The Semantic Landscape of American Politics Part 1

Nothing like some extended rest and recreation to recharge one’s batteries, even if that rest and recreation ended up being longer than I originally intended. I think that the computer and vision issues that led to my extended absence have been resolved as well as possible and that I should be able to return to posting here on a regular basis once again, which is good, because I have missed you all.

During my absence there have been a number of interesting political developments, especially here in the United States dealing mainly with the economic crisis. I am not going to deal with each specific event, but rather I want to talk about what I see as a common element in all of these events. That common element is a difference of semantics. Although everyone uses the same words like spending or investment, the two opposing sides on how to deal with the economic crisis mean very different things when each side uses those terms. And that is why there is no bipartisanship on this issue, nor will there be any until the two sides get a translator/
The easiest way to summarize this semantic difference is to say that the liberals – the Democrats – live on Main Street and want to focus on improving their improving their neighborhood, while the conservatives – the Republicans live on Wall Street and want to focus on fixing up their neighborhood. But Wall Street is not Main Street. In fact, that confusion of streets is what got us into this mess in the first place and we will not see the road to recovery until we end that confusion.
Let me offer a simple explanation of the difference between the two positions and how each side uses the same terms to refer to diametrically opposed concepts. In the process, we will come to understand the fundamental differences that divide the two parties.

Main Street is a euphemism used used to refer to average middle-class Americans. Although the left and the r9ight have somewhat different notions of what constitutes the middle class in the
USA, both side agree that the middle class is the backbone of the American social fabric. Both sides also agree that the middle class represents the largest voting bloc in the American electorate, which is why the middle class is so important in American politics.

As I said above, the left and the right have somewhat different notions of what constitutes the middle class. These opposing notions not only inform each side’s stand on policy issues, these differences inform the dialogue on those issues, so much so that it appears at times that, even though both sides use the same buzz words, the two sides are speaking two different languages.

What I want to do in this series of short articles is to offer some insights into the semantics of the discourse between the left and the right in order to help you understand what these politicians are really saying, and perhaps facilitate the dialogue over policy issues in these difficult times. We will start next time with a look at what each side means when they talk about the middle class.

The Promised Land

I wrote this Tuesday [January 20], but was not able to proof or publish it until today. I decided to leave the verb tenses in the present rather than potentially destroy the feel of this post. Hope you enjoy it!

Today is a very historic day in American history. Today we inaugurate the first African=-American President in our history. The fact that yesterday was the national holiday honoring Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. adds special significance to today. if that is even possible.

Dr.King often drew parallels between himself and his tole in the civil rights movement to that of Moses leading his people out of bondage. He said in one speech that he has been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land. He also said that he may not get there with us – a most prophetic statement.

Moses never got to the promised land either. The person who led the Israelites into the promised land was a younger man, Joshua. And just as Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land, perhaps Barack Obama will be our Joshua and lead us, all Americans irregardless of race, creed, or color, into the promised land, whereAmerica finally lives up to the promise of the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. Continue reading

The Worthlessness of Political Opinion polls: A Case In Point

One of the most common tools for political research, and I use the word research very generously, is the opinion poll. Political candidates use polls to see how the voters feel about them, especially during or leading up to an election campaign. Political pundits, especially those in the media, use them to, in their eyes, substantiate their opinions, usually formed prior to the polls.

The problem with polls is that they are often misleading and generally worthless. Here’s why. Polls tend to use what they call samples from the population group, say all US voters, whose opinions the poll is supposed to represent. But these statistical samples are quite often fallacious and ridiculously too low to really represent the population they claim they represent. A classic example of this is a poll about who the voters of New York State feel should be appointed to replace Hillary  Clinton when she officially resigns her US Senate seat to become Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, a private polling service that focuses on the Northeast, conducted this poll at least twice and compares the results of those two surveys. My first issue with their statistical sample is whether the two surveys, about three weeks apart, surveyed the exact same individuals or whether each survey asked the questions of two different, probably randomly generated, lists of sample New York State voters. I do not care how accurate they claim their statistical samples are, unless they surveyed the same individuals in both surveys, their claim of a statistical error factor of +/- 2.4% is pure fiction. Only by measuring the same sample in a study over time can you really claim to have an accurate picture of changes in that sample. Anything else is scientifically invalid. Continue reading

Back To Politics: The Bailout Revisited

Sometimes I absolutely hate computers! I had the rough draft of thus post all written and was trying to save it when I guess I hit the wrong key and accidentally shut the computer off, losing everything I had written. So, now I am trying to rewrite the same post, What you are reading is the result of that rewrite. Hopefully, it will be better than the original was, which, if I say so myself, was not too shabby!
 
 What also makes this rewrite interesting is that I am writing sitting at the dining room table, the first time I have ever done a post not sitting at my desk. I have to use my external flexible keyboard because I cannot read the gray letters on the built-in keyboard, but I am using the built-in mouse, which is quite different from my external optical mouse. Those o you Iwo are familiar with laptops will know what I am talking about.
 
 I know I said I was not going to return to discussing politics until after the Inauguration, but when somebody starts doing their job before they are even getting paid for it, that’s worth talking about. And when that person is the President-elect, then it’s really worth talking about.
  Continue reading

The Real Cause of the Decline of American Politics

What follow is a quote from an email I got from friend of mine who got it from a friend of his who got it form a friend… You know how this works, right? Any, I’ve removed the names to protect the guilty.

The follow-on is a funny and true story shared with me by [name removed] who teaches Government at [name removed] High School . In one of [his] classes, they were discussing the qualifications to be president of the United States . It was pretty simple:

The candidate must be a natural born citizen of at least 35 years of age.

However, one girl in the class immediately started in on how unfair was the requirement to be a natural born citizen. In short, her opinion was this requirement prevented many capable individuals from becoming president.

[The teacher] and the class were just taking it in and letting her rant, but everyone’s jaw hit the floor when she wrapped up her argument by stating, “What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country than one born by c-section?!”

And someday she’ll vote! Continue reading

More DoubleSpeak From Bush Administration

The required transfer in four weeks of all of the Bush White House’s electronic mail messages and documents to the National Archives has been imperiled by a combination of technical glitches, lawsuits and lagging computer forensic work, according to government officials, historians and lawyers.

Bush e-mails may be secret a bit longer

That is what George Orwell called Doublespeak.Translated it means that George Busn and/or his cronies want to keep certain curcial and obviously damning information out of the hands of people who might want to prosecute Bush administration officials for their misdeeds during the eight years of the Bush administration. Anytime anyoe wantts to deny public access to computer records, they always claim there are technical issues, What they mean is they need more time to clean the digital trail.

This is the Bush version of the Nicon Watergate tapes. Just as we, the Americn people, will never know the whole truth of Nixon.s involvement in the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up, so we will never know how much Bush knew about the truth of the intelligence community misrepresentations of the situtation in Iraq or the torture of Iraqi prisoners or any of the other things Bush is sorry for now that he is leaving office. Personally, I doubt heis sorry about anything, including the economic crisis we are in now. Continue reading

A Day Without Gay

I wish I had heard about this protest, scheduled for tomorrow, a bit earlier so I could have helped spread the word sooner, but late is better than never. A gay couple from West Hollywood is calling for gays and gay rights supporters, like me, to take the day off from work tomorrow to protest referenda in California, Florida and Arizona banning same-sex marriage. These referenda were passed in the aftermath of the California Supreme Court decision last year that declared laws banning same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. The supporters of same-sex marriage now want, and this is the proper way to deal with this issue, federal legislation protecting the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

Contrary to what the religious fundamentalists may say, marriage is first and foremost a legal social contract that provides certain legal responsibilities and privileges to the married couple. It is not a religious arrangement unless the couple decide to make it such and there is a religious ceremony in addition to or in lieu of the civil ceremony. My wife and I were married in the Cook County court house in 199. We would have liked a church wedding, but there were issues back then that made a church wedding impractical. We are planning our church wedding for out twentieth anniversary in 2011.

Does that mean we feel we are less married than, say, someone who was married in St. Peter’s Basilica performed by the Pope himself, or married in Westminster Abbey in London by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or married in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC by the late Billy Graham? Not really and we certainly have not been denied any legal marital rights because the Roman Catholic church, my wife’s childhood religious affiliation, does not recognize our marriage because I have been divorced and therefore, considers our three children to be bastards. This is from a religious institution with a history of clerical pedophilia and institutional cover-ups of that history. Guess what I think about their opinion of my marriage! Continue reading