Saturday, September 21, 2013

Intent to Harm

September 21, 2013

Dear Reader,

I want to thank you for being patient with me while I have taken a long hiatus. Life has been full of too much Change and politics is not front and center in my life. Posting this is worth my time though. I have great respect for a great many politicians who are working hard to make America a better place. Politicians on both sides of the party lines and some of those in the middle too. But not all of them.

I am going to present you with this:

Now the ultra-conservative views of these people are based off of radically different religious texts, and I actually agree with much of the Judeo-Christian morality, but at the heart of the issue we have two groups of different people acting with the same type of zealot behavior. Now, I think Al Qaeda is horrible, violent, and their acts and ideology based on the misuse of the Islamic texts are atrocious. I am not praising them in any way.

Go back and read the definition of terrorism: "the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal" At what point does threatening to shut down our government, harm our economy, and physically harm normal citizens (because, yes, taking jobs, investments, and healthcare from people has mortal consequences) cross a line from political wrangling to outright terrorism? By definition it is when they act on that threat.

At this point, if we were in the same room having a conversation around, say, a plate of cookies and some coffee, you might say to me, "Look, they don't intend to actually act on the threat. The leaders of the Republican Party in the House don't actually want to shut down the government or cause the US to default on it's loans. They are just using a political tool to manipulate their opponents."

In turn I would answer with this. These people are elected to a position of power and put in charge of making the rules by which our federal government runs. At what point in their back-room conversations did someone forget to raise a hand and say, "You know, this plan to threaten the government is only separated from becoming terrorism in definition by a word or two. Maybe threatening terrorism is a bad idea." At what point does intent cross the grey line to action? Is a murderer only guilty when the person dies? We have laws against attempting and threatening violence too. Regardless of the Republican intent or whether they will actually act on a plan, under no circumstance should they even consider approaching, much less crossing, that grey line and threatening or using terror against their own people.

What do we do when the actions and ideologies of our own elected Representatives parallel the stated goals of a terrorist organization? How can we even consider that appropriate?

It isn't and we can't.


The Letter Writer

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Facts Don't Lie!

February 23, 2012

Dear Readers,

I think this speaks for itself:

It's appropriately ugly and a surprisingly accurate historical snapshot. 

"That's not fair," you say, "you have to put those things in context, Lincoln was fighting the Civil War!" No, it's not fair, but every one of those facts is true and the facts don't lie, do they? Lincoln is now considered one of the greatest presidents to ever serve the United States, but he was unpopular in his day. He won the 1860 election for the newly formed Republican party, but in 1864 they didn't even nominate him. Lincoln was too moderate for their progressive anti-slave agenda. Lincoln formed his own party and even then only barely captured a majority of the popular vote (consider that the Southern States didn't even vote in that election).

Here is the modern day equivalents of that graphic:
This one from an actual congressman, Allen West (House Republican from Florida)
Another one stumbled across with a Google search.
...and there are others floating around Facebook and the like that I have seen.

There are basic math errors here and both have questionable or non-existent sources. No explanation for whether the numbers are averages or if the min and max are even from the same geographical regions. More importantly, the context, history, and trends behind the numbers are absent, not to mention outright ignorance about what events created the fluctuation in those statistics to begin with. They just list facts... facts devoid of anything else to put them in proper context. The point is they are no different than the graphic about Lincoln up there.

This is sad because I think the intent is good and there might be some truth buried behind the bad implementation. We need healthy political debate and public scrutiny of what our business leaders, congressmen, and the president are doing. I would take a well written analysis very seriously. Neither of these are a well written or proper statistically supported analysis though. These are just badly done and misleading graphics (on a number of levels) designed to simply illicit a directed emotional response from the core Republican supporters. In my opinion Mr. West is acting in an irresponsible way as an elected leader when he could have produced something worthwhile and even earned my appreciation.

If you haven't read my previous letter, you should. I am well aware that "there is someone wrong on the Internet" will never go away, but it needs to be stated that the facts can and do lie if the person producing them is misrepresenting the data and that is the quickest way for a politician to lose my respect.


The Letter Writer


Dear Mr Lincoln,

I mean no disrespect to your memory. I can say without reservation, that no other president has worked harder or in more toxic circumstances to preserve our nation's solidarity. That is why I hope you won't mind if I invoke your legacy as an example to illustrate the dangers of misguiding and dividing the public opinion in divisive ways. At least I didn't turn you into a vampire fighting action hero, though it is cool that you accomplished that as well.


Someone who thinks you were a great President

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Truth Is Out There

February 22, 2012

Dear Reader,

Facts are beautiful things. The ability to accurately document the world we live in and represent it with numbers that are helpful and useful and can be examined to help improve life is a true benefit of the modern age. Unfortunately, facts on their own can be misinterpreted and very commonly, simply  misrepresented in a way that skews their purpose.

Never forget that the Internet does not have an editor. It is a collection of people and ideas. When you read a magazine, newspaper, or watch a news program, there is an editorial policy they must follow. Mistakes are followed up and retracted and the better the editor and policy, the more reputable and trusted the media source is. Sure, they can slant the story, and many media outlets know exactly how to represent numbers, even properly, to make them sound better or worse to their audience. Marketers do this all the time to sell products. Saying "50% more" is not the same as "twice as much". Median and Average are not the same thing and the words you use to frame the numbers can influence how they are viewed, even if completely factual. Compare these statements: "Politician A has barely kept even half of the promises that he made to his divided constituents" and "Politician A keeps a majority of his promises to his supporters." They can both be based on the exact same number and both statements mean exactly the same thing. The difference is in the language, focus, and wording.

How about a real world example? Perhaps you have seen one of these charts on your social networks or email talking about President Obama and the national deficit. Take a look at the difference here in the charts: Dueling Debt Deceptions.

Mark Twain has a famous quote on the subject he said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It means, when someone tells you something on the Internet, it is worth looking up and double checking. People sometimes outright lie and misinformation is very easy to spread. Luckily, the Internet is a double edged sword. The ability to find the truth is also very simple, only a few Google searches away to a reputable source.

You can not show data points (or facts) without showing context and trends. It is the easiest way to skew information and it happens frequently. Politicians use it as a tool to mislead people and it is irresponsible to say the least. Do I expect them to improve? No, I don't, but I can encourage people to double check what they are told. Be your own editor on the Internet, it is actually pretty easy and there are some reputable media sites that will help you out with proper analysis and good editorial process. There is also  lot of easy to find data out there from census and government records to congressional budgets and independent surveys... all free.

These are both excellent sources for a quick check on popular issues.

I encourage you to check out the things people tell you, especially on the Internet. You don't have to "question everything" or go all paranoid, just be aware that it is in their best interest to slant things to their benefit. A Bipolitical stance means you often get to remove yourself from the rhetoric of each political party and it can allow you to see issues in a refreshingly truthful light.


The Letter Writer

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Little Family Political Gossip

February 11, 2012

Dear Readers,

I had the opportunity recently to visit with some extended family and it gave rise to a conversation very much worth sharing. I sat in a corner chatting with my grandmother while the rest of the family, mostly older aunts and uncles, turned the conversation to what can only realistically be described as political gossip. You have all heard it, it's just people spreading gossip and rumors they got off of Facebook or an email forward about so-and-so politician and then interspersing a few lame jokes to cement their already obvious political opinions. This was a group of conservatives so it was all Obama bashing and whatever dirt was out on the Republican presidential hopefuls they didn't like.

The fun part came when my grandmother leaned over and asked me, "How do you vote... are you Republican or Democrat?" I answered her as truthfully as I could with a quick little bipoliticalist viewpoint. I said, "I am neither. I vote for candidates from both parties, but before I do I find out if they agree with the things that are important to me and if they are a respectable and ethical person. I look up their personal history, their voting history, and the things other people say about them. Just because someone belongs to a certain political party doesn't mean that I agree with them. This is especially important in local politics where the decisions they make will actually affect me." I noticed the room seemed to be listening so I added, "I also have no respect or patience for people who show up to vote and mark all the R's or all the D's and don't even know know who some of the candidates are that they just voted for, or know anything besides the name and political party." She will be 100 years old if she lives a few more years and has been a Republican for as long as I have known her, but bless-her-heart, she nodded and said, "That is a very respectable way to do things." The room became awkwardly quiet and then the subject changed rather abruptly to local sports or something.

I made people uncomfortable, but I am glad that I did. We have a problem in this country with too many people taking the easy way out and voting based on superficial things. The way I vote is not easy and takes some time, but I am personally invested in the decision and I always feel good about voting, even if I misjudge a politician. Blind voting is possibly worse for the democratic process than doing nothing at all because it's just bad citizenship. If I can influence people to think about their decisions than I am doing something worthwhile.


The Letter Writer

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, A Cautionary Tale

Dear Citizens of the 21st Century,

If you are reading this, it means that Thought Police have not yet discovered this letter. Read quickly and don't think about what you read here until you are somewhere safe. My only hope of reaching you is by sending this digitally back in time to my early blog posts when the Internet was still free and perhaps by some miracle, this cautionary tale might spread and form the seeds of resistance, but I fear I might not be able to reach back far enough with this crude technology.

It all started with those damnable laws passed by Congress in 2012. Perhaps you don't know that history or maybe it is still in your future. If you see a bill called SOPA reach the House or PIPA reach the Senate, oppose them with all the political might you can muster. Despite being opposed by great companies like Google and Facebook, along with most technologists, it wasn't enough. The bastards of the MPAA and RIAA and their cronies had their day of celebration when the bills passed.

These were the start of the end on what you would call the Internet. How naive we must have been back then to not see what was coming. This was the point where the greedy and selfish finally tipped the scales in the great balancing act of the Free Enterprise Republic experiment. For hundreds of years it had remained balanced, the desires of businesses kept in check by the desire of the people for freedom and ability to police through representation. This ended all that. The Internet would be oppressed with the needs to protect "Intellectual Property" from possible theft. Simply put, businesses who didn't know how to make money with digital goods purchased for themselves legislation to keep their old business intact. The burden of "what might happen" overshadowed the truths of what was valued in our democracy and the money finally out spoke the citizens.

The bills never did work, the digital thieves they were intended to thwart just worked around them. Normal citizens and ethical businesses though wouldn't fair so well as the enforcement of the laws became more oppressive and desperate. The original bills created the precedent for new ones and the scales of power were forever unbalanced. Companies folded, innovation shriveled, and free speech on the Internet collapsed under constant litigation and the new regulations that required no due process. Foreign countries responded to the US laws with their own and the once open Internet became closed and segregated geographically and only large media companies thrived. It created a kind of cyclone of information, money, and politics that would culminate in the power being controlled by the very few elite and then one day, they simply decided that democracy wasn't needed. It has become what you would call an Orwellian nightmare.

Am I some crackpot just spewing crazy onto a long outlawed blog? I don't blame you if you don't think that any legislation can really be that dangerous. You assume balance will always be restored and you have faith in your government because, despite it's flaws, it has always worked in the end. Maybe you are right, but think about this: the representative democracy only works if those being governed are being represented by those in power. Who is being represented by Your congressmen? You or the companies sponsoring SOPA and PIPA?

Alas, I fear it is too late to help me I can already hear the Enforcers smashing through my outer door. Don't let my sacrifice be in vain. Write your representatives, pound down their own doors, and demand they oppose these laws. Truth and justice might yet prevail and I will become nothing but a writer from an alternative timeline that never happened. This letter being the only relic that I ever

[Editor's note: The letter simply stopped there, but I'll sign it off.]

The Bipoliticalist Letter Writer from the Future

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Statistics and You!

October 16, 2011

Dear Person who says they are not the 99%,

I had planned to let this subject drop and never come back to it, but the sensibilities of an educated person won't let me. When you say, "I am not the 99%" makes you sound like an idiot.

Now, I understand what you are trying to say is that you don't agree with the people in the "We are the 99%" movement. I get that. However, you need to learn math. The 99% number people are throwing around is a statistic related to wealth distribution. This isn't political, it simply says that the wealthiest 1% of Americans own 30-40% of the wealth in this country.

So, unless you are in the top 1% (that is, you have more money then 99% of the rest of the population) and qualify as "filthy rich" then you are part of the 99%. Please learn to understand the math here. You can certainly disagree with any political, or economic, or philosophical movement you want to, but statistics aren't politics or ideologies. They are a measurement of something. They are essentially no different then saying "a full can of Coke contains 12 ounces".

Statistics are a way to represent information. Some statistics are bunk and simply made up with no science behind them. Others are misquoted, often to put a confusing media spin or marketing message on something. Here we are looking at numbers used to represent and communicate a measurement of wealth. If you don't agree with a study's statistical results, you can question how they were derived, or the accuracy of the science behind them, but a good sicentist spends their time measuring the world as accuratly as possible and won't put bogus numbers in their work. How you react to the information is your own personal choice.

The 99% and the 1% are numbers representing the entire US population. If you aren't part of the US population measured in the study, then there are different numbers to represent you. So please do the math before you look like an idiot running around going, "I worked my way through college with three jobs and live in a small apartment where I am trying to start my own business, but I am not the 99%". You bloody are. Welcome to the world of statistics.


The Letter Writer

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dear The 53%, We applaud you and your hard work!

October 13, 2011

Dear The 53%,

Thank you so much for the hard work you do to support this nation. Your personal sacrifices are not going to go unheard and posting them on the Internet in the form of letters is a good start at helping people to realize that there are good, hardworking Americans out there, despite all those lazy people you see on the news.

I am certain that The 99% must realize that they don't represent the entire country. Look how silly they are doing their "Occupy Wall Street" hippie circus. They don't represent you though. As a sub-group of those 99% you obviously represent the best America has to offer. It is something to be proud of. Might I go as far as saying, because you pay your Income Taxes and they don't that it makes you better then them?

I mean, seriously. The 46% of people who don't pay income taxes are basically just what? Your grandparents? The elderly? People with disabilities who are leaching off of Social Security instead of getting a job as a greeter at Walmart? Then there are those lazy 12% who live in poverty and who would be much better off if they just stopped doing drugs and got a job right? What about those lazy parents out there? I mean taking a tax credit and exemptions just because you have kids? Who's idea was that? Some politician lobbying for tax cuts among their voter demographic probably. When your kids start families, surely they will be working like a true American and not even qualify for those unpatriotic tax credits the Feds are forcing on them.

So, you my friends are the real Patriots in these dark times. Working in the face of adversity, giving up basic needs and clawing your way to the top. Who cares that everyone has to pay federal taxes for Social Security and Medicare, state sales taxes, property taxes, and local city taxes. I mean without you 53% paying your Income Taxes diligently, the whole nation would just grind to a halt and all of our patriotic freedoms would simply evaporate.

So we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We applaud you and your hard work. Go... claim the recognition you deserve. Because, lets be honest here, if you stopped paying your Income Taxes, the Feds would have to find more money somewhere else to fund their Socialistic policies and then they would come after Us.

The 1%