Posts Tagged ‘Human Nautre’

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Politics, News and Bigots: the Nature of Low Hanging Fruit

June 6, 2010

Hardly a day goes by this election year without some new point of intrigue taking the spotlight.  While most have nothing to do with the performance of a particular candidate, the justification usually used in bringing it up is it speaks to the character of the individual concerned.  Given such news nuggets spread like a virus, they are an effective weapon.  Ironically, their use lacks morality and speaks to the character of the person bringing it up in the first place.

Recently in South Carolina, just such attacks took place against Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.  First, an unsubstantiated claim of infidelity surfaced.  Will Folks, a former press secretary to Governor Sanford, claimed on his website he had “inappropriate physical relationship” years before.  For the most part, Mr. Folks has received a free pass on this while Ms. Haley faces the distraction of defending herself.  In the end, Folk’s website benefits with increased traffic.

Mr. Folks fires this stink bomb, “The truth in this case is what it is.  Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki[i],” followed by “I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm.[ii]”  In other words, he claims to support her bid for Governor then accuses her of cheating on her husband with him, but claims some moral high ground by refusing to comment further.  The only thing Will Folks proves, beyond question, is his lack of moral fiber.  If true, he had an affair with a married woman, if false he is a bold-faced liar.

It should be noted, Mr. Folks did not keep his word regarding details.  He has posted copies of phone records with late night calls to Ms. Haley[iii].  Of course, given that he worked for her campaign at the time that, in itself, is not unusual.   Another point of interest is his refusal to name the individuals that approached him in the first place.  If he looks for credibility, that is an obvious, first step.

While it would not be hard to call Mr. Folks a doddering jackass, his claims (true or not) bring to light a larger problem American voters face – we are fed intrigue over substance by the media.  Reporting of this nature is the normal course of business for news organizations.  For example, the New York Times ran an article that sources Mr. Folks’ website but provides no independent sources[iv].  In their defense, sources for such intrigue are hardly ever available beyond the person making the claim, but that is the point, without confirmation it is intrigue and not news and belongs in the gossip columns.

There was a time when bringing the news to the citizens was a public service; now, news is a profit center.  No longer are politicians, or anyone else for that matter, forced to provide proof of a claim, the news organizations simply report it as a statement and source each other’s reports rather than conduct true investigative reporting.  News today is a bottom-line function of business.  As Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor on The Nation, put it “Reporting–real, gritty, hands-on journalism–costs serious money[v].”  That is a problem for news organizations with a profit motive.

The obvious result being news feeds us a constant stream of five-second sound bites sandwiched between commercials.  Rather than a comprehensive study of candidate positions, we have scandal, scandal that exists because news organizations report innuendo as fact.  The news media becomes the unwitting, giving them the benefit of doubt, accomplices of people with self-serving motives that lead to an ever-expanding release of useless tripe.

Tripe is not too strong a word either.  Not to be out done, South Carolina Senator Jake Knott put his two-cents into the fray by calling his colleague Representative Haley, along with President Obama, “ragheads” on a live radio broadcast.  In one quote broadcast during the June 02, 2010 broadcast of the show Pub Politics[vi], Senator Knott stated, “She’s a fucking raghead,” and later “She’s a raghead that’s ashamed of her religion trying to hide it behind being Methodist for political reasons.”  The show decided not to post the interview on its website. Senator Knott apologized for his use of the “F-word.”

On a personal note, it would not surprise me to learn that children who have nightmares about pedophiles see Senator Jake Knott’s image.  It would not surprise me to see photographs of Senator Jake Knott attending illegal dogfights or Ku Klux Klan rallies.  It would not surprise me to learn he beats his wife.  Of course, I am not saying he is a pedophile or participates in these activities but they do make good sound bites.  Perhaps it’s best to think of the comments as having just as much credibility as his “raghead” comment and give the good Senator the opportunity to deny them.

As Senator Knott’s comments illustrate, the more outlandish the statement – the more press coverage resulting in less and less coverage about the issues the next group of elected officials face.  While his comments are certainly news, taken in context with the other items of intrigue it seems the news outlets have little room for meaningful reporting that has any use in the current election cycle.

With news coverage reduced to the low hanging fruit that fits nicely between advertising, citizens cannot be blamed for failing to understand larger issues that remain hidden from view.  We need serious journalism that investigates claims.  While that may prevent the scoop, it does give the whole story and that is something we desperately need today.  I do not plan to vote for Ms. Haley but I do not accept painting her with the brush of innuendo from unscrupulous and bigoted sources.  She is a serious candidate with well thought-out positions and deserves to be addressed on her positions rather than the stupidity of the current news cycle.


[i] Folks, Will. “Will Folks: Letting The Chips Fall.” FITSNews. 24 May 2010. Web. 06 June 2010. <http://www.fitsnews.com/2010/05/24/will-folks-letting-the-chips-fall/>.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] ““Haley-gate:” Night Calls.” FITSNews. 28 May 2010. Web. 06 June 2010. <http://www.fitsnews.com/2010/05/28/haley-gate-night-calls/>.

[iv] Dewan, Shaila. “Sex Scandal Claim Rattles South Carolina Politics Again – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 25 May 2010. Web. 06 June 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/us/politics/26haley.html?scp=1&sq=scandal&st=cse>.

[v] “Investigative Reporting Costs Money.” The Nation. Ed. Katrina Vanden Heuvel. 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 06 June 2010. <http://www.thenation.com/blog/investigative-reporting-costs-money>.

[vi] http://www.pubpoliticslive.com)

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The Center of Truth’s Universe

February 1, 2010

From the beginning of time, history has indexed our universe.  Some history we know, some we will never know.  Moreover, some things we thought we knew, we learn were something else all together.  The truth we know today is in how we believe it to be, more than the fact of it – seems everyone knew the earth was the center of the universe until Galileo proved otherwise.  What belief of today will change tomorrow?

Galileo was not alone in his belief, of course.  He built on the works of another great from history – Nicolaus Copernicus.  The realization that the earth was not the center of the universe was a process that took over two-hundred years to understand.  Telling the truth can prove dangerous too.  In Galileo’s case, it cost him his freedom and nearly his life.  The Catholic Church was less than pleased with his proposals as it opposed the teachings of the day.  In 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Galileo held to his belief.  While he did recant, it was under threat of death.  Regardless of the Catholic Church’s efforts, his work remained in circulation and people quietly accepted the truth of it.  The truth of his work was undeniable.  Institutions, like the Catholic Church, are slow to correct mistakes; in Galileo’s case, they did not officially change their position until 1992 when Pope John Paul II expressed regret.  Now, there are plans to erect a statue of Galileo within the Vatican walls.

The lesson of Galileo is truth may be suppressed for a time but in the end it will prevail.  There is something indefinable that happens to a person when they learn a truth.  It changes everything they do from that moment forward.  Accepting one truth leads to other truths; the process of learning repeats itself with a perpetual motion of sorts.  It is the engine that drives humanity along our journey of discovery.

Looking back, the Church’s position may seem silly, but we cannot judge through hindsight; we have the advantage of knowing how events unfolded.  That is the point to keep in mind, when the world presents you with an idea that goes against a deeply held belief, the belief may need to change.  The fault did not sit with the Church as a whole, but with a belief system that did not allow for change.  The more we understand the universe, the more we will shed outdated beliefs.  There was a time when traveling faster than the speed of sound was thought impossible; today we routinely fly much faster.  Now, the speed of light presents the same dilemma.  Will we one day dismiss it as a barrier too?

Truth may seem dynamic; it is not.  While two plus two does equal four, other truths are not so easily defined.  In the end, it is our understanding that changes, not truth.  No evil comes from knowing the truth even if it breaks with tradition.  The evil comes in suppressing truth.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Galileo.

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Politics Cannot Define Obligation

January 29, 2010

A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!””However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Stephen Crane, War is Kind

Around the world, terrible events take place every day, wars, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, disease; the list seems endless.  Every day news organizations bring us quick views, snapshots if you will, of a small portion of humanity standing up to the longest of odds, simply to survive.  How do we respond?  Do we rush in and do all we can or simply watch from the comfort of our homes?  Perhaps something in between is called for.  No matter the response, what we really need to understand is our obligation.

As human beings, what obligation do we have to each other?  Some Christians are fond of pointing to the story of Cain and Able to give guidance, to were the famous quote “am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Gen. 4:9) comes from.  To think this obligates us is taking it out of context.  Cain killed his brother and lied about it to God.  It is a story about jealousy and deceit.  Looking at it, Cain’s question to God is rhetorical and self-serving.  Cain never intended God to answer it.

Debating God’s intentions is not required to answer the question of obligation.  In the end, the world owes us nothing, nor does the universe as Mr. Crane points out, or even God for that matter.  The government of one nation owes nothing to the people of another.  It is people that are obligated to one another; the responsibility cannot pass to another entity.  Regardless of Cain’s intention, the answer to his question is yes, we are our brother’s keeper.

While we are not obligated to aid others as if it were a debt or binding contract, we have a desire to help others.  Our internal wiring controls our actions; it is our nature as humans to provide aid and comfort to others in need.  The recent earthquake in Haiti illustrates the people of the world’s desire to aid.  Everything from giving money to actually going to Haiti is taking place.  Money, supplies, and resources have flowed in so quickly they have overwhelmed the country’s damaged infrastructure and created frustration with delays.

Last week, a French Minister named Alain Joyandet, complained about the United States “occupying” Haiti.  The source of Mr. Joyandet’s irritation is with a French relief plane forced to wait one day to land and unload its medical aid.  The United States Military took control of the airport at the request of Haiti’s government until they regain the ability to do it themselves.  While it is unfortunate that much-needed aid is required to wait in a queue due to the physical limits of the situation, it is understandable.  The French Minister’s response seems to be more aligned with Cain’s jealousy of his brother than promoting the good will of the French people towards Haiti.  The minister seems more interested in waving the French flag than in helping.

The aid a government gives is an extension of its people.  The fact that the United States is geographically close to Haiti allows that aid to include logistics.  As bad as it is, imagine the utter chaos if the airport had no control.  It is self-serving hubris on the part of Minister Joyandet to suggest our aid is an occupation.  It takes the good will of the French people and puts a national pride upon it; it supplants that good will with nationalism.  Government involvement in relief efforts must remain an extension of its people.  That is our (the United States) intent regardless of what some silly Frenchman has to say about it.

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Life’s Instant

January 27, 2010

Life is but an instant, yet we still seem to want it to go faster.  Quicker, easier and now are the catch-words that have come to own society over the last forty or fifty years.  It is understandable how we’ve been caught up with speed as it leaves time for more.  What do we do with that more?  That is the real question.

I was working in the yard one day clearing some trees.  I had to remove a few rather large ones that some kind of tree crud had taken over before it spread to the whole of the yard.  With chainsaw in hand I started in.  As I fell the first big one, I was really pleased with the new chain, remembering how the old one was struggling to make a clean cut.  Truth is it was plain easy – too easy.  After a mere three hours of work, I had reduced the water oaks to about two cords of firewood.

Now a chainsaw will wear you out and stacking wood still takes effort but when I look back on how the task was accomplished 150 years ago, I did have it easy.  It would have taken several days without my gas-powered assistant.  I do not wish to return to the type of manual labor like cutting trees with axes and handsaws, but it does illustrate the point, work was reduced by several fold.  We do this with everything, cooking, cleaning, the list goes on.  Even instant messaging is not fast and enough, we have to abbreviate everything.

Again, the real question, with what are we filling the extra time?  The idea was to give us more free time so how is it we seem to have less of it?  What people fail to grasp is technology does make things easier but all we do is increase the level of expectation.  About twenty years ago, the big buzz in business was the “paperless office.”  Computers were supposed to reduce the amount of paper we wasted because we could do things like proof-read on the screen and store documents electronically.  What ended up happening is it became easy to create even more piles of paper.  A manual that would take a month to produce, now takes a week.  That just gives us more weeks to make more manuals and generate more paper.

During the industrial revolution, people worked ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week.  The entire work force became exhausted.  It was easy to see something had to be done.  Over time, things like the forty-hour work week came to be.  As we have moved away from the manual labor of the past, it is our minds that now work the sixty or seventy hours a week.  We check email, talk business on the cell phone at dinner and so on.  The wireless age has become a yoke we bear.

I worked for a fellow one time that saw things differently.  He demanded your get your work done in an eight-hour day.  His favorite saying was “if you can’t get a day’s work done in a day, maybe I don’t have the right guy in the job.”  At five in the afternoon, he wanted you gone.  I asked him about it one time and his reply changed my life.  He told me “work is what you do to live.  When you live to work, you are a slave and I don’t believe in slavery.”  I think about that when I am doing things.  I ask myself just how much needs to be done today and work to that goal.  Truthfully, more ends up getting accomplished this way.  Maybe that was his true motive all along.  It really does not matter; the result is to have a life beyond work, satisfied with things taking the proper amount of time.  Try to slow life’s instant down and make every bit of it have value.

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Shades of Truth

January 25, 2010

Human nature has both good and bad points.  Compassion is a good thing; taking advantage of people is bad.  The problem arises when the two get mixed up.  For sure, human nature has many facets to it, and each has many books concerning it.  Today’s post only looks at compassion and taking advantage.

First, just because someone does something, it is not automatically human nature.  It could be the person is simply an ass.  The actions we take are our individual nature, the ability to be an ass is human nature.  It may seem a small point but it is a critical one when trying to figure out our role in life.

There are times when society accepts lies as a good, such as telling Aunt Rose, “I love your hat!”  It is easy to see that by lying you spare her feelings in this case.  Of course, the opposite is equally true.  We would never accept “my child is dying of cancer,” as a way of gaining sympathy at large.  The repercussions would be swift and severe when the truth came out.  It is human nature to filter truth in an attempt to spare people hurt.  It is individual nature to take advantage of people with the same device.

In relationships, the lines are blurry on when we lie to spare feelings or to get our way.  Idealistically we would never lie to our partner.  The truth is we do it all the time.  It becomes our individual nature to lie to avoid conflict.  This leads to lying to avoid blame.  Each time the line we will not cross inches further and further out.  At some point, we no longer even know where it used to be.  This is a very dangerous road to walk, for when you do not trust your partner with your mistakes you take advantage of them.  Furthermore, when you do not allow your partner to make mistakes, you grease the skids along the path of deception your mate will follow.

It would be easy to say we should never lie about anything.  Of course, that would go against our compassion that is part of human nature.  It would be better to never have the need to lie.  Trust is the key for this to work in a relationship.  If you ask your spouse how something looks on you, you would hope they would be honest because you trust them to help you not look silly.  At least we should.  When they tell us, “no, it does not,” and we look hurt about, we will never hear the truth again on that subject.  It would be better to accept they love us and want us to look great.  Ask more questions about why they feel that way so you understand.  They just may have a point.  Even if they don’t, it is better to talk it out and keep the line of communication open.

With the best of intentions, lying can only be looked at as the lesser of two evils.  It is never really a good thing.  When we lie to get what we want, we have crossed the line that makes us an abusive person.  It is then the greater of two evils.  It starts you down a road from which it is hard to turn.  Over time, human nature will allow you to sink beyond redemption but it was your individual nature that opened a hole in the floor beneath you.

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Pat Robertson’s Version of the Big Lie Theory

January 15, 2010

To make sure I understood exactly what Pat Robertson said regarding Haiti, I watched video of the 700 Club broadcast in question.  I sat in stunned silence at what I viewed.  Stunned not at the revelation of some unknown truth but by the boldness of Robertson to use folklore as if it were a truth whispered to him by God.  I really did not intend to write about it, as one is bound to get dirty playing in the mud but sometimes that is a lesser evil than remaining silent.

Televangelists, like Robertson, employ a political tactic that is the Big Lie theory, modified to take advantage of the viral nature of outlandish claims in today’s connected world.  It is the same tactic used by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Never allow the public to cool off
  2. Disseminate the lie as widely and quickly as possible
  3. Always be vague and use innuendo
  4. Never admit a fault
  5. Never concede that there may be some good in your target
  6. Never leave room for alternative possibilities
  7. Never accept blame for anything and concentrate that blame on your enemy and blame him for everything that goes wrong

The theory assumes people will believe a big lie because it is easier to accept smaller ones as lies.  The boldness of the statement gives it an air of truth and if repeated frequently enough people will eventually believe it.  For example, you hear a report on something outrageous and say to yourself, “that can’t be true,” and forget it.  Then someone you know, who heard the same lie, repeats it to you as a point of interest.  You recall, “I heard that before,” never mind it came from the same source.  You now have the same lie from two sources, then three, then four, and so on.  The more you hear it, the more ingrained it becomes as true.

In the end, Robertson’s use of this tactic simply betrays the Christian values he clams to support.  Rather than having love and compassion for our neighbors in Haiti, he claims it is God smiting them for a deal one man made, two-hundred years ago, with the devil, according to the folklore.  If you ask me, it seems the deal the devil made is with a televangelist that lives in Virginia.

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