Vote For Me! Self Delusional Politics

I cant wait until the US elections are over. At the moment, it is not possible to encounter a news bulletin that doesn’t make reference to it. Often including a clip of the brain destroyingly odious Sarah Palin stringing random words together in the manner of someone who has heard them, but has no idea what they mean.

Initially, reading about how Palin had been chosen to appeal to the “female demographic” (what?) I felt offended on behalf of women the world over. It is stunningly offensive to think that a political strategist thinks so little of American women that they would vote for Palin simply because she is a woman. I mean, how shallow must you be to choose your vote based on nothing more than the gender of the politician….

With this in mind, imagine my surprise to read / hear on various news sources (admittedly less and less, recently) that polls showed women were changing their intended votes because of Palin. Wow. Who in the name of Loki would have thought that could happen. Fortunately, this is largely just terminally bad polling techniques and probably bears as much resemblance to reality as me being a multi-millionaire. Phew.

When the initial relief had passed, I realised that there still were actual, living, apparently sane (*), people who thought Palin was a good candidate and would do the part good. Shock time again. How can this be I wondered. She is woefully under-educated and this is only matched by her lack of experience in either national or international politics. Yet some people love her.

How can this be the case, I wondered. Look at this example of a Palin quote about how she isn’t going to answer the questions she is asked during the debate: (source)

I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also,

No really. Not only is it a collection of empty words which seek to divert attention from her ignorance, it is also quite bad use of language. Now you might have thought there would be some element of scripting and rehearsal, so the only conclusion is this is how she wants to be seen speaking. It is clearer in this next quote (same source)

Here, for example, is how she responded to Biden’s comments about how the middle class has been short-changed during the Bush administration, and how McCain will continue Bush’s policies:

Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education, and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? … My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here’s a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.

Look at the use of language. If you are a native English speaker it is enough to make your brain scream mercy while your eyes surrender the fight. If she was a bit older, I would assume she was senile. The meandering from point to point, to avoid the question, is something Grandpa Simpson would be proud of. It starts off gibberish then ends up with a shout out to some random school children. Truly the mind boggles. She plays on being un-educated to a level that would make George Dubya himself blush. It is beyond painfully bad. Surely no politician could think this is the way to speak in public.

Then, all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning from Zeus himself.

This is why people want to vote for her.

Her “down to Earth” use of language constructs, her folk-story terminology, her “cute” (**) mannerisms. These are solely engineered to make people think “Hey, she is just like me.” Amazingly, taken in this light, it is very successful.

Still this confuses me a touch. I am not a good candidate for running the bath, let alone a country. Most people I know are either easily confused by finance, fail to understand international relations, struggle to decide how to reduce crime and so on. These are educated, intelligent people who could run rings around Palin (even if they are only three years old). None of the people I know, myself included, would make a good world leader – even if we all daydream about it occasionally.

Ah. Lightning bolt again. Thank Zeus that the Olympians are watching over us.

Palin appeals to the ignorant people who, through years of false positive reinforcement, actually do think, all the time, that they could really run the country. These people must be so truly deluded that they think it is just a slight accident of fate that their name isn’t on the ticket, and if they could run the country so could Palin – who is so like them.

This is a terrifying example of how a massive dose of self-delusion can have a traumatic effect on the nation.

Not only that, but it is really, really offensive. It offends me that people can be so self obsessed as to even come close to thinking this. Yes, everyone can have ideas on how the country can be run, and sometimes we may think we know better than the politicians. Yes, we can all shout at the TV how we could do the job a millions times better but the truth is very different.

In the modern world (and possibly always) there are very few, if any, jobs that are so generalised anyone can do them without training. My job is very specialised and I doubt someone could walk in of the street without any prior knowledge or training and even come close to doing it. Heather’s job is the same. Pretty much every job I can think of is done by people who have been taught how to do it, and it is done better by people who have experience. Even jobs considered to be of low importance to society require training.

Why on Earth are people so arrogant that they think a job as important as Vice-President (to a potentially frail President) can be done by someone “just like us.” Surely if America is a great nation, it needs great leaders – not empty phrases jumbled together in a pathetic appeal to the lowest common denominator?

(Sorry for the rants. I will attempt to resume normal service as soon as possible)

* By this, I mean they were not currently locked up in a mental health facility… Their lack of sanity is evident by their voting choice.

** By cute, of course, I mean vomit inducing.

Protect and serve

From our “Words Fail in the 21st Century” Department:

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry has proposed that women travelling abroad will have to have letters from their fathers, husbands or employers permitting them to leave the country.

This story is headed:Proposal to protect ‘fly alone’ women: Have letter will travel
How strange that fly-alone is in quotes but protect isn’t.

What exactly are flying-alone Malaysian women to be protected from?

In a move to stop Malaysian women being duped into carrying drugs for international syndicates, the Foreign Ministry has proposed that all women travelling out of the country alone be required to have a letter from parents or employers.

See, uppity women who dare to get on planes by yourselves. It’s to protect your feeble little minds from being fooled…

“I have submitted this proposal to the Cabinet and both the Foreign and Home Ministries feel this is necessary. Many of these women (who travel alone) leave the country on the pretext of work or attending courses and seminars.
“With this declaration, we will know for sure where and for what she is travelling overseas,” said Rais.
The New Sunday Times has learnt that 119 Malaysians, 90 per cent of whom are women, have been imprisoned in various parts of the world for drug-related offences

Wait a minute – so Malaysian women are pretending to travel to work or courses. I am actually pleased that despite the way the issue is phrased, it seems to be Malaysian women themselves who are actually doing the duping. And the Malaysian government that feels itself duped?

119 Malaysians imprisoned around the world, a hundred-odd of them women. Does that number seem huge enough to justify taking away the rights of all Malaysian women?

Surely, this means there have also been about a dozen Malaysian men imprisoned in other countries. In the interests of justice, I think they deserve the same protection. I think a note from their mothers, wives or bosses would go some small way to keep these fragile easily-fooled creatures from international harm, don’t you?

There’s a word for this

Are you female? Do you spend your day talking about “accessorising”, “Pilates”, “size zero”, “superfoods”, “cellulite” and “kitten heels”? I thought not.

On the BBC website, there is a piece about “research” showing that women do not talk more than men but apparently have a larger vocabulary. This is “research” in the sense that it isn’t actually attributed but its results are amazingly specific.

Researchers in the US have laid waste to the long-held belief that women talk more than men. But the survey did find that female subjects get through an average of 16,215 words a day, compared with their male counterparts’ 15,669, a difference of 546

As a “lighthearted” talking point, the BBC lists some candidates for what these words might be (supposedly after consulting some women) and asks for other suggestions. There are a few phrases in the list that might be considered to be genuine specifically female concerns but most of the suggestions are what you’d get if you switched on a stereotyping machine and programmed it to reproduce the thoughts of a latter-day Bernard Manning.

I shouldn’t think I have to spell it out but I am going to anyway.

The general assumption behind most of this list is that women are complete airheads, mental sponges for Heat magazine. If the BBC had produced a similar list based on “jokey” “racial” chracteristics, you would expect that the website would have been (rightly) shut down by now.

But, hey, it’s all light-hearted fun. It couldn’t possibly be part of the cultural construction of masculinity and feminity, could it?

Women at the mercy of Honour

This link to a website, whose name says it all, Stop honour killings, was in a comment on one of the powerless rants here about honour killings.

The link is here because I realised that I had absentmindedly not even put it in the last post on this topic..

The site is a moving slidehow of innocent-looking young women who have been murdered for allegedly bringing “dishonour” to their families. You can read stories from around the world that report on honour killings and the struggles against them.

If you can stomach it, knowing the outcome, you can link from there to the phone video of Banaz Mahmood when she was in hospital, on Youtube.

Obviously, if your stomach is strong enough, you can find footage on the web of the death of Du’a Khali, the Iraqi Kurdish girl who was horrifically murdered by a mob. Watching that is well beyond me so I haven’t been able to look for a link, sorry.

As an update to the last post, the press reported that the policewoman who interviewed Banaz – when she had smashed a window to escape from the earlier attempt on her life – considered that she was making the story up and wanted to charge her with criminal damage for breaking the window. Words fail.

More dishonour

Grrr. Yet another offensively-misnamed “honour killing” “Honour” is apparently being redefined in some bizarre medieval way to mean how totally you can control your female relatives. As far as I can see, this is not just dishonour at its extreme.

It also speaks of men who are so completely lacking in a sense of their own masculinity that they can only fake it by killiing females they can’t control. I hate to refer to the currently- dishonoured Freud here, but some things don’t seem to be explicable otherwise.

A 20-year-old woman was killed by her male relatives for “dishonouring” them. (Her body was dumped in a suitcaes over a hundred miles away, just in case you mistakenly imagine there were any shreds of residual kinship feeling in the relatives who did this). Three people (including her father and uncle) have been found or pled guilty.

The police seem to have treated this case with a level of seriousness somewhat lower than that with which they are now supposed to treat kids playing football in the street. (Her father had already tried to kill her once before. Her sister was also beaten.)

Banaz had made several attempts to warn police that her life was in danger, even naming those she thought would kill her.

The BBC site links to the Forced Marriages Unit. You might assume this is a policing unit designed to stop British women being subjected to this sort of evil. Wrong. It’s just yet another anti-immigration department of the Foreign Office, as far as I can see.

(Its website just discusses how a “forced marriage” is not the same as an “arranged marriage.” It has a few case studies and discusses how difficult they can be for consular staff. it seems to offer no redress or solutions, other than the possible extrapolation that the person whose immigration benefit the forced marriage is for won’t get a visa. I would have thought that that is of no interest to anyone except the Foreign Office.)

I can’t see how this is relevant to this case or any use in protecting victims. If this weakest link is the best the BBC can find, it implies there is no dedicated police unit or section of the Home Office. Most honour killings and other culturally excused atrocities such as female genital mutilation have little to do with immigration.

The only policies with any chance of working would involve:

(1) Police treating such cases as a serious priority, so that any man or woman facing a such situation, who has the strength of will to seek help for themselves or other people gets it as a priority.

(2) Aggressive targeting of potential victims through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. All girls should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other associated anti-female horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

(3) Girls and women under threat need agencies prepared to protect them and to provide them with the means of escape.

(3) Aggressive targetting of potential perpetrators through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. Everyone should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

[tags]bbc, disgrace, homicide, honor, honor-killing, honour, honour-killing, law, law-and-order, sexism, society, culture, religion, belief[/tags]

Healthy Eating

This is not normally a topic I would stray into, but as Heather is hors de combat for a while, I thought I would give it a shot. It certainly strikes me as “bad science” but I may be wrong…

Given the way the UK has got on board this “healthy eating” campaign, it is not surprising that the supermarkets have pulled out all the plugs to use this woo to sell more products. On a fairly regular basis there are adverts on TV how this product or that product is “one of your five a day” with minimal reason behind the claims. It seems Sainsbury’s (supermarket chain) has joined in and in their infinite wisdom have decided that telling their customers how many grams of fat, carbohydrates/sugar, protein etc., are in their food is not effective. As part of the great dumbing down of the UK they now use a “traffic light” system. It is pretty embarrassing.

Sainsburys Cheese Ploughmans PackagingWhat intrigues me the most, is the apparently arbitrary nature of what gets a “green” compared to what gets an “amber” or “red” (I am assuming Green = Good and Red = Bad by the way, can food be “Bad?”). As a recent example, I bought a Sainsbury’s Cheese Ploughmans ready made sandwich which comes on malted bread with “seeds.” The packaging calls it “reduced fat, a healthier option.” In the picture, you can see what the traffic light system looks like, but please note, the fat and salt are supposed to be “amber” rather than red. Continue reading