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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Bob Webster
Bio: Bob Webster
Date:  November 12, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

A Confused Mind On Display
Statements from "Sure Am Releived" (sic) seen at a New York Times online comment blog

Ever try to analyze a confused mind? It's not a task for the faint of heart. But here goes.

As a convert to Apple's new Mac OS X for nearly four years, my interest was piqued when I stumbled on an interesting question being posed for online comment. Specifically, the proposition was put forth that users of the Mac are generally on the left of the political spectrum. As a strong counter-example to that notion, I was drawn to following the link to comments being made online. Turns out, the question was posed on a New York Times site. Because the site was moderated (i.e., censored), it was impossible to know whether there was any real evidence to support that proposition. What was easy to learn was that the person doing the moderating was very likely one who was firmly rooted on the left of the political spectrum. The evidence strongly suggestive of this conclusion were:

  1. Virtually all of the early comments that survived scrutiny were from the liberal/left position.

  2. Virtually all of the recent posts that had not been scrutinized were from the conservative/right position.

  3. As time went by, recent posts from the conservative/right position disappeared (with only the least articulate seeming to survive, evidently intended to serve as an indication that there were a few poor souls from the right who managed to use a Mac).

At any rate, while reading these posts I stumbled across the following gem from "Sure Am Releived" (I've left spelling errors intact so you can appreciate this piece as I have). Frankly, I'm not sure where this individual would be comfortable on the political left to right spectrum, but the post does illustrate the sad state of political discourse in this country. This post is shown in its entirety and without correction of spelling or grammar and free of intervening comment. My comments follow the end of the post.

Thought it might be fun to try to analyze this piece whose owner seems put off by political labels.

Analyzing this post from the top, we first see an assault on the very idea of political labels:

Bulletin for "Sure Am Releived":

It isn't about being fixated on "stupid" labels, as "Releived" clearly is. It's really about understanding the meaning of such labels used to identify one's political philosophy.

Illustrations:

  • The Right/Conservative label identifies those who believe we should take seriously our Constitution and not simply use it when we find it convenient and ignore it when we find it inconvenient. These folks have a "bottom up" view of where governmental power should reside, believing in limited federal power in accordance with our Constitution's dictates. They oppose strong governmental power on any level, but believe the lower the level of government, the stronger government relative power should be. This is why Libertarians are generally considered to be on the extreme right of the political spectrum. They heavily support private charities as opposed to government handouts. They also believe society can only advance as society's individual members advance on their own merits.

  • The Left/Liberal label identifies those who believe it is more important to "do good" and help those "less fortunate" through government action than strictly adhere to Constitutional limitations on federal power. They are true believers in the notion of "top down" government with the greatest power at the federal level and the least power at the local level. They often claim our Constitution is very "complex" and requires "constitutional scholars" to truly understand (a position that flies in the face of the framers who thought they had produced a document for "the common man" that could be easily understood by any citizen). They believe the greatest seat of governmental power should be at the federal level despite clear constitutional restraints against that approach (the "ends justify the means"). They offer their position as being for the "little" guy, the "common" man, or (a favorite) "working people" provided any benefits they secure for such groups are funded by public taxes. They believe charity is primarily achieved through government programs (despite evidence that has come at a cost of trillions of dollars that such an approach fails miserably).

The notion that people somehow adopt a political label and then blindly vote for that label is silly. Yes, there are people who will vote for a political party because they were raised in an environment that molded their views to conform to a particular political party. There are those who might vote a "label" for superficial reasons, e.g., it might be politically fashionable in their social circles. Voting a label might mean a person hasn't really made the effort to understand how their government is supposed to work or the issues of the day and have decided to simply vote along with the candidate of the party for whom they have always voted. Voting a party label is really a problem of being too lazy to become informed of government, the issues, and where each candidate stands on issues.

It is unreasonable to assume that political labels are meaningless and all those who use them are somehow blindly following the label and not the political philosophy for which it stands! Those who do so are not being intellectually honest and I suspect they simply have not taken the effort to become informed of the meaning of labels.

Evidently, "Releived" doesn't understand that common sense can be served by taking on the label of the political philosophy most appropriate to one's beliefs.

Forging ahead with the analysis of comments by "Releived" ...

This question is a good clue that "Releived" hasn't given much thought to the value of labels and really doesn't understand what they mean. Let's try to take this very simply so that people who believe as "Releived" can have a chance to understand the simple concept involved.

First, in most cases one adopts a philosophical (or party) label because the label is a shortcut to understanding one's political philosophy. Yes, there are those who do wear labels as fashion statements. But they are in the distinct minority.

Second, one's political philosophy is adopted because, presumably, the owner of that philosophy has determined that it represents the political approach that will make "the world/country a better place."

"Label lovers" recognize the value of labels as a means to identify those who either share or reject their own values and political philosophy.

Where does "Releived" get this notion that people adopt a political label without any thought process being involved? It is "Relieved"'s views of labels that is bizarre, not the motives of those who use such labels.

No, deficits are not necessarily evil. Living beyond one's means is bad ("evil" is a bit over the top in this context). Those who fail to do their homework on this point will run the risk of appearing foolish.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I personally would prefer no federal debt at all. In fact, I do not believe it wise for any level of government to take on debt except under the most trying of circumstances (and in those situations, the debt should be repaid as quickly as is practical). I would also philosophically prefer that there be no personal debt either (no mortgage, no car payments, no credit card debt, etc.). But the reality is that we live in a society that has accepted debt as a part of life.

Nobody takes on debt because they like to owe money to others. Not individuals. Not governments. But people individually and as governments do take on debt because they have bought the "buy now, pay later" view of debt. This is in large part due to a weakening of society's fabric because people are not willing to defer gratification. One might argue that this weakness is what drives the consumer economy.

Looking at it from the perspective of an individual who makes a calculation that they can afford that big "starter castle" of excessive housing because they have an income stream that makes the debt they will incur to purchase their "castle" manageable. In other words, they can "afford" to carry the debt. Well, once you give government the authority to tax away some of your income stream to establish an income stream of its own, government will behave the same way by borrowing so that it can "spend now, pay later" so that politicians can fulfill promises they made to get elected. Pretty neat scheme, politicians using their power to tax you in order to get elected.

The real issue then becomes the question of how much debt is appropriate for the "income stream" of government.

When the nation's economy is good (as it has been for several years, though you wouldn't know it from the mainstream media's views), government's income stream increases and more debt can be taken on. The big risk is that, as with individuals whose income stream is dependent upon a job, if the source of the income stream is lost or reduced, then the ability to carry the debt is compromised. With individuals, that might mean the loss of a home through foreclosure. But with the federal government a convenient scheme is always available to overcome loss of income stream. It's called "inflation" and it results from printing money to "finance" debt that cannot be met by the income stream from taxation when the economy turns sour.

So it isn't debt that is a problem. It's irresponsible debt. Politicians spending to get elected, regardless of their political label, are the scourge of any nation. Yet, year after year, tax and spend politicians continue to get elected. The reason is rooted in the large body of uninformed (and misinformed) voters. For example, people who complain about labels without understanding their meaning. And people who don't understand that it isn't the amount of debt that is necessarily bad, it's the willingness to take on more debt without having any responsible means to pay the carrying costs of debt.

Concerns about being blackmailed by the IMF are far-fetched and ignore the reality of how historic debt has been "managed" (or mismanaged).

If one measures debt relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is possible to get a much better indication of whether the amount of debt is too much than one gets by merely looking at the grand total of debt (e.g., "9 trillion debt? 12 trillion? 20 trillion? 50 trillion?"). Fundamentally, it doesn't matter how large the deficit or debt (two different things) becomes so long as the tax income is sufficient to meet the costs of the debt.

As a simple example, if a homeowner secures a mortgage of $100,000 and over the following ten years the federal government induces inflation by printing far more money than the nation's economy can justify, then the balance of that mortgage after ten years has been artificially reduced because the value of the dollar has been watered down by inflation. Consequently, the homeowner is paying down the mortgage with dollars that are worth less and less than the ones he borrowed! Generally, wages and salaries have been indexed to at least compensate for annual inflation -- but, of course, the mortgage balance has not been indexed that way. So the homeowner benefits from inflation because the value of the home increases (compensating for inflation), the homeowner's salary increases (to compensate for inflation), but the mortgage dollars are fixed at the date of the mortgage.

So just as it is in the heavily mortgaged homeowner's benefit to have inflation, so it is beneficial to the federal government to pay its debts (not indexed to inflation either) with dollars that are increasingly worth less than those that were borrowed.

So don't worry about the IMF blackmailing the US -- worry about inflation.

Here "Releived" actually makes some good point, then ruins it by making some ridiculous ones. Atrocious spelling/typos aside, the first three bullets are legitimate complaints. But the impact of raising them is diminished by what follows as the last three bullets!

Bullet 4: "Voter suppresion"??? What "voter suppression"??? Voting is easier than it has ever been. Many states allow early voting or voting over an extended period. In those states, the only requirement is that your vote is cast before polls close on election day. Registration is easier than ever. "Banning voters"??? From where do these peculiar notions originate? I have heard no legitimate complaints anywhere about voters being "banned." Yes, crooked politicians controlling voting machines so that vote totals are compromised have been routine in "machine politics" of large urban areas (read: Democrat). A story a number of years ago in Readers Digest revealed how Republicans routinely have to get at least 20,000 more votes than Democrats in certain urban areas just to break even with vote fraud. A system of national voter ID with a central computerized database tied to all voting stations could be achieved within the foreseeable future. Such a scheme would dramatically reduce the chances of vote fraud (consequently, we should expect to see those who benefit from vote fraud the most ... Democrats ... stand in the way of such reform).

Bullet 5: "Partisan hacks" run elections when the elections are partisan. It behooves the voter to do his homework to cut through the noise and understand the real issues.

Bullet 6: The point of this bullet where Katrina and Iraq are somehow linked to "politician appointees" is, to put it kindly, obscure. It almost seems as if the writer ("Releived") just wanted to toss out Katrina, Iraq, and political appointees in a sentence and make it somehow seem as if all of them are bad things. Kinda hard to analyze that bullet. So we'll just ignore it (a "just" fate).

"Releived" asks, "Can't all people agree that free and fair elections are important, and not currently happening?"

No. Elections are free (what, is someone charging for voting?). What would make an election not free?

Fair elections? What would be a "fair" election? One that gave "Releived" the desired result? What makes an election unfair?

"Releived" poses a self-serving question: "Who is more likely telling the truth: a shrill extremist screaming about bias in the media, or moderate media?"

The question is easy to answer. But the question is also irrelevant since the scenario is unreal. There are those who the left has labeled "extremist" (the left does that whenever someone doesn't agree with them). Those people have written eloquently and spoken with powerful effect about the real bias in the mainstream media. If anyone doesn't understand and recognize that bias by now, they either haven't been paying attention or they are being intellectually dishonest. The record is clear. There is a clear and pervasive leftist bias in the mainstream media. So the question as posed by "Releived" is irrelevant because it represents a non-existent scenario. And, by the way "Releived," just how would you define a "moderate media"? One with "moderate" bias?

Ranting about "shrill extremists" and "shrill political entertainment" and "blood sport" and "hate speech" are beginning to suggest that poor "Releived" is listening to too much liberal drivel as these are terms frequently used by the left to characterize (falsely) talk radio that is dominated by conservative/right wing hosts. Any shred of credibility that "Releived" may have been clinging too has been virtually wiped out by that absurd pronouncement.

Finally, "Releived" tries to defend the mainstream left media as just being "human" for their failures to be objective journalists. Opps ... "Releived"'s label is starting to show.

Last but not least, "Releived" tries to make a case for the "reasonable politicians" who are "simply trying to make the world a better place."

What "Releived" doesn't seem to understand is that it is not the job of politicians to try "to make the world a better place." That is the job of each of us. When we leave that for politicians, we're truly doomed.

Whew! What a relief to be finished with "Releived!"

I wonder if "Releived" supported the Times decision to release classified details of how the Bush administration was protecting us from terrorists by tracking their money trail? Just "human" reporters trying to do their job, I suppose.

Bob Webster
WEBCommentary (Editor, Publisher)

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Biography - Bob Webster

Bob Webster, a descendant of Daniel Webster's father and early American patriot, Ebenezer Webster, has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for every high school student so they can understand the dangers of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.

A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.


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