“Stupid is as stupid does.” – why so many Americans are ignorant about politics

Watch the Republican debate last night? Learn much about economic issues, the supposed focus of the debate? Didn’t think so.

oct28debate

The substance of the debate was equivalent to this Onion news item: “Eerie: These Two Strangers, Thousands Of Miles Apart, Have Almost The Exact Same Initials”

The inanity and vacuousness of so much political news coverage today is frightening and candidates are part of the problem.

Consider these shallow, uninformative stories that ran recently in major media:

“Mike Tyson wants to see Trump in the White House”

“Supergirl” star responds to Jeb Bush calling her hot”

“GOP is like ‘Grumpycat’, Obama says”

Then we have politicians of all stripes all the way up to the president presenting their views on incredibly complex issues with 140 character tweets and Americans making voting decisions based on those misleading, one-sided tidbits.

Add to this noise the editorials and news stories about non-issues or that are so one-sided and without context that they are a waste of time to read.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for example, just ran an editorial calling on Senator Rubio to resign because he has missed a lot of Senate votes during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The Washington Post ran a follow-up article on what it called the “ferocious” editorial. Nightly network news highlighted the issue last night, too, but none of them bothered to provide any context for the reader or noted that voting record accusations are a common campaign tactic of little relevance.

Had any of the media bothered to do any research, they would have found that Senator Barack Obama missed votes TWICE as often during the 2008 campaign’s early going, and Hillary Clinton ended up doing even worse!

In the final quarter of 2007, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, Obama missed 89.4 per cent of his opportunities to vote, while Clinton, in hot pursuit for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed 83.5 per cent.

Then there’s the issue of whether anybody really cares about missed Senate votes.

As Politico reported today, “Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” said one of Bush’s donors. “No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”

And, of course, there are the endless horse-race stories showing this candidate up or that candidate down in the polls and offering nothing more of substance.

In the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, a study released by the Pew Research Center found that the media offered Americans relatively little information about the candidates’ records or what they would do if elected, with 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects compared to just 17% that focused on the personal backgrounds of the candidates, 15% that focused on the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals and just 1% of stories that examined the candidates’ records or past public performance. It has likely gotten even worse since then.

And of course there’s a mind-numbing amount of “gaffe” coverage, particularly online. When a candidate says something that could be portrayed as a gaffe, critics of all stripes jump on it, trying to magnify its importance and reach and generate public alarm about it.

And even if you try to take politics seriously, the media and the candidates often treat it all as mere entertainment, more like the contest on The Voice or the Great Race.

For the media, and too many politicians, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”

ChicagoCircus

With the news diet that’s fed to them, it’s no wonder Americans are so ill-informed about politics. The result? We get the politicians the 1 percent pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joe Biden’s legacy: hold the applause

Following Joe Biden’s announcement that he would not run for president, public pronouncements and media coverage have been more hagiography than biography.

The praise has been so over the top, you’d think Joe had died and gone to heaven and folks were delivering cloying funeral orations.

Joe Biden Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Joe Biden Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Before the Democrats and the media canonize Joe Biden, let’s step back a bit.

The most consistent element of the comments has been the assertion that Joe is a great and good man because of his unquestioned honesty.

Not so fast.

In his 1988 campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Biden gave a speech that drew the attention of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. She accused Biden of outright plagiarizing speeches given by British Labor Party leader, Neil Kinnock.

As it turned out, not only did Biden lift text from Kinnock’s speeches; he even appropriated parts of Kinnock’s life, citing his ancestors’ ability to read and write poetry, his accomplishment of being the first in his family to attend college and, in an apparent effort to show his blue-collar roots, that some of his ancestors were coal miners. That was all true for Kinnock, but most certainly not for Biden.

Biden’s problems escalated when media discovered that he had also exaggerated his college academic record and been accused of plagiarism there. Biden claimed that he’d finished Syracuse Law School in the top half of his class when he’d actually graduated 76th of 85. He’d also and gotten an F in a law school class for plagiarizing a substantial portion of a paper from an article in the Fordham Law Review. Biden dismissed the plagiarism incidents as “much ado about nothing,” but subsequently ended his campaign.

Biden also played a major role in the Robert Bork and the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1987 and 1991 that many observers still describe as defamatory. “Joe Biden has had his finger in every tawdry hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in my memory,” said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative legal advocacy group. “He has lowered the standard of debate. He has politicized the confirmation process. He has used his position to defame a number of nominees, including Bob Bork and Clarence Thomas, and there’s no road too low that he won’t travel.”

Like so many politicians, Biden also has not shied away from rewriting history. Remember when Hillary Clinton claimed she was threatened by sniper fire when she visited Bosnia in 1996, an assertion that was later disproved? Biden once claimed that his helicopter was “forced down” on “the superhighway of terror” by Afghan extremists. The facts? He was in a helicopter with two other senators when a snowstorm closed in and the pilot decided to put down, after which a U.S. troop convoy took them to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Biden’s shifting versions of events continue today. In 2012, Biden said he advised President Obama not to approve the raid on the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed Biden’s comment. But on Oct. 20, Biden said just the opposite, that he had he privately advised Obama to approve the raid.

And let’s not forget Biden was perfectly willing to embrace and propagate the administration’s lie that the Benghazi terrorist attack that resulted in the death of American ambassador was a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video.

Then, of course, there’s Biden’s seemingly never ending dithering on whether to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. His hemming and hawing and general indecisiveness on that issue alone should tell you a lot about his suitability for the presidency.

When Biden dropped out of the selection process this time around, Hillary Clinton said she’s confident that “history isn’t finished with Joe Biden.” Let’s hope not, at least insofar as historical truth goes.

Sock it to ’em: the left dreams of more taxes and more government

The left’s collective veneration of the state and readiness to surrender self- reliance to its generosity are becoming ever more evident as the presidential race accelerates.

After exhaustive research, the New York Times has concluded that if the federal government raised taxes on the wealthy it could generate a lot of money. You don’t say.

tax-cartoon

The Times also figured out that the potential amount of revenue the government could raise from the wealthy would depend on how much the government raised their taxes. That’s groundbreaking.

Not only that, The Times said, but the government could raise one hell of a lot of revenue from high earners “…while still allowing them to take home a majority of their income,” How very thoughtful.

The Times effused over the things the government could do with a ton of additional tax revenue, like eliminating undergraduate tuition at all the country’s four-year public colleges and universities, as Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed. The potential next step — student loan forgiveness?

With the base of the Democratic Party moving swiftly to the left, you can expect more of these “we can do it because the wealthy will pay for it” proposals.

In the end, the Times took 2085 words to conclude that the more you tax rich people, the more taxes the government will collect (assuming the well-off don’t figure out how to avoid paying the taxes) and the more the government can spend on all sorts of stuff.

What the Times didn’t do is address the question of whether it would be a good thing for the government to reap enormous revenue increases and vastly expand its penetration into our daily lives.

Do we really want a massive expansion of government that would be a successor to the New Deal and the Great Society?

When you invite the government to pay for more things, the government becomes your partner, or, more likely, your boss. Is that what Americans want?

When government gives you things, they always come with new federal rules and regulations accompanied by known and unknown costs. Is that the American dream?

The Times also didn’t address the growing fiscal problems we are already facing:

  • Federal spending still exceeds revenue by over 400 billion dollars a year
  • deficits are expected to resume growing
  • even with declines in discretionary spending imposed by sequestration, entitlements are expected to grow in the future.

“You wouldn’t know that we have an unsustainable fiscal path from the debate we’re having right now,” Rudy Penner, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Wall Street Journal.

A message to the left and the NY Times. Be careful what you wish for.

 

(P.S. – Yes, I know, you also have conservatives proclaiming how they want to cut taxes when we can’t even pay our bills now, but that’s another story)

The Democratic debate: Soak the rich. Yeah! that’s the ticket!

Remember how Jon Lovitz, as Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar on Saturday Night Live, would build a narrative that was a series of lies and say, “Yeah! That’s the ticket!”?

The Democratic debate was like that.

Want something for nothing? When I’m president, you’ll get it: Tuition-free public colleges and universities; free mandatory parental leave, without burdening small businesses; $15 minimum wage with no increase in productivity; enhanced Social Security benefits; Tax cuts for middle-class families; Refinancing of federal college debt at a low interest rate; Government subsidies of Obamacare for people in the United States illegally; move America to 100% renewable energy with federal subsidies.

The Democrats offered up a grab bag of free stuff. How would they pay for it all? Hillary summed up the Democratic Party’s answer. “ I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it,” she proclaimed.

JonLovitzSNL

Yeah! That’s the ticket!

Reminds me of Margaret Thatcher’s observation, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

The national debt stands at $18.2 trillion, up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, and it is continuing to increase an average of
 $1.88 billion a day. The debt goes up when the government doesn’t get enough revenue in a given fiscal year to pay its bills. Annual federal deficits have been shrinking lately, but that pattern isn’t expected to last as the budget takes hits in the coming years.

And then, of course, the country already faces problems with covering the huge costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

Unless we want to embrace ever-higher deficits, money would need to be found to pay for the cornucopia of benefits the Democrats promise.

Hillary Clinton said not to worry, we’ll get it from higher taxes on the wealthy. “Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much,” she said in the debate.

Echoing Clinton, Lincoln Chafee chimed in that the rich are doing fine, “so there’s still a lot more money to be had from this top echelon.”

The problem is that the top-earning 1 percent of Americans (earning about $400,000 +), a pretty fluid club of individuals on a year-to-year basis, already pay almost 50 percent of federal income taxes and the top 25 percent pay about 87 percent, making the United States extraordinarily dependent on small slices of the population.

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that high-income earners receive only pennies in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In contrast, those in the middle 20 percent of earners received $2.23 in benefits for each dollar they paid and the lowest 20 percent receive close to $20 in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In other words, the high-income earners are already subsidizing middle-income and low-income Americans.

“Despite the data, accusations that the rich are not paying their fair share continue,” The Manhattan Institute has reported. “This rhetoric is based more on perception than reality, or on a mistaken belief that the government needs more funds to become further entrenched in Americans’ lives. While this rhetoric may work as a populist rallying cry, the data show that a central tenet of the political left’s platform is simply incorrect.”

Progressives say “Nyet” to the free market

For all their bleating about conservatives wanting to constrain personal choice, as in their anti-abortion stance, progressives are quite comfortable limiting the choices of others themselves. The result is a kind of ruthless do-gooderism, forcing others to live their lives according to the narrow precepts of smug true believers who know best.

Take retail gun and music sales.

The members of the Trinity Wall Street Church, an Episcopal parish in New York City that champions progressive causes, want Walmart shareholders to have a say on whether the company should establish policies governing the sale of offensive items.

Gus for sale at Walmart

Gus for sale at Walmart

That would include products that are “(1) especially dangerous to the public, (2) pose a substantial risk to company reputation and (3) would reasonably be considered offensive to the community and family values that Wal-Mart seeks to associate with its brand.”

The church’s objective?  To force Walmart to remove from its shelves high-capacity rifles and sexually-charged or violent music.

What’s next, shareholder votes on stores stocking water pistols, banned or challenged books, white American Girl dolls, 50 Shades of Grey or American Sniper DVDs, gory video games like Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty Black Ops, or the “Plan B” contraceptive pill?

In essence, the church wants to substitute its judgment and the judgment of other left-leaning true believers for the free market.

Just like the plastic water bottle zealots.

plastic-water-bottles

I’m no fan of paying for water in plastic bottles. For one, It’s obscenely expensive, compared with household tap water. Two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States is in individual 16.9-ounce bottles, which comes out to roughly $7.50 per gallon. That’s about 2,000 times higher than the typical cost of a gallon of tap water. Most often the bottled water isn’t of higher quality than tap water either and the containers generate tons of wasted plastic.

But progressives aren’t satisfied with urging people not to buy bottled water, to use a reusable water bottle instead. They want to go much further. “Rally your schools, workplaces, and communities to ban bottled water,” they implore.

Another case of progressives wanting to impose their values and choices on me.

Companies should be free to develop and market safe products and consumers should be free to decide whether to buy them. Banning stuff because some slice of the population opposes a product for ideological reasons is offensive.

And of course I can’t pursue this topic without talking about Hillary Clinton.

HillaryClinton_2326613b

Hillary wants to require that prescription-drug companies spend a set portion of their revenue on research and development, or forfeit federal support such as tax credits or research money.

Does Clinton really think the government should go so far as to instruct how private businesses spend their revenue, all in the name of a higher good as defined by Hillary? And Bernie says he’s the socialist in the race.

Technology marches on: 15-blade razor launched

Bowing to consumer pressure for bigger multi-blade razors, SizeMatters Corp. has introduced a 15-blade razor cartridge.

15_blade_razor

The North Korean razor-maker has already launched the new 15-blade razor and hopes to move into the U.S. market before Christmas. The new model tops SizeMatters’ own seven-bladed razor and has ten more blades than the dominant U.S. brands, Proctor & Gamble Co. ’s Gillette and Edgewell Personal Care Co. ’s Schick.

SizeMatters’ bold move to cram more blades onto limited real estate was applauded by North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. “It is a technological revolution on par with our invention of the microprocessor,” he said.

Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un celebrating the launch of the new 15-blade razor.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-on celebrating the launch of the new 15-blade razor.

The challenge for SizeMatters Corp. is that some already dumbfounded consumers might not equate more blades with a better shave, especially when each addition comes with a higher price tag.

Ken Worthy, chief executive of SizeMatters Corp. USA and a former Schick executive, acknowledged that there is skepticism to overcome. “Our R&D group really believes that the fifteen blade is a much better shave than the five blade,” Mr. Worthy said. “Also, we completely understand that some consumers may be put off by a North Korean company with abused employees barging into the American market, but we believe progress will win out over moral qualms.”

SizeMatters’ upcoming razor comes as sales of razors and blades are falling, due in part due to greater acceptance of men coming to the office looking like hoboes with stubble.

SizeMatters started in the Pyongyang garage of inventor and entrepreneur, Jim Choo Zun, in 2012 and is a very small player, with a direct-to-consumer business of just $3,082 in 2014. The company hopes its innovative technology will allow it to expand to the US market.

As for what’s next, Kim Jong-un said fifteen blades might be the max. “At least for a couple of years,” he said.

S—t happens, and the media go off the rails

You know what Jeb Bush was saying. I know what Jeb Bush was saying. President Obama and the Democrats know what Jeb Bush was saying. Media of all stripes know what Jeb Bush was saying.

But that hasn’t stopped the media from serving as part of an echo chamber for the manufactured outrage.

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a campaign stop in Bedford, N.H. Potential voters who take their curiosity about presidential candidates to Google are interested in Hillary Clinton's age, Jeb Bush's height, Chris Christie's weight, Donald Trump's net worth, Carly Fiorina's marital status and Bobby Jindal's birthplace. Those were among the top questions that the Internet search engine was asked about each candidate over the past couple of months.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

Yesterday (Friday, Oct 2), speaking at en event in Greenville, S.C., following on the horrific shooting deaths at Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Oregon, Bush talked about how people respond to school shootings.

“We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think that more government is necessarily the answer to this,” Bush said. “I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It’s just, it’s very sad to see. But I resist the notion — and I did, I had this, this challenge as governor, because we have, look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Bush said hasty, ill-considered responses to events that lead to more government intrusion in our lives are not always the best answer to troublesome events.

He didn’t casually dismiss the Umpqua deaths with the sentiment, “Shit happens”.   He didn’t callously shrug off the UCC deaths as inconsequential.

But in today’s hyper-divisive political climate, liberal critics saw an opening. Without a second to lose, the web lit up with pejorative comments about Bush’s statement.

As CNN reported, Democrats pounced when Bush’s comments went viral.

At the White House, in what the New York Times described as a “sharp rebuke” to Bush, President Obama opined, “…the American people can decide whether they consider (mass shootings) ‘stuff happening’.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, quickly tweeted: “A message for Jeb Bush: 380 Americans have been killed in 294 mass shootings in 2015 alone. “Stuff” doesn’t just “happen.” Inaction happens.”

The liberal Mother Jones magazine described Bush’s comment as an “astonishingly callous summation of Thursday’s deadly rampage that killed 10 people and injured seven others”.

The New York Daily News said Bush, in making his comments, was “flippant” and “shrugged-off the slaughter of nine people at an Oregon community college by a gun-toting maniac”.

Exaggerated rage reigns in this political season. And to think we have more than a year of all this ahead.