If you don’t want to read my long-winded article, the Politics of Lying, then just take a look at this photo and caption.
Of course, those that have actually read that article understand that I don’t see things quite this way. If you’re a typical American, then your need for drama causes you to treat your guy as a hero and the other guy as a villain. Neither is true, but as long as you treat politics that way, you’ll be rewarding them for lying and punishing them for telling the truth. They wouldn’t act like Jar-Jar Binks if you didn’t demand it of them.
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De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est
– “Of the dead nothing but good is to be said.”
On this day in 2009, Ted Kennedy died of a malignant brain tumor. There were some from the political right in this country saying, “Good riddance, dirtbag.” The left was up in arms saying “Leave Teddy alone!” They said it was a horrible thing to mock the dead just because you disagreed with them politically, and they made sweeping generalizations about the “other side” and its propensity to do such things. At a time like that, the correct thing to do is focus on the good they did or respectfully keep your mouth shut. The problem is, about one week earlier, Robert Novak, a conservative journalist, died. Do you remember how that news was received? Some on the political left said, “Good riddance, dirtbag” and the right was up in arms saying, “Leave Robby alone!”
Despite occurring over the span of only about one week, everyone seemed oblivious to the shift in moral stance of the right and left in this country. Few seemed to pick up on the inconsistency, or at least didn’t care. I guess it was too much to expect for people to notice when, years later, the right and left again shifted positions over the death of Andrew Breitbart (and Tony Snow). The left went crazy, and the right indignantly objected (sometimes trying to rationalize the inconsistency). Of course, as cited above, Breitbart was one of the hypocrites, so it’s hard to feel sorry for him, or any of these guys who’ve made a living doing this to each other. (This was, by the way, the only time I remember this inconsistency being largely acknowledged by the political talking heads.) However, it doesn’t lessen the inconsistency for the social media universe, which was inundated with similar sentiments from the everyday citizen.
It’s important to note that the majority of people didn’t make inappropriate statements immediately upon the passing of these figures. Most people – even the talking heads – won’t speak ill of the dead so close to that death. My concern, however, is for the sweeping generalizations made against an entire political wing because some did, as if that justifies the inference that the “other side” has some sort of monopoly on indecency. We all do it, and we can’t fix it until we recognize it in ourselves.
Maybe you think it’s okay to speak ill of the dead within hours of that death. That’s your prerogative, but if so, don’t inconsistently criticize others for doing the same to your guy when he dies. In politics, inconsistency is another word for hypocrisy. Sadly, it’s the norm. In any case, if you fall into either the camp that thinks it’s okay to be so disrespectful so close to the death of another, or the camp of hypocrites that says that’s okay only when talking about the “other guys,” ask yourself this question:
Is your camp good for society?
Note: Much of my commentary is directed at threads and tweets that are three years old. It would be unduly burdensome to research them; hence, no citations (or apologies) are given. While my commentary is based largely on memory, I’m guessing most of you remember the same thing.
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I love the new show, the Newsroom, but last night it got something wrong that I know every journalist, every political operative, and certainly every political candidate knows: The public punishes politicians for telling the truth and rewards them for lying. Asking the tough questions might make the news media feel good about themselves, especially if they’re attacking the candidates they don’t like, but it would just make the interviewers look like they’re twisting reality. Well, not really, but that’s how the public will interpret the stimulus they receive from the result. That is, rather than accept that they don’t understand what the questioners are asking, the public will instead choose to interpret their own confusion as somehow the fault of the questioner, and the easiest way to do that is to assume the questioner is a bad person. Do that, and you don’t have to address their logic, which is far easier than thinking.
Also, there are too many love triangles on the show. Resolve one, please. Even having just one is trite and annoying, but two? Why?
Still a great show, though.
Will McAvoy, a fictional character from HBO’s new show, the Newsroom, had a great rant telling us where America falls short. Here’s the clip.
All this proves is that we’re not perfect.
Willi Wonka has a different take.
So, in stark contrast to what I implied yesterday, I now say yeah, we’re still #1. Will McAvoy can suck it!
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As I’ve pointed out in a prior post, I don’t discuss the right to keep and bear arms publicly. I’ve been published on the subject (76 CHI-KENT L. REV. 2 (2000)), and while my views have become even more complex, if you want to know where I stand, that will have to do. Nevertheless, the Aurora tragedy has the political talking heads making an argument that’s always bothered me: “Because [some country] has had success with [some policy], we would too.”
Nonsense. Whether any policy is going to work is complicated because both our society, and the issues it faces, are complex. Assuming that the best policy can be determined by superficial evidence shows a lack of respect for that complexity, as well as a lack of respect for the work of every sociologist and psychologist that uses actual science to analyze such phenomenon. However, it isn’t just that the issues a complicated, or that society has a lot of factions. There are deep-rooted cultural differences between people of different cultures, some of which actually affect the way we think. As much as we view ourselves in America as divided, at its deepest levels, our political philosophies are much closer in thinking to one another than to many of these other countries whose policies we want to adopt.
This last point on cultural differences is my focus in this article.
German Landlords Are Crazy
My older brother’s second assignment in the U.S. Army was in West Germany. (For the kiddies, Germany was actually two countries between World War 2 and my time as an undergraduate student.) Only one of the stories he brought back resonated with me. He rented a room in a single family home in what appeared to be a typical American suburban community, though it was an authentic German community (as opposed to some American enclave in Germany). Every Wednesday morning, his landlord would pop his head out the front door, look up the street, look down the street, and then come back inside. Though he found this strange, my brother didn’t find it strange enough to ask why. During his last week in Germany, he went into work late enough to find out, finally, what was happening.
The landlord was checking to see if everyone else on the street had put out their garbage. After checking several times, everyone got in sync. Within (an estimated) two minutes of the first person putting out their garbage, everyone on the block had put out their garbage. This was done about an hour or so before the garbage truck came to collect the garbage. Moreover, looking up and down the block, as well as across the street, the garbage cans were lined up precisely with one another.
Neither the timing nor the precision of placement were required by German law. Their laws weren’t much different than ours in this regard. You couldn’t put out your garbage before sunset the night before, and you had to have your garbage cans within 6 to 18 inches (or so) from the street to avoid blocking the street. Putting the garbage out simultaneously and with such order was a condition imposed on the people by themselves, and they didn’t get together and have a meeting to decide it. It’s what they did because it’s how they think, so it just happened organically.
A recent study provides further proof of a cultural phenomenon that’s been considered dogmatic in the field of psychology for some time now: “Western culture emphasizes the individual and focuses on the forefront, and that East Asian culture de-emphasizes the self and is more cognizant of context.” The study compared Facebook profile photos of people from western and eastern cultures and found that western profile photos (like mine, actually) were often head shots, but in most cases emphasized the person over the background. Moreover, there was a greater tendency for the person to be smiling (again, like mine) or making a goofy face. The opposite was true for profile pictures of people from eastern cultures, where the person was often no more important to the scene than a chair that was just as much in the background.
This is measuring individuality vs. collectivism, and I remind you that this study did nothing more than confirm that the widely-accepted theory applied to online identity. It’s well-known that these differences clearly exist.
But What About England?
England is a western society, aren’t they? They’re democratic, and they have a decent sense of individuality, right? Can we model ourselves after them?
They have a queen, and under the Firearms Act of 1968, their cops usually aren’t granted permits to carry firearms. How would that last one work in Detroit?
Americans Don’t Think Like That
Can you imagine people arranging their garbage cans so precisely and within 120 seconds of one another? I couldn’t care less what you did with your garbage, but if hell froze over and I actually bothered to care for a second, I’d probably go out of my way to keep my garbage cans unaligned and bring them out at a different time. It’s typical for Americans to prize our individuality so highly as to affect even the smallest of life’s experiences. Technically, Germany, Japan, and the other countries cited are democracies, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them work and listening to them speak. To us, they look like insect colonies, seemingly doing things for the sake of just doing them, as if they’re all aware of secret laws and just haven’t told us.
Please note that this isn’t a value-judgment on my part. It’s merely an observation, and it’s tough to make. I have a high-and-mighty view of how important the American ideal for individuality is, but what this demonstrates is that democracy and totalitarianism don’t necessarily depend on individuality. That’s a tough pill to swallow at times, but I make no apologies for the fact that I feel so strongly about my individuality. It can make things hard, but it’s become a necessary aspect of my life because of the 44 years of experiences I’ve had that have made me the person I am.
Where Does That Leave Us?
. . . and therefore, I’ll be damned if you’re going to take that away from me without a fight . . . at the ballot box. I’m not threatening anyone.
Dammit, people! Just compare Texas to Connecticut and tell me that we aren’t extremely individualistic in this country. If policies in Texas don’t work in Connecticut (and vice versa), don’t you think that going to the other side of the world to see what they do is a bit reckless?
I submit to you that because all of us, consciously or subconsciously, think this way (granted, to varying degrees), we wouldn’t necessarily enjoy the same benefits of policies that might work wonderfully overseas. A change might not make things better (i.e., “crooks will always find a way to do [something horrible]”), and might actually make things worse by frustrating the hell out of us. To make a prediction one way or the other requires a professional analysis that most of us can’t perform. Stop trying.
Remember a common theme I have for my writing: It’s not enough to be right for the wrong reasons. You have to be right for the right reasons. If you want to do the job of a sociologist, spend a few years to become one. Otherwise, let them do their job. Hopefully the politicians will place science over politics, which brings me to another common theme of mine:
(Though that’s only because we reward politicians for playing politics. Our fate is still technically in our own hands.)
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I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric on the controversial Texas voter ID law claiming that it’s politically and racially biased. Because I attacked a Republican on this topic, I figured I’d give some equal time. This law was passed long before the election itself (last year), allowing ample time for a court challenge (ongoing) and then ample time after that to comply with however the court rules. As a result, my bullshit alert went off when I heard how this was a backdoor, racist attempt at suppressing minority votes.
The requirement that voters prove they are legally permitted to vote seems reasonable on its face – in fact, it’s almost certainly required under the Equal Protection clause (q.v.) – and it wasn’t a last minute attempt to change the law. So, I decided to research just a couple of the suspicious issues that were raised. It’s amazing how some simple internet research completely changes the picture painted by the talking heads.
Why Are Concealed Carry Permits Acceptable IDs, but University IDs Aren’t?
In short, because concealed carry permits provide proof of identity, residency, and the right to vote, whereas student IDs provide only proof of identity.
As of January, 2008, obtaining a concealed carry permit in Texas requires:
- A completed application form.
- Two Recent Color Passport Photographs. (That is, the permit is a photo ID.)
- Proof of age (at least 21).
- Proof of residency in Texas.
- A handgun proficiency certificate from a qualified handgun instructor.
- An affidavit stating that applicant has read and understands the law concerning a license to carry and the laws on use of deadly force and that the applicant fulfills all eligibility requirements.
- And an authorization to access records. (This relates to the fact that a criminal background check is always performed.)
So, having a carry permit is proof that you’re eligible to vote in the state election (i.e., you’re a resident that has no serious criminal record or other restriction of rights) and has your photograph on it (i.e., is proof of identity).
On the other hand, as of today, getting a University of Texas student ID requires:
- You’re a student; and
- A government-issued photo ID. (Note, foreign governments are governments.)
So, the ID proves your identity, but there’s absolutely no indication that your right to vote hasn’t been legally taken away, and there’s absolutely no indication whether you’re actually a Texas resident. In fact, it doesn’t even require that you’re a US citizen!
Similarly, Social Security cards are also not accepted, but everyone should know that these aren’t photo IDs, so there’s no proof of identity with them. You might as well be asking them to accept your library card.
I guarantee you that the talking heads making such a big deal out of this are fully aware of these significant differences, but convention wisdom suggests that criminals and non-citizens have a tendency to vote democratic, so they’re trying to (mis)characterize this as “getting Republican votes” because gun owners are Republican. In Texas, almost everyone’s a gun owner.
I have nothing against, for example, Japanese nationals, but they shouldn’t be voting in America simply because they’re taking classes at one of our universities. Am I a racist for saying so?
Besides, almost everyone is going to prove their age and residency in Texas using their driver’s license or state ID card, so allowing the use of the concealed carry permit isn’t going to increase the number of voters anyway. This is nothing more that cheap politicking.
If People Aren’t Required to Provide ID for Absentee Voting, Why Does the Requirement Exist for in Person Voting?
Good question. You do have to provide an ID for absentee voting. Sort of.
In order to vote via absentee ballot in Texas, you must fill out an application. If you’re out of the country because of a death in the family, you’re required to sign an affidavit as part of the application, and notarizations require IDs to perform. However, there are three other situations in which you may vote absentee, and none of them require you to include a copy of your ID unless you’re a first time voter in Texas.
Cutting to the chase, this is a huge loophole. It’s possible that you could fill out an absentee ballot and not provide an ID in order to vote. My guess as to why this loophole isn’t closed is because there’s an application process, which in turn raises a red flag on your name. In other words, they’ll be watching for you. If you show up to the voting site, they’ll know you already voted absentee. Additionally, you had to have voted in Texas before, and to have done that, you would have had to prove residency and identity. If you’re subsequently convicted of a serious crime or otherwise have your right to vote taken away, Texas is relying on their Department of Corrections or State’s Attorney office to notify the relevant County Clerk of the change. Okay, I can live with that assuming it’s done reliably, and none of us are in a position to deny that it is.
However, the laws don’t prevent a fake voter from mailing or faxing an application to the County Clerk with a real voter’s name, as no copy of an ID or proof of current residency would be required, nor would a notarized statement be required. The ballot could be sent to the fake voter’s address, and then the fake voter could vote on behalf of the real voter without the real voter’s knowledge. Seriously, why isn’t this happening in every election? (I bet it is in very small numbers.)
In the end, this loophole means that the new voter ID law isn’t going to accomplish what it wants to accomplish because some people can vote without any ID. That should bother you, but only because you should want people to prove who they are, where they live, and whether they retain the right to vote. Currently, even the new Texas voter ID law doesn’t accomplish that. That is, Texas (and so many other states) hasn’t done enough to protect the right to vote. Why do you oppose the measures they actually have taken?
Oh right. Fraudulent voting generally favors Democrats. Well, I guess that makes it right.
What Did You Mean by the Equal Protection Clause Reference?
I haven’t read it in a while, but the Bush v. Gore case, at its heart, was an Equal Protection case. It stood for the proposition that election processes must be fair and orderly because it would violate your right to Equal Protection if someone were able to vote more than once. If they did, your right to vote would mean less than their right to vote, and that’s not equal protection. Maybe you disagree with how that principle was applied in Bush v. Gore – a silly concern considering that most of you didn’t bother to read the case and learn the facts – but that’s an important legal requirement. Requiring identification of a voter certainly goes a long way toward providing a fair and orderly election process.
So What’s the Problem?
Let’s, for once, be straight with one another. Suppressing votes generally favors Republicans, and adding extra votes generally favors Democrats. How much of an impact each has, I don’t know, and I doubt most of my readers do, so let’s not pretend we know. The point here is that Texas Republicans are trying to cut down on the extra votes, and Democrats are claiming that this suppresses legitimate votes. Based on what I’ve gone over here, the only votes that are being suppressed are lazy votes. It’s not hard to get IDs, and stop pretending it is just because there’s a few people who have medical conditions that make them immobile. (By the way, there are exceptions for legitimate hurdles such as immobility, so really, that’s a weak argument.) If a legitimate voter wants to vote, they don’t have to do much to make that happen, and the cost of letting them get out of that responsibility is far too high. It’s the illegitimate voters that are going to have some real trouble under this law. Good.
You should be spending your time fighting for this in your state, not opposing it in other states. If anything, Texas hasn’t gone far enough. We’ll soon find out whether the courts have legitimate reasons for striking down this law. I haven’t researched the law deeply enough to determine where I stand on other potential issues with it. However, the real message here is that the talking heads on the news programs are misrepresenting the facts on the types of ID allowed, which is meant to serve their own political interests.
Yes, I know . . . .
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