Indifference Kills

This will be my only post about the election. Feel free to ignore it.

Clearly the constitutional election process itself is royaly screwed up. Twice in the past twenty years, the person who received the highest number of votes for President lost. The fact that we continue with this system just because it was written by the sainted founders is absurd to the highest power and needs to be fixed.

However, there is another major flaw reflected in this election, one that has become integrated into our society. And I feel that it is even more responsible for all the crap that is coming in the next four years. It’s one that can be fixed, although I fear, not easily.

This quote, courtesy of the always wise Audrey Watters (by Antonio Gramsci, who died in a Fascist Italian prison in the 30’s), explains that flaw very well.

I hate the indifferent. I believe that life means taking sides. One who is really alive, can be nothing if not citizen and partisan. Indifference is lethargy: it is parasitism, not life. Therefore, I hate the indifferent.

Indifference is the dead weight of history. Indifference plays an important role in history. It plays a passive role, but it does play a role. It is fatality; it is something that cannot be counted on; it is something that disrupts programmes, overturns the best made plans; it is that awful something that chokes intelligence. What happens, the evil that touches everyone, happens because the majority relinquish their will to it, allowing the enactment of laws that only a revolution can revoke, letting men rise to power who, later, only a mutiny can remove.

I am alive, partisan. And, therefore, I hate those who do not take sides; I hate the indifferent.

Hate won this election, on a technicality. But hate also received a massive amount of assistance from that dead weight of indifference.

We have a significant number of citizens who suffer from that lethargy Gransci described. The loudest and most obvious group are those who refuse to vote, except for a flawless candidate who perfectly fits their unique mold. They are the parasites who are too utopian to take sides.

But they are relatively few in number.

Far worse are the large numbers who vote while being steadfastly, sometimes proudly, indifferent to even the most basic issues that most directly impact them. They refuse to do the work of educating themselves (something those sainted founders believed would be a fundamental requirement for representative government) and then demanding candidates explain clearly how they will address those issues. For them simplistic proclamations are just fine, thank you. Never mind if they make sense or are even possible.

We can almost excuse people for not learning enough to make an informed decision since they are served by a news media (mostly television) that has become almost completely indifferent to filling the basic role of the journalist. Of offering their audience the necessary details about problems we face as a society and then providing the context they need to make an informed decision. Don’t give me the crap about the need for “balanced” coverage. That concept is a myth. It’s impossible. Every issue has multiple sides and they are never equally weighted. If all sides were equal, then doing nothing would be appropriate and we move on.

To CNN, NBC, and the rest1, information and truth are far less important to these hacks than ratings and clicks – chasing the almighty demo and the profits they bring. Twenty four hours of indifference.

The combination of an uninformed public and media companies who keep them that way give us elected officials who themselves are indifferent (or openly hostile) to the needs and voice of anyone not providing the cash they need to retain their jobs. With the result that Lincoln’s line in the Gettysburg Address about a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” becomes pretty much a joke.

Yes, hate is now in control here in the US. But the real evil in our political process is the indifference that allows it to happen.

Will that change? Can it change? I have to be optimistic because the alternative is not a positive society.

1. At least Fox is relatively up front with their biases. They don’t even pretend to do “journalism” most of the time.

Hard Choices

Today is Election Day in the US, and on the ballot we essentially have two choices.

Members of one group who are obstructionist and fearful of any change, except for that which longs for return to a past that never really existed.

Members of the other group who talk a good game when it comes to change but who aren’t even willing to associate with the few positive advances they have brought about.

And then we have the media covering the election process, most of whom have absolutely no interest in educating their audience, instead spending their limited resources on two things: promoting fights between the two groups and scoreboarding the results.

So, I will do my civic duty and cast my ballot later today. Everyone in this country should do the same.

As always, I hope the people who are elected to office will intelligently address the many complex problems we have in this community/state/nation and work to find meaningful solutions to fix them.

It’s just so damn hard to be that optimistic.

Election Day

Today is election day in Virginia and, unlike most places in the country, we have some major positions to fill: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and some members of the state legislature.

Even after all the political crap I’ve seen over the years, I still take voting seriously and believe (possibly naively) that elections have consequences. When I go to the polls, I want to be positive and cast my vote FOR someone and their positions, not against someone/something.

Unfortunately, that’s not the situation we’ve been given this year. The candidates I voted for today are hardly inspirational and didn’t run on any particular platform other than trying to define their opponents as scary bad people who will screw up both government and people’s lives.

Except that this time they probably are right.

Based on everything I’ve read, the candidates I voted against have their social and political belief systems firmly rooted in the 1950’s, if not the 1850’s. Old Testament1 religious concepts prevail over logic, science, and progress. When it comes to my primary area of interest, education, I have no doubt that, given the chance, they would sell off the entire public school system to the highest bidder.

So today I cast my ballot for the names that were not them and hope that next time2, we get some candidates willing to take bold, positive stands on the issues. We can only hope.

1 Sorry, couldn’t help linking that phrase to the Ghostbusters clip. :-)

2 Which will be in four years since Virginia is a very strange political place where the Governor can only serve one four-year term, which means all state planning involves very short term thinking.

Some Random Electoral Thoughts

I didn’t post anything in this space about the presidential election this time around, and restrained myself to only a few bursts on Twitter. Politics is one of those topics about which I could get very annoying very quickly and not something about I have a shred of credibility so I leave the commentary to someone else.

However, now that the voting is done (or almost done since I gather there are still a couple million uncounted ballots1), I have a few random thoughts to offer. Feel free to skip the rest of this rambling mess and move on to the next item in your feed.

First, a couple of items from an article in the Hollywood Reporter of all places2, titled Election Day: 18 Reasons Why It’s Good or Bad That We’re Almost Done With It. It’s pretty standard stuff (everyone, regardless of party is sick of political advertising!) but a couple of items are worth highlighting.

From the bad side

Donald Trump. Seriously, why is (your god here) punishing us with this man? What the hell did we do to deserve to look at his yammering mug as he dupes the media? Make him stop, oh Higher Power.

Brian Williams offered the best assessment of Trump while anchoring NBC’s election night coverage: he has “driven well past the last exit to relevance and has veered into something closer to irresponsible…”. The same could probably be said of a long list of pundits who continue to show up on so-called legitimate news programs.

And then from the good side,

The Daily Show. They are doing God’s work there.

The Colbert Report. See above, with special extra points for Stephen Colbert being so sick of Trump that he almost broke character when he took down the comb-over charlatan and his “October surprise.”

They can claim to do fake news but both shows continue to be the absolute cream of the crop for media and political analysis by not being afraid to call BS on anyone who deserves it, regardless of political affiliation, and making it very funny at the same time.

Next, there was election night. In past years, I joined tens of millions of other Americans in selecting a channel and watching as the personalities played with their electronic visualization toys while providing information in small bursts. The rest of the long evening was taken up with pundits filling time with speculation and trivial blather.

This time around I followed events on my Twitter feed and a couple of live political blogs on my iPad while doing more useful work. Better information, far better commentary, less stress, and much more entertaining.

Then there’s the obscene amount of money spent for political advertising. One billion dollars for just the presidential race is the number most often quoted and something like triple that when you include all the local candidates and issues.

What a waste. Or a media stimulus package, depending on how you look at it. Either way, based on reports I’ve read, a large percentage of the “independent” attack ads bought with that money was ineffective at best. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the biggest spenders did the worst. I suppose you could call that karma.

Finally, how great was it that the popular media was actually talking about math during the campaign coverage? Well, they were talking about the statistical models of Nate Silver which predicted the election outcomes far better than most of the other pundits who used “inside” courses and their guts.

Unfortunately, very few commentators made even the slightest attempt to understand the math and gave Silver very little time to explain it himself. But maybe, just maybe, all of the noise about his work might inspire viewers to learn more about the concepts of probability and statistics they run into everyday.

But, considering the people of Maryland voted last Tuesday to allow building a major casino right across the river, I rather doubt it.

Ok, enough about this election. Who’s leading the presidential polls for 2016?

1 The process of voting in this country is an issue someone needs to address so I don’t have to stand in a two hour line, which was short compared to the experience elsewhere, not to mention the voter suppression crap in some states.

2 What can I say? I have an odd mix of sources in Flipboard.


Above the Fold

In analog newspapers, the space above the fold on the front page is considered very valuable. That’s where editors place the stories they consider most important, or at least the ones that might catch the eye of someone looking over the choices on newsstands.


On the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post, 1/6th of that above-the-fold space was used to begin a story about how our water and sewage systems are falling apart and will require billions of dollars to fix.

The other 5/6th was taken up with pictures and stories about a group of people competing to lead this country, all of whom want to slash funding for even the most basic upgrades to the public infrastructure.

Same for roads, schools, energy, air traffic control, ports, and pretty much everything other than the military, and walls to keep people who don’t look like them out of the country.

Actually, most of those candidates for president would love to sell just everything off to the highest bidder (or to no-bid contributors if they can get away with it).

However, that above-the-fold space in the Post is also an example of how the news media covers the electoral process.

One-sixth (if that) on important issues, ones that actually affect the quality of life in this country, and five-sixths on the horse race of the election, the gossip, the manufactured controversies, arguing over the stupid, out-of-context, and irrelevant sound bites.

It’s going to be a long election year, and it’s clear the candidates and the reporters who cover them will be spending most of their time on trivial crap instead of educating the electorate.