Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The blue dawn

Or is it red?

My father is anguished over the state of the world. Sometimes he cheers himself by considering that he'll be dead soon, so only his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to deal with the impending disasters that President Obama will wreak upon us. Other times he thinks he has one more good fight in him. That's apparently what happened when one of his right-wing buddies forwarded him an exposé of Democratic atrocities in Illinois. Surely not even his libtard son could withstand such damning evidence. To the computer!

This is what dropped into my in-box:
I am very worried about the future of our country. I have never been so narrow minded as to vote for someone just based on party, But qualifications are more important. I had hopes for Romney But he pulled out even thought he had good credentials. The Liberal media Keeps telling us that Palin has no experience-- As governor of Alaska Palin has more experience than the other three jokers combined.

I know that capitalism, in just over two hundred years has made this by far the best country in the world and the Liberals want to turn it into a socialist country and that would be a disaster. I do not want the government intruding into every facet of my life. I have sweat many buckets of sweat and some tears too, to provide for my family and I would not have it any other way.

The reason I am sending the article is that in the decades that I have lived on earth I have seen that where Liberals are in control in this country there is corruption, lawlessness and poverty. Free to live your life is a lot better than government control!!!



That's my father at his hand-wringing best. What “article” did he find so compelling that he had to forward it with such an emotional preamble to his eldest son the moonbat? Sad to say, it did not live up to its advance billing. It was, in fact, nothing more than a sorry piece of political porn, the kind of Internet spam that true believers forward back and forth among themselves to reinforce their preconceptions. I guess the point of this one was that Sen. Obama was the product of a corrupt Chicago machine that was bent on destroying us all. Or something like that.

I confess that I have dialed it back just a bit by shrinking the scare-headline font size, which was just a bit much. I have, however, preserved all the exclamation points, that unfailingly accurate warning sign of heated inaccuracy. The misspellings remain in place, too.











ALL DEMOCRATS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!









Can you imagine finding this persuasive? My father thought it was so good that he risked my wrath (or at least my pique) by breaking the ban I imposed on my family on forwarding Internet spam.

One good turn deserves another, so I wrote him back:

Dear Dad:

Thank you for your message. It contains an undeniable truth: Every day of your life has been devoted to your family and no one can deny that. It is as solid a fact as the sun coming up in the east in the morning.

Nothing else in the message, unfortunately, approaches that standard. It is, in fact, a patchwork quilt of errors and misstatements. The forwarded item about Illinois is especially absurd, a house of cards ready to collapse at the slightest puff of truth. People should learn that forwarded messages from the Internet are almost entirely worthless, and this one is no exception. People pass them around to feed their preconceptions and never seem to bother to check them. As a service to my loved ones, I will check it for you and demonstrate what's wrong with it. Although you routinely dismiss my opinions as those of someone who is naive and brainwashed, please allow me to point out that I deserve just a little credibility. I have genuine experience in government service and I know how it works. I've been a news reporter and I know about fact-checking. Let's do some fact-checking, both on what you say and what you forwarded to me. It'll be an education, which you know is my line of work anyway.

You say, “The Liberal media Keeps telling us that Palin has no experience-- As governor of Alaska Palin has more experience than the other three jokers combined.”

It's not just the opinion of the so-called liberal media that Palin was a bad choice for running mate. It's the opinion of Peggy Noonan ("[I]t is a mark against John McCain"), Christopher Buckley ("What on earth can he [McCain] have been thinking?"), George Will ("Palin is obviously not qualified to be president"), and Colin Powell ("I don't believe she's ready to be president"). Except for Powell, who served in the Bush cabinet, these are all conservative writers and columnists.

I think you also meant to say executive experience when talking up Palin's qualifications, because otherwise she has a lot less experience than McCain (26 years in the House and Senate) and Biden (35 years in the Senate), and exactly the same number of years in office as Obama (8 years in the state legislature, 4 years in the Senate). Palin's twelve years of elective office break down into 4 years as a city council member, 6 years as mayor, and 2 years as governor). I won't denigrate Palin's executive service, because leadership experience is valuable. I will, however, point out that I was for several years an elected officer for a regional computer club with thousands of members. Until last year, when Palin began serving as governor of Alaska, it seems that I had about as much executive experience as she did, at least in terms of the number of people we presided over and the number of years we did it. And I'm not quite ready to be president of the United States.

You say, “the Liberals want to turn it into a socialist country.”

No, we don't. We're liberals, not socialists. Learn the difference. We don't suggest that workers should necessarily own the means of production (though we have nothing against co-ops) and we aren't interested in a police state that controls every facet of our lives. George W. Bush is the guy who's been going in that direction, not liberals. We like civil rights and think that the government should get warrants before eavesdropping on us. It's in the Constitution.

You say, “where Liberals are in control in this country there is corruption, lawlessness and poverty.”

Nonsense. Want to talk about corruption? Nixon had Watergate (spies, bribes, and dirty tricks) and Reagan had Iran-Contra (illegal arms deals with Iran and money for Nicaraguan death squads). Clinton had Monica. Not much of a contest. Lawlessness? Crime statistics have dropped steadily during the past twenty years, during both Democratic and Republican administrations. There was a slight increase during the first Bush presidency, but that came to an end when Clinton took office. See the FBI table for specifics. For example, violent crimes have dropped from 640.4 per 100,000 in 1988 to 466.9 in 2007. The table has several other categories, with the same basic conclusions.

Poverty? That's a Republican specialty. Check out the poverty rate from 1959 to 2005. When did poverty drop the most steeply? In the Kennedy/Johnson years. It rose again in Reagan's first term and then slowly dropped, rising again during George H. W. Bush's one term. It dropped during Clinton's two terms and has been slowly rising during George W. Bush's administration. There's probably going to be a spike in 2007 and 2008 because of the economic crisis we've been in. George can try to blame it on the Democratic Congress he's had to work with for two years, but they've done pretty much everything he wanted in terms of legislation. He's having trouble shifting the blame from his administration. Even John McCain has started blaming him.

Now what about that Chicago business? It took me only a few minutes to discover that this forwarded message is as bogus as any other piece of Internet spam.

First off, 292 murders in Chicago versus 221 deaths in Iraq over the same six-month period. How foolish does someone have to be to take this seriously? They're comparing murders in the Chicago area with American troop deaths in Iraq. That's not a fair comparison at all. There are a lot of other people dying violently in Iraq. Iraq is not a safer place to be than Chicago. According to the Chicago crime statistics, 442 people were murdered in 2007, so perhaps the 292 number for six recent months is correct. According to Iraq Body Count, which works directly from published accounts, in 2007 there were 40 civilian deaths per day from gunfire and executions, plus an additional 21 deaths per day from suicide attacks and vehicle bombs. In six months, therefore, nearly 11,000 Iraqi civilians die. On the whole, I'd rather take my chances in Chicago.

According to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, 208 American soldiers were killed in Iraq during the first six months of 2008, so the claim about 221 seems reasonable enough. I'm not sure, though, that “reasonable” is a word I want to use to describe a body count that includes my cousin.

Still, it's just not a valid comparison to Chicago.

The message claims that Democrats fill all of the leadership positions in Illinois and mentions Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. How did they miss Reps. Roskam, Kirk, Weller, Biggert, Johnson, Manzullo, LaHood, and Shimkus, all Republicans? Yes, there are more Democratic congressmen than Republicans from Illinois, but there are still plenty of Republicans.

It's true that the governor of Illinois is a Democrat, although his name is Blagojevich, not Blogojevich. His predecessor, however, was a Republican named George Ryan. He went to prison last year on federal corruption charges. And, by the way, the murder rate in Chicago has been lower during Blagojevich's term than they were during Ryan's.

Do you see now that there is almost no worthwhile evidence in the Chicago hit-piece?

I'm tired of all this, Dad, but my main point is simple. Stop believing stuff you get from the Internet. Stop worrying that the liberals are going to destroy civilization after the November election. Republicans are losing because they've done a terrible job. We've had eight years of miserably bad leadership. Obama will probably be better and I expect that he will be.

Take care, Dad.

Your liberal son,



Michael said...

Hear, hear.

I particularly liked your comment that liberals aren't socialists. Many conservatives wouldn't recognize a real socialist if one came down the street waving a red flag and singing The Internationale.

Interrobang said...

michael -- I almost want to go to the US and try that, not that I'm a real socialist or anything, although I do live in "Soviet Canuckistan," hur hur. I would, except I think probably "I'd be shot" might be on the list of probable outcomes...

llewelly said...

You need to tell your father about the campaign to write-in Joe T. Plumber. The media doesn't want to admit it, and the government is hiding the truth, but Joe T. Plumber has a real chance to unseat Obama. A chance McCain no longer has. There is NO MORE IMPORTANT VOTE an American can make than a write-in vote for Joe T. Plumber. If Joe T. Plumber does not win, MEN WILL HOLD HANDS!

llewelly said...

According to Iraq Body Count, which works directly from published accounts, in 2007 there were 40 civilian deaths per day from gunfire and executions, plus an additional 21 deaths per day from suicide attacks and vehicle bombs. In six months, therefore, nearly 11,000 Iraqi civilians die.

As has been discussed endlessly on Deltoid, the 2004 and 2006 Johns Hopkins Boston School of Public Health surveys of excess Iraq mortality, published in Lancet , show Iraq Body Count greatly underestimates death tolls. After all, Iraq Body Count counts only deaths reported in a select list of newspapers. Reporters can't be everywhere, and must avoid the most dangerous regions.

Zeno said...

I chose to use Iraq Body Count's numbers quite deliberately, since they tally documented deaths. My father regards statistical sampling and analysis as forms of voodoo and doesn't trust them. I intended to give him no opportunity to trot out his arguments about "made up" numbers. The shocking thing is that the Iraq Body Count numbers are so high, given that we know it's quite short of the reality.

Anonymous said...

I hope your father has better critical reasoning faculties than my older (Alaskan!) brother.

We had been discussing and then arguing about gun control, with me quoting statistics and facts and using logic and even commonsense. It finally got so heated that he shouted:

"There's no fact you could give me that would make me change my mind!!"

Some people are unconvincable. They need their beliefs.

I now talk only about family matters and occasionally movies with my entirely Republican family. Some I've stopped talking to. It's just not worth it.

William said...

The other problem is that Iraq is a whole country, while Chicago is a city, with about a tenth the population of Iraq. So, multiply the Chicago figures by ten, and then compare. (Hint: Chicago's still safer.)

The Chemist said...

Your father doesn't normally send you junk? How do you achieve this feat good sir?

Zeno said...

Dad is far from being the worst offender in my family. He doesn't forward much junk. Nieces and cousins, on the other hand, have sent me all kinds of idiotically racist and sexist stuff for my supposed entertainment, along with occasional tributes to the wonderfulness of our godly president (which persuades me that godliness must be something really awful).

Most of them have finally and painfully learned that I never ignore such mail. I always send detailed replies and hit "Reply to All" when I send them. I include links to the resources that refute the bogus right-wing argument, not so much that I expect to convince anyone, but to show that I'm serious. And my family members don't like getting flame-mail from their friend over my rebuttals, so most of them have stopped including me in their spam-forwarding.

It's a small victory, by no means total, but still significant.

Anonymous said...

just how did you end up being such a liberal sheep in a conservative flock? Surely some of the nieces and cousins have had enough exposure to life away from the family farm to start thinking for themselves.

(Sorry, I don't know a diplomatic way of saying that; at first writing it sounds like I'm insulting your family, which is not my intent. It just seems that people acquire a liberal outlook by being exposed to lots of different ideas, and I suspect that your never-left-the-farm relatives in California and my never-left-the-farm relatives in Minnesota have a lot in common. But it's amazing what packing the kids off to Local State College can do to mess up a perfectly conservative upbringing.)

Nevyn said...

going to college saved me from a fate of sheep-like conservatism and thoughtless, mindless mouthing of prayers to an invisible sky daddy. we had pictures of family members, Ronald Reagan and Jesus on the walls of my house, with the former two in the most prominent locations. I believe going to college literally saved my mind and my life.

On another note, I have managed to mostly stop my aunt from sending me these intertube spewings of hate, lies and bigotry, with a similar strategy to Zeno's. (I didn't use Reply All, but maybe I'll do that next time she adds my name in there, and maybe, just maybe, that will put it to a final end.)

The Chemist said...

Meet them head on, I see. Oh this might be interesting.

My email is full of crap- some of it more banal than the rest. I'm so sick of getting emails written in multi-colored text and talking about this or that latest "miracle"/outrage/"beautifully-written" blessing.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I'm so grateful that most of my family is almost as liberal as I am (one brother is more). My other brother is a registered Republican, who is a real old-fashioned Goldwater conservative (and voted for him once) but has voted Clinton - Gore - Kerry - Obama (his state has earlier voting). He sends the occasional rant but nothing forwarded, always his own thoughts.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Whoops. He didn't vote for Gore! My error.

Anonymous said...

ideologies are a terrible thing, capturing people's minds and causing them to cling to mere shadows of reality while fearing and rejecting the fullness of life. it's something that affects and challenges us all as humans. while seeing it in family and friends can be heart-breaking, it presents, as you've demonstrated, a real opportunity to practice compassion (i.e. "skillful means" to the "buddhists") for your and your family's sake.

good on ya, and greetings from mad-town (wisco)...