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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

I realize that January has come and gone (heck, February is almost out the door) and that is the month where I do most of my veridictions (my completely fabricated word for the process of verifying predictions). Be the calendar (and my procrastination) as it may be, but I will still offer up this prediction that I have been holding on to since September of last year.

Near the end of the ninth month of 2013, the U.S. government was on the verge of a self-imposed shutdown.

Before the lights were turned out, Republican Senator Tom Coburn (of Oklahoma) made a prediction concerning how the Grand Old Party would fare if, indeed, the government did shut down.

In no uncertain terms, Senator Coburn said the GOP would “fold like hotcakes” in its quest to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by shutting down the federal government.

So, what happened?

For sixteen days starting on October 1 (aka the start of Fiscal Year 2014), the U.S. federal government did indeed shut down. When it was over and business resumed in Washington, D.C., the ACA was untouched.

At a cost of $24 billion (according to Standard & Poor’s), some in the Republican Party shut down the federal government to defund the ACA and got zero in return.

Senator Coburn’s prediction of folding like pancakes was spot on. Congrats (I think).

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My heartiest apologies for being away from this blog for the past month. Circumstances beyond my control left me unable to continue my writings. The details are too queasy to delve into, but suffice it to say that I can confirm that the following pair of sentences are undeniably true.

1) When health experts warn expats living in Thailand to wash all of the fruits and vegetables bought in local markets, they really mean it.
2) The hospitals in Bangkok (okay, granted that my dataset consists of one) are Western in quality, cleanliness, and professionalism.

With all that said, I’m glad to be back (and upright).

While I was away, I noticed that the internal workings of the United States government have ground to a halt (almost like my insides…oh, wait, I wasn’t going to go into the details…sorry). This gridlock-slash-shutdown-slash-default seems like the perfect hook to let you in on my latest epiphany.

When I was growing up, I came of age (politically speaking) in the Era of Reagan. Back then, I blamed the Republican president for the budget deficits and national debt that were a hallmark of the 1980s.

In the 1990s, when the red ink turned black, I tipped my hat to President Clinton for his (or at least his advisors) financial acumen.

Now, even in my mid-forties, I am not so bound by ideology that I cannot see new facts and revise what I once knew.

I have now (slowly, but surely) come to learn and appreciate that it is the Congress – and more importantly, the House of Representatives – that controls the budget. The chief of the Executive Branch may be able to offer legislation and a budget plan, but it is still the responsibility of the People’s House to actually allocate the money.

With this new perspective in mind, I belatedly offer my ire to the Democratic-led House of the 1980s for busting the budget and give my appreciation to the Newt Gingrich-led GOP House of the 90s for helping to rein in spending.

What this now means for me in the current situation as the nation I was born in has shuttered most of its windows for the past two weeks and hurtles towards becoming a deadbeat nation is that my contempt is wholeheartedly reserved for the party now controlling the House of Representatives. The current leadership has to know when it has the votes, when legislation will pass and in what form, and what will be able to move through the Senate and make its way to be signed by the President. Any toying with the full faith and credit of the Unites States government simply to achieve a political goal that has been rebuffed over forty times is folly.

I give credit where it is due and blame where it is due. I have been able to change my mind. I hope it doesn’t take the current House leadership decades to do the same.

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This year of 2012 is coming to close. While some choose to look back and see who should win The Person of the Year award bestowed by TIME, I instead opt to opine that this was a horrible year for those in the prediction trade.

In South Africa, an amendment to a law would impose a sentence of ten years and a fine of 800,000 pounds on any meteorologist who issued a severe weather warning without receiving official permission first.

In Australia, a federal court issued a judgement against Standard & Poor’s, a financial services company, for providing high ratings to financial products that ultimately lost most of their value.

In Italy, six scientists and a government official were given prison terms of six years for failing to predict a 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila that killed nearly 300 people.

In the United States of America, during the presidential election of this year, many political prognosticators and pundits (and mostly those not relying on actual data) had egg on their face on November 7 when the final tally was not as close as their public pronouncements made out. Probably the biggest forecasting failure belonged to Dick Morris, who at least did admit he was wrong and offered up an explanation.

Given that three of my four stories above deal with legal and financial consequences being handed out for people and organizations that failed in their predictions, and;

Given that twenty-eight out of the thirty-nine political pundits being tracked by PunditTracker that have grades have a grade of “F”…

…my follow-up question is this:

What do you think would happen to the industry of talking heads and political pundits if each prognosticator faced a fine or other consequence for every wrong prediction they made?

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Other than turning the lens on me, I haven’t done a veridiction (my made-up name for the exercise of verifying predictions) post since June of this year.

In that month, a politician made a prediction and now the time has come to see how it panned it out.

Two months ago, Congressman Darrell Issa (R, CA), the chairperson of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman and the Representative leading the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious had this to say when asked about an upcoming vote of against Attorney General Eric Holder for being in contempt of Congress…

I believe they will (vote to hold him in contempt),…[b]oth Republicans and Democrats will vote that — I believe it will be bipartisan.

Before we delve into what the vote actually was, a definition needs to be hammered out.

What exactly does “bipartisan” mean?

It’s a word that is bandied about in political discourse (such as here and here and here for examples) but is it tossed about so much that it is essentially meaningless?

My apologies for falling back on a cliché, but if I want to discover what the definition of a word means then I have to go to the dictionary.

TheFreeDictionary.com defines the word as Of, consisting of, or supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties;

Merriam-Webster says the word is of, relating to, or involving members of two parties;

The Oxford Dictionary defines bipartisan as of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies

The first two definitions above define something as bipartisan when members of two parties support that thing. Since there is no modifying word to describe how many people of each party must support the thing, it can be assumed that as long as more than zero members of both parties support something, it is therefore bipartisan.

Using this broad definition, then Representative Issa’s predication came true as both Democrats and Republicans voted to find the Attorney General in contempt (Roll Call Vote 441) on June 28.

However, it should be pointed out that the number of GOP members who voted AYE was 238 while only 17 Democrats voted in the affirmative. If it can be stated that any legislation is bipartisan that has more than zero members from each party voting in favor of such a bill then any Democratic-sponsored bill that earns at least one Republican vote can be labelled as such. With that as a definition, then the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (S 181) can be classified as bipartisan as only a trio of Republicans voted for it (Roll Call Vote 037).

If a more nuanced definition of bipartisan is to be used, then Representative Issa’s prediction comes up short. The definition above provided by The Oxford Dictionary states that something that is bipartisan involves the agreement or cooperation of both parties. Since it is silly to say that a political party is in agreement or is cooperating if a sole, lone member supports the opposing party, then where should the cut-off be? What percentage of the membership does it take to cross the aisle for a measure to be considered bipartisan? 25? 45? 75?

For my money, my cut-off mark would be fifty-percent-plus-one. If a majority of the members of a political party vote with the opposition to support a measure, then it is bipartisan.

By that standard I set, Representative Issa’s prediction did not come true as only 8.9% (17 out of the available 191) of Democrats voted with the GOP.

By Issa’s standard (he uses the modifying clause “…Republicans and Democrats will vote that…” in his quote), he was correct as more than zero Democrats voted with his party.

Like the concept of bipartisanship itself, Issa’s success or failure with this prediction depends on what standard you wish to use.

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With what this middle child of mine does and says, I could center this blog around him.

You met Jared before in his incarnations as Roger Kint, Tony Hawk, and Cordelia.

Yesterday he donned his best cheapest three-piece suit and become an expert in the motion picture industry.

While walking around this new city we call home (An aside: Can I really call it “new” if we’ve been here over half a year?), my three children and I saw a movie poster for the soon-to-be-released three-dimensional version of James Cameron’s Titanic.

Frustration overcame me as I pondered aloud as to why there was a need to re-release this film in 3D. It’s not as if it were an action film with swords, lasers, and pointy things flying at the audience. It’s a love story on a boat that sinks.

As my tirade concluded, I ended with, “Why is this being done?”

To which, Jared, my middle child, answered with all his typical brilliant insight, “Because there was money to be made.”

He’s eleven years old, ladies and gentlemen, and he already understands show business.

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Eons ago, I posted and asked the rhetorical question of who actually won the 2008 presidential election.

I gave five examples of policies implemented by the Democratic winner that appeared to be extension of policies created by his Republican predecessor.

This post is to once again wonder who won the election in November 2008.

The lead paragraph from Eli Lake’s article in the The Daily Beast sets up the premise…

As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama promised that if he was elected president he would not issue obscure declarations known as signing statements that thwart the intent of laws passed by Congress.

…and this line from a January 6, 2012, Reuters article delivers the punch:

Obama, a Democrat, has issued 29 signing statements since he entered the White House in 2009…

Yep, as a candidate the Democrat nominee for the Oval Office goes on record saying he stands against XYZ and then once he finds himself in the comfy chair behind the wooden desk in the room with no corners, he does XYZ 29 (there’s your number for the day) times.

I am now so far beyond disillusioned with this agent of change that this reversal of principles doesn’t even shock me. Surprises me, but not shocks.

President Barack Obama simply joins all the other ranks of elected official I have seen through the ages who say one thing when on the trail and do the opposite once they are safely in office.

I have a name for them and President#44 now (un-)proudly joins their ranks.

That name (with a tip of the hat to the movie Blue Thunder) is JAFPOL, which stands for Just Another F*cking POLitician.

Fun side ending note: This website claims to have all of President Obama’s signing statements (though the number is not 29) so please enjoy some light poolside reading.

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As I have rambled about in an earlier post, my daughter (now six) has expressed an interest in running for President. However, it appears that the politics bug has been caught by my middle child, Jared, as he gives a speech today to secure his nomination for the vice-presidency of his school’s Student Council. In an amazing bit of understanding, Jared told me that he knows that the Council doesn’t have any real power, but he wants to run anyway – but not if he has to lie to get the job.

This child truly scares me at time with how perceptive he is and he’s nine.

All of which, of course, reminds me of a ceditra entry I made on April 4 of this year when I let my fingers do the walking all over The Washington Post of that same day and it landed on page 6 of the Metro section where I saw the headline….

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

GRAY’S RUNNING

That was the headline from the Local Opinion section of the paper under the portion labelled “Topic A: The D.C. Mayor’s Race”.

Six local folk give their thoughts over the decision of DC Councilman Vincent Gray to throw this hat into the ring and run against Adrian Fenty to be mayor of the District.

I do understand why people enter politics. The reasons are many – desire to do good, desire to give something back, desire to leave a mark, desire for power – and individual to each candidate.

I can’t say which of the above reasons Gray publicly states and privately holds as to why he wants to be Mayor. However, I can point to the reason as to why I never entered politics – I didn’t want to give speeches.

When I was growing up and I watched Presidents and Senators and Governors speak, I was under the impression that those politicians actually wrote their own speeches. At that time, I did not like crafting words. While I was marginally okay with delivering words, I really did not like putting in the effort of coming up with the words.

In addition, my political experience in school didn’t help out. I lost a Student Council race in 3rd grade, I lost a 7th grade election as my logical, rational speech fell flat against a comedic speech (and my posters were defaced), and I lost a high school freshman Council election as my comic speech killed…but I was a victim of fraud as my name was misspelled on the ballot. What also doomed me in my quest to win the freshman Council election was that I was running against a football player.

Politics, I learned in ninth grade, is akin to a popularity contest.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Back to today and I wish my boy well and hope he comes away with a different outcome (i.e., a win) than I did and that he comes away with a different attitude towards politics (i.e., less cynical).

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