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Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I would like 4 years of Romney...

In one of my first posts kicking off this blog, I wrote about why I do not want another four years of Obama.  And while all those reasons still run strong even months later, I realized that my liking of Romney has increased quite a bit since writing that post.  So, I figured it's time to explain why I'd like Romney in the White House beyond the simple "He's not Obama".  While I think ousting Obama is of the utmost importance (I'm looking at you, Ron Paul supporters), it's not an overly positive message.  Another Obama term would be disastrous, but letting that cloud overshadow the challenger's own qualifications not only doesn't do the candidate justice, but it also delivers a less effective message about how important our choice is this election.  I think in addition to showing why Obama's bad for the country, highlighting why Romney will be good for the country is a very powerful message because it shows the stark contrast between the two candidates.

So why Romney? Where to begin, really.  But let's start with what he's done in the past that boosts his resume to presidential levels..

First and foremost, he was the Governor of Massachusetts.  While having that much needed executive experience is invaluable (I tend to believe governors make far better presidents than senators, but there are exceptions to that rule), what sets his tenure apart was what he managed to do in Massachusetts.  During his time as governor, the state had a heavily lopsided 86% Democrat legislation, one of the bluest states in the country.  Despite him being a Republican governor, he still managed to work with Democrats to balance the state's budget and get spending under control.   Some may want to throw the flag on Romneycare, but I would like to point out that Romney's priorities were first to get the state's finances in order before pushing forth a healthcare reform system.  And besides, anyone willing to look will see there are key differences between Romneycare and Obamacare that make a world of difference.  Either way, I seem to recall a certain president who successfully worked with a Democrat controlled House to get what he wanted:  Ronald Reagan.   And it was Reagan's policies that lead to the biggest explosion of economic growth over the next 25 years.  And yes, Romney's policies are similar.

He was called upon, and succeeded, in turning around the disastrous state of the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Some might find this insignificant, but I surely do not.  Let me ask you, have you ever heard of the Olympics just...not happening?  It hasn't happened since 1944 when they were cancelled due to World War II.  Well, the 2002 was so mired in scandal that nearly made that a reality.  After the dust settled, who did they bring in to set things right?  Yep, you guessed it. Mitt Romney.  Not only did he set things right, but he was able to turn those Olympics around to be one of the most successful Olympiads in history.  Not only that, but he did America proud by honoring and remembering our fallen from 9/11 through a very stirring ceremony including athletes carrying a tattered flag that survived the World Trade Center attacks while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang the star spangled banner.  Probably knowing such patriotism would be criticized, it showed that Romney is not afraid to show that he's proud of America and all it stands for.

And lastly, and just as importantly, is his own successful business career.  Many might not believe this, but Mitt Romney wasn't some rich kid that got everything handed to him from daddy.  In fact, in spite of his privileged upbringing and virtual gaurantee that he would never have to worry about money for the rest of his life, he gave all that up and struck out on his own.  And why would anyone do that?  To prove that he could go his own way and be successful.  Folks, he is a living breathing example of the American Dream.  His work at Bain capital, while not always successful, led to more companies creating more jobs.  Yes, some jobs were lost along the way, but Bain's track record during Romney's tenure was overwhelmingly successful.

While each of these on their own show great success, it's the combination of all three which brings his resume to the presidential level.  Here's a man who's fulfilled the American Dream, saved a sacred international institution from collapse, and worked successfully with the "other side" as governor to achieve results.  About the only thing missing from this resume would have been service in the armed forces, which at that time, he was busy being a missionary for his church.  When it comes to presidential qualifications, it really doesn't get much better than this.

But, then, why aren't people going crazy for this guy?  Media bias aside, he wasn't doing himself any favors being as stiff and milquetoast as he's been.   Back when I wrote why I don't want another Obama term, I was in that "meh" aspect about Romney.  He wasn't exciting.  He hadn't given any stirring speeches or brought forth the conservative rallying cry.  And while it was easy to figure out why I was so meh about him, it took these last few months to figure out why I should like him.  And in an ironic twist, the answer was right in the mirror the entire time.

You see, anyone that doesn't know me that well may think I'm stiff, bland, and mechanically boring.  I'm aloof.   A little disconnected socially.   I have a tough time making a social connection with newer people and have to work a little harder at it.  Many times I don't really know what to say in certain situations. I'm definitely not what you'd call a schmoozer.  Yet, anyone that knows me well, particularly my family and close friends, knows that there's much more to me than what most people tend to see.  I'll not list what I believe I am on the "inside", but I'd expect most would at least say I'm a loving family man and a loyal friend ... and maybe with a twisted, awesome sense of humor...maybe.

This is the epiphany I had with Mitt Romney.   Mitt Romney, deep down. is not a natural politician.  He's not a schmoozer.  Sure, in the political ring, you have to have some proficiency at schmoozing, but I don't think this comes naturally to him.  I see him as a savvy, brilliant business man more than a politician.  I see him as a reserved family man that deeply loves his family with a set of moral standards that seem so self evident to him, that he has a hard time expressing those in a way that would  ace the pc litmus test.  Like me, I think he ends up having to work harder to make that social connection click.  But unlike me, he's in an arena where making that connection is an absolute must.  Thus, you have a man thrust into the spotlight that at times looks awkward, some times smug, and some times unintentionally underscoring that difficulty he has in making a connection.  And as odd as it sounds, that's what actually made me like the guy much more than I have before.   I finally was able to "get" him...or at least think I do.

Some may see that as a liability, and perhaps it is to a degree.  However, I think there's a growing portion of the population that can actually relate to a politician who's not really a natural politician.  Either way, at the end of the day, I'd like to have a president that says, "I would love to have a beer with you, but I have some really important things to take care of right now" instead of "A beer? Sure, all that stuff can wait until tomorrow!"

Ok, so he's got the resume.  And he's not this stiff, uncaring robot he's made out to be.  But what will he do for America?  Is he going to raise taxes on me?! I'm already hurting!

First, to get this out of the way, Romney is NOT planning on raising taxes on the middle class.  This is a very clever untruth being perpetuated by the Obama campaign and the media.  Yes, while they're getting this "evidence" from the Tax Policy Center, it's being distorted. The Tax Policy Center's report indicates that the only way they can think of for Romney's plan to succeed is to raise taxes.  However, what's important to note is that the Tax Policy Center does not take into account the expected economic growth created from lowering taxes in the first place.  As noted here, Romney's plan to cut taxes all around will create enough economic growth and prosperity that government revenues will increase, which would offset the need to raise taxes on the middle class to shore up revenue loss.

Romney's a firm believer in curbing over regulation.  While regulations can, and are, needed to a degree, over regulation is just as bad, if not worse, than under regulation.  This is the type of governing which releases the power of the American capitalist system, which is the only way we'll ever get ourselves out of the ever looming fiscal doom we've found ourselves under.

He has an energy plan which does take a true "all of the above" approach.  A practical energy policy is key to unlocking our financial success and freedom.  Unlocking the resources we have available, without the EPA unnecessarily getting in the way, will truly reduce our reliance on foreign oil, which will put us in a far better position on the global market.

He believes America is exceptional and should lead in the world.  Some may see that as arrogance, but when you look at the big picture, America IS the country that stands for liberty in the world.  The rest of the world either opposes or appeases the opposers.  Our leadership in the world has made the world a better place.  Romney understands this.  Without American leadership, the world would be a far more dangerous place.  His preference to display strength over appeasement is the sign of how the leader of the free world should be acting.

In short, the combination of a sound, responsible fiscal policy at home and a strong foreign policy abroad harkens back to what many of our greatest presidents believed and done.  It's this type of leadership this country needs going forward.  And a man with that kind of vision, with this kind of resume, is clearly far more qualified to lead this nation than Barack Obama is even with four years of presidential experience under his belt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Polls and Fact Checks, two clever tools used by the media

Hello, and welcome back. My last piece was about the power of the media. Initially I thought that'd be the only piece I did about the media, but now I realize that there needs to be more.  The effectiveness of the media is pretty slick and hard to spot if you're not paying attention.  I'm hoping with this article, some light might be shed on a couple tools used.  By doing so, I hope it will enable to pay more attention to the meta information game that's going on all the time.

These two tools, polls and fact checks, are what I call narrative foundations.  The foundations serve as the "objective facts" on which narratives are built.  When a political pundit forms an opinion about something, chances are they're drawing that conclusion from a poll or from a fact checker's "objective" fact checking.  By using these supposedly unassailable facts as their foundation, they can then claim that their biased opinion on the matter is based on fact, therefore vicariously giving them the credibility that objective provides.  How these two tools provide a foundation is different, so I'll cover both.

Let's start with polls, because they're viewed to be the most objective.  The numbers don't lie, right?  Well, let me tell you, my own profession gives me a healthy insight into the whole "numbers don't lie" bit.  You see, I've been doing data analysis and reporting for about a decade now.  Part of what I do is working with sales personnel to present the data they request to the customer.  And one thing I learned is while the numbers themselves don't lie, the formula, calculation and context of the numbers aren't always a complete, objective picture.  I've seen figures that weren't very flattering to our company's performance sliced and dissected in a way to either not make it look so bad or even look positive.  So how do polls pull this off?  I mean, it's just asking a bunch of people if they would vote for this person or that person or whether they agreed with this social agenda or not, right?  Yes, but again, you have to look at the "formula" behind the poll:  the sampling.  Pollsters can rig polls in their favor by having their sampling lopsided in favor of one position or another.  As a small extreme example, if I were to ask 8 Democrats and 2 Republicans who they were going to vote for in the upcoming election, I'd probably get 8 for Obama and 2 for Romney.  Thus this poll's results would be something like Obama 80%, Romney 20%.    Of course, that's an extreme example because a.) it's only 10 people and b.) the sampling is lopsided toward Democrats.

I use this example though, to lead into the presidential polling going on today, since it's the most relevant and one of the reasons I'm talking about polls.  You see, while the above example is extreme, the same type of sampling tampering is going on in many of the left leaning media polls.  Naturally, they're not going to overly flood the sample with democrats since the poll wouldn't be believable and it'd kill their credibility.   Yet, their sampling almost always pushes the democrat sampling to the highest possible believable levels.  If you've ever heard of someone mention a poll is D+11, D+5,etc.  that means that the sampling size of the poll contains that % more democrats than republicans.  This is where the dishonesty comes into play.  You see, the sampling is supposed to contain a mixture of republicans, independents, and democrats that most accurately represents the expected turnout for this election.   Yet, in most of the polls done by left leaning organizations, they assume they'll get the record turnout from last election (or even MORE than that!) and assume that republicans will have the same abysmal turnout as in 2008.  And anyone that thinks that the turnout last election is going to be the same makeup as this one is smoking crack.

So what does it matter? If polls are dishonest, then they're dishonest and that won't represent what actually happens on election day, right?  That's correct.  But there's an insidious purpose to polls of this nature:  to demoralize the opponent's base in two ways.  First, if your candidate is down by 6 or 7 points in the polls, you might just decided your vote won't matter and stay home.  Second, as it pertains to the media, it lets the pundits peddle their influence that this one candidate is a "sure win" or that the other side is "floundering" piling on the demoralizing nature.  So if your candidate doesn't look like he's going to win and all the "experts" say he's not going to win (or as Pelosi said, "we all know Romney isn't going to win"), then what's the point in voting right?  And that's exactly the goal.  It's an indirect form of voter suppression.

And now onto fact checkers.  Much like polls, fact checkers take on the role of an object source of information.  They "fact check" claims made by politicians, indicating whether their claim was true or not.  It's a pretty brilliant tactic, too.  By claiming to be objective in "fact checking", then other pundits can draw from the fact checker's reporting to lend credence that their opinions are "based on facts".  However, like the pollsters behind the polls, the fact checkers will usually  have an agenda on hand.  They are possibly held to a slightly higher objective standard, because if you call yourself a fact checker, you better be bringing facts, thus the amount of "bias wiggle room" might be smaller or in some instances they must inescapably report facts that goes against to their own agenda.  Yet still, the fact checkers still serve as a useful narrative foundation.  A fact checker is capable of muddying something a politician said by countering it with their opinion on the facts instead of just outright saying whether the politician lied or not.   For example, when a fact checker countered Paul Ryan's claim that Obama gutted $700 billion from medicare funding, his counter was that by injecting it into Obamacare that the loss is negated.  The problem here is Paul Ryan didn't lie.  The fact is Obama did take that much out of medicare to help fund Obamacare.  By countering Paul Ryan's assertion in this fashion, the fact checker stops being a fact checker and just another pundit.  Yet, because he is a fact checker, other pundits can simply say "hey look, Ryan lied, the fact checker said so!" and then that narrative is pushed out everywhere.

Basically put, the goal of fact checkers aren't necessarily to check facts.  It's to appear like an objective source of information since the "normal" media has lost tons of credibility due to their thinly veiled biased reporting.   So by the media using the fact checker as a foundation, they themselves are drawing upon that supposed objective credibility.  And like I said, occasionally the fact checkers may have to put out something that isn't favorable to their preferred slant, but the brilliance with this is the media is not required to pick those up.  They can pick and choose which narrative foundations to build upon.  And by choosing the narrative, as stated in the previous article, they have the power to shape the public's opinions and beliefs.

Overall, it's a very clever two tiered scheme in order to retain credibility among the people.   Here's how it works:  the fact checkers will check some facts on something, usually providing a favorable slant toward their own ideology.  These fact checking stories never really reach the mainstream.  You have to actually look for them.  The more visible mainstream media types will use this fact checker's article as a basis for their own piece.  What the people will see is the main pundit casually refer to the fact checking piece and go "ah ok, they had it fact checked so this must be accurate", therefore giving the main pundit credibility while at the same time insulating the fact checking piece from widespread scrutiny.

Both of these tools, as you see, are very clever.  They appear to rely on objective data that will justify a pundit's own talking points.  But little do most people know is that those "objective facts" aren't really that objective and tend to be rigged toward a certain slant.  And again, like before, the purpose of this article is not really to explain how to get your own accurate information, it's to make you aware of these tools in play so that hopefully you'll recognize them and therefore form an opinion that's more aware and informed than if you were just to take these media pieces at face value.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The subtle, but astonishing, power of the media

Ok, I can already see the eye rolling from some those who just read the title.  Oh look, it's another conservative ranting about the "liberal media".  Yeah, I hear you.  As a self described centrist for many years, I know exactly what it looks like.  I never adhered to liberal ideology, but I also was swift to write off such concerns as hyperventilating partisanship by Republicans.  As with many posts, I write this preface so you the reader understand that while my conclusions may indeed look similar to what a so called "right wing nut job" might posit, it's at least being viewed through a lense tested by skepticism and a critical perspective.

Anyway, let's get down to business.  Let's just talk about the power the media has.  The media has a profound influence on its audience.  It's so ubiquitous that it's as hard to notice as a fish noticing the water they're swimming in (stolen from an article I'll link below).  It's an integral part of our society.  What is their power?  It's the power to shape the cultural and social landscape of their respective society.  Think about this:  How do you know what goes on in the world? In our nation? Or even in your town?  I'd venture to say that 99% of our knowledge of what goes on comes from the media.  The last 1% is what we see first hand ourselves.    Ok, so we get our information on what's going on from the media.  Pretty much, they tell us what's happening. And that's potentially powerful.  How come?  Because if we rely on the media to stay informed, we are automatically subjected to two important factors: Narrative and Bias.

What's Narrative?  The Narrative is the framework for a story, article, or any type of information relaying piece of work.  Imagine that you're on a set of a film being made.  The complete set is all the information out there to share.  The Narrative, however, is what's in the camera's view.  You don't see the other parts of the set outside the camera's frame.  And just by the camera only focusing on a specific angle and part of the set, it automatically sets a theme that may or may not fully represent everything that's going on on the set.  For example, let's say there's a shot of a man and woman talking with each other.  It looks like a normal, every day conversation....until the camera pans out to see both of them are pointing guns at each other.  Up until that point, the camera was relaying that this is just a normal conversation between two people and you had no idea the situation was so tense...until you saw the guns.  That's the power of the narrative and the media has virtually absolute control over it.

What's Bias?  Bias is when one's personal opinions and feelings affect how the information is relayed.   While   media in particular is supposed to strive to be objective and not let their biases affect their reporting, the fact of the matter is there is no such thing as a purely objective reporter.  The range of bias stretches from those who don't even try to hide it to those that do their best to remain objective but still have their own leanings naturally filter into their work.  Examples of bias would be where a reporter may present critical questions of someone or something they don't agree with, or they may reduce a certain piece of information counter to their own beliefs to only a few words in a single sentence tucked away somewhere in the piece.  Many reporters/journalists also know that the perception of objectivity is directly related to their credibility, thus many will do their best to appear outwardly objective while still injecting their biases in various ways.  Some are pretty subtle in doing this, while others are nearly transparent.   Bias' power comes from this subtle manipulation of a fact's perception.  By being able to slant information a certain direction while appearing objective, it bypasses the natural skepticism many people have against someone expressing their personal opinion.

Hopefully you can see how powerful the combination of narrative and bias is.  If a media outlet can not only control the framework, but then slant it a certain way while appearing objective, then it's very easy for those watching to take what's being presented as not only the gospel truth, but to assume that the slanted opinion being injected is the social consensus that "mostly everyone" believes.  And how is someone else to know if they only get their information from a single source?  They wouldn't.   That's the subtle power of the media.  They not only can control what you see and know, but they can influence the opinion you have regarding the information.

Notice that I've not mentioned the "liberal media" at all yet.  That's deliberate because I want to point out that every news outlet does this.  Not just the liberal leaning outlets.  The conservative outlets do this too.  And while I am conservative and appreciate that Fox News is a conservative alternative to other news outlets, to believe that Fox does not play the narrative game would be disingenuous.  Everyone does.  Thankfully though with the emergence of New Media (aka internet news outlets and radio), the stage for expressing alternate views has broadened, giving people the opportunity to hear a wider range of viewpoints.

But, there is a glaring problem:  in the media world, there's a huge imbalance that favors the liberal viewpoint.   Most news outlets, particularly the mainstream news outlets like ABC, NBC, and CBS are left leaning.  A study shows that journalists identify as liberal vs conservative at a ratio of 4:1, so it's not surprising that most news outlets are left leaning.  Why is that?  Well, one former liberal explains why the media overwhelmingly leans left.  In short, the kind of people journalism attracts tend to be those who harbor liberal viewpoints.  Thus it makes perfect sense why most of the media is liberal:  because the profession itself simply draws far more liberals to it than it does conservatives.  This isn't necessarily an indictment on liberals or journalism, but just a natural observation.  There's nothing condemning about saying that journalism attracts far more liberal minded people than conservative minded people.

This is why it's called the "liberal media".   And this is why conservatives complain about it on a regular basis.  Because the media has the power to shape culture and social opinion via the narrative and because 4 out of 5 members of the media have a liberal bias, it projects the idea that most of the country holds these same liberal values, which it does not.  Most of the country actually identifies as conservative or moderate.

So, the next time you believe "this is what everyone thinks", ask yourself how you came to that conclusion.  Is it because that's how it was presented on MSNBC or Fox? While I personally am a proponent of conservative values, the important part here is for someone to get in the habit of doing checks on themselves on what they believe to be true.  The sooner people recognize there's a narrative being constantly pushed onto them, the sooner they can break out of it and harness the power of information instead of being a slave to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Patriot Day and being American

Eleven years ago today, 19 cowardly Islamists hijacked four commercial airliners full of innocent men, women and children and crashed them into the world trade center towers, the pentagon, and what was supposed to be the capitol building, culminating in the most devastating attack by a foreign enemy on US Soil and the first since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  Every time I think about it, especially the heroics of the passengers that fought back against the terrorists, it stirs strong emotions within me.

Patriot Day, or more commonly known as 9/11, holds a deeper significance to me than any day we have that celebrates freedom and sacrifice.  One reason is that I was alive when this happened and remember exactly where I was when I heard the awful news.  And another big reason is that my mother was born the day before 9/11 on the 10th.  I was born the day after, the 12th, creating a somewhat symbolic bookend to the terrible events that transpired that day.  On the before side, we have the generation that fought against the evils of the world and watched over us in the 20th century.  On the after side, we have the next generation taking up the standard to fight against Islamic extremists and maintaining the precious safety and freedom our country enjoys to this day.  Neither of us have been in the service, but both of us have a deep respect for those who do and recognize what it means to be American.

This past decade, it's been highly fashionable for American citizens to bash America or hold that this country is an evil empire.  We exploit poor third world countries.  We kill innocent people for oil.  We oppress our own citizenry.  They even brazenly claim that when it comes to the 9/11 attacks, "we had it coming" because somehow we were so evil that it justified the slaughter of over 3,000 innocent lives.  While all of those claims can be debunked and debated, that's not for this article.  Needless to say, the people that believe America is an evil empire should have their moral compass re-calibrated.  This isn't to say America is completely blameless or innocent.  No nation ever is.  Every nation has moments in their past which are dark or evil.  Yet, instead of looking at an unrealistic definition of good by claiming any country that has committed evil can never be good, we should instead judge by what good the country has done in the world.

And when it comes to doing good in the world, no country has done more than America, particularly in the 20th century.  When the Axis powers arose in World War II, it was America who fought a war on two fronts to fight against tyranny.  It was America who recognized the threat and evil of Communism and was the world's sole defender of liberty and freedom against it.  When humanitarian crises happen around the globe, the world looks to America for aid and leadership.  America has done more to fight against hunger, poverty, and oppression than any other nation on this planet.  It has been our country's leadership role in the world that has not only helped make the world a better place, but has given people around the globe hope.  No other country has sacrificed more of its citizens to better the lives of another nation's citizens than America.  We are a country of ideas that harnesses the power of individual liberty and that power has enriched the lives of the entire world.

Many Americans do not really understand our uniqueness in the world.  Many believe that it's like how it is in America everywhere, but these other places are "nicer".   This is a misguided falsehood that comes as a result of freedom being so ubiquitous that many do not realize its value.  Yet, just ask an immigrant adult that has come to this country looking for opportunity and they'll tell you otherwise.  Ask a former Russian citizen.  America IS different and unique and a force for good.    

And on this day, a day where we were attacked not because we are evil, but attacked because we are the biggest threat to the extreme Islamists and their immoral, deplorable acts, it reminds me how fortunate I am to live in a country like this.   It reminds me that America is the best hope for the world and I am proud to be a part of it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why I blog, a brief history of me

As of late and quite recently, why I blog, particularly politically, has come into question.  Accusations that I've gone "way far right", that I'm a hate filled bigot, that I'm doing it for attention, or that because I blog I think I'm this special from the heavens voice on a pedestal have all been leveled against me.  And I was a little shocked to hear that.  Sure, I'm aware there's some negative stigma about bloggers these days, but I hadn't expected it to be so blatantly knee-jerk.  I mean surely someone who would read what I've written would point out any flaws in my arguments, which would lead to a debate or discussion.  That's what I expected.

What I didn't expect was for these accusations to come from people, in every case, that had not even bothered to read any of it.  For people claiming to be open minded, it seemed pretty much the opposite.  Though one of these accusers did accurately predict that I'd blog about it, the reasons for doing so are quite different than what he so callously assumes.   And that's why this post is here.  To explain why I blog and talk a little bit about me.  Of course, the hilarity is that I'm making a post to convince those who don't read my blog that I'm not what they think.   But even then, there's still more than that.

Why do I blog?  There's two big reasons.  First is, I need to have an outlet to express myself, regardless if anyone is listening or not.  This is my pulpit to get out my thoughts on various issues and it helps solidify my ideas into something more comprehensive.  And second, I'm not that great of a communicator.   The ideas and opinions I have are not simple ones.  There's a lot of thought behind them.  The sign of a great communicator is someone that can get across complex or big ideas clearly and concisely.  I struggle with this.    Many times I'll see issues pop up I'd like to respond to, but realize it's not a place for paragraph upon paragraph responses.   The forum in question is usually meant for short responses.   So instead, I'll blog about it, get it all down, understand where I'm coming from better, then maybe respond with something shorter.  And if I fail to deliver something concise and effective, at least I can provide a link for further reading.

The political blogging has an additional reason as well.  For nearly my entire life, and especially this last decade, I've seen how Republicans are labeled as dumb.  They're labeled as bigots.  They're homophobes.  They're racist.  While these I know to be false, the problem is I'd see Republicans and conservatives unable to mount an effective defense.  They seemed unable to fight back effectively.  So another reason I blog is so that when I'm in the trenches, so to speak, I could be more effective at dispelling such common falsehoods.  And maybe another conservative might stumble upon it and give them more ground to stand on.  Maybe someone who has a level head that believes all these bad things about Republicans might come away with a new perspective that makes them reconsider what they assumed was fact.

A little about me to cap this off.   For a long while, I held to what could be seen as more centrist, or even liberal views.  I always pride myself on looking at a situation critically and to not jump the gun on knee jerk, emotional reactions.  Deep down, I always leaned a little right on issues, but I would surpress it because I was unable to effectively reconcile those leanings.  Because I couldn't, I figured they might be the more irrational part of me that I needed to keep in check.

But then, I discovered some intellectuals that championed conservative causes.  I discovered a whole array of smart people who WERE able to make the arguments that I was unable to make for myself.  They showed me that not only what I was trying to suppress all this time was right, but that there's a very underhanded method deployed by the opposition to keep right leaning people thinking they're wrong and in the minority.  It was a breath of fresh air and a relief.  Not only wasn't I alone, but I was also in the majority.

In the process, I haven't lost my ability to view things objectively or critically.  In fact, I'd venture to say that I'm even better equipped than I was before.  I'm still the same person that will take a skeptic's view, but now armed with more, I can arrive at different conclusions.

And as it turns out, those conclusions turn out to be the same as they were when I was younger, revealing the wisdom of God and my parents.

I have no illusions that I'm perfect.  No illusions of grandiose authority.   I know for certain I need to get better at communicating my ideas effectively.  And so I blog, in hopes I'll get better and that if what I write can change the heart of just 1 person, I'll feel that it was time well spent.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My 2016: Obama's America review

Alright, before I get started, let's get a few things out of the way.  First, which should come as no surprise, is I'm conservative and a Republican.  I definitely lean right in my perception.  However, this leaning is not formed by mere alarmist bias.  It's not formed by blind faith.  It's formed by evaluating what I see in front of me while attempting to be as informed as I can.  Generally, when doing this, my conclusions will lean conservative.  But it's not automatic.  I still try to look critically.  Yes, I rail on liberals alot simply because there's a fundamental ideological clash.  But when it comes to evaluating a piece of political media, I do my best to play the part of the skeptic even if I naturally lean right.

I say this because I'm aware (and as I've said before) that conservatives in general just aren't as good on both documentary/entertainment media and the argumentative front as liberals are.  I've seen some of it.  For example, FahrenHYPE 9/11, an obvious retort to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was terrible.  Their counters were poorly constructed and there just wasn't a lot of meaty substance.  And even while I found Moore's work to be loathsome and misleading, this counter documentary isn't something I'd refer to as a definitive refutation of the original film.  What I'm getting at here is that just because a piece of media has a conservative bend doesn't mean I'm going to rally behind or endorse it.

You can see where I'm going with this.  I went into 2016: Obama's America curious as to what it had to say.  I'd seen the previews.   Dinesh D'Souza, the person who primarily put this documentary together, intrigued me. His hypothesis about Obama was something I hadn't considered nor seen on either side of the American political spectrum.  I heard the praises from the right, and the universal condemnation from the left.  It'd be easy to just side with the right without seeing it.  But no, I had to see it.

And I'm thoroughly glad I did.

This is a well put together documentary.  Perhaps after watching it, you may disagree with D'Souza's assessment, but its production values and how he constructs the arguments for this theory are both excellent. It's a little dry and the pacing is a bit slow, but that's to be expected of a political documentary.  Just like you don't expect a Shakespearian quality soliloquy in a Jon Woo action flick, you wouldn't expect the ADD eye popping Bayhem that a big budget blockbuster would deliver to appear in a film such as 2016.

But let's get to the content itself:

From the beginning, D'Souza masterfully points out the almost eerie similarities between himself and Obama.  They were both born the same year, graduated from an ivy league college the same year and even married the same year.  Even more so, both have an international influence on their life.  D'Souza's an immigrant from India.  Obama's father was Kenyan and Obama himself lived in Indonesia for several years of his life.

But the biggest similarity is the one that's the centerpiece of D'Souza's theory:  Anti-Colonialism.  Both men share an influence of Anti-Colonialism.  D'Souza's from his life growing up in India.  Obama's collectively from his father (who was part of the movement that overthrew the British in Kenya), his stepfather Lolo Sotoro (to a lesser degree), and his staying in Hawaii (where strong anti-American colonialist sentiment started to spring up in the 60's and 70's).

So what is D'Souza's theory/hypothesis?  He claims that most Americans have Obama framed incorrectly.  They keep trying to put him in a bucket from an American rooted context, but it doesn't fit.  It doesn't explain his actions.  But, when you establish his compass as being Anti-Colonial Marxist (and it's important to make the distinction from that of a general socialist/marxist), something that's rather foreign to most Americans, his actions, a few of which he specifically highlights early on, as President make a lot of sense.

D'Souza does an excellent job at building this case.  He explores how a father who was largely not in his life could serve as such a positive, influential figure, connecting the dots from Obama's own autobiography to  the people that were a part of Obama's younger years.  In doing so, he's able to come out and clinically state how Obama's objectives and his compass are not routed in Americanism, which is far different from any president before him.

I was also able to readily identify the segment where the left is crying racism.  He pretty much says that Obama got elected because he was black.  Yet, what I find missing from the left's indictment is the fact that while D'Souza says this, he's not attempting to cheapen his electoral victory.  Instead, he points to the inevitable overwhelming force of history in the making allowing it to happen.  Electing a black man as president has been seen, even before Obama was a blip on the radar, as a culmination of the Civil Rights movement and proving our country has moved beyond its deep history with racism.  He was the right man in the right time with the prevailing issue being the defeat of racism.  The point in this segment was pretty back loaded though, so if someone immediately saw red, there's a good chance they missed the subsequent points that followed.

Finally, after establishing Obama's Anti-Colonial compass, he revisits the somewhat baffling decisions Obama has made as president that the film showed earlier, applying this anti colonialism context.  This puts it all into place and it's very well done.

From the onset of the film, D'Souza establishes his own conservative credentials.  There's no question which way he leans. Near the end, he not only draws a comparison of Americanism to Anti-Colonialism, he also extrapolates on what type of path an unconstrained Obama (complete with open mic gaffe to Russian PM Medvedev) would take, which fuses flawlessly with his previously constructed argument.

And in the final parts of the documentary, he presents a statement that's been echoed not only by me, but many pundits in this election cycle...  America has a choice between two starkly different directions to take: Americanism or Obama's brand of Anti-Colonialism.

If you're in this election thinking that this is just another run of the mill Democrat vs Republican election, I highly recommend you watch this movie.  If you're a Republican looking for ways to sway your liberal friends to your side, this film will serve as a solid point in your debates.  If you believe in American exceptionalism, you should see this documentary.  And finally, if you're just curious, like I was, you should absolutely see it to draw your own conclusions.

This film is not a scare tactic piece of propaganda.  It builds a solid, well rationalized theory that points to plain facts as evidence.  I'm hoping you'll see it for yourself.  It's worth the money.