Category: Politics

“The Image” 50 Years Later

By , February 9, 2020 6:45 pm

My step-son asked me for advice on what a relatively political novice should read for unbiased insights on politics and controversial issues–aren’t they all? I’m not sure “unbiased” exists. No, that’s incorrect. There’s no such thing as unbiased. There are fair-minded people, however, so I thought I’d steer him in that direction. And then I remembered The Image; A Guide to Pseudo Events in America, a short book by Daniel Boorstin published in 1962, a book I read sometime between 1970 and 1973, a book that helped me grow up fast and develop a critical eye almost as quickly, a book I thought would help my stepson develop the critical thinking skills to approach any political “insights” with his thinking cap on.

Briefly, a pseudo-event is an event that is manufactured news. The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is news, a real event. President Trump reporting that “The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him” is not real news; it’s a pseudo-event, an event manufactured by the White House to give President Trump face time before the American public as he stands in the Diplomatic Reception Room. Think about it: the news of al-Baghdadi’s death could have been delivered on chyron running beneath the talking heads on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. Instead, we get a presidential statement, we get more of President Trump.

Because my stepson listens to rather than reads books–kids nowadays–I downloaded the book to my Audible account and shared it with him. Having done that, I figured it worth my time to listen again to the book after nearly 50 years of experience. It’s been an interesting experience so far, largely because all the references are so dated. In a discussion of the emphasis on the celebrity rather than the hero, for example, Boorstin uses astronauts Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepherd as proxies for heroes. I smiled when I realized that’s probably all he had to refer to. Gagarin was the first man in space on April 12, 1961, Shepherd the second, less than a month later on May 5, 1961. Boorstin’s book was published less than a year later, barely time to add other astronauts to his example.

Nevertheless, the “re-read” has been worthwhile. Boorstin’s discussion of pseudo-events rings even truer in a time when Tweets–the pseudoest of pseudo-events–make headlines on almost a daily basis. I’m only a chapter or two in, so I won’t report more. I will recommend you read the book. The best defense against the 24-hour news cycle is to know that very little of it is news. I’m not the only one saying this.

OR24 Caucus Report — It Wasn’t Like that at the Caucus I Attended

By , March 23, 2016 12:51 pm

I’ve read reports that ballot stuffers were hard at work last night, sealing the deal for Ted Cruz. How else to account for his resounding win in Utah when next door in Arizona the Donald won? Without going deep on that question, I’ll just say this about the OR24 (Orem 24) caucus last night:

  • There was no ballot stuffing last night.
  • There was no giving people stacks of ballots.
  • Kirby Glad ran the caucus in an orderly and controlled fashion.
  • Multiple people counted ballots in plain view of all in attendance.
  • I know at least four of the people counting ballots. The day they cheat is the day the world ends.

I say this as one who is not a party official. I have been a county delegate before last night–2008 and 2010, IIRC. I was there from start to finish of the voting. There was no hanky panky. And the results of our caucus virtually mirrored the final vote percentages for the state. Just sayin’.

So a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Orem (Caucus)

By , March 23, 2016 12:39 pm

UCRP_2016-03-23_1237Actually, it happened at the Orem, Utah, Precinct 24 Caucus–OR24 for short. I was elected county and state delegate. (A really funny thing did happen, by the way. My son David–bored to tears by the very slow reading of the party platform–volunteered to read. You know those commercials with the speed talkers in them? Got nothing on him. He finished to loud applause.)

Anyway, I’m waiting for some information on my responsibilities from Precinct Chairperson Kirby Glad. I also must attend a training session for officers and delegates–I’ll do this on Saturday morning. My plan is to use my blog to keep people apprised of what I learn about the candidates and issue, so check back.

Berkeley Breathed Has His Say

By , March 11, 2016 1:38 pm

With this.

The Facts Versus The Meme

By , October 4, 2015 9:41 pm

I’ve read more than once, in reaction to the recent tragedy in Oregon, that we need to regulate guns. Of course, we do regulate guns–at the federal and at the state level. If you’re interested, here’s the most recent version of the ATF Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide, all 233 pages of laws, regulations, Q&A’s explaining the morass of laws, and more. A full 9 1/2 pages of just the Gun Control Act of 1968 is devoted to Section 922: “Unlawful Acts.” The phrase “It shall be unlawful” is used 22 times in that section, usually leading off long lists of unlawful acts. And that’s just one act. The Guide also contains the National Firearms Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and a section of the law governing the Postal Service as well as four different “Parts” of the Code of Federal Regulations.

And that’s just Federal Law. Each state and many cities have their own laws, many of which are much more restrictive than the Federal Law, which essentially sets the minimum standards. For example, the assault weapons ban is no longer on the federal books. But don’t tell that to California or Connecticut. The NRA provides a handy guide of state law if you’re interested.

Finally, none of this takes into account the fact that it’s crime punishable by imprisonment and even death to kill someone with a firearm. Use a firearm in the commission of a crime, and generally the punishment for the underlying crime is enhanced. Etc. etc. etc.

Could more be done? More laws? More regulations? Reasonable minds differ–and they’re not all on the anti-gun crowd.

Looking for Something to Do?

By , January 20, 2015 2:12 pm

If you are, I suggest the following sites as worthwhile time fillers:

If you’re interested in balanced and very interesting discussions of the Constitution and federal/state relations, the Federalist Society’s website in general and it’s multi-media offerings in particular are a must. They strive to offer a view from both sides of most important legal issues, especially at their various events. I can’t recommend them enough.

Also of constitutional interest, it’s hard to beat Oyez.org, the place to go if you want to actually listen to oral arguments at the Supreme Court. No, you can’t listen to them as they happen, but I’ve seen cases where the recordings were up the same day they happened. And these recordings go waaaaay back, even as far as Roe v. Wade (where you can hear counsel from the state of Texas make a sexist joke) and New York Times v. Sullivan (where you can hear the historical beginnings of our current law of defamation).

Enjoy.

Cute Kittens and Lying Memes

By , November 30, 2014 8:31 pm

Posted without just one comment: If it weren’t for memes and kittens, there would be no Facebook. The menace of memes: how pictures can paint a thousand lies

Cross posted at GregoryTaggart.com

Cat Fight: A Statistical Debate over Equal Pay for Women and Sexual Assault

By , November 30, 2014 8:11 pm

The Federalist Society regularly hosts some very interesting and fairly balanced panel discussions of topics related to the Society’s mission “to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.” This past September, the Society put on a panel titled “Passion and Prudence in the Political Process: The Debate Over Federal Civil Rights Policy.”

The panel is interesting for a number of reasons, but I post about it largely because it illustrates so well the problem of “damned statistics.” Not being a statistician myself, I can only express my frustration at the way some people toss about numbers as if the act itself were sufficient to prove their point. For what it’s worth, I think Gail Heriot and Diana Furchtgott-Roth win this encounter hands down, but then, I agree with their side of the issue.

What do you think?

Cross posted at GregoryTaggart.com

Corporations, Corporations, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink

By , October 22, 2014 11:32 am

In case you don’t get the allusion in the title, it’s to a stanza in Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

I changed a few words to reflect the thinking of Salon.com’s Lindsay Abrams in her piece Water is the new oil: How corporations took over a basic human right. Two-thirds of the article is an interview Abrams did with Karen Piper, a journalist touting her new book The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos, a book now on my Amazon.com wish list, by the way.

The problem with Abram’s story, however, is that it doesn’t deliver on its headline, nor does it deliver on her claim, a claim she makes near the beginning of the piece: “While it’s shocking to watch a city [Detroit] deny the rights of its own citizens, that’s nothing compared to what could happen if private water companies are allowed to take over.” Really? Why is that? Ultimately, she doesn’t say.

Instead, she goes on (or the interview does) to report example after example of governments (Turkey, for example, LA County for another) quasi-governmental organizations (IMF and World Bank), and wannabe governments (ISIS) that are doing much or most of the water damage.

Now, I don’t doubt that water is (or will be soon) a very big problem. Nor do I doubt that some corporations are (or will be) to blame for some of those problems. But why the headline “How corporations took over a basic human right” when the proffered solution-—government-—doesn’t look so hot and when she offers so little evidence of corporate malfeasance?

Methinks it’s because the word corporation sounds oh so much more nefarious than the word government. Based on Abrams’s story, however, maybe we have more to fear from the guys and gals in the white hats.

Cross posted at GregoryTaggart.com

Another Dissembling Headline

By , September 11, 2014 7:54 am

Why do they do this? Is the headline tease, the need for readership so important that many in the media stoop to misrepresenting the essential truth of a story. This story for example, from Detroit’s Fox News 2. Here’s a screen capture of the headline:

2014-09-11_Uniform Not Allowed

If you stop at the headline, you’re pissed. Another zero-tolerance policy from a brain dead school administration? you wonder. What’s this country coming to?

And then you read the story. It wasn’t the school, it was a security guard with a firm contracted by the school to handle security. And what did the school administration do when it found out what had happened?

Rochester Schools superintendent Robert Shaner, who is a veteran himself, quickly took care of the situation apologizing to the family for their troubles.

Shaner sent a letter to Fox 2 which says: ‘The district has apologized for any perception that individuals in uniform are not welcome in the school. The district does not have a policy excluding individuals in uniform and will be working with administration and the firm that handles our security to make sure district policies are understood and communicated accurately.’ (Emphasis supplied)

So why is this a story in the first place? You can guess what I think is the reason by looking at the category tags below.

Cross posted to GregoryTaggart.com

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