Cultural Bible-Thumpin’

The cast of 666 Park Avenue

Television is so much crap these days, and that’s by design. In the last few years I haven’t watched much TV aside from a few programs on premium cable and AMC. I tuned out during the years that reality TV was in vogue; it was just not even remotely entertaining to me. Mostly, if I watched anything at all outside of Showtime shows or Mad Men and the Walking Dead, I’ve done it on Netflix in recent years. My intolerance of stupidity and time-wasting has grown as I’ve aged, and Netflix allows for the elimination of both. There are no commercials and you can streamline your viewing to your particular tastes. For me, that’s been a lot of documentaries, foreign flicks, and old-school shows.

The problem with that is that I’ve lost touch with cultural trends that reveal themselves through the medium of TV. When my daughter brought a Smart TV into our home earlier this month, I got to see what I’d been missing. In addition to streaming Netflix directly through the TV’s wi-fi, we decided to try the free trial of Hulu. I wouldn’t recommend it because the service is very commercial heavy and the content is hugely progressively oriented. But reviewing the drawbacks of Hulu is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to begin to dissect what the masses are being exposed to, the culture that’s being stitched into their lives via what’s popular on television. Somewhere along the way while I was tuned out, a sort of cultural Bible-thumpin’ has developed on TV and is being beamed directly into the living rooms, dens, and bedrooms of America. I have no idea when or where it started (though I suspect it may have begun with the popular show X Files), but supernatural and conspiratorial narratives have dominated dramas in recent years. Medium, Lost, Heroes, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and the new 666 Park Avenue are some examples. Continue reading

Update

Hey all. Long time, no read, and I’m sorry about that. My recovery was complicated by the fact of a very bad cold and the need for much sleep last week.

For those keeping tabs, I did not get a second interview, nor did I get any notice whatsoever that I did or did not get a second interview. I have to assume I didn’t because I’ve had no contact at all, not even a return phone call for the message I left on Monday. Professionalism really sucks these days.

Tomorrow I intend to bite the bullet and finally offer you something to read. I’ve been thinking that our problems aren’t political so much as cultural, so look for something along those lines tomorrow afternoon. Until then, take care.

Resolve

I spent the weekend getting used to the idea that, for the fourth election in a row, Americans have chosen the most manipulative, unworthy man for the job. This election there was a person offered who truly was not the lesser of two evils and may have been just what the country needed, but through much trickery and deceit, and an unhealthy dose of obstinate, blind partisanship, that fact was well-kept from the general public. I truly believed that the American people could not and would not be fooled all of the time. I now own that error in thinking, and perhaps I am cured of my naiveté. Time will tell.

After spending a few days taking it all in, and then another few tuning it all out, I am as resolved as ever. The election didn’t change the facts on the ground, which are that W. Bush and Obama are cut from the same cloth, and to the same ends: the fabrication of a wholly different America than we have previously known. The main difference between W. Bush and Obama is that W. Bush was held accountable for everything, and Obama is held accountable for nothing. What the election did change was the will of the opposition to persevere. Thus I do believe we are in for much worse. Continue reading

The Anger Stage

My epic rant from the final episode of This American Election, revised for the blogosphere:

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Source: OECD Employment Outlook 2006. Statistical Annex, p. 248

The party continues for some. The reckless abandon in some quarters is astounding. The country is on  a trajectory of debt that can’t be sustained to support priorities that amount to a giant list of bad ideas. We’ve got imperial wars that continue in stealth mode because the media won’t let information through, discretionary budgets that are just black holes that suck up money with no accounting for it, money-printing on demand and loaned at zero rates, an entitlement state that surpluses nearly half the population out of the workforce.

How did we find ourselves here? I never would have thought four and a half years ago as I was working for the election of Hillary Clinton that I would be here. And where is here?

I’m not yet a Republican, but I have come to realize that I am somewhat of a conservative. I have to be. I work for a living. I’m married and I have a family to protect. I am a family-oriented fiscal conservative. But I’m also socially liberal to an extent. I’m for civil rights and women’s rights, and fair pay, and social justice. Gay marriage? I’m for it, but the institution of marriage might be dead before we get it, rendering it a mute point.

I’d like to see the institution of marriage resurrected, because men and women, left to their own devices, tend to devolve into selfish, heartless monsters, and now we have a whole party of them. A good marriage breeds a compromising mindset of necessity, and it goes a long way toward helping understand the nature of personal accountability. That doesn’t mean I’m for forced marriages, but how did we get from where we were 30 years ago to where we are now?

I have to say, I feel left behind. I fought my way to a bachelors degree, which I finally earned in 2007 after chipping away at it for years on a part-time basis while I worked to raise my daughter. As soon as I earned it, the bottom fell out. Now the market is so glutted with people with master degrees that I can’t get an interview if the positions says “bachelor degree required; masters preferred.” Hell, I can’t even get an interview for a secretarial position and I have over a decade of experience there. Now I’m “too qualified.” Is there is even a place in the job market for a bachelor degree anymore? Is it the new high school diploma?

I also got married in 2007. In 2011, for the first time ever, unmarried women outnumbered married women, and these women helped carry Obama over the finish line. Now they’re the constituency everybody wants. Being a single woman was a wasteland experience until I got married. Now it’s the new normal and my group is disempowered. Sometimes I wonder: Is it me? Is it whatever I do that I can count on failing? I don’t want to believe that, but on a day like today, it’s hard to hold my head up.

When I really think about it, I love who I am, who I made myself into through sheer grit and determination, and I love the choices I made to get here. But I gotta tell you, having every rug yanked out from beneath me as I steadfastly make the right and healthy choices, because the culture is on a disease-embracing binge and loving it, is wearing thin. It’s discouraging as hell. And it’s not going to get any better anytime soon.

Somewhere along the way, our ideas of what social issues are have transformed themselves from doing the right thing to getting some of mine, and hurting people in the process is now considered sport. Where is the moral America? Where is the America that informs itself, looks the facts squarely in the face, and say, “Oh yeah? Well I’ve got news for you. We’re better than that!”

Let me tell you a story: I spent an hour this afternoon talking to a neighbor who is a wonderful lady, raising her daughter on her own, and who breezed into my house declaring, “Y’all know I’m poor, right?” She then proceeded to tell me about the misery of trying to get an appointment to get heating assistance this winter. In the very next breath she told me how her boss quit and her employer asked her if she wanted the job and she said no, because then she wouldn’t qualify for heating assistance. Which she is not going to get anyway because the people in charge of helping her with assistance lost the information for her appointment and are no longer taking new ones.

Five minutes later she was telling me that in 18 months she’s going to try to use her 10-year-old degree in early childhood education to get a job with Head Start. When I asked her why she didn’t do it now, she explained that if she did, her 15 year old wouldn’t qualify for HoosierHealth anymore and she’d have to buy insurance. But since that gets cut off the day the child turns 18 and what with Obamacare allowing children to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26, she’d just put it off until right before her daughter turned 18. To save money.

I feel for the woman, I really do, but this is what America has come to: People afraid of making too much money because it will hurt their chances of gaming the system. Continue reading

What Matters Now

When my daughter was three weeks old I had the only bout of postpartum depression I ever had. It lasted less than an hour. I had just finished bathing and dressing her in the cutest little footie one-piece pajamas with a little frill around her softly padded bottom. She hadn’t yet grown into it, and it dwarfed her baby frame. As she laid there on the bed kicking those tiny legs and gurgling softly, I gazed at her, and gazing, was hit with a massive wave of regret. She was here, outside me, where she could no longer be protected as she had been in my womb. I took a long look back at history, and the long view forward to the future, and I did not like what I saw. Here was this girl child, who would grow up to be a woman in a country and world that changed rapidly and faced uncertainty. I thought of her alone, after I died, and wondered how she would make it. Tears streamed down my face until I was in a state of sobbing uncontrollably.

The helplessness and hopelessness that characterized that solitary hour then returned last night as I watched Mitt Romney give his concession speech. Thankfully, it lasted just about as long, and no tears came this time. I am stronger than I was at 23. I’m so grateful to whatever universal force granted me the power of an eternally resilient spirit. Though I wanted to call in sick, I managed to haul my butt out of bed at 6:30 this morning and make the 45 minutes drive to my 8:00 a.m. class, where I treated my students with the typical compassion and kindness that I always do. I am still me. The president cannot change that. Bush didn’t and Obama won’t. I do worry about the accumulation of all the damage they have caused and that Obama will continue to cause, and the work that will come with it, but I know that when the time comes I am up to the challenge.

I’m a realist. I don’t look for fantasy silver-linings and I don’t resort to hyperbole and blame. I have seen it all online since this thing ended last night: Hillary 2016 wishcasting, assertions that this is the end of U.S. elections, and plenty of blame to go around. I have only preliminarily surveyed the lay of the land in the aftermath, but it appears that Team Obama did what they needed to do, which was exceed their 2008 turnout numbers in targeted counties in swing states. Micro-targeting is an awfully cynical way to win an election, without a mandate to boot, but it apparently works with the help of social issues-hyping and appeals to identity. The coalition of the countable defeated the coalition of the accountable last night, but they know not yet what they have wrought. This game cannot last forever because it is bleeding what is necessary to sustain it, and that is people with good jobs, decent pay, and the work ethic to support the welfare state.

Before last night I had some hope the economy could begin turning around next year. I no longer think that will happen. Instead I expect it will continue its excruciating slow climb back, or it might be sunk further by the effects of our globalized markets. Gas and food prices surely won’t be going down, and wages will not climb. If anything, they will continue to erode, except for special protected classes, like the creative class and the union class. I had hoped to secure a full-time job by the end of this year or the beginning of next, but now I suspect I will have to continue my contract work and cobble together some additional income opportunities. Complicating this will be the new tax bill coming in 2014 that will come to so many suffering Americans like me who want to work full-time jobs but can’t find them. Our health care system will continue the decay that has already started as a result of Obamacare, and the consequences for certain constituencies will, no doubt, be unbearable. In short, Wall Street and the welfare class will continue to party on while the middle class continues to bear the brunt. Continue reading

Nate’s Map

You don’t have to be a statistician to determine that Nate Silver’s bet is a house of cards that could easily flop. It’s as simple as the law of probability.

Nate Silver got his start in baseball statistics in 2003 after he developed and then sold PECOTA, a system which predicted stats and career trajectories for major league baseball players and is used in fantasy baseball. It basically uses past performance averages of historical and current players with the stats of individual current players. It’s basically a multi-layered overlay of data, and it was a smart enough plan to earn him a chunk of money and land him a job managing the system until 2009.

He moved to Daily Kos as a hobby in 2007 under the pseudonym poblano, and has since been hailed as a statistical wunderkind after he correctly called 49 of 50 states in 2008. Nevermind that 2008 was a wave election, which is easy enough to call even for those of us without any statistical training. The record was impressive enough for a hire to the New York Times in 2010, where he has called the 2010 elections and is currently calling the 2012 election.

In 2010, he again gained national attention when he correctly predicted 35 of 36 senate races and 36 of 37 gubernatorial races. His calculations in the House were off by 9 seats, however. This year, because he consistently forecasts a high probability of winning for Barack Obama, he has become (like Ohio) a kind of progressive talisman. He’s the cause of so much of the overconfidence you see among Obamacrat commenters online.

I’m no statistician myself, and I wouldn’t even begin to dig into his numbers. But I follow his 538 blog at the New York Times and have for months now. After lots of digesting and considerable reflection and research, I’ve come to my own conclusions about his methodology and the blind spots he and his fans are missing. And they are there. No one escapes the propensity for blind spots. Therein may lie the irony that could bring him down this year.

Let’s start with the fact that Silver has only thus far been successful predicting wave elections. This is a problem in and of itself in that these types of races are much easier to call than close elections as we have this year. When you have a couple in a row, it can lead to an overconfidence and an outsized reputation. Add to that the fact that Nate Silver is a gambling man and has been for some time. Before the laws changed, he regularly played online poker for high odds and his record there wasn’t nearly as sterling as his two-wave-election record in politics.

Gamblers make errors of judgment and miscalculations, often because the they are constantly seeking the buzz affiliated with winning. That dynamic appears to be playing itself out in this year’s election. Flinching from heavy criticism, he recently couldn’t stop himself from wagering a bet with Joe Scaroborough via Twitter, a bet that started at $1,000 and quickly escalated to two grand. That was a display of hubris that the NYT public editor took him to task for. But take a look at Nate’s map for additional evidence. Here it is:

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He’s currently predicting national popular vote with a 2% point spread, but an 85% chance of Obama winning, and projecting Obama takes 306 electoral college votes. The math there simply doesn’t add up just at a glance.  Continue reading