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, traditional Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton are resorting to tactics that mimic the Republican attempt to stop Trump.

As an example, many Republicans have stated that Trump is not really a Republican but a Johnny-come-lately who is masquerading as a conservative. This contention is supported by photos of 
him cozying up to Democrats such as Hillary herself. On the other side, Clinton has claimed that Sanders isn't really a Democrat, pointing to his Independent status as proof. She, however, claims to have been a Democrat all her adult life—meaning that her campaigning for Barry Goldwater was a childhood infatuation. Reporters should have asked Hillary to define "adult" because she was an active Republican until after she turned twenty-one. Perhaps she matured late because anyone who has turned eighteen is legally considered an adult.

Another example of this tactic is how Donald Trump is roundly castigated for being out of the "mainstream," i.e. bucking the establishment." He will destroy the Republican Party many partisans complain. His ideas, such as making our allies pay for their own defense, is "pie in the sky." On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is roundly booed for being a "Socialist," whatever that means. And the media, which exhibits a biased view in the matter, continues to mention this "flaw" at every opportunity—even going so far as to predict that a "Socialist" has no chance of being elected president in these United States.

Clinton, for her part, often mentions Sanders' policies as being un-implementable while pointing out that there is a vast difference between promises and actually getting things done. In particular "free college" and breaking up the large banks are not going to happen. Her supporters took up this clarion call and derided the notion that anything worth anything was free. Once Sanders' idea took root, Clinton softened her stance and began talking about "free" Community Colleges. In fact, free education existed for nearly a century after federal land-grant colleges were first established in 1862. The radical rise in education costs is a relatively modern, post WWII phenomenon.

Finally, Trump's opponents mention the lack of higher education as an identifier of his supporters (alluding to a low IQ). Opinion polls soon began emphasizing the education levels and ages of the electorate to emphasize this point. Clinton supporters similarly pointed out that Sanders' supporters were mostly young people who were naive and "uninformed" about the political process. They were being taken in by a lack of understanding of "how politics works." So, given that you can't really change things, don't bother trying, it's a fool's errand. Both sides refuse to acknowledge that these candidates are capitalizing on a general disaffection with politics as usual—e.g., the STATUS QUO.

Establishment Republicans and Democrats are deathly afraid that their ability to manipulate the system that has served them so well might be destroyed if these types of candidates are permitted to be taken seriously. Perhaps it is time to destroy the old system and begin anew.