Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ten Reasons I Hate Politics and One Reason I Don’t - Part 10

10.  I’m OK, You’re Not

When I was in high school (don’t ask how long ago), Thomas A. Harris, M.D. wrote the book “I’m OK, You’re OK: A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis.” Despite selling millions of copies, our country seems to have shifted to an alternative life position of “I’m OK, You’re Not OK.” But not only do many believe that others are not OK, they want their views suppressed so as not to influence others. In one sense, this is understandable. If a person wholeheartedly believes that the opinions of others are incendiary and would cause great harm if adopted by others, it’s easy to see why they would not want those opposing ideas disseminated. But what these people tend to forget is that if it is acceptable to try to silence the other side, then it is equally acceptable for the other side to attempt silencing them. Trying to shut down the other side is also a sign of a weak position in that one doesn’t believe he can win the debate in the court of public opinion.

In 1992 Nat Hentoff addressed this censoring problem in his book “Free Speech for Me--But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.” It was quite a good read, showing how many people desperately want the right to speak freely about anything, but just as desperately want to silence those people that disagree with them. As in most cases, very few listened to his plea to fully embrace the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Things seem to have gotten worse. You see the political left and the right talking about shutting down reporters or commentators that speak critically of them. You see the rise of political correctness, which is just a way for one group of people to silence another group of people. You see invited speakers, especially on college campuses, having their speeches disrupted by irate screaming protesters. You see the rise of calling any disliked opinions “hate speech,” with the accompanying attempts at making this speech illegal.

Unfortunately, this problem is being perpetuated by many of our country’s universities. In some cases, the school administration is fine with one group of students suppressing the speech of others, but not the reverse. It’s gotten so bad on some campuses that many have resorted to free speech zones, which is a small area on campus where students are permitted to speak freely. But step outside that zone and you suddenly lose your First Amendment rights. Oftentimes, students who have the audacity to speak freely outside that zone must attend sensitivity training. Repeated offenses can lead to expulsion.

Fortunately, there is an organization that is fighting for students’ free speech rights on the entirety of America’s campuses. It is called FIRE, which stands for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Consider them. They are worthy of your support.

So, where will our future politicians come from? Most likely, our universities. That is why the suppression of free speech on our campuses is so frightening. If our future politicians come out of their universities believing it is acceptable to win a debate with their opponents by silencing them, perhaps even imprisoning them, then we will soon lose our democracy and our freedom and we will end up led by a tyrannical dictator. NOT GOOD! NOT GOOD!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ten Reasons I Hate Politics and One Reason I Don’t - Part 9

9.  To Hell With Freedom, I Like Control

Many years ago, a friend of mine that had served on our local city council told me an interesting story. During one of the council’s open meetings, a young couple came to request an exemption to the zoning laws for their house. They wanted to start a new dog grooming business, but they couldn’t afford to rent a separate space to house the business. Thus, they were requesting that they be allowed to start their business in their home and, if successful, move to a storefront later. After their appeal, the council sent the couple out of the room so they could deliberate.

Several people were opposed to allowing the zoning waiver. Their biggest concern was the issue of customer parking. They didn’t want cars blocking the couple’s neighbor’s property. This was a valid concern, but some councilpersons pointed out that occasionally people in neighborhoods have parties where the guests are parking all around other people’s property, but it was a temporary condition. Besides, a dog grooming business wouldn’t have a bunch of people there at any given time. Most people would be dropping off their dog and returning later to pick it up. This convinced enough councilpersons, so a waiver was approved.

But when the chairperson acknowledged the approval of the waiver, she added that they should limit the number of dogs at their house at any given time to two. My friend thought about that for a bit and said, “Why would we want to limit them to two? I own more dogs than that and they’re at my house all the time.” Ultimately, the council granted the waiver with no limit on the number of dogs they could have at their house at any given time, with the understanding that if any issues came up, they could modify the waiver at a later date.

This story had a happy ending, but in many cases around the country that is not true. It just seems that when people gain any level of power, they suddenly believe they must exert it. In some cases, these people love the feeling of power and want to see others squirm under their thumb. In other cases, they simply believe they are not doing their jobs if they aren’t placing limits on their constituency.

I had a boss that was this way even with the limited power of a low-level manager. Once I planned a project and had the steps all laid out. He came in and made several changes to it. I told my supervisor, who was between the manager and me, that I could make those changes, but then the plan would not be correct. I was told the manager wanted them anyway. A couple of days later, the manager looked at my changes and requested some more. Upon seeing what he wanted, I realized that those changes would make the plan identical to the one I originally submitted. You see, he simply did not believe he was doing his job if he didn’t have some level of input into the process. Just saying to me initially, “Job well done,” was not being managerial. He HAD to DO something.

These examples are minor compared to how some politicians behave in office. In many cities, states, and in DC, the people’s elected leaders are screwing over their citizens without concern for their freedom and wellbeing. There have been many cases where people have had eminent domain used to take their property for something other than public use. In many cases, a city government turns the property over to a private business using the excuse that they will collect more tax dollars from it than from the original owners. Despicably, the government sometimes takes the property without any particular use in mind. They just want to have it in case they come up with something later. You’ve probably heard about the bureaucracy Uber and Lyft have had to deal with to be allowed to compete with local cab companies. Or how about the hair braiders that have been told they must spend many hours and many dollars to get cosmetology training which doesn’t even teach hair braiding. In these latter cases, it’s pure protectionism. The government gets hefty fees and taxes from businesses and in return the government essentially gives them monopoly status in their city or state.

All these actions by government, at any level, are deplorable. Politicians are all about promising more jobs, but then turn around and limit jobs by suppressing rising entrepreneurs. Fortunately, there are a number of not-for-profit organizations that are fighting these kinds of government abuse with great success. I support several personally. If you’d like to read up on what they are fighting or if you want to make a contribution, check out the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, and the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ten Reasons I Hate Politics and One Reason I Don’t - Part 8

8.  I Lie, You Lie, So Why Aren’t Our Pants On Fire? 

There’s an old joke that asks, “How do you know when politicians are lying?” Answer: “When their lips are moving.” Unfortunately, this isn’t just a joke. There is a lot of truth in it. Politicians lie. A lot. About a lot of things. They lie about how great their past record was. They lie about how terrible their opponents record was. They lie about how their policies will REALLY affect you. They lie about what they will do if elected. They lie about their personal lives. They lie to cover up lies. They lie to cover up the lies they told to cover up lies. You get the picture.

But here’s the deal. They also tell the truth. But I believe this is just a diversionary tactic. If they are shown to lie consistently about everything, they could lose credibility. However, if they tell the truth every once in a while, they can cling to a semblance of credibility and obfuscate about the lies. Also, the lies they tell will often have a bit a truth in them, just to keep people guessing. And the more honest politicians (notice I said MORE honest, not COMPLETELY honest) will find a nuanced way to say things that make people believe a lie while technically telling the truth should you parse the words with a fine-tooth comb. Using this technique can help assuage the consciences of the politicians, letting them tell themselves, “I can’t help it if the populace misunderstood my words.” Never mind that the politician would have misunderstood the same words himself if spoken by another person.

Do you recognize any of these words?

“I am not a crook!”

“Read my lips. NO…NEW…TAXES!

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”

“The attack was a result of a spontaneous protest against an Internet video.”

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

“I did NOT chop down that cherry tree.” (This is not referring to George Washington. He supposedly told the truth about chopping down that tree. I don’t actually know who lied about it, but surely someone has.)

I have heard it said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. I agree with this. And in addition, I believe that sometimes the lying politicians begin to believe it also if they repeat it themselves enough. This is indeed a sad state of affairs.

So, if politicians lie so much, what’s the point of watching them talk or debate? I’m beginning to believe there is no point. If you hear your favorite candidate say something you like, he may be lying. If you hear their opponent say something you hate, she may be lying as well. So, why listen to them?

What are we voters to do? I have decided that are two main things. (1) Look at what the politicians have ACTUALLY DONE in the past, rather than listen to what they are saying now. This is not foolproof since politicians DO change positions on issues from time to time. Some actually change positions from one speech to another, but I digress. (2) Look at the party’s platform. If the nails are pulling loose and the supports are crooked, it’s about to collapse and take our country with it. If the supports are sound and the nails are securely in place, there’s a good chance it can support our country.

Believe me, I am NOT LYING!