Trump’s Big Deal (Read: Con)

Donald Trump is a figure in politics that has been talked about nearly incessantly with myself being no exception. Anyone with the ability to rub two brain cells together realizes that Donald Trump hardly ever means what he actually says. He seems to become the most passionate when defending himself on a personal level, specifically his hands (allegedly so stubby it looks like he is missing a knuckle). It is tough to pin down what Donald Trump actually believes, considering he spent the first four decades of his life dishing out checks to Democratic politicians. One of these politicians being Hillary Clinton. There are sentiments floating around that he is “anti-establishment.” Well, from his own lips he uttered that he was part of establishment until he decided to run for President. He has switched his position many times throughout the election cycle. Including but not limited to, H1B visas, forcing the military to obey illegal orders, and disavowing David Duke et al (KKK). One of these positions he switched on stage prefacing it with “I’m changing” as he proceeded to weaken on illegal immigration. Not to mention his debacle with the New York Times where he said off the record, “Everything’s negotiable.” Except when he appears on television where he says certain things aren’t negotiable.

Why are people buying into this clear and present con-man? An innocent reason could easily be established. First off, perhaps they aren’t paying attention to the race as a whole and only see Trump when he presents one of his many faces, and they enjoy that face. Another reason is simple idol worship. For some reason, Trump has a certain portion of his following hanging on his every word as metaphorical gospel. No matter the switch Trump is always in the right. He was right to be tough on H1B visas, until it was stupid to be tough on H1B visas because Trump decided so, and therefore Trump was right again. Although, this switch could mainly be due to the fact that Trump has hired foreign workers in the past over American citizens for a quick buck. Thus is the issue with being ideologically wedded to candidates as opposed to having principles and choosing the candidate who most exemplifies those principles. One final reason, is that people are willing to side with whoever says they hate politicians the most, as they proceed to act just like who they claim to hate.

The media frequently report on Trump’s every word as well. They report when he takes an extreme position and then walks back the decision. This candidate is treating everything, even his electorate, as simply people he is negotiating with. He comes out with the most outlandish stance possible, then walks it back if the polls don’t show that position much favor. Just like in a business dealing, you start with a large number so you can implant that range in your partner’s head as reasonable. Trump is not a man of principle, he is a man of “make the best deal,” though instead of dollars riding on this deal it is votes. He is willing to do or say anything in order to make this “deal” possible. Now, detractors to this piece will say that this action is simply what all politicians do in order to get votes. Although with that statement they have admitted that Trump is just another politician. So the only thing you are trusting here is not fact, reason, or anything of that sort. You’re trusting Trump’s word. Pardon me, but Trump’s word is worth less than a German Mark in late-1923. Depending on the day, poll fluctuations, and his mood, Trump will cite whatever media report showed him giving the most convenient position for him at that moment in time. Just forget that he took the opposite view a mere week beforehand, for that’s completely irrelevant.

Rules of the Interview

Let’s talk about the media and how all of them are absolutely terrible at their jobs. Modern-day journalists and I may differ on what the actual job of a journalist is so allow me to lay it out for you. The journalists’ job is to find the truth, and deliver it to people in an engaging way. But, as we all probably know by now, that currently isn’t happening at least when it comes to the mainstream. Over the course of the election, I’ve noticed a couple of very specific tones about Donald Trump and a distinct shortage of a third tone. One tone is that of, “Donald Trump is a raging racist misogynist fascist who will destroy the White House and rename it the Trump House,” and a tone of downplaying certain things that Trump has said which contradicts later things he said. One of which, I believe, is the product of the other. Since the media went completely ass over tea-kettle in regards to Trump and trotted out the standard slanders, they are very wary about criticizing Trump at all. And they wonder why people believe Trump over the media, they made their own bed when they didn’t just keep crying wolf, but cried bear.

Journalists have become, simply put, spineless or arrogant. The reason I put it like that is because I’ve also seen a trend of the media either being incredibly soft with candidates, or they shove spears up their asses and demand they say it’s a comfortable fit. The third tone I was talking about was one of calm, rational criticism while sticking to the point in question. I think the art of the interview has been lost on the journalists we have found ourselves with, so I’ll attempt to give them another lesson until they start listening. Interviewers have to walk a very fine line between forcing the candidate to walk out of the room, and simply lobbing opportunities for a scripted speech at them. For example, you should never start a question with, “Excuse me candidate X, how do you feel about…” because that simply opens up the floodgates where candidates can say whatever they “feel” about something, and since you’ve given them plausible deniability on a delightful silver platter in regards to their positions, they will take advantage of it. Just to show you what I mean, here is Chris Matthews interviewing Hillary Clinton:

 

So as you can see, Chris Matthews does a very good job of not keeping Hillary on the point. He sort of feigns it by repeating the question over and over, but he allows it to go. She tells him that she is a progressive democrat, how she’s totally not a socialist, etc. Plus, right off the bat Matthews decides directly after Hillary Clinton says, “Well…” to tell her that she is completely free to not answer the question if she doesn’t want to. What kind of interviewer does that? Clinton is perfectly aware that she doesn’t have to answer the question, in fact, she didn’t answer his question, feigned an answer, and then Matthews answered it for her, which for the record, was also not an answer to his original question.

Now, had I been the interviewer in this segment I would have done things differently. First off, I would have said, “I’m going to help you out here,” as Chris Matthews did to attempt to put Clinton at ease, framing it as a kind of assistance so she can distinguish herself from Senator Sanders. What I wouldn’t have done was give her an path to dodge right at the beginning. I would have waited for her answer and stuck to the point, remaining calm and collected exactly like Matthews doesn’t do by saying, “I’m asking YOU, what’s the difference, how’s that different than a socialist, last question.” None of that works. Interrupting someone mid-answer in order to say they aren’t answering the question makes YOU look just as frantic as the person attempting to dodge your question.

The proper thing to do, in my view at least, is to let Hillary finish her little irrelevant diatribe and then say something along the lines of, “Forgive me for saying so, but you didn’t answer the question I actually asked you so allow me to rephrase it. What is one policy that Democrats generally oppose that Socialists generally support, or is there a lot of overlap between the two?” Now, hindsight is always 20/20 regarding these things, but I think that would’ve been a much more appropriate follow-up. However, there are problems with this approach too because sometimes interviewees will simply keep talking and talking and talking and talking to run out the clock so they can leave the interview relatively scrape free. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the DNC, refused to answer this question on two occasions and used the exact same dodge each time:

All of us know the answer to this question, right? Why do you think they have a difficult time answering it? The answer (that they are refusing to say) is that there isn’t much difference at all, if any difference. Or, they don’t want to alienate center-left voters. So, my alternative follow-up would require both of them to either name a specific policy difference, or admit that there is a lot of bleed between Democrats and Socialists. Unless they just refuse to answer the question again. I do have to give Chris Matthews credit where credit is due with coming up with that question, if he is the one that did it. But he just sucks with his delivery. If you look more frantic than your interviewee does, then you’re doing it wrong. You might understand by now why I refer to interviewing as an art. It is the practice of successfully handing someone some rope, and seeing what they do with it. They can decide to tie a lasso and rightfully wring your neck with it, build a hammock, or hang themselves. On the other hand, the interviewer can snatch it away from them and tie the noose and say, let me hang myself for you Mrs. Clinton.

Presenting that rope is a very tough gig and isn’t something to be taken lightly considering it’s where opinions and information are extracted from someone face to face. The spineless personality, and the arrogant abrasive personality, are not excellent temperaments to have when interviewing people. This is why I tend to listen to independent journalists as opposed to ones beholden to “networks,” or at least I try to. Because, generally, they probably won’t get another interview with this important person, and are trying to extract and expose as much as they can about their opinions within that time.

What one shouldn’t do is take the tone of Chris Matthews, or Bill O’Reilly with his classic, “COME ON.” Our humble interviewer should simply calmly restate the question should someone not have an answer to it, dodges it, or refuses to answer it entirely. This is what I think interviewers fail to do with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They leave things much too open-ended for them to just ramble on and on and on and on (ad segmentitum). It is perfectly fine to bring up a contradiction in a candidate’s statements and press them on it. It is also perfectly fine to take a candidate to task for their answer, let’s watch this disaster that is Chuck Todd’s interview with Donald Trump. Starting with the Obamacare mandate question:

If I were the interviewer in this case I would be absolutely awestruck at how Trump tries not to call what he wants to do a mandate. He says, “Call it whatever you want but people are not going to die on the streets.” Why not just say, “If I can call it whatever I want would it be fair to call it a mandate?” Do not allow candidates to toss around this vagueness in your interview. Chuck Todd, effectively, has to explain what the mandate actually is to Trump before he gives a definitive answer. Stumping the Trump is the easiest thing to do in the world, all you need to do is ask him specifics, and not allow him to dance around the issue which he routinely does. I suppose Donald Trump doesn’t know that it is already against the law for hospitals to not treat people with an actual medical emergency. Specifically the “Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.” This is why it’s important for journalists to be up-to-date on the information regarding the topics they are discussing with someone.

Now, to exemplify this vagueness I will play Trump’s answer about his 2002 Iraq War comments in this interview to show how he takes multiple contradictory opinions on the same thing, and Chuck Todd just lets it go:

Trump has taken multiple different positions. First, he doesn’t even know what was in his head and what he meant. Second, looking back the correct way of doing it was probably not going in. Third, he thinks they maybe did the right thing in going in. Fourth, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. What is this nonsense?  Todd just lets it go afterwards. Trump is going to take advantage of that. If someone brings up the fact that he said he thinks they did the right thing with going in, and did a good job, he’ll call them a liar and reference the fact that he said “looking back the correct way of doing it was probably not going in.” This is how candidates operate. Pin them down, force them to either take one position or make them say that they don’t know. Don’t allow them to say multiple contradictory things and act as if it’s a completely coherent answer. That’s what politicians hide behind. They cower behind plausible deniability so that they can be, essentially, critique-proof to the American people. Maybe Trump was referring to Bush Sr. some of the time and Bush Jr. other times during the clip; he used a lot of the word “maybe” and “probably.” Those are are two words in which he hides himself. So what’s his position? Whichever one he wants at the present time. That’s how Trump coasts along seemingly unscathed.

If you leave an interview not knowing the definitive answer to a question you asked your interviewee, then you have failed at your job as a journalist. One definitive answer is more valuable than fifty vague ones. So when someone says, “My position on Obamacare is that I don’t like it,” that isn’t good enough. Interviewers need to ask, “why.” Why don’t you like Obamacare and be could you please be specific? That is the crucial question. Anyone can spout off a superficial opinion on anything; it’s the interviewers job to get to the nitty-gritty. It’s their job to get to reasoning behind said position to set-up critique from others. That’s what I see lacking in journalism today. Everyone is very critical of contradictions, and not much interested in fleshing out the reasoning that interviewees have in regards to their views. Anybody can cry hypocrisy. Someone could find something I said at 17 years old that I disagree with now. What journalist’s should be doing is focusing on the “why” and “how” questions when all they seem to care about is the “what.” This hinders the average citizen’s information consumption capabilities.

It’s very difficult to lay out basic ground rules for interviewing someone since it varies so much from person to person depending on who you’re interviewing and what the topic is. But I will attempt to lay out some basic rules for journalists who, ultimately, won’t take my advice and keep setting up interviews that are either filled with meaningless platitudes or unnecessary belligerence:

1. Be respectful, yet stern. Provide a comfortable atmosphere, but don’t allow the person you are interviewing to mistake that for weakness. Wrap the steel block that is your question in a pillowcase.

2. Don’t be weak willed in the face of an unstable guest. If they start throwing a hissy-fit that means you are doing your job as an interviewer correctly. Unless of course you asked them a loaded question like, “When did you stop shooting children in the face?”

3. Don’t ask loaded questions. That one is obvious. Make sure that they have a reasonable answer available to them. In that way, they are forced to either state their actual detailed position (which might cost them in some way), or cop out with a reasonable answer that doesn’t line up with their original stance. You can tell a lot about someone depending on what they do there. For example, “When did you stop shooting children in the face, or have you never shot a child before?” Granted it’s an extreme and stupid question, but if they flounder in the face of this question without taking the obvious reasonable route then you’ve got yourself a lead.

4. DO NOT GO OVER THE QUESTIONS WITH YOUR INTERVIEWEE BEFOREHAND! General topic is fine.

5. One concrete answer is worth more than any number of meaningless vague crap answers.

Since journalists will never take my advice and follow exactly zero of these rules, perhaps it can assist you, dear reader, in analyzing not whether an interviewer is terrible at their job, but precisely how they are terrible at it.

It’s Hitting Every Fan

It seems like “right-side-of-the-aisle” shaming (much like left-side-of-the-aisle shaming) is deployed when Republicans in Congress, or anywhere for that matter, actually take action that would assist them in what they wish to accomplish. Now, it may surprise you to hear, but I have no problem with politicians having political agendas. Especially considering people voted for them in order to enact certain policies be they generally left, or right, so long as they fall within what the Constitution allows for. This sentiment that any move to further a political agenda whatsoever is necessarily slimy, sleazy, or unconstitutional is flat-out nonsense. I hear this a lot from people who say, “This politician is only doing this to push their agenda,” well no shit they are. Their job is to push an agenda. That isn’t to say that every move to push an agenda is excusable, but not every move should be condemned. The Republicans actually have a noble goal here, in my opinion, considering the Court’s ideological shift and certain rights being retained. But then again, we are living in an age where the term “unconstitutional” is synonymous with “thing I don’t like.” Here is the short version of the situation. Obama can nominate a Supreme Court Justice if he wants, and Congress can refuse to confirm that nominee if they want. As I’ve mentioned previously calling Republicans “obstructionists” for refusing to confirm nominees is one thing, but absolving the other party in these dealings has become a tried and true tactic of the Democratic party.

If President Obama tries to ram through nominees who he knows that Congress will not approve of in an attempt to further *his* political agenda, is he not just as responsible for “business not being done?” Yet, that isn’t what will happen. If Obama attempts to nominate a starkly left-leaning judge and Congress rejects them, the President will whine, bitch, moan, and complain about how Congress is being uncooperative. I’m pretty sure, Mr. President, that not doing exactly what you want 100% of the time does not make someone uncooperative. That’s how our government functions. We actually don’t give one man absolute power over the country. It makes you stubborn as well and just as much of an “obstructionist.”

And, of course, Hillary had to jump on this bandwagon (does anyone even care that she exists anymore? Seriously?) during her speech in Harlem where she implied that the Republicans are speaking in a secret racism language that only she, and those like her, understands. Also, Republicans pretty much support rape, right? Yes, Republicans disagree with Obama because he is black, and also condone rape or are at least indifferent to it. What is this nonsense? Why is this happening? I’m pretty sure anyone who has been following politics recently is aware of Hillary Clinton’s brand new section of her campaign called, “Attempt to grab that minority vote because it’s my only advantage against Sanders.” And it’s getting pretty pathetic at this point. She’s not very good at naming things either. But since everyone turns stupid for a week after things like this happen, it was entirely expected.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I’m not using that phrase in the manner in which you’re used to. I would rather be confronted with someone who has no knowledge at all, considering they wouldn’t be able to articulate a position on a subject that they are entirely ignorant about. And I don’t fault people for being ignorant of something, I’m ignorant of a whole host of things. I just don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about when I don’t. Which is why I haven’t written a piece discussing what I think about the tactics used in the Punic Wars, whether Java or Python is the better coding language, or how to make a Beef Wellington without making the dough all soggy at the bottom.

And, I would like to confront someone who has a lot of knowledge about a subject considering I could learn from them after checking out their information for myself post-discussion. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Superficial knowledge of a topic masquerading as expertise is a dangerous thing because it allows people to take advantage of that superficial knowledge. Achieving that by crafting their language so that it pretty much conforms to what you already kinda know is true, it all sounds very complicated and smart, you see similar jargon interspersed within it so, sure, why not take it on board?

In my current English class it has become ritual to discuss politics for around five or ten minutes before class begins. Another student and I frequently get into clashes about certain things. This student provides a very good example of what I’m trying to highlight here. This person was talking about how Donald Trump is the only decent Republican candidate out there. So I asked him what he thought of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. He said he really didn’t like them, especially Marco Rubio. So I asked him directly after why he wasn’t a big fan of Rubio. He replied with, “Because he supported the Gang of Eight bill.” So I asked him what was in the bill that he disagreed with. The silence after that question was deafening. So here we have someone, clearly, just repeating a talking point that he heard on the news because he thinks it will give him some sort of devastating argument to deploy whenever this situation comes up. When in reality, he knows nothing about the gang of eight bill, all he knows is that Trump doesn’t like it, a few other candidates don’t like it, and since he supports Trump the best course of action for him to take is not like it as well. Despite having not read a word of the actual bill.

Notice I didn’t even need to spell out my own position on anything within that exchange. All I had to do was get to the point where he’d actually have to support his position instead of spouting whatever he heard from other people and he had nothing. All of this, I learned when reading about how to interview people. I see the same sort of nonsense involved with the constitution considering (as I’ve mentioned before) “Unconstitutional” has become synonymous with “thing I don’t like.” And politicians are taking advantage of that ignorance.

From my experience, Sanders supporters and Trump supporters are the biggest culprits of the disease known as, “Not knowing what the fuck you’re talking about, but acting as if you do.” I can’t even get a word in edge-wise about a particular candidate without someone mentioning a revolution, polls, or how sexist I am. With the revolution bit, coming from Sanders supporters, most of which sound like people who are just extremely upset that rich people can buy more things than they can. And they get even more upset when you say that someone being poor might be, at least in part, their being terrible with money as opposed to a vastly rigged economic system. The Sanders supporters that tout this stuff around seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact that making poor financial decisions have negative consequences. Maybe don’t have three children if you can’t afford one, maybe don’t buy a house that you can’t afford, you may actually have to downgrade your lifestyle for a bit in order to upgrade it later. But, unfortunately, these supporters are already in a state of permanent, “Fuck it, it’s too hard, do it for me” stagnation so there is no reasoning with them.

Some Trump supporters on the other hand have reached a point of reality dismissal where Donald Trump could break into their house, steal their television while they watched, Trump could turn and say, “I’m not stealing your television,” and then that person will call you a liar when you say Trump stole his TV because after all…Trump said he didn’t steal it and eventually you’ll get a cease and desist letter in the mail from Trump’s campaign. Nothing matters. Plus, like Trump, some of his supporters will routinely cite poll numbers whenever someone criticizes Trump on policy, what little policy he has dished out. I don’t care. I don’t care about poll numbers. Someone’s poll numbers do not dictate whether or not they will be a competent President. A fucking squirrel could be leading in the polls, that’s not an argument for competence. But, nothing matters.

It’s very disappointing to see people who were originally against the egregious standard that people on the extreme progressive left held themselves by, the mantra of “It’s okay when we do it,” doing a complete 180 when it comes to Donald Trump. Trump lies constantly. But, of course, that doesn’t matter due to the greater good, who wouldn’t want to make America great again, right? Both Trump, and Sanders, have put up a classic “feel good” curtain over themselves that most people seem to be buying. I’ve seen many an intelligent person excuse Trump’s dodging of fair questions, same with Sanders.

I’ve heard an incredible number of people say that Trump isn’t a politician even though he is doing what every politician does. Busting out meaningless platitudes and catchphrases so you hop on board. He allows you to fill your head with what you want done, and just assume that is the thing he will do for you. Why do you think he consistently talks about “doing something because something is going on,” or “We’re going to win again with Trump.” What in the fuck does that even mean on a pragmatic level, how is he going to get us there, and is the “something” he’s going to do a good thing? You have no fucking idea. Because Trump is a con-man, and you’re all lapping it up like dogs in need of an owner. That owner being a rich, spoiled brat who doesn’t know anything about anything, and never had anyone tell him “no.” I wouldn’t put it past him to attempt to sue the American People if they don’t choose him as President. Trump says he supports single-payer healthcare? Who gives a shit? Trump says he’s for hiking taxes on the wealthy? Nobody cares. However, if any other Republican candidate said they support these things Trump (and his following) would hammer them on how they support these things, and how idiotic they are for doing so.

Trump claims to have been clairvoyant on the subject of the Iraq War by saying that he said not to invade because it will totally destabilize the region, however, this is Donald Trump in September 2002 on invading Iraq.

I couldn’t simply call Trump a liar without giving an example, and so far this is the only recorded instance of Trump discussing the Iraq War before the invasion, so, the only evidence a Trump supporter would have for his claims is Trump’s word, I however, have the record button. “I guess so” isn’t avid support, but it isn’t “I was totally against it I said that it would turn out the way it turned out before it happened I know things.” And if you’re going to call me a liar and say “He said I guess so, not that he was for it,” then you’re part of the problem here.

This is your candidate. Take that for what it is.

Both Sanders and Trump are guilty of tossing out vagueness in lieu of specifics because neither of them know what the fuck they are talking about. When asked how much his programs would cost, Sanders completely floundered on the question during the last Democratic debate and reverted to his percentages that he loves spewing forth to everyone. Trump’s entire campaign is based on the phrases, “Build a wall,” “Make deals” “Our leaders are stupid and weak,” “We’ll win again with Trump, they’re killing us,” and the ever wonderful, “You’re a liar.” In this election, and perhaps every election, the political landscape has become a gigantic compost pile surrounded by industrial strength fans. Just to make sure that every single fan gets covered in it. Do you want to know what the massive issue is in the race at the time of this recording? Marco Rubio shook Obama’s hand. But then the Cruz campaign decided it would be fun to photoshop a picture of the handshake instead of using the actual handshake. But Rubio still shook Obama’s hand! Uh oh! That’s scary stuff! Is this serious? Let’s dispel with this fiction that you can’t treat your ideological opponents like human beings for goodness sake.

Lies are told so quickly and people are willing to believe them so strongly that it’s hardly even worth attempting to convince them out of their factual inaccuracy until the election is over. This can be compared directly to the situation after Scalia’s death. Shit flying in all directions about what the Constitution says, what it means, what powers certain people have, how Congress isn’t performing their Constitutional duty, when all you’d have to do is Read. The. Fucking. Constitution.

So, in the end, trying to say the Constitution prevents Obama from nominating someone in his final year is stupid (although I heard no one say that), saying that members of Congress are being obstructionists is only one side of the story, and saying that Congress refusing to confirm nominations to the Supreme Court is an example of a Constitutional threat is stupid. Obama can nominate who he wants, Congress can refuse to confirm them if they want for whatever reason they choose, the Constitution allows for both of those things. Want liberal justices? Then vote your Republican Senators out of office and elect another Democratic President. Want conservative justices? Then elect a Republican for President and elect more Republican Senators, blocking literally anyone Obama nominates even if they are a carbon copy of Scalia is stupid, you’re all stupid, and I hate everything.

The Constitutional Meltdown

Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia passed away, so now there is a Constitutional crisis in our midst. Drink that in for a moment, the death of one man could cause people to worry that their rights will be written out of the Constitution. For example, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the “District of Columbia v. Heller” case which upheld, finally, an individual right to keep and bear arms that are within the common use. In that particular case, handguns were at issue. However, this decision was barely reached with a 5-4 split in the Court. With Scalia’s passing this decision is a stalemate at 4-4.

Justice Scalia wasn’t just a judge who made decisions that I agree with regarding the Constitution, but he is someone who altered the lens with which the Constitution was interpreted. That being, Scalia took the lens away. Justice Scalia was a textualist and originalist, which means he treated the Constitution like a statute, went by what the meaning of the words were at the time it was written, and based his opinion off of the text instead of legislative intent. He is the bedrock upon which legal interpretation in the modern day is built. Although, not everyone feels the same way.

Scalia’s death, generally, evoked two responses from the general public. One of which was somber and praised Scalia’s life and legacy, the other was essentially people pulling their pants down, dancing around, playing the fiddle poorly, laughing, and emptying themselves all over his grave. Now I am not one to say that someone’s death should never be celebrated, but Scalia was not someone who deserved a grave-dancing.

I think that Scalia’s death separated those who understand the job of the judges, and those who think that an outcome they don’t like means that a judge decided based on personal opinion. Judges (shouldn’t) decide cases based on their political beliefs. They should decide cases based on what the law actually says.

Guess what? If someone brings a case forward where they believe the words, “Prohibit homosexual sex” means “Allow homosexual sex” under the law then I’d throw that case out. The reason I would throw that case out wouldn’t be because I want to prohibit homosexual conduct, but because that particular challenge to the law is a terribly erroneous challenge. And to say that I am a homophobe due to that decision would be just as erroneous.

Those who think the Supreme Court should act as a legislative body, of sorts, are people who don’t care which fundamental principles of our nation need to be pummeled away for them to see their will done. Let’s get into the politicization because whenever something substantial happens like this everyone turns stupid for approximately one week, and boy what a week it has been. Democrats have been saying that if Congress refuses to confirm President Obama’s nominee then they are not doing their Constitutional duty. I’ll examine Elizabeth Warren’s tweets (Senator from my state, dear god help me) just to show the type of narrative that is being drawn out here.

Art II Sec 2 of the Constitution says the President nominates Supreme Court justices with the advice & consent of the Senate

Senator Warren is entirely correct. President Obama has the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices, but they may only take their seat on the bench once Congress confirms them. But, this wasn’t the only tweet that flew from her fingertips.

I can’t find a clause in the Constitution that says “…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President.”

Presumably Senator Warren is discussing some Republicans who said that Obama shouldn’t nominate someone. Whoever has said that is a naive person. Of course Obama is going to attempt to nominate someone, however I don’t think anyone has said that it would be unconstitutional for Obama to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. If they did say that, they would be naive as well. Here is where things get confusing.

The Senate GOP took an oath just like Dems did. Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold threatens the Constitution & our democracy.

Very good, Senator, they did also take an oath. However, the election and that oath grants certain powers vested in them that are derived from the people. One of those powers being they can refuse to confirm a nominee for Supreme Court Justice. I am sure that Mrs. Warren would be completely fine with Congress coming back with rejection after rejection while still upholding their Constitutional duties.

Abandoning their Senate duties would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that – empty talk.

I’m sorry, but this is garbage. It is not abandoning their Senate duties by giving nominees a hearing and rejecting them. Rejecting them for any reason for that matter. That is a power given to Congress, and they may use it should they choose to do so. Elizabeth Warren showcases a trend I have seen cropping up time and time again with the whole “Democrat/Republican” dynamic. Democrats routinely shame Republicans for political moves. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but politicians “do politics.” They only seem to get angry when one of the checks and balances our system has gets in the way of their plans. That is why the term “obstructionist” is being tossed around so frequently after Scalia’s death. There is no possible way that the Republicans have something of a noble goal here. There is no way they don’t want to fill a seat on the Court with someone who would strike down Heller, and a variety of other important cases where Scalia was a deciding vote. From what I can see, they are not “obstructing business being done for the people” so much as “obstructing what we want to do.” I will apologize sarcastically to as many politicians as I have to, but I’m sorry, the system was designed to be obstructive.

You know that you have a Constitutional crisis on your hands when those who have a minority of power in the Senate are attempting to shame those who want their will to be done too. It seems as if whenever the Republicans make a move that would benefit them, they are immediately seen as crybabies who throw a tantrum whenever they don’t get what they want. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but this pattern is so obvious I couldn’t leave the Republicans defenseless. Congress has the power in this scenario. So if President Obama wants to nominate people he knows will be rejected, let him try. Then perhaps the Democratic party can understand what it feels like to have their will not be done because they simply don’t have enough power. That’s a good thing.

An Edge In Word-wise

It is difficult to disagree with a dead man one respects as much as I do Christopher Hitchens. However, being the receiver of many an accusation of tackling low-hanging fruit, I decided to take up the challenge of grabbing a ladder. It was necessary I disagree with something he wrote publicly as to not be accused of simply being another sheep in Christopher’s clothing. Hitchens wrote an essay referencing Michael Richards’ horrendous attempt at racial shock comedy in 2006. He was making the case that banning words used in the media, in an objective sense, was rather babyish. The title of this essay is “Eschew the Taboo,” which I thought was an all appropriate title. Of course, with nearly everything I read there was something that didn’t quite sit with me the right way and for, I think, good reason.

I do want to say, before I begin, that most of the essay is well-written and entirely agreeable when he is referencing the “third way” the word “nigger” is used, which is in the objective sense. It reads:

There is a third category here, which is the use of the word in what I can only call an objective way. Thus, professor Randall Kennedy not long ago became the second black American to publish a book called Nigger. (The first was Dick Gregory, who told his mother that henceforth whenever she heard the word, she could think of it as a promotion of her son’s best seller.) Kennedy’s milder justification, with which I agreed, was that he was writing a history of the word’s power and pathology, and it did not need a mealy-mouthed title.

 

However, in mentioning Kennedy’s book in its treatment of the Richards affair, the article in the Washington Post‘s “Style” section did not give its title at all, referring to it instead as “a controversial book about the word” and to the word itself as “the N-word.” Indeed, the Post has a policy of not printing the word at all, as do many other media outlets.

Quite reasonable, but before this were the two other ways that Christopher Hitchens described the words use and they are as follows:

If successful, this might, I suppose, put an end to the pathetic complaint made by some white people that it’s unfair that blacks can use the word while they cannot. In fact, no question of “double standards” arises here. If white people call black people niggers, they are doing their very best to hurt and insult them, as well as to remind them that their ancestors used to be property. If black people use the word, they are either uttering an obscenity or trying to detoxify a word and rob it of its power to wound them. Not quite the same thing.

That thing that Hitchens is referencing in the phrase “if successful,” is essentially a retirement of the word “nigger” from the entertainment industry. It is also quite clear from his words that the word “nigger” may only flow from the lips of a white person if discussing the word in an objective sense, or else they are necessarily doing their best to insult and hurt black people. I found this statement to be completely erroneous on its face simply because I have seen white comedians use the word “nigger” successfully on a majority black audience without speaking about it in merely an objective sense. Louis C.K and Bill Burr come to mind. But, according to Hitchens’ words, those two comedians were simply attempting to hurt and insult black people as opposed to make them laugh.

Universal racial claims like this should be dismissed post-haste, because intent here is discerned through the race of the person saying the word as opposed to the context of the statement. To stay in the realm of comedy, Chris Rock (a black comedian if you were unaware) has a famous routine where he goes to accentuate the differences between “black people” and “niggers.” Here, Chris Rock is flat-out insulting a subsection of black people by taking that identity away from them and replacing it with “nigger” in an insulting way. So, the second universal claim that every time the word “nigger” is uttered by a black person it is for some noble cause should be distrusted as well.

I also would like to contend with this notion that there is no “double standard” involved here. Even if we take Hitchens’ universal claims to be true, should this not also apply to racial slurs directed at white people? The word “cracker” for instance has a history of referencing slave-owners who “crack the whip,” to be brunt about it. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be the same sting involved with that word as there seems to be with the word “nigger.” Why does one suppose that is? I think it is due to the fact that we simply don’t stigmatize that word as much on an interpersonal level. I, personally, would rather be called a slave as opposed to a slave-owner, slaves at least had the capacity to be considered moral human beings. A person who owns slaves, in my and most others views, are tainted forever with the stain of slave-ownership. That is where a second double standard rears its very sinister head. Although I do think that the original “double standard” that Hitchens claims doesn’t exist is precisely why “nigger” is still such a powerful word.

The subtitle of this essay (on Slate at least, I’m not sure whether Hitchens wrote it) is this: “The pernicious effects of banning words.” Pardon me, Mr. Hitchens, but if one is to truly wish a word out of its taboo, one must do so on an interpersonal level if one could even dream of having that taboo removal applied to the posh and proper stylings of the media, and objective senses. To quote Hitchens himself from this essay:

Hatred will always find a way, and will certainly always be able to outpace linguistic correctness

This is why I think assigning intent to someone who uses the word simply due to their race is an incredibly unfavorable position. Since hatred will always find a way, cowering to it on an interpersonal level, and assuming it of white people who use “nigger” non-objectively, is on the most basic level, capitulation. This is, of course, not my saying that we can now excuse statements of racism. This is merely my saying that the word “nigger” used non-objectively does not necessarily a statement of racism create. There is plenty of room for politeness, and obviously one doesn’t go around bleating the word “cunt” to women they meet. But if we honestly are going to commit to eschewing the taboo, we cannot afford to handicap ourselves by preemptively banning it morally from certain race’s lexicons.

 

How Propaganda Propagates

It seems that one can’t even discuss the topic of propaganda without a slight distaste from a generalized audience manifesting itself. I would just like to assure you ahead of time that I’m not attempting to allude to a vast conspiracy of any type. All I am attempting to do here is detail how propaganda materializes, gets believed, and then spreads. The word “propaganda” has a very negative connotation and, in my mind, rightfully so. The word originally stems from the Latin word “propagare,” which basically means “propagate,” which is entirely appropriate in this case since propaganda is information (true, half-true, or not true at all) that is spread to disseminate a particular idea. That idea can be political in nature, but it doesn’t always have to be. So, in a sense, my channel and writing could be easily classified as propaganda for my own ideas, but since the word has such a negative connotation in modern uses people generally restrict that usage to points where information given out is half-true, or fabricated completely. For the sake of simplicity I will simply stick with things that are half-true and completely fabricated.

Propaganda can originate anywhere and, quite frankly, it is all over the internet. Propaganda can be seen as the establishment of unproven rumor as fact in the minds of the people. Generally these half-true talking points will originate with a simple misunderstanding of data, but on occasion, it can be a deliberate misleading of the population. A flawed study, for example, taken to be seen as proof of something it doesn’t in any way prove is something generally spun to be propaganda in the realm of political and ideological discussion today. But then one has to look at the people who conducted the study to discern whether or not they intentionally set out to mislead people with a certain method of data collection, which is entirely possible. Another example is the flat-out fabrication. Lies that are provably untrue are very difficult to get to stick, but once they do, they are held in place for an incredibly long time. People will tend to start believing these things like old wive’s tales.

Even if, after an examination, it is proven to be untrue. Those who are intelligent propagandists will generally make sure that their propositions are not wholly disprovable, which provides their information undeserved credence. For example, the fact that we haven’t proven X exists doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because you haven’t seen X doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen often. Just because there is no compelling evidence to prove X happened that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. It’s that type of mentality that we are dealing with here. All of those things are technically true, which gives these people an incredibly sturdy leg (at least in their own heads) to stand on. I mean after all, everyone has been saying this for so long; it has to have some merit to it.

In my experience, I’ve noticed that people tend to believe, very easily, information that is convenient for them while discounting any information that runs counter to it. I’m obviously not the first person in the world to notice this. It has the name “confirmation bias” for a reason. But I don’t think many people know exactly how to counter it, since I have seen intelligent people support the most idiotic of propositions simply because it would support their preconceptions. The counter to this, if you are interested in the truth, is to throw off those preconceptions. That is a lot harder than it sounds. But propagandists prey upon this. The moment a piece of factual information is dished out to the public, depending on whose narrative it runs against, people will start making a whole host of excuses for it.

This is the really crazy part where people attempt to spin the idea that their personal opinion is an argument against fact. For example, with the Planned Parenthood case. I have seen numerous people completely abandon the “assume someone innocent until proven guilty” principle on the basis of…well…that they have a political bias against Planned Parenthood and really wanted them to be guilty super duper badly. I have seen this behavior from people, who previously, were up in arms about feminists assuming the guilt of men for rape. It’s as if people’s principles just fly out the window the moment something convenient comes along. That is how witches got burned, and that is how black men got lynched. But, of course, when I try to run the facts of the case out with numerous caveats I get a slew of people claiming that I just “love abortion” which is, obviously, untrue. I’m not the biggest fan of abortion, believe it or not.

It is not biased to be consistent with your principles, even if it applies to “the enemy.” If your first reaction to a fact is to attack the messenger, then you have some serious soul-searching to do. What should I have done instead? Not relayed that fact? Presented that fact in a way that would spin it to your particular liking? Should I have given that fact out inconspicuously in the middle of a paragraph attacking the people you personally dislike? That is not going to happen. The bias rests with you in that case. Being objective, and not becoming a victim of misleading propaganda, requires that I say things that I wish were untrue, but are entirely true. So essentially, what it comes down to when dealing with people who aren’t so much sold propaganda, but rather go out and buy it, their demands for an objective news source is meaningless at best and an outright lie to preserve their image at worst.

Propaganda, as I’ve said before, doesn’t really present itself to people so much as it is sought out by the people themselves. Propaganda is a commodity that can be bought and sold. Want a smart person to give you an argument to use when arguing about your pet points? Well that will be only small easy payment of $6.99 per month, please and thank you. Now, of course this is opening the floor up to everyone who will accuse me of spouting propaganda, and to a certain extent that is true. But I try with all my might to be objective when dealing with the facts of the case. However, that doesn’t mean I am devoid of an opinion on said facts. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to have an opinion about certain things in order to remain objective. Allow me to clue you in as to what this means. For example, when discussing the Vietnam War everyone can pretty much agree that there was a war going on and what was happening in that war. Differences of opinion occurred when people took opinions on board regarding whether or not the war was favorable or unfavorable. The problem with a decent amount of propaganda today, in the past, and most likely in the future, is that it doesn’t allow you to even agree on what the facts are. Why would someone do such a thing? Answers vary from attention to absolute power.

The reason people are so willing to believe insane things is because they have to believe those things to satisfy the cognitive dissonance present in their worldview when presented with a fact that runs counter to it, and in some cases shatters it completely. I’ll take an everyday example to just avoid anymore political jiggery-pokery in regards to what I’m trying to get across. Let’s say a girl was convinced that her boyfriend was cheating on him. I mean she was really dead-set on believing it was true, maybe due to controlling tendencies, insecurity, or something to that effect. The boyfriend then comes home late one night without telling his girlfriend where he was. The girlfriend then demands he tell her where he was. He says that he just went out for drinks with some co-workers. She doesn’t believe him, so he calls one of his friends. His friend tells her the same story. That wasn’t good enough either because his friend could easily vouch for him, so he calls the bartender who also said he was there. That also isn’t good enough because maybe he bribed the bartender! Her friends then vouch for the boyfriend because they stopped in to say hello. Well now her best friends are lying to her too, after all this time? How could they? When in reality the guy just went out to the bar for drinks with his co-workers. And she is flailing desperately to try and retain her preconceived belief. Such is the danger of not being able to let go of ideological attachments when faced with fact.

We don’t so much as reason and then come to a conclusion as we come to our conclusion and then try to find reasons for it. Propaganda provides those reasons, thus, solidifying ones belief. For example, if one already has some innate distaste for men, modern feminism provides so many totally awesome reasons to hate them! They are domestic abusers, sexual harassers, rapists, and women are terrified for their lives over this. Speaking of terror, fear plays a huge role in the horrifying tragedy that is propaganda. Imagine you are walking into a neighborhood you’ve never been in before, and then someone walks up to you and says, “Hey, there has been a massive string of random murders around here recently. Like 500 people in the last week, be careful okay?” That will probably affect the average person’s behavior as opposed to just walking into the neighborhood devoid of that information. Now imagine that the person instilling that fear in you is lying? It’s spreading paranoia, and the only way to get rid of that paranoia is to do exactly what [insert your group preference here] says because they have the know-how despite there being no actual problem to speak of.

So, at the risk of sounding like a complete hypocrite, here is what I propose you do to ward off being taken in by propaganda. First, if a piece of information pops up that is incredibly convenient to your own personal position; it is wise to distrust it until you see primary sources (or enough evidence that can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt). Second, if you start to feel like you need to force yourself to believe something in order reconcile your preconceptions; you may just want to give all of your mental files a once-over. Third, your opinions are not the facts themselves, nor are the opinions of anyone else. Be wary of this at all times. Fourth, if you present someone with a demonstrable fact and they immediately go on the offensive against you (without taking that fact on board) then this person is already marinating in the Kool-Aid. Lastly, learn to laugh at everything on occasion, even your own positions. If there is one thing that propagandists hate, it’s not being taken seriously.

The Political “C-Word”

There are fewer things less interesting to comment on, to the average person, than that of the role that the media play and will play in the present and future respectively. However, there are fewer things more important to comment on as well. After watching the documentary “Best of Enemies” for the second time I began thinking about the state of modern political commentary. For those who are unaware, “Best of Enemies” is a documentary wherein the feud between the staunch conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and the unapologetically left-wing Gore Vidal was examined. These two political figures are, essentially, the cartoonish moldings of what we consider the generic Right and generic Left at the present time.

Before their debates on ABC the news was a very cold and tedious business. The set-up was roundly the same. A person sat down, looked at the camera while dressed very formally, and rattled off what happened that was considered worthy enough to be news. The moment ABC started seeing extreme boosts in their ratings after the frazzle and bang that were the Buckley/Vidal debates, various news networks decided to host more argument-based programming. The news stories began taking a backseat to the argument. Before anyone jumps down my throat this is not my saying that argument-based programming is bad on its face. I enjoy watching intellectual heavyweights on different sides of the aisle at each others throats as much as the next person. Unfortunately, when people are attempting to rhetorically pin down their opponent they have a tendency to be dishonest in the process. Let’s be frank for a second, most invited guests on argument-based programming today aren’t exactly heavyweights in the intellectual sphere either.

This is what Jon Stewart alludes to when you watch the full clip of his appearance on the now (thankfully) cancelled show “Crossfire.” Stewart stresses the difference between “debate shows” and “theater.” There is definitely a contrast between tuning into a show in order to see honest intellectual sparring, it is quite another to tune in simply to watch someone in opposition to your ideas get “destroyed.” I would like to qualify Stewart’s statements about the state of the current media. It is possible to have honest and theatrical debate. There is a place for rhetoric, logic, and honesty within modern political discourse. But from what I have seen transpire over the short span of 22 years is political commentary getting more about the style and far less about the substance. I wouldn’t be surprised if facts came out proving that news network staffers spend more time on their special effects and graphics as opposed to fact-checking. This is something that needs to be addressed head on.

Again, to satiate the throat-jumpers, I am just as annoyed with puritans who feel that all politics should be a cold dissemination of facts about either candidate. The facts are very important, and I think that the American people are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves which candidate best suits their values and positions without the help of political analysts of any stripe. But, cold hard facts are not what draw eyes to screens. What draws eyes to screens is the spark and fizz we have been seeing presently. What is the main reason that people give when you ask them why they don’t tune into programs such as “C-Span?” If we’re being honest, the main reason given is the fact that it is boring, priggish, prim, prude, stuffy, and far too formal to be interesting. If the media is to keep people informed it needs to lose the black tie uniforms, baggy jeans, ties, and the backwards ball cap. It needs to adopt a very “business casual” approach when it comes to delivering factually accurate information in a way that also appeals to the entertainment aspect of television. In the late 1960s, most of the political landscape was dominated by suits, that may or may not have had a human beneath them, performing the role of the bottom-banner news-ticker.

Currently, most of the political landscape (as it always has been) is dominated by “The C-Word.” The word being “commentary,” not to be confused with the illness, or the word used to purposefully put radical feminists into a shrieking frenzy. I beg of you, readers of mine, not to confuse the act of commentating with the act of news reporting. It is as base of a difference as the contrast between fact and opinion. Commentary is not news, it is not fact, and it sure isn’t journalism. Commentary considered to be “mainstream” generally falls down one political party’s ideological framework. For example, compare the work of Bill O’Reilly with that of Rachel Maddow. The problem with these programs, in my opinion, is that they subtly trick the viewer into thinking that the objective news is whatever point of view the host of the show is spouting. I’ve seen a dramatic shift in tone since my life began and people are starting to shy away from mainstream political punditry in favor of alternative internet political punditry. People haven’t hidden from political punditry altogether, they just wanted something different and fresh. However, I have my own issues with this as well. In case you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to have issues with nearly everything.

There has been a trend forming among different brands of alternative commentator to be what we would call “edgy.” Generally, when I used to hear the term “edgy,” I used to think of someone who was naturally on the fringe. I thought of someone who had political ideas far off of the footprint-speckled paths. I think being edgy is an excellent thing when it naturally occurs. When one has an off-course opinion one should attempt to shout it as loud as they possibly can in order for it to be heard. Issues begin to arise, however, when commentary is marketed on its “edginess.” Edginess for the sake of edginess hardly ever works in comedy, and it also hardly ever works in the political sphere. By “works” I don’t mean “doesn’t draw eyes to screens,” I mean “doesn’t work,” as in, “makes you look like an overall drooling lunatic with an audience populated with similar people who also tend to over-salivate.” Whenever I begin listening to (or reading) alternative political commentary and get bombarded with terms like, “fuck being nice,” “no apologies,” “politically incorrect,” or the worst of them all, “cutting-edge,” I tune out immediately. If you embody these qualities, people will notice. If someone needs to convince you that they are these things before you read them, then they are most likely putting on a front and simply marketing to you. Political correctness is indeed something that prevents facts and opinions from seeing the light, but when the only political incorrectness commentators end up mustering is calling people they don’t like “cunts,” and “dickwads,” then they are hacks of the worst variety. Saying words that make children cry is all well and good, now give me substance. Swears are not substance in and of themselves.

This takes me beautifully back to the Buckley and Vidal debates. The statement that the documentary portrays Buckley regretted all his life was this statement after being rather cheaply called a “crypto-Nazi,” by the likes of Vidal:

Now listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamned face you’ll stay plastered.

While this is an understandable reaction to being told to shut up, and then called a crypto-Nazi it is noticeably devoid of any political insight whatsoever. That being said, it is the most memorable part of the interactions between Buckley and Vidal. The reason that portion of the debate stays implanted in our minds so easily is because people expected calm rational discussion and got threats of violence. It’s the same reason we remember the interaction between the likes of Zoey Tur and Ben Shapiro where Tur threatened Shapiro with violence. Though, the political parties were reversed in that scenario. Considering how partisan Vidal was, and how partisan Shapiro currently is they would both probably wretch at being mentioned in the same sentence. That’s what I like about them. There is a very frilly sentiment being thrown around about political argument on how it always needs to be respectable, posh, uptight, and whatnot and I disagree completely. I enjoy when people get gritty in their tone naturally within argument, what I hate is when people put on a mask of grittiness and market how “real” their “talk” is. It’s a distinction one may consider minor, but it is a very important one to me and most likely to a sizeable number of people.

There is a pattern on various networks such as MSNBC and Fox in regards to political commentary. In general, you will have a commentator delivering some outlying facts and then giving their long-winded, passionate, and predictable opinion about them. Then, in the middle of this program, they will invite two people on, one from one side and one from the other. However, whenever the two guests get too fiery with each other, or indeed the host, the host will come along and do the equivalent of telling everyone to stop arguing, kiss, and make up. Of course, said host will completely ignore their passionate opinions directly before said guests arrived and acts surprised that everyone isn’t sandwiching their criticisms with compliments. If you invite someone on for their point of view, you shouldn’t attempt to talk over that point of view for the sake of your own ego or a faux concern with politeness. Some people do not deserve politeness.

In the end, we’re given a false dichotomy in political commentary between posh and gritty, boring and flamboyant, honest and dishonest. Unfortunately gritty and flamboyant drags dishonesty behind it the moment ego gets in the way of a passionate debate. My suggestion is to let the fires burn, but carry your own personal pail of emotional water at all times. If you can’t prevent yourself from hovering above the rest of us with your politeness, or control your emotions to prevent yourself from sounding like a lunatic then please stop insisting I take you seriously.