Friday, September 7, 2012


I’m trying to wrap my head around some numbers. I generally like the stories numbers can tell. Statistics can provide an insight into events that anecdotes hide. Mapping statistical evidence onto sensory data can be like getting a new sense; a sense of reality.

Unfortunately statistics are more prone to falsification than the natural senses are prone to neurological glitches; for instance a larger percentage of the statistics I have been given have turned out outright lies than things I’ve seen have turned out to have been optical illusions.

Statistics are often no fun to bring up in conversations. Unpleasant sensory stimuli can be. I’ve heard people laughing over having detected someone’s flatulence by its odor, but I have rarely heard people laughing over having discovered that something they thought was true did not fit statistical evidence.

Discovering that one is wrong can sometimes be exhilarating, but is usually more comfortably done in private.

Most statistics have no impact on previously held positions in my mind. Despite the fact that I actively try to think about many things there is more data about the world than I have even considered.

There is an old expression for unrelatedness of information to a particular train of thought. It goes something like this: “What has that got to do with the price of beans in China?”

Did you know that you can get a ton of beans from China for about $1,000.00 (minimum order 20 toms)?

So, I’m trying to wrap my head around some numbers. They are TV show ratings, and I don’t watch TV. It is not so much what the ratings mean; it is what they really mean.

The National conventions of the two political parties worth noting in the USA have come and gone over the past couple of weeks. These are televised extravaganzas where a great number of political speeches defining the proposed direction of the competing national interests are delivered with great rhetorical vigor. I have listened to a few on YouTube, and have become convinced that it is inconceivable that anyone could vote differently from the way I have decided to vote.  I mean ... how could anyone think that way?

However, many of the people with direct TV access to the National conventions did not watch them. Instead many people watched a show called “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo”. The Republican National Convention actually lost out to “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” when they went head-to-head; The Democratic National Convention narrowly beat out “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo”.

So what is this show that is more important to the American people than there next president you might ask? I wanted to know as well. It only took a few seconds of searching to find out that it was a spinoff of a show called “Toddlers and Tiaras” , which is a reality show based on kid beauty pageants like the one featured in the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”. Honey Boo-Boo is the nickname of one 6-year-old girl who regularly drinks a mixture of red-bull and m Mountain Dew her mother mixes for her, and then acts spastic. Here is a clip that purportedly captures the tone of the show.

There may be more to the show, but I’m not inclined to research it further. I very much liked the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”, but finding out these types of pageants are real is icky.

So what does it say about the status of America’s republic that “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” is equally, or more, popular than the national political conventions?


v1car said...

It says very little about America.

If you're an intelligent person, you weren't watching either of the conventions. (Whether you were watching anything at all is a totally different question; I think I was rereading a Dorothy L. Sayers book the night of Clinton's speech.)

The RNC was a wholly manufactured spectacle, trying to build enthusiasm around Romney and Ryan because Romney was already the winner even before the convention began. The last two decades have demonstrated amply to anyone paying attention that (1) the Republicans are hate-filled manipulative liars and (2) Republicans will vote in lockstep no matter how vile they may profess the position is. So why watch a bunch of liars who are trying to manipulate you (and may possibly succeed in minor ways you can't imagine)?

As for the DNC, well, 4 years ago we had a candidate who made a bunch of wonderful-sounding speeches and started breaking his promises immediately after getting the nomination (remember the FISA telecom immunity vote -- the one Obama swore he would vote against to wild Democratic acclaim, and then immediately voted for after getting the nomination?). He also promised, both in implied and explicit form, to do all kinds of things, and mostly never even bothered to make an attempt on most of them. In fact, he was actually the force working against several of them. (Obama is the one who insisted on keeping the ACA negotiations secret, despite promising they'd be public; Obama is the one who strong-armed all the Democrats into not mentioning single payer at all and giving up on the public option; Obama is the one who refused to prosecute any of the "too big to fail" banks; etc. etc. etc.) Yes, okay, he's a thrilling speaker, and so is Clinton, and so is Warren, and so are many of the others. But why bother to listen to the speeches if the result is just going to be betrayal and letdown? Besides, as with the RNC, we knew who the candidate would be in the end: Obama.

[To be continued in a moment, since Blogger has limits on comment length...]

v1car said...

In fact, I don't think it's disappointing that the U.S. has such low voter turnout these days.

We have 4 parties who consistently try to run candidates; 2 major ones and two minor ones.

There's the Republicans, who are basically sending the message "unless you're rich, white, heterosexual, male, and Christian, we will do our best to screw you over in every way we can". Most of their appeal is to people who are basically willing to get screwed over in order to make sure certain groups (the poor, non-whites, homosexuals, women, and non-Christians) get screwed over too.

Then there's the Democrats. These days, the Democrats' message is "unless you're rich, we'll screw you over just slightly less than the Republicans, and tell you should be grateful for it". Their appeal is to people who "have to vote for a lizard to keep the wrong lizard from getting in", plus a certain number of people who are loyal to the party because they've always been loyal to the party.

Or we have the Libertarians, whose message is "we claim we won't screw you over, but half of us want to do the same as the Republicans and the other half are batsh*t insane and will screw you over more or less incidentally if allowed to pursue our economic agenda".

And last but not least there are the Greens -- who are actually pretty good on most of the issues and usually run some decent people, but "everyone knows" that minor parties can't win elections so they can't get votes. (And the Democrats are very active in pointing this out, because they'll lose much of their base if people start voting their principles. The Democrats could destroy the Green party tomorrow by actually trying to do -- they wouldn't even have to succeed! -- a tenth of the things Obama has promised to do in speeches since the beginning of 2004. But they don't. It's pretty clear that they're afraid they might succeed, and then all that lovely money would stop flowing.)

This being the case, it is entirely understandable why people don't vote.

adult onset atheist said...

There are two good reasons to not vote:

1) You are not planning on voting the way I want you to,


2) You are completely uniformed about what the choices are.

Both of these reasons can be swept away by simply listening to me, and then planning on voting the way I tell you to. Unfortunately there are many people with my opinion on this process, and we don’t necessarily agree on who to vote for.

The most common reason to not vote that I am given can be reduced to:

3) There is not a good enough choice for me.

This is essentially the reason you are giving Vicar. The reason this is a crappy reason is that it is impossible to distinguish the tone of your non-vote with the tone of the non-vote caused by any number of opinions with which you would strongly disagree.

I also disagree with those folks who present a vote for a “third party” as a non-vote. A vote for a second-tier party candidate is a vote, and in some areas it is a vote that counts more than a vote for one of the major party candidates. You are right for calling me out on my statement that there were only:. “two political party’s worth noting”. First you should have noted the typo in writing party’s instead of parties. (I’ve fixed it now)

Second, the fact is that, because of the electoral collage system, a vote for a third party in any heavily red or heavily blue state means much more than a vote for one of the two major candidates. I am simply incorrect for suggesting otherwise. I live in Utah and it would be throwing away my vote to give it to one of the two major candidates.

I should note that Dorothy Sayers was a socially active Christian Humanist who might be appalled at the idea that people were actively avoiding. Then again…she did apparently say things like this:
“Books... are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
So she would probably understand.

Anonymous said...

You misunderstood me; I didn't say I wasn't going to vote. I'm going to vote Green everywhere there's a Green party candidate on the ballot, and in all other contests I will follow my usual rules for candidate selection. What I said was that a refusal to vote at all was understandable, and that low voter turnout isn't disappointing.

(You want to be disappointed by low voter turnout? Look at the turnout for local elections in states/counties which hold their local elections in odd-numbered years. It is possible to become mayor in some places by getting a number of votes which is less than 10% of the number of registered voters.)

Joe said...

After seeing Honey Boo-Boo, I think there is little hope for general mainstream America, hopeless, what will happen when she grows up and has her own kids (or orphaned - see how fat her mother was?/heart could explode next visit to McDonalds)?, giving up, not fixable, may need to move out to sea and form a new country, maybe move to Estonia another option.

v1car said...

One further point: pointing out minor typos in a lengthy piece of text as a way of objecting is childish; it's one thing to mock someone who can't run for two lines without grammar and spelling issues, but to carp about one error in a page or two of otherwise acceptable prose is basically an admission that you have nothing else to say.

Oh, and in case it wasn't completely obvious, the anonymous comment at #4 was actually me. Oops!

adult onset atheist said...

I was only pointing out the typo to be a bit self deprecating. Although...I should be more conscientious about editing my posts for basal English errors. I am an admittedly lazy editor for my own work.