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  1. (Originally posted 1/05; my replies indented)

    I was so sick of the election fracas I didn’t want to even think about replying to this until now. I had read it, and knew you’d written a very reasoned, thoughtful article only vaguely based on the election, and still didn’t want to think about it that hard.

    You charmer, you. ;)

    Have you found and read the professor’s book?

    Not yet. I’m still contentedly working my way through the small ton of books I’ve received as C-mas gifts this year. It’s on my (ever-growing, eek! ;) list of Books to Find Someday, though.

    I think your concern and dislike of the us vs. them attitude is admirable. As was pointed out in the comments (how much this election means to us should be visible by the number of comments you got to this article; most and most thoughtful I’ve seen to any you’ve written) this is a tactic being deliberately used by both major parties. Both seem to think it to their advantage, and maybe it is. It’s reprehensible.

    One thing I’m particularly sick of is the dividing of the country into “red” and “blue” states, and the way that’s now being bandied about as a simple matter of fact. How does this help? I can only think of one way — it makes it easier for media to discuss a complex issue in the thirty seconds they allocated to it. It hurts a great deal, and turns us against each other, which is the last thing we need.

    So, in short, I agree with you. I think this was a hot issue that you handled very well, and I wish people would stop being so divisive about many things and looking for the easy answer that requires no thought.

    Thank you! -and I quite agree. I think it’d be lovely if a time came when people didn’t fear well-considered, long-term thoughts and responsibilities, and relied on reason rather than terrified, knee-jerk emotionalism.

    I hope that I, unlike some others, got the point of your article.

    Heh. You’re fun. I shall, however, remain discreetly silent. ;)

  2. Hi Collie,

    I was very hesitant to read this, in fact, dreading it. You know how reticent I am to discuss politics with you. I only checked it on Saturday when I was home. Because I had seen the partisanship boil over into some very harsh acrimony on Live journal, and I did not want to delve into another screed about politics, I have been very careful about what links I click these days. Watching “friends”, and communities come apart on LJ wasn’t fun. No politicians there, but a lot of hysterics. (It wasn’t balanced, but that is beside the point of your article). Thankfully your article was not all about that, but about the lack of issues, which I noticed, and a lack of thinking, versus feeling. It’s not that the issues weren’t there, but you had to dig around on some somewhat dry and esoteric websites to find them. The campaigns were, as another correspondent said, a very calculated Marketing campaign. Thanks for the calm.

    And that goes into two items.

    Item 1, was about the book on the various Upbringing. Well having been raised by the “Strict Father”, I am fairly rules based. About having no empathy with those that break the rules? Exactly on the point. My thought about a harsh penalty for someone is usually “It’s about time”. No empathy there. There might be some relation to Royal Navy Crews that distrusted Captains that spared the lash as being weak, or conciliatory?

    The Second Item was more of seeing the points and issues spoken plainly on a forum. I am on Polycount,and have been for 8 years now (since it was called the Quake 2 Player Model Project,or Q2PMP), and in that tie, the make up of the forum has changed quite a bit. Originally it was mostly gamers with some art talent, hobbyists, and a few pros that worked on games, generally restricted to the U.S. to Artists, 3d school art students, and Many many Europeans. This has resulted in a dramatic leftward tilt, especially in the last 2 years or so. So I watched the forum I used to just leave on in the background and toss the occasional tip and trick to, degenerate into this oily patch of Leftist politics and anti-American-ism. I stayed mostly out of the political threads, until at one point, someone said something really dumb, and incorrect, where upon, I had a recent batch of links proving his statement wrong, and I dropped a “fact Bomb” on the thread, and oddly that quieted a lot of the arguments. A couple of fol

    I guess it’s the tone you take. and if you can blunt their attacks with carefully chosen facts, you can eventually calm things down. Then again with the “Second Place is the first Loser” mentality, and the general selectivity of the media… It’s a difficult road.

  3. (Originally posted 10/04)

    The 2000 election demonstrated our voting methodology doesn’t work. Along with several other notable folks, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were on a non-partisan comission exploring ways to improve America’s voting methods.

    Their recommendations were, of course, ignored. Carter talks about it in a fascinating interview on Fresh Air, titled President Carter Tries Hand at Fiction.

    The interview starts out with Carter discussing his newest book. Hang on, though — the rest of the interview is startling. What makes it so fascinating is what Carter reveals about our voting process. He talks about fairness in elections and how his own organization — devoted to helping starting democracies have fair elections — could not help the United States with their own elections because we don’t meet four important criteria:

    1) All qualified candidates must have equal access to the public through the media, and that access must be free

    2) There must be a central, non-partisan election commission recognized by the involved parties

    3) All people should vote in exactly the same way, whether that is paper ballot, punch card, touch screen, or whatever

    4) If there is a technological way to vote, and the vote is very close, there must be a viable method for physical recounts.

    Shockingly, America does not qualify for any of these criterion.

  4. (Originally posted 10/04; my replies indented)

    Honest debate! Wonderful!

    *blink* Surely it’s not that rare? ;)

    In the line of “full Disclosure”:
    1) Politically, I style myself as a Conservative Libertarian … but I ususlly find that I agree with the (so called) Republican POV vs the Democratic.

    2) I seldom read any newspaper … but I look at the net news oftern (at least daily).

    3) But I still think all of our news media have a (usually conscious) liberal bias.

    4) I believe ALL politicians of ALL sides are dishonest.


    1) While I am fond of universals such as “everybody”, I an very aware of the error of this. It is just easier than continually adding waffles like “for the most part”, & etc.

    2) I am opinionated. I am sure this is not a surprise. Also, I do not think I have agreed with anything any one person has said/thought.

    *innocent look* YOU, Jim?! Oh, say it ain’t so! ;)

    There is more I could say, but this is probably too much already!

    No worries! I like discussing issues; all I ask is for thoughtful and considered responses.

    In a nation where the average IQ is now (supposidly) 110 but high school graduates are unable to read the newspaper you are surprised that radio/TV/politics/advertising/etc is pointed toward the idiotic?

    That’s not what I’m actually discussing in this Firestarter article. The issue I’m addressing is mindless partisanship. As an example, an individual can be “not terribly bright” and yet still realize an issue is more than just black or white.

    Furthermore, I should hope the article shows I’m not surprised by this raving partisanship. I’m irritated with it, and I’m suggesting we all vote with our dollars by refusing to financially support individuals, shows, or other media forms which insist on giving us patronizingly dumbed down, incomplete versions of complex issues.

    This I agree with 100%

    Zero-Sum vs Win-Win … letting the other guy have ANYTHING is seen as a loss. Again–Why are you surprised?

    See my reply above regarding surprise.

    Regarding “letting the other guy have anything,” not everyone thinks letting the other guy have anything is a loss, Jim. I think you’re getting a little binary in your reactions here. ;)

    Correct. but while the “I get it all, you get nothing” attitude is NOT universal, it is altogether too d*mn common.

    quoted from the Firestarter article: “The reason there are two sides to begin with usually is because neither side has all the facts. Therefore, when the wise mediator effects a compromise, he is not acting from political motivation. Rather, he is acting from a deep sense of respect for the whole truth.” — Stephen R. Schwambach

    Sorry, his assumption is BS. People with all of the identical facts view them differently because people are different.

    *sigh* Jim, he’s just pointing out it’s hard to get all the facts, and it’s wise to keep in mind (when arguing) that you may not have all the relevant data. As an example, I think your reaction does more to support his statement than refute it. ;)

    That is a sort of Occam’s Razor … Take the easiest path and yelling is easier thsn thinking.

    So I see. ;)

    quoted from the Firestarter article: “None but ourselves can free our minds.” — Bob Marley

    This from a man with 13 children by different women–who never married.

    I’m sorry, I missed the relevancy of this comment. How does his having a lot of children out of wedlock relate to freeing one’s mind?

    I feel entitled to comment on anything in the article… including random quotes.

    BTW, Artistically Marley was wonderful & etc. But his personal life –like that of many entertainers–wasn’t. This is why, when I see actors etc endorsing ANYTHING/ANYBODY political, my usual comment is along the lines of “Yeah, Right”.

    I admit, I think “artistic” types would do best to stick to their profession, rather than spouting off half-cocked on issues where they’re showing their painful ignorance.

    Then again, I tend to lean towards making up one’s own mind — moronic appeals to authority (i.e. “Arnie will make a great governor ’cause the Terminator will show those terrorists what-for!”) do not impress me. ;-p

    Actually, I believe rebelling (against parental agendas) is much more common then comforming to them.

    Quite possible, but not really the issue here. However, I’d be interested in any data you had to support that assertion, as there may well be another potential Firestarter article there.

    Nothing written, just thoughts of my friends & others I have met.

    Standard lawyer idealogue: If the law ia against you–argue the facts. If the facts are against you–argue the law. If both are against you–scream like hell!

    Okay. Um… I’m sorry, I missed the point you were making here. Were you supporting or refuting, please?

    Just a random comment about Goethe’s quote.

    In my opinion, the “best” political commentator out there is Jon Stewart–a comedian. While I don’t usually agree with him, I think he actually thinks more & better than those talking heads.

    You must’ve been quite pleased with the links in the Readers’ Comments section, then. Cool! ;)

  5. (Originally posted 10/04; my replies indented)>

    Howdy Collie,

    An interesting article. Politics is not a topic you normally tackle.

    Thank you! Well, strictly speaking I’m not even tackling it now — my main irritation is with the really dreadful argumentation technique both sides are wallowing in.

    This is a particularly partisan and polarizing election. However, it is important to put recent politics into a historical context. Here are some factors that have led to increased polarization:

    1) In 2000 Bush won the presidency in the Electoral College but not in the popular vote. The two other times this happened in American history the following presidential campaign was very partisan and the incumbent lost.

    2) Bush’s Electoral College only win (and the intervention of the Supreme Court) led some Democrats to consider Bush’s Presidency illegitimate. This would tend to energize and polarize them.

    3) The fact that Bush has governed as a conservative (pushing through conservative policies like tax cuts and education reform) angers some Democrats even more than his election. I can’t count the number of articles I’ve read from Democrats who effectively said “Since Bush was elected without a mandate he had a duty to compromise and governed as a moderate”.

    The 2000 election left the Presidency, Senate, and House in Republican hands. There was little political reason for Bush to compromise in his first term. This is standard historical practice. For example, in 1992, Ross Perot’s strong third party showing reduced the vote totals of the major parties.

    Bill Clinton was elected with a much smaller percentage of the popular vote (43.01%) than Bush got (47.87%) . Clinton came to office with the Democrats controlling the House and Senate, so he ignored congressional Republicans and pushed through legislation on Democrat only votes.

    It was only after Democrats lost control of the House and Senate in 1994 that Clinton moved toward the center and passed policies like NAFTA and welfare reform. If the 2004 election leaves Bush in office, but puts the Democrats in charge of the House and/or Senate, Bush will have to move toward the center as well.

    Politically quite reasonable, yes. I admit, it’s not an issue which bothered me much. As far as I’ve seen, those in power will do any and everything they think they can get away with. Their credo (and I include all politicians in this) seems to be: “Why compromise if you don’t have to?” Therefore to see a politician behave this way is, quite frankly, to be expected.

    4) The electorate is very closely split between Republicans and Democrats on the presidential level. Some call it the 50/50 nation. This is not an accident. Both parties carefully use marketing techniques, like focus groups and polls, to craft policies and positions to attract voters. Any time one side gets a bit of an advantage, the other side quickly reacts and takes back lost ground. Unless there is a mismatch in the campaigning ability of the candidates, both sides will tend to remain close.

    Also, in this election the public is considered to be so polarized that there are few undecided voters. One recent national poll showed 0% undecided voters for the first time ever!

    Nether candidate is pitching their message “toward the middle” in order to attract swing voters. Rather, they are delivering “red meat” speeches attacking their opponents to energize their party base. Both sides are convinced that the way to win this election is to get an extra 10% of the “party faithful” to vote rather than trying to sway 1% of the nearly non-existent swing voters.

    Here’s where I start getting annoyed with the political parties, as I personally loathe ad hominem attacks. I consider this type of argumentation the (often over-emotional) resort of those lacking in intelligence and imagination.

    5) We are in a controversial war. Support for the war is split about 50/50, just like support for the parties. Because of the war, the stakes in the election are much higher than normal. The high stakes tend to polarize people.

    Sometimes people remember back to a previous “golden age” when politics was less partisan. First, such reminisces are partially a myth. Politics has almost always been a contact sport and some of the best politicians had sharp elbows.

    Let me interject here for just a moment, to make sure my points are clear — I have no issue with partisan politics which use good argumentation or clever repartee, and I think partisanship is a sign of an issue worth caring about. But let’s look at some of the definitions of partisan (excluding the one about 16th C pikes ;-):

    noun: a fervent and even militant proponent of something
    noun: an ardent and enthusiastic supporter of some person or activity
    adjective: devoted to a cause or party
    adjective: affiliated with one party or faction
    adjective: adhering or confined to a particular sect or denomination or party

    Nowhere does the definition say you must be a hysterically raving mental midget to be a partisan! This is the issue — quite possibly the only one, although I’ve not considered it overly much yet — I have with current politics.

    Framing complex issues as moronically simplistic good vs. evil, black vs. white, conservative vs. liberal, us vs. them is — quite simply — a national embarrassment. It’s like this mythical partisan “they” think we’re too stupid to grasp the issues unless they feed the issues to us in tiny, pre-chewed-pabulum sound bites — which have no flavor, consistency, or exploration of the true issue.

    Frankly, it’s insulting. Do they think we’re emotional children who’ll cry and run away if given difficult things to consider and vote on? If they trust us so little, why do they even bother with us at all? Oh, wait… that’s what the Electoral College is for, right? Sorry, my crankiness is showing. I don’t appreciate being talked down to by self-classified pundits.

    Anyway, back to your points. Sorry for the interruption, and I’ll paste in the entirety of #5 so it’s clearer:

    5) We are in a controversial war. Support for the war is split about 50/50, just like support for the parties. Because of the war, the stakes in the election are much higher than normal. The high stakes tend to polarize people.

    Sometimes people remember back to a previous “golden age” when politics was less partisan. First, such reminisces are partially a myth. Politics has almost always been a contact sport and some of the best politicians had sharp elbows. But long serving congress people have remarked upon a loss of a collegiate atmosphere. This is a byproduct of a couple of factors:

    a) For decades the House and Senate were effectively ruled by one party, the Democrats. Before 1994, the Democrats controlled the House for over 40 years. They controlled the Senate the majority of that time. There was little chance that they would loose that control. So, it was necessary for Republican Congressmen and Presidents to cooperate in order to govern.

    A friend was a congressional aid for a Republican House member during the later days of Democratic control of the House. He told me that after 40 years out of power, many Republican House members were a pretty dispirited lot. Since the Republicans felt they had no chance to regain power, they didn’t fight very hard.

    Today, both Republicans and Democrats know that the change of a few seats in the House or Senate could cause a change of who is in control. So both sides fight like cats and dogs over every issue to try and get the upper hand.

    Mm, unfortunately good description there. Reasoned debate seems to have gone out the door to avoid all the sound and fury, and we all know what that signifies. :(

    b) Campaigns were cheaper in the past. Congressmen had less need to collect huge sums of money for reelection campaigns. Many members of congress were funded by big money contributions from local business or labor groups. They did not have to compete hard against other congressmen for funds or kowtow to their national parties for support. This made it easier for congressmen to “pal around” across party lines.

    c) Many Congressmen need the support of their national party in order to access the resources necessary to get elected. Parties control registration drives, “get out the vote” efforts, access to donors, etc. This gives the parties leverage to keep Congressmen from “straying” and getting to close to the opposition.

    Interesting; I wasn’t aware of this. Makes sense, though.

    Ultimately, there are both cyclical and structural reasons for increased partisanship. Cyclical reasons will, by definition, tend toward less partisanship at some point. Even the structural reasons (like the increasing strength of parties) tend to change over time. For example, the recent campaign finance reform slightly weakened the central parties, while making non-party interest groups (the “527s”) more powerful.

    Also, it is my guess that the public will ultimately become fed up with increasing partisanship. They will punish candidates who are seen as going “over the line”. Once a prominent politician looses office for seeming to be “too partisan” many of the rest will back off to avoid the same fate.

    Good. I can’t wait — I’m already sick of it. Quite frankly this Firestarter is my attempt to use reason to encourage folks to use more reason when considering politics — instead of buying into the current irritatingly loud and expensive histrionics being churned out by both sides.

    These are the reasons behind my feeling that the partisanship we are seeing now is near a “cyclical high”. I’ll make a prediction that the Presidential election of 2008 will be less partisan than the election of 2004.

    Can’t wait.

    Unless Hillary is the Democratic candidate. Then all bets are off. :-)

    Cynic. Not that I’m disagreeing here… ;)

    P.S. Here’s some interesting reference sources:

    Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections

    Real Clear Politics Graph of the average of major national polls.

    Wow. The Atlas is very nice and clear, but it’s the graph site which I find fascinating. How incredibly close this race is wasn’t clear to me until I realized the widest spread on the graph was only about 4 points! The graph makes it look much larger than that by how it’s laid out.

    Fascinating stuff all around. Thank you, George, for your thoughtful input!

  6. (Originally posted 10/04; my replies indented)

    I do not believe that ‘facts’ often have much to do with resolving complex questions, in the sense that legitimate scientific facts are ethical-content-free. For example, I may very well demonstrate that if you smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day your life will be shorter on the average by some number of years, but this gives no information as to whether or not you should smoke, and certainly no evidence as to whether or not coffin nails should be taxed. Do you want to live a long time, or a shorter time, given what the conditions of your life will be as a result? That sort of question has little to do with our understanding of causes of cancer.

    Umm… can you tie this into this Firestarter article with a bit more context, please, George? You lost me there. ;)

  7. (Originally posted 10/04; my replies indented)

    I had some idea of this already, though it was unthinking cynicism on my part rather than logical deduction. I expect politicians to lie, I expect them to massage statistics, I expect politicians to put their side in the rosiest light possible and paint the other side in the muck and mire.

    I like your article. The guest has some very good points. I do think it requires an election such as this one, where most people would agree it’s down to the persons and not the platforms, to highlight the points he makes.

    Speaking of politics, someone sent me a link to an interview with Jon Stewart, on the TV show Crossfire. Jon Stewart is the comedian who hosts Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, which is pretty much a satire of news shows. (From Collie: if the link is down, try here)

    Apparently Stewart was saying the modern media is hurting America by focusing on the arguing and the diatribes between the two parties. One of his comments is: “That would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that’s [i.e. saying Crossfire is a debate show] like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.”

    Oh my god, Stewart’s fantastic! Poor man — they’re just dodging his question as to why they fight, and ignoring his repeated requests to stop it. If only more of us asked difficult questions of idiot partisan hacks!

    I watched the video of the interview too, at the URL you gave me, and you’re right — Stewart’s so sincere, and they so don’t want to hear it! This is just incredibly sad. He’s practically begging them to stop, and they’re just ignoring him entirely.

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