August 26, 2004

Third year in a row

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at August 26, 2004 3:51 PM

This year's income study from the Census Bureau is out. Guess what:

The number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.3 million last year, to 35.9 million, while those without health insurance climbed by 1.4 million, to 45 million, the Census Bureau reported today.

It was the third straight annual increase for both categories.


As I did last year, I thought of David Brin's prescient letter to Slashdot from 2000. This is the natural result of the Bush administration's tax policy, and it's getting harder to believe it isn't intentional. (I'm recalling that footage from Fahrenheit 9/11—"Some people call you 'the elite.' I call you 'my base.'")

But why worry about these issues, when we can be discussing whether John Kerry really deserved that Purple Heart?

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Comments

I'm fairly ignorant of current politics. I don't know really of any news sources whose honesty I actually trust, or at least who's motivations I feel I can reasonably seperate from their content. I do feel however that I should get off my ass and vote for a change (in the past I've sat on my ass and waited for absentee ballots that either came to late or I lost, I'm a tard). Problem is, I can't imagine who I might vote for.

I do know that I really can't support Bush's re-election. On the other hand, when you take out what information I don't feel I can trust even a little bit, I know next to nothing about Kerry, and what I do feel confident isn't exactly positive.

If you've played Eternal Darkness, the idea of voting for Kerry is like summoning Ulyaoth to slay Chattur'gha, then hoping you can dial the unsummoning runes before *he* destroys the world, at least to my very limited and ill-informed perspective.

The only real data I have is that if you take the people I know, and plot their approximate political orientation relative to my perception of their intelligence, there is some positive correlation between left/smart, but it still isn't a major factor.

Where the hell does that leave me? Should I vote against someone, because at least then I might do something useful with my vote? Do I try to write in "No", because I can't possibly feel good about showing support for *any* of the candidates?

Eh, I'm just venting. My lack of trust of any media on political topics combined with my apathy and lack of background really leaves me at a loss, but I can't feel good about myself either if I don't vote this time around.

Posted by: Lemming | August 26, 2004 6:50 PM

Well, I think one solution may be to accept that any source is likely flawed. As we know from von Neumann, you can build reliable systems from faulty components. I would liken that to being able to extract useful, reliable information about a person running for election, out of possibly faulty sources. I think in order to do this you have to examine many sources about each person you're interested in and not only read the source, but read between the lines about the author. If you understand why the author is speaking about specific things and not others (that you may read elsewhere), you will get insight as to what you should believe from that author's writing, and what is specific to his/her perspective.

I highly recommend www.wikipedia.org as a starting point for reading about the candidates. As it's a highly commununal site, which is supposed to be viewpoint-free, you will find things you can rely upon. I trust when I read a webpage on wikipedia that it's neutral, or will be marked as disputed. And I can read the editing comments and discussion on the page to find out if there have been any disagreements about fact, etc. Knowing the plain facts is a very good place to start, for those may speak to you in a way that the candidates themselves do not.

I was going to put something here about my opinion, but I believe it's prolly pretty well known, and you'd like to form an independent opinion. Best of luck. ^^

Oh, and I suspect that if you need help evaluating an author's viewpoint, the Gazebo is likely one of the most informed people to ask just where/how that author is involved.

Posted by: Zifnab | August 26, 2004 7:29 PM

I agree with Zif; reading multiple sources with an eye to their biases can generally give one a reasonably clear picture of what's going on. Of course some sources are too strongly biased to be worthwhile, but most mainstream sources are ok in this regard. A problem with mainstream journalism is that it tends to be very good at telling you what people are saying, but when a Democrat and a Republican each say the other is lying, it's not very good at pointing to the facts that would settle the issue. Political blogs can be good at this sort of fact-checking but they're almost always very partisan.

As I've become more informed about politics, I've become more pragmatic in my views about voting; "lesser of two evils" reasoning doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Partly this is because I'm more likely to have an effect on the outcome if I vote for the incrementally better of the top two candidates than if I vote for some third party candidate who's closer to my views, but polling in the single digits. (Of course the probablility of my vote affecting the outcome is astronomically tiny in any case, so it can be argued that I'm not justified in making this sort of calculation.) Another part is that I'm aware that my political views are outside the mainstream, and if I want to see them implemented then the majority of voters will have to be convinced somehow. It seems to me that this is more likely to occur in incremental steps than in one big jump, so I should support the incrementally better candidate as a way of walking public opinion towards my preferences. So while Kerry's far from my perfect candidate on a lot of issues, I still feel good about supporting him. (Of course it helps that I think he's not just incrementally better, but substantially better than the other guy.) Based on turnout from 2000 it takes about 50 million votes to get a candidate elected, and there's a sense in which an election cycle is a way of finding a compromise with 50 million other people in order to achieve some common goals in the next four years' policy. I'm never going to be perfectly happy with such a compromise, but that's the price of democracy, and I'm happy to pay it.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | August 27, 2004 1:38 PM
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