Politics: A Review

My first daylight pictures of the Whitehouse 2
The Seat of Power

The last time I really blogged about politics was back around the 2008 election.  Looking over my archives, I found that, by contrast, I blogged about politics quite a bit from 2007 and prior.  My heaviest political post density (for It’s A Binary World 2.0) seems to be 2005-2006.  Why so much back then?  I think because I was already posting pretty regularly about politics and I was extremely frustrated over the second Bush term win.  I think this post best sums up the despair I was feeling at the time.  It was very interesting to read this post with 4 years of hindsight.  First of all, this sentence:  “There haven’t been any abuses of power (that we know of) … “.  Little did I know we’d find out that December about the NSA’s Warrentless Wiretapping which, I believe, would have heavily swung the elections in 2004.  (THANKS New York Times!)  Second, this fraction of a paragraph:

You have to really have been living as a luddite to go without hearing about the recent Guantanamo Bay detainee scandal. It has been released that we are chaining detainees to the floor in extreme temperatures. They are leaving then without food for extended periods of time and even, in one of the strangest things I’ve heard, subjecting them to 24 hour periods of music by Christina Aguilera.

Oh, how quaint that all sounds now that we know of water boarding.  I’m sure any detainee would rather have heard “Genie In A Bottle” a thousand times a day rather than feel as though he were drowning.  The troop morale arguement I mentioned also continued through the end of Bush’s term.  Third is the following:

I have heard numerous accounts on NPR this week of different government officials saying things like, “We don’t have to be nice to them, they’re terrorists!” What if some people have been caught by mistake? They were at the wrong place at the wrong time or bought the wrong book or something and they are being detained? “No, no. I’m sure that almost everyone there is a terrorist.”

Yet we know this is untrue.  For example, the Uyghur who are now in the Bahamas not terrorizing anyone.  And there was the Canadian citizen who was wrongfully captured by the US and tortured in Syria.  Of course, I’m sure there have been some people released either from Guantanamo or other prisons that have joined or rejoined terrorist movements.  Torturing someone is not likely to reform them.  But the fact that some of them might once again become terrorists is not a reason to hold people indefinitely if there is no proof.  And there’s still no reason why anyone should be tortured.  How does it make us look when we criticize other countries?  After all, I’m sure they consider their prisoners to be terrorists too.  We aren’t the only ones who get to decide who is and isn’t a terrorist.

Finally, the most naive paragraph in the post:

Let us, like Alice, awake from this Nightmare of Wonderland. Let’s get back to the way we were before the Terror Wars. They will never be over and we need to get back to protecting our rights and the rights of others. Do we have to treat the detainees as citizens? No, because they aren’t. But we do have to treat them like human beings. My only hope is that we can get a breath of fresh air in 2008 when a new president is elected (Republican or Democratic).

The Capitol is blocked off today
The Senate, no longer in the Hands of Republicans

Here we are in 2009 – four years and thirteen months after I wrote that blog post.  Guantanamo is still open (although Obama “wants to close it”).  We STILL have troops in Iraq – although you almost never hear about them in the news anymore.  Afghanistan is in worse of a mess than at any point since we came in.  I’m still hopeful, but my hope decreases every day.  My dad told me, near election day, that “…elections don’t really matter.  Whoever wins – democrat or republican – they’re going to continue the same stuff.  Minor things here and there may change, but Obama isn’t going to suddenly end any wars or stop with the secrecy.”  And he’s turned out to be pretty much right.  It’s no wonder that so many people get disillusioned by the election process and decide not to participate.

But I actually started on this quest as a bit of self-examination.  I know my blog used to be a lot heavier into politics and recently has only focused on Linux and photography.  Linux and photography were always (or nearly always) in the background when I first started blogging.  After all, people tend to blog about their passions/hobbies.  So why have I been so silent with respect to politics?  Well, one major factor is that in late 2007 I built my MythTV box.  Before doing so, we would usually watch MSNBC or CNN every night while eating dinner.  There usually wasn’t anything we wanted to watch at that time.  And during the time when I eat dinner, those channels focus on political news.  Once we had the MythTV we could record programs we liked to watch which aired earlier or later in the day and watch them during dinner.  So the news fell by the wayside.  I still used to watch CNN in the morning while having breakfast.  But then we got rid of cable TV.  Now I only get my news from NPR and that’s usually in the car or in the gym when I don’t have time to write about whatever I hear on the news and blog about it.  And then by the time I get home, I’ve forgotten about it.

There’s also the fact that after the whole financial crisis started last Fall, there hasn’t really been as much genuine political news to discuss.  More or less everyone is focused on the US and WOrld economies and there aren’t reports on other topics.  If Colbert didn’t go visit the troops in Iraq I would have forgotten they were still there.

On top of this, Obama is just less frustrating to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from.  There was a perception of enmity from the Bush administration – a real Us vs Them mentality.  And I think that tends to become a self-reinforcing attitude.  As they felt that CNN and MSNBC didn’t treat them well, they started to antagonize them, which (I’m sure) led to CNN and MSNBC consciously or unconsciously no longer holding back.  And when Bush spoke, he always seemed pissed off at any one asking probing questions.  The Obama administration seems to have better skills at arguing back without feeling personally insulted.

I’ve also been watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night.  So I’ve already got someone highlighting all of the hypocrisy and nonsense in the political world.  Although this is only a small effect, it does, somewhat serve the cathartic purpose that blogging does.  Somehow putting my frustrations on “paper” helps me to better deal with all the BS.  But if I’ve already laughed it off on The Daily Show or Colbert, I’m usually not as angry or annoyed and can blow off writing the article.

Barack and Michelle Obama
Barack and Michelle Obama - a breath of fresh air or more of the same? (Photo by Pete Souza)

And, finally, I just have had a huge lack of time to sit down and write a well-considered political blog post.  And politics is all about timeliness.  If, for example, I had wanted to write a post about how things were going to radically change with the Obama administration and didn’t get around to writing it until now – it would have been rendered invalid.

The Continual Dumbing Down of American Politics

Rooftop Security

Yes, the race for the White House has hit new lows, even for this race.  It appears that we haven’t learned from the past two races and it’s starting to scare me.  Both in 2000 and 2004 one of the biggest reasons stated for George W Bush winning was that both Al Gore and John Kerry seemed too “elite” and “aloof”.  George Bush seemed a little more down to earth, someone you could invite to a BBQ.  Well look where that got us!!

The whole idea of a presidential candidate being too elite is the most ridiculous thing I have EVER heard.  It defies logic.  We Americans like to think of our country as the best country in the whole world.  So shouldn’t we have the best, smartest man (or woman) in the job?  I don’t want just anyone to be president!  It’s a special and unique post.  We need the best and the brightest guiding our foreign policy, setting the agenda for the country, and controlling the executive functions.

This is not a wholly new complaint of mine, but what set me off was this article.  In this article Clinton says:

Clinton … while dismissing economists who have said her plan to suspend gas taxes over the summer would do little good.

“I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,” Clinton said when asked to name an economist who backed her proposal.

“We’ve got to get out of this mind-set where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans,” said Clinton, a former first lady who would be the first woman president.

So she’s saying that she, who has no training in economics is a better person to decide what’s best for the country than someone who’s studied economics.  She doesn’t want to listen to their opinion because it’s too elite.  What kind of absurdity is that?  Look, econ is hard and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s SO HARD that even the economists barely know what they’re doing.  But I’d still trust them over someone with no training any day.

Let’s wrap this up with a great mind exercise.  When you are sick are you going to not go to a doctor because that’s too elitist?  Surely you should just ask a random coworker what you should do.  And why hire construction workers to build new buildings, that sounds pretty elitist to me!  Are you saying that he’s better qualified to determine how to build a building than the average joe?  And when my car breaks down, why take it to a mechanic when I could just pick some random person off the street and have them replace the engine block.  Do you now see how silly all this elitist talk is?

I just hope that this doesn’t become a huge trend because I see America going down the toilet if we keep this up.  It may just be the case that my children will have to be immigrants in some other country – one that hasn’t elected some yokel to office just because he looks like someone you can have a beer with.