Posts tagged ‘data’

Noise, Total Noise, Smoke and Mirrors

What we are getting right now is noise, smoke and mirrors. Why did he do it? Who cares, because the next one will be a different why? We pretend we will get some kind of closure when we know why, I guess because we think if we know why we can protect ourselves. But the next nut job will have a different why. Take the last big shootings, Sandy Hook, the Virginia Tech Shooting, and the Pulse Club in Florida.

What is the common denominator, their type of craziness, or the assault weapons they used. Oh, and you will feel so much better because look, look, even the NRA is moving to “talk” about banning bump stocks. Note that sales are soaring just in case they do. Unless we do an Australia, we haven’t even moved the needle, yet we are so excited that the NRA and Republicans will let us talk about bumps. I am just giddy. It would appear that the more guns we have, the more we need to protect ourselves from others who have guns. Maybe if I was carrying a rocket launcher I could have taken out that nut job shooting from the 32nd floor.  I wonder when we will ever have a real debate.

I listened to one Republican dissembler tell us that we need to debate and study this issue of bump stocks. Responsible people don’t over react (like tax or healthcare reform).  How long have we been looking at this? More noise, smoke, and mirrors. Remember guns don’t kill people, people do, but guns makes it so much more efficient and effective. So why is it again that we keep handing them more and more dangerous and lethal ways to go postal?  See nukes are not the problem, people are.  See the irrational logic line here?

Almost everywhere I look it is smoke and mirrors, noise instead of real change. Tax reform is a joke. Real tax reform is hard. Everyone has a vested interest and we don’t start from the same place. What has to be paid for before we going giving away treasury? No agreement there so this is nothing but a tax slash for the wealthy which is the only economic policy position Republicans know.

Climate change is happening, and we have just had three of the most disastrous storms we have seen in hundreds of years, predicted by global warming, and who is the lead of the EPA (a climate change denier), and now the Dotard in Charge (DIC) is appointing a coal lobbyist as the second in command at EPA. His boys and girls (Cabinet/White House staff) are using their private emails (lock her up) and flying around the country on private jets at your and my expense, and he is draining the swamp? Oh did I mention he is meeting with the generals on North Korea (“Calm before the storm”), and wants to change the Iran agreement? Meanwhile the Republicans are stonewalling the Russia investigation. It’s noise, smoke, and mirrors while the country slides backwards into chaos.

Now that I have thoroughly depressed you unless you are a LD (Little Dotard, Trump base), let me try to show you how we got on this path of ignorance. Right after the shooting in Las Vegas I heard an interview with a woman who was spouting the conventional wisdom about bringing the country back together. “We just need to start listening to each other. We need to lower the rhetoric and listen and try to understand the other side. Then maybe we can find common solutions.” Sounds great doesn’t it? It is horse shit. Pabulum for those who have not been paying attention. It’s pabulum because we don’t operate on the same set of facts anymore.

Were you not paying attention during the Obama years?  Much to my chagrin, because I don’t think Republicans have workable solutions, President Obama tried to compromise with them.  How many Republican votes did he get on healthcare (0).  It got to be a standing joke that even if Barack proposed a Republican plan (which he did on numerous occasions), they were against it.  There goal was to destroy the his presidency (remember Mitch McConnell’s one term President comment?).

In order to take the positions Republicans have taken and support their policies, one had to create an alternate universe, and they did.  Climate change doesn’t exist, tax cuts pay for themselves, immigrants are the root of all our economic problems, all trade agreements are bad, the EPA just hurts business with regulations, regulations in general are bad, government is bad, guns are a natural right, and they were extremely effect at then explaining away failure to act as both sides do it.  Now they are in charge, and they still can’t do anything.

But the point here is that they created a public that does not agree on a set of facts.  Does it not floor you that much of America gets their news on Facebook trending junk?  We can’t have effective solutions if we cannot come together on root cause and effect.  Republicans believe that more guns makes us safer.  How has that worked out?  Republicans believe that climate change is worst a hoax, at best not man-caused, so we do nothing as the conditions for disastrous climate changes increase.  How can all regulations be bad when many of them came from very bad situations where protections are in order? Obamacare is a disaster, but their answer for a fix is trust us, the market place will solve all issues?  The facts do not support any of their beliefs.

So back the woman who wants me to listen.  But the other side has already ended listening because I must be confused about my facts.  Why should I listen to someone who wants to take away gay, lesbian, or transgender rights?  Why would I want to listen to someone who wants to destroy Obamacare with no viable solution?  Why would I want to listen to someone wants to destroy the EPA and deny climate change?  Until we can establish again the difference between political differences and facts, there is no debate.

Let me leave you with this.  There will be no hand holding and coming together.  We have to re-establish facts before we have political debates about what to do about them.  Climate exists and is man caused.  Tax cuts in this economy do not simulate growth.  All government is not bad.  Immigrants help, not hurt our economy.  More guns are killing more people.  We live in a global economy and we need trade agreements.  If we could just start from those established facts (google them!).  Then maybe the listening could start.  But Republicans have made clear they have an alternate set of facts and no further discussion is necessary.

The only fix is that if we survive this four years, we need to hose out the White House and Congress after we throw all of the Republicans and “moderate Democrats” out, and get about the business of governing again.  We deal with facts, data, and science, develop policies based upon them, and if they need fixing, we do not have an ideological agenda or wanting to believe something that prevents us from doing just that.  It is just amazing to me that the real ideologues are not progressives who can change, but Republicans who cannot, and yet somehow we all just need to hold hands.  Bull shit.

Are The Major News Networks Losing Viewership, Justifiably So?

img_1037

Miss Kitty this morning helping me with this post before it is off to the vineyard before it gets too hot.


They should, they have lost mine. Insipid is the word.  Watching both conventions was much better served on CSPAN where you actually saw the convention and the speakers instead of talking heads talking over the convention.  And I guess I wouldn’t mind the talking heads if they had anything to really say, but they didn’t.  There is a real conversation out there about policies and our way forward and that got left out.  It was style over substance in almost every case.  Yes, Barack Obama is a powerful speaker and his style is to be admired, Hillary less so and she does like to raise her voice when she does not need to, but, uh, what did they say?  What was the meat of their speech?  What were they proposing and what do we know about how it would work?  Was the reality they were describing true?

Why did it take Hillary to point out that the Donald in his convention proposed no policies?  You can’t say that about Hillary as she laid out what she was going to do.  And if you were listening closely she stayed away from her fights with Bernie, only promising to make the minimum wage a living wage, not $15/hour.  She promised to end trade agreements that hurt working people, not vote against the TPP. And it goes on.  I actually think these are smart policies because just taking the living wage, $15/hour in San Francisco or New York may not be enough, and $15/hour in anywhere in Mississippi is over the top.  I have already weighed in on the TPP.

I mostly watch MSNBC or CNN when MSNBC is backsliding (talking head spinning facts), but their coverage of both conventions was miserable.  Maybe it is their idea to be more “fair and balanced” but the he said/she said is growing instead of insightful examination of what someone said.  Just my opinion, but Brian Williams brings nothing to the party except to stifle real insight, while Rachel Maddow seemed like a mute kitten instead of the liberal digging she usually does.  The one bright spot was Chuck Todd who seemed to immediately grasp what was going on.

But my point is not to trash MSNBC, they are all milk toast these days, captured by access.  Let’s have some Donald or Hillary surrogate to spin what is happening and not take him or her apart challenging them with reality.  Oh, I get it.  They are afraid of losing access to high party officials if they get challenged too much. Watch them all run to Fox news.  So we are all dumbed down.  Of course there were a few exceptions like when the Bernie supporter was challenged on “trusting Bernie” but not trusting him on getting behind Hillary.  But they were few and far between.  You know they are failing when you watch an interview and you have a hundred questions you would have asked and they did not.

Yes they are out there reporting what people are saying, but most people are full of shit.  And to be polite there is no pushback.  Some people are just spouting nonsense as the Bernie supporter who tells us they will vote Libertarian and fails to be challenged on the fact that it will damage everything they are fighting for.  There has to be some underlying gate keeping of reality and facts and the news media has relegated that to he said/she said, with one exception, Fox News.  The problem with Fox is they actually do have a political agenda so between carefully sifting out facts that don’t support their beliefs to outright lying, they have become a propaganda machine for the Right Wing.  But facts, data, and science are not partisan, but in this day and age they seem so as they badly hurt Republicans.  I guess that is the problem.  Can’t offend or you lose access.

But the biggest problem is that the TV news media has developed their own bubble.  It is called a narrative. It is a logical construct, or story line if you will, that allows us to organize ideas and events into an understandable flow of events.  But once it is established, reality has a hard time shaking it loose.  News pundits have become “celebrities” and they travel in their own circles and the narratives reinforce themselves in the echo chamber of that bubble.  Then when they “talk to the people” they are getting the reinforcing feedback of a narrative that they have created and propagated.

Let’s name a few:  The equivalency of both sides do it.  According to Politico the Donald is wrong 76% of the time and Hillary only 26%.  At the conventions, the Donald mostly lied while Hillary did not.  So both sides lie?  Remember the one about things would just get done in Washington if Barack had a few more drinks with guys from the other side?  How about the one where people can have honest differences of opinion and you have to respect both sides when the facts overwhelming favor only one side?  Global Warming and the press’s disgraceful treatment of it as a difference of opinion for years comes to mind.  If you really think about it, Bernie Sanders’ whole presidential run was based on attacking those conventional wisdoms that no longer are wise.

The big one right now is about the caricature of Hillary Clinton.  The whole Democratic convention was about trying to change that narrative.  Propaganda or facts?  That is what the press is supposed to do, clarify.  But they aren’t.  They are focused on form over substance, conflict over real news.  Why a white pants suit?  Did the convention give her a bounce?  Was she shrill?  Was there backstage fighting?  Were there too many balloons.  Who gives a fuck?

Did she offer an America that was achievable?  If she could pass what she proposed, would it help?  Is it even relevant that given politics today, most won’t pass?  Are they the right policies based upon data and research?  Wouldn’t that inform us who we need to vote for next time? Are the small percentage of Bernie supporters who are diddle heads relevant at all in this election?  Was there way too much coverage of them considering their small numbers?  If you asked the same questions at the Donald convention, they would have appeared partisan because there were no policies except a wall which is not buildable.  That’s a fact they are afraid to say because they then appear partisan.  Well the facts are partisan when one party is firmly settled in fantasy land.  But facts tell us who is shoveling shit and living in that fantasy land.

The American News Media has failed us miserably and they appear to have learned nothing.  They have dumbed us down and rushed around to find conflict which sells as entertainment increasing viewer share instead of providing  us with the information to think critically.  They have developed narratives that misinforms us about what is really going on.  Real news would report what is happening and be a gate-keeper on facts, data, and science so the Donald Trumps of the world would never be running for President.  Ask yourself why we would need Politicofact.com if they were doing their jobs?  When the dust settles after this election, maybe we ought to step back and ask ourselves if in a robust democracy is our news media providing us with the facts to make good decisions or just a bullhorn for he said/she said?  And maybe we ought to do something about that.

I will leave you with this, another false narrative.  The profit motive is the best motivator of innovation and progress.  It could be, but all we have to do is look at our news media, think of what its proper function is in a democracy, to have real questions about that narrative.  Then there is healthcare…  Have a good weekend.  Oh, and for those trying to improve your golf game, the Women’s PGA is on.  Women golfers in general are much more technically refined than men and watching their game can improve yours.  I think it is once again that dancing backward in high heel thing.

So Why do They do That

One of my favorite enigmas is why conservatives and about half of our population ignore data that provide answers to most of our problems. I have always been curious about why people do things, maybe to understand my own behavior and those around me better. So through the years I have taken courses and studied the human psyche, but I certainly am no expert. I think that is why I did so much reading on economics. That is psychology in action.

At any rate, one of the things that I find fascinating is our inability to recognize the obvious. The Pope was in the Philippines and one of the more touching photo ops was when a young abandoned girl about 8 years old broke into tears asking,

“Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.” … “Visibly moved, the Pope said: “She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears.”

Now there is a very simple answer here, just one not allowed in a religious world. There is no God. Now this is not an argument for or against God, I am just making the point that ideology closes our minds to many possible answers.

Paul Krugman has struggled with this as he finds the economic data about what we should be doing overwhelming, but troubled by the denial of that data by conservatives. He, like me, is trying to find what is driving this focused blindness and he offers this as a plausible explaination:

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?

…Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. … And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.

I only think this is a piece of the puzzle. While this is true, there are more basic things in play like fear and lack of empathy. The real question is how to overcome this to do what needs to be done. Paul is not sanguine:

Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.

I think we have to be face down in the gutter before we say, let’s change. Those that have the money and the power have the least incentive to change and the most incentive to convince us we are not face down in the gutter to keep things just they way they are. How else do you explain why we are destroying our ecosystem and looking the other way?