Category Archives: Poly (meaning many)

NPR, Twitter, and the Declaration of Independence

Note: I use for my construction of whether a news source is biased and what bias that news source may have. They have ratings for satire, pro-science, and conspiracy theory, as well. I will note the bias of the source of the article based on Media Bias Fact Check (if they’ve been rated.) If you use Chrome, you can download the official Media Bias Fact Check plug-in here

I about lost my self-righteous, descendant of an American revolutionary, cool today after reading about people losing their mind on Twitter because NPR was tweeting the text of the Declaration of Independence and people thought it was some commentary on the president.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was “Wait a minute. The people who think they’re going to ‘Make America Great Again’ can’t even recognize the document that made America in the first place? Give me a break.”

It took the Washington Post’s (Left Center bias) article on the topic, to make me stop and reconsider a moment. The Post article brought up that one of the people involved in the kerfuffle raised a valid question: in the context of Twitter, a format with 140 characters, would the average person know the document being presented was the Declaration of Independence?

I did. I saw the NPR presentation the one time I peeked at Twitter yesterday, which I don’t much use, and recognized the bit in my feed at the time. I made the assumption that any real patriot should recognize one of the most important documents in the history of our nation (if not the most important document,) but that’s not a fair assumption by any measure.

I recognized it, but I also got lucky: I saw the feed at a part that was memorable.

Even without that, though, my situation is unique. I’m not the typical American. I memorized the Declaration of Independence in childhood for a school recitation, and while I can’t do the whole thing from memory anymore, parts stand out. I memorized the Preamble of the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, too.

We did that kind of thing when I was in school. I’m old.

I had to memorize a lot of American history. My family has lots of pride about being descended from an American Revolutionary, from my most conservative cousins to my uncle the hippie, but probably most especially my dad. Dad was a gray iron master molder, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and one the most patriotic and starkly individualistic people I’ve ever known.

I have fond memories of my dad very indulgently listening to me practice recitations and telling me these documents were very important because they were half of what made America the greatest nation on the earth. The other half was the American people themselves, some of whom have been failed by both our educational system and our consumerist society.

School was different back in the analog age, and an education was a way to claw up from the brink of poverty and to a better life then. The value of education was undisputed.

Now, the value of education is a crapshoot.

We have an educational system that rates as just hanging on to “above average” when compared to the rest of the world by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)‘s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). We’re rating below average in math and science, which has been reported by Forbes (Right Center Bias) and the Wall Street Journal (Right Center Bias) (this article is behind their paywall) since as early as 2013. (Both of these publications are right leaning.)

We have a “History” channel with almost no history on it, a plethora of “reality” TV shows that are as played for ratings as the majority of news media. We cheer on our political parties like they’re sports teams, especially if you trust CNN (Left Bias) for your news.

“The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.” —Jeff Zucker, president of CNN.

It’s not surprising that lots of people when they read out of context tweets from NPR, a left-center biased news source that they assumed the worst. We’ve got members of the news media actively trying to whip the American people into a frenzy.

Why wouldn’t people think the worst? Twitter is 140 characters at a time, lumped up in a feed with everyone else tweeting all at the same time. It’s simply not the right forum to share the Declaration of Independence.

I hope that in the future, NPR makes better choices about what material to share in which format. I hope that this incident will make people more interested in this historic document and the history of the United States in general. I’m sharing the full text of the Declaration of Independence, from the National Archives, because that’s how strongly I feel about the importance of this document.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Who watches the watchmen?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? When you stop inviting the press who questions you and asks you to prove your position? No one.
– Me, via @skhoot on twitter

A friend of mine (who lives here in town, and whom I will call M) responded to that twitter post I made via my Facebook. He and another good friend of mine (B) had a discussion there, and both made several good points. It’s very easy for me to agree with B. The current administration is the current problem with how it’s handling the press and facts in general. Bringing up the past administration, no matter how wrong it was, only feels like it does one thing: it takes the focus off the current issues.

It distracts from the now.

Ultimately, though, I feel I need to respond to M’s real question, which is this:

Not to condone the current but where was the outrage 6 yrs ago?

Indulge me a moment, while I try to help people see where I’m coming from. I find both parties distasteful at best and full of self-serving scoundrels at worst. I am registered as an Independent. I used to be a Republican until I saw what I consider to be the Party of Responsible Government becoming the Party of the Far Right Extremist Bringing White Supremacy and the Christian Version of Sharia Law to Government. I find the Democratic party to be more in line with my social justice concerns, but also Usually As Far Left As The Republicans are Far Right.

Both groups of politicians seem only interested in how to stay in power and look like they’ll say anything to sway the middle.

I skew liberal on social justice issues. I believe you should be able to Be Who You AreTM. Gay/Straight, Trans/Cis, Ethnic group (and white is an ethnic group, too), polyamourous/monogamous, Star Trek/Star Wars, whatever. As long as you’re not cruel to animals or abusing or killing humans, society should stay out of it. There are still discussions to be had around what constitutes harming or killing people, but that’s a discussion for another day. See also: pro-life vs. pro-choice (and how those two groups talk past one another.)

The way I see it, your right to religious freedom is like your right to swing your arms wildly in a circle: It ends at my nose. You swing your arms and hit me in the face, that’s no longer freedom of expression, that’s assault. You no more get to tell me I should follow your religious beliefs than I get to tell you that you should have certain religious beliefs. (or not have religious beliefs at all.)

I value scientific inquiry and rational thought. I do not always succeed at those. I also appreciate spiritual exploration and believe emotions can bring valuable insights into a conversation. I usually don’t identify as Christian anymore because I tend not to think what most people who use that method of identification believe. I consider myself a humanist because, in everything I do, my first thought is “Does this help humankind? Does it make people’s lives better?”

I skew libertarian for wanting the government to be smaller and less invasive. I believe that personal liberty is social justice issue. With more personal freedom, I think there are more opportunities for people to pursue happiness.

This combination makes me a libtard snowflake to some people, a wingnut whacko to others, and a sellout to still others when they realize that I believe that compromise and balance are possible between the two extremes.

If someone doesn’t like who you are, they can politely shuffle off. In person, I will likely word this more strongly to you, indulging in curt Anglo-Saxon words.

The key word is this: politely.

Say what you about political correctness, it’s politeness that’s the most important thing to a civilized discussion.

On the one hand, sticks and stones, baby. I don’t give a dive a damn what you call me. I do, however, think less of you for resorting to ad hominem attacks.

On the other, slurs of any kind are just plain rude, and I refuse to condone this type of rudeness. Freedom of speech says you can say what you want short of yelling fire in a crowded theater that isn’t on fire (which constitutes a public hazard), not that what you say has no social consequences.

Life is lived in the middle of the road, dodging traffic. It’s messy, and you don’t always get what you want, and that’s just the nature of life. The goal is to try to balance things, so the majority of people get what they need and as few people as possible fall through the cracks.

It’s a teeter-totter: someone’s left dangling and someone’s in danger of falling off when you overbalance to one side. It’s this balance that I find important.

I want balanced press coverage and some of the presidential abuse of the press is very much news to me. Balanced press coverage should be “news.” Not liberal news. Not conservative news. Not libertarian news. Just news. Report the facts and don’t editorialize all the time. By the same token, if you’re in public office, you’re subject to public scrutiny and that means that sometimes, maybe even all the time, the press should be asking you tough, uncomfortable questions.

Which brings me to M’s question: Where was the outrage 6 years ago?

For myself: I didn’t know about it six years ago. Because the previous administration wasn’t as obviously ignoring social justice (or actively working against it IMO), it flew under my radar. That’s my ignorance (possibly naive trust). I’m learning more about the historic problems as well. I can’t change the past, though. I can change the present and the future.

That said, in my opinion, the current administration is looking at the past one and saying “I can be even more authoritarian and people will love me for it, too. Hold my beer.”

I don’t care who did it first. Nixon? Roosevelt? George F-ing Washington? It doesn’t matter. Throwing out everyone who disagrees with you and only questioning people who ask “friendly questions” is wrong no matter who does it.

I’m now aware and if I’d known about it in the past administration I’d have cared about ending it then, too. I’ll say one thing for the current situation: It’s brought out an older breed of journalist who believes in integrity and finding truth, vs just saying whatever will ‘sell papers/generate clicks,’ which I think will revitalize journalism in general.

Ultimately, I’d hope people who are saying “It’s been happening all along” could be happy that people are waking up to the excesses of both the government and the press.

I’m Tired, Boss

Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time.
– John Coffey, The Green Mile

There’s a problem in the United States. It’s not the current POTUS. He’s just a symptom of the real problem.

The problem is that we’ve forgotten that we’re all in this together. We don’t talk to each other. We don’t wait to gather our facts before we form our opinions. We polarize behind “anyone but him/her,” without looking at what the other person is actually bringing to the table with them.

We’ve run our country on people voting for the lesser of two evils for a long time instead of trying to find the right person for the job at hand.

What happened to living life to a set of ideals? To taking the high road? To trying to find common ground with our neighbors?

What happened to polite discussion? To trying to find the best solution for everyone? What happened to compassion and reasoned discourse?

I don’t know, but I’m tired.

I care about the environment and keeping it clean, because this is the only home we have. Science isn’t a liberal conspiracy. It’s the reasoned study of the world around us. It’s a search for evidence and truth.

Everyone should be able to live a life free from fear. People should have the same opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We should have a hand up for our neighbors in trouble, should treat each other with dignity no matter our backgrounds (race, creed, religion, national origin, gender expression, or sexual orientation), and should be able to work at a job that pays a living wage.

Health care shouldn’t cost so damned much. Cancer treatment, for example, shouldn’t be a one way ticket to poverty for the patient’s family. Being sick shouldn’t be treated like it’s a crime against the shareholders.

High taxes.

The right to privacy.

Freedom of religion.

Gun violence vs the right to bear arms.

The struggling American family.

There are so many problems. I’m tired from trying to carry them all. I only have so much strength and energy. I can’t solve all the problems or save the world by myself.
The thing is, there are so many of us there should be a way to solve them all, but there’s no way that will happen until we stop polarizing behind slogans and ideology and start lining up behind the problems we individually worry about the most, find out who’s with us from all sides of the political spectrum, and put aside the politics and get to work on finding solutions.

How to have a polite political discussion 

In honor of Pearl Harbor Rememberance day, I want to talk about how to have a polite political discussion. Politeness in general seems to be something of a lost art, especially on the internet, so I’d like to start with the definition of polite, to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Polite: adjetive
    1 a :  of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture
    b :  marked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and belles lettres
    2 a :  showing or characterized by correct social usage
    b :  marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy
    c :  marked by a lack of roughness or crudities <polite literature>

– from Miram-Webster

Specifically I’m going to be focusing on the second definition, subdefinition b. “marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy.”

Please go get your own photo of someone so dear to you that you would consider violent action if anyone were rude or hurtful to them. If you don’t have a photo, picture sitting with them right now. Try to imagine every detail about them. What they wore. Their favorite food and beverage. The way they smile and laugh.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Now, pull up the last Facebook post you shared about the opposition of your particular political position/candidate in the last election. Imagine someone said something to your special person like that. How would you feel if someone spoke to your special person that way?

If you’re pro-Trump, imagine someone called your Grandmother a diaper wearing baby?

If you’re an anti-Trump person, imagine someone called your dear Grandmother an stupid, racist right to her face?

Annoyed? Angry? Outraged?

Would you actually say something like that to your own beloved person, whom you love and care about? Would you want someone to say that to someone whom you love and care about?

No? Good. 

I guess you have to ask yourself: what do you really want to do and how would you act and what would you do if you actually wanted to do that. Do you want to change someone’s mind? Has calling someone an idiot ever changed anyone’s mind in the history of humankind?

I’m willing to guess that’s a resounding no. Then do what you need to do to actually change minds?

Start with the most basic thing. Fuck political correctness: be polite. 

Remember what your goal is and act in way that helps achieve your goal. Change what you’re doing. Act like you actually want to change the other person’s mind. Act like you want to actually change the world. 

Stop attacking the person. Attack the reasoning, the argument, or the situation. Disprove outright lies and debunk faulty reasoning.
That said, please also remember that we have a certain patriotic duty to hold our elected officials accountable, especially the president. I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

“Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star”, 149

May 7, 1918

Tell the truth. In a world that’s allegedly “post-truth” dare to stand against groupthink

Just be polite when you do it.