Tag Archives: politics

Hitler As 2010 Political Analogy Of The Year

The Nazis are the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood action movies, but they were a pox on American political conversation in 2010.  I don’t know if there are awards given for rhetorical devices, but maybe Hitler and the Nazis should have accepted one for 2010.

On this subject:

I’ve long felt that the Daily Show’s ability to find obscure video clips containing very specific details or references is just short of magical.  Hell, it is magical.  Anyhow, Jon Stewart recently paid his staff tribute while simultaneously pointing out, yet again, that FoxNews is a morally-and rhetorically-bankrupt rage dispensary.  It’s beautiful viewing.

In case you’re not familiar with this great law, Godwin’s Law is a wonderful internet-age adage worth familiarizing yourself with.  I love that message boards have been around long enough to generate such hilarious and depressing observations on human behavior and discourse.

This XKCD comic is where I first learned about Godwin's Law

Liberal Media/Conservative Media

I think this article, posted today on Espn.com, is a nice exhibit in the argument for abandoning all investigation into mainstream media’s possible political slants:

Thank goodness; we had all been waiting for Tucker Carlson to talk about Michael Vick.

Why national media is conservative: Tucker Carlson is an “analyst” on a national television network, is saying things like this, and is getting press for doing so.

Why national media is liberal: read the last paragraph of that story.  If you can’t read it, here it is again, crisp, straightforward, pristine:

Carlson, a conservative commentator, is angry that Obama told Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie he believes people who have paid for their crimes should have the opportunity to contribute to society again.

Republicans To Repeal Obama’s Fantasy Football Victory

Washington, DC – House Republicans today announced their intent to fight President Obama’s expected victory in his fantasy football league.  Obama’s points-per-reception league team, “Malia’s All-Star Leopards,” holds a comfortable lead over Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke’s “Hasselbeck4Evahs.”  Behind Wes Welker, Roddy White, Michael Vick and draft-day steal Arian Foster, Obama expects to claim victory when the regular season ends on January 2nd.  Republicans plan to undo Obama’s victory by “rolling back” the league point rules once they claim control over the House in mid-January.

Brushing aside accusations of pointless obstructionism, Sen. Jim DeMint criticized Obama for trying to “sneak in” his victory during the lame-duck session.  “We intend to introduce legislation that will bring the value for receptions back in line with what average Americans think they’re worth,” McConnell said.  “Everybody knew Arian Foster was going to have a monster season, and I believe the American people deserve to know why the most liberal administration on Earth let him fall so far in the draft.” 

This comes on the heels of House Republicans successfully blocking Obama’s attempted purchase of Marvin Gardens during a family Monopoly game, calling it “yet another government takeover.”

Unrestricted Campaign Spending Propels American Economy Out Of Recession

Washington, D.C. – Record spending on this November’s elections catapulted the American economy out of the recession and into a new era of prosperity. The spending, unleashed by the January Supreme Court decision and a wave of citizen interest in politics, singlehandedly accomplished what stimulus plans, tax breaks, and other federal attempts at jump-starting the economy could not.

Americans from Alaska to Florida made their voices heard in the months leading up to November 2nd by spending unprecedented sums on local and national elections. Analysts estimate that each American spent, on average, $3,800 on this election cycle, injecting $1.2 trillion dollars into the economy. In response consumer confidence rose 12% in the third quarter, with most of those gains coming in the electoral and automotive sectors.

Legislators had been struggling for two years to figure out how to get Americans to spend more of their paychecks.  Said Senatorial candidate Pat Toomey, clutching fistfuls of bills at his campaign headquarters, “Turned out, all we needed was an election!” Republicans hailed the spending as proof that federal elections were the only form of governmental stimulus the American people needed. “This country needs to believe in the power of the dollar,” added Toomey, “and nothing proves that more than campaign spending.”

The two parties feuded on Wednesday over credit for the American electorate’s shopping spree. Harry Reid praised elementary schoolchildren in Reno for holding a bake sale to print Harry Reid bumper stickers. The campaign for Tea Party favorite Rand Paul disclosed over three million dollars in contributions given directly from tax rebates given by Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. “The American people were just waiting for the right sale to spend that money,” said Paul. “The Republican Party was the right sale.”

Economic analysts predict a “blow-over” effect of the massive election spending as the recipient candidates figure out how best to spend the money on their home districts. “Voters living in districts with high unemployment should see their elected officials investing that money within the next few months,” said electoral economic analyst Robert Dolich. “For candidates receiving money from billionaires like the Koch brothers and the Saudi Royal family, it may take longer for them to determine how best to invest that money on behalf of their constituencies.”

Candidates themselves got involved in the national electoral shopping spree. Small business owner Ron Johnson invested tens of millions of dollars to win his own election in Wisconsin.  Dolich said not to expect as much community reinvestment from campaigns like Johnson’s, as Johnson is likely to write off that spending as investment in his home business.

The Daily Show is the Political Advertising of the Future

The Daily Show, as we all know, is great at skewering the hypocrisy and vapid utterances of politicians.  This segment contains a fantastic montage of John McCain saying “Washington is broken,” or variations thereof, all the way back to 1989.

There has been plenty of semi-joking sentiment over the years that Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert should run for political office.  Aside from Colbert’s semi-joking attempt to get on the South Carolina ballot, they have declined.

Our best and brightest don't run for office, but some of them host tv shows

But the writing and video editing teams at the Daily Show would make phenomenal campaign staff.  The above-linked McCain montage would make a terrific negative ad for whomever was running against McCain.  I’m not sure what prevents mainstream political campaigns from putting together the kind of montages the Daily Show uses on a regular basis.  Maybe there are restrictions about reusing video clips, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the Daily Show/Colbert Report and the Internet are cultivating a growing voter base very familiar with the habit of “gotcha” video editing.  A progressive political candidate with a savvy campaign staff, a good sense of humor, and the cojones to run on principle and record could make a killing with the 18-35 year old voters of a large urban area.

Education as Political Vaccination

It’s cold and flu season, when our immune systems encounter this year’s strains.  It’s also election season, when the body politic is assailed by this season’s political rhetoric.  A massively simplified conception of a vaccine is the injection into the body of an agent which familiarizes the body’s immune system with a bacteria or virus, prompting the body to prepare itself against the future arrival of that strain.

Our educational system needs to do this with political arguments.  Education as political vaccination.  We need to bring debate and rhetoric classes back into the curriculum.  Vaccinate our children against the most common strains of manipulative reasoning, and that investment will eventually result in a better political environment.

I think most people would agree that, in an ideal world, they want to see civil political discourse.  We want candidates explaining their positions and their best ideas, drawing clear but professional contrasts between themselves and their opponents, and drawing upon whatever characteristics or experience they have to show why they would be dutiful and superior public servants.  We don’t get that.  Instead, we get xenophobia, racism, classicism, personal attacks, money, volume, fear and manipulation.  The life of our political arena is rich, nasty, brutish and cyclical.  Constitution-as-holy-scripture seems to be this season’s political H1N1.

a common political ad, in a nutshell

Virtually all underhanded and deceitful political strategies being employed today are not new.  They have been around for as long as there have been manipulative people seeking power.  No matter whether they are used by liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, bakers or dentists.  They are not new.  And they are not helpful.  They do not allow us to make better decisions about who should represent us in government.  In fact, they cloud our judgement.  A candidate’s talent for scaring the locals about his opponent’s possible “otherness” does not prove his qualifications to be county treasurer.

(To listen to our national political discourse is to be told that America is a nation filled entirely with honest, hard-working, humble Christians and that the only disreputable people anywhere are the ones seeking election (or re-election).  If only one of those honest guys would run for office, right?)

We’re getting this kind of politicking because it works.  Through our susceptibility to campaign tactics that do not accurately reflect the candidates’ abilities for the job, we have created (and are responsible for) that oily sheen on politicians’ fur that makes us wretch when we breathe too deeply.

I believe we have created a national political atmosphere where your opponent’s failure is your success, and where no progress is preferable to progress credited to your opponent.  Better the ship sink, than the other guy save the day.  I believe this is profoundly obnoxious at best, and dangerous to the country’s livelihood and long-term prospects at worst.  One way to stem this infection is to teach our children to identify some of the most common forms of manipulative and disingenuous argument.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Teacher, what’s a straw man argument again?

Dissect political campaigns in the classroom.  Examine historical examples of political and social oppression, not just for what happened but how it happened and why it worked.  If our children know that correlation does not imply causation (“Our state has lost X jobs while my opponent was in office”), if they know what it means to demand negative proof (“Prove Obama isn’t a Muslim”), and if they know that statistics are only as reliable as the person quoting them (any budgetary conversation of any kind), we can force future politicians to raise their game.

Do this with debate class.  Rhetorical lessons.  Use scenarios to allow students to employ these techniques for themselves.  Teach students about the times in history when tricky concepts like patriotism, religion, and “the Other” have been used as weapons.  Explain how and why these arguments work, and that people seeking power will attempt to use them again.  Expose students to these germs early, so when they hear them again as voting adults, they will demand more from the speaker.

Teach our children humility in the face of a complicated world.  Vaccinate the body politic.  Give our children a healthy skepticism of easy answers, too-bad-to-not-be-true accusations, and anyone who wants to be in charge.  Future generations might demand more from their elected leaders, and we will eventually get the leaders we want, not just the leaders we deserve.

State of the Union: Quick-Hitting Analysis

Some impressions, of questionable taste, from last night’s State of the Union address: 

  • At one point, Obama talked about injecting more money into the higher education system.  The Republicans did not applaud.  Why?  Because the more people go to college, the fewer people will vote Republican. (Of course, some conservatives say that this is due to ‘liberal indoctrination’ by liberal professors.)

Went to college, became socially liberal

Should have attended more college

  • Call me a snotty undemocratic elitist, but I kinda want the best and the brightest to run the country.  I dunno, I just think they’re more qualified to do the job.  I want the best cook making my meal, the best pilot flying my plane, and the smartest and most capable people running the country.
  • This (above) is why I want to enter a cheat code into my political system that allows Obama to govern without thought to, consideration for, any other politicians of any party.  I guess that’s a King, but I’m all for enlightened monarchy over lowest-common-denominator mob rule.

If I was good with photoshop, I'd replace Aragorn with Obama

  • In the last few days, Iran singled out Germany and accused them of helping support the civil unrest Iran has been experiencing.  Maybe it’s time we let the Germans have a real military again.  Hey, desperate times for desperate measures, right?  Give them five years to get back up to steam, and then let ’em loose.  I’m pretty confident they’d be on our side this time, and it’s pretty clear that Germany is good at having an army

Except instead of being a philosophical sociopath, Germany would be a bureaucratic but highly efficient and motivated military force

  • Let’s think about this for a minute.  What is hampering America’s fight against Islamic extremism?  Broadly speaking, we are having trouble funding the war, convincing allies to help, and we are losing the propoganda war.  History suggests a militant German state is good at all of those things.