Flint, Freedom, and the State of the Union

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Gremlins and glitches prevented earlier postings; all fixed now, thanks to the great IT team (a solid one man operation by member, “There Is No Spoon”) at Democrats for . . . → Read More: Flint, Freedom, and the State of the Union

Sunday Talks, 9/9/12

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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, will be back in the spotlight after this week’s Democratic National Convention, appearing on three of Sunday’s television talk shows. (Wow, having Republicans . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/9/12

Digging Deeper: The Grand Old Appeal of Lies

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I.

Nothing in this post is about the truth! The axiom “speak truth to power” has a corollary: tell lies to the people. The next election will come down to a contest between Barack Obama’s Grand Vision and Republicans’ Big Lies. To Democrats, lies signal a potential win. After all, who votes for a lie? Short answer: lots of people; let’s look at why.

First, lying is an absolute position, usually without nuance or subtlety and strongly backed up. Who deceives and admits it? Why lie and then tell the truth? Remember Ryan’s voucher plan for Medicare? The one that gives a voucher for insurance rather than a single payment option for services received? He insisted it was still Medicare. Bold lies like Ryan’s weaken the structure of elections and legislation. They dismantle honesty to rule by fear and fantasy. They ride in loudly, full of blame, and are willing to boycott and blockade government to break it. But they are bold. Bold lies appeal to fantasy, make fake comparisons, are easy to believe on flimsy evidence.

America has a fascination with the lie as evidence of its fantasy with strength. Leave reality behind; in this new world, those who embrace lies are strong. And lies have a double advantage. They can be told about others — and about the self. Gingrich excels at the double lie. “I did not consult.” “I listened” to executives describe a situation that perfectly fits with my campaign position. (Self.) ”You can only comprehend Barack Obama’s positions if “you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.” (Others.)

II.

The GOP is not insane, blind, or stupid; it uses lies and denial for singular and collective effect.

Two effects, in the main:

1) to incite fear, encourage: a) acceptance (“Social Security is outdated, broke, and an empty promise to our children”) or b) resistance to change (“Low tax rates encourage ‘job creators.’”)

2) to weaken logic and degrade its quality to a lower standard that supports the mob’s passion for raw acts of default, fallacy, and blame. (Remember the shameless GOP crowd booing a gay service member?)

III.

The power of a lie depends on how it resonates. In the case of the “harmless” lie, a lie is told with good intent. Its key political resonance is to protect us from harm. (Reagan’s stories; Bachmann’s $200 million a day claim for the cost of Presidential travel to India, her other claims.)

A political lie must also resonate with immediate appeal. Shock value and wit are its elements of success. (Jim DeMint’s lies: We are no longer first in education under Obama, or student loans will be more expensive. His position, gay teachers should not be employed as teachers in public schools.)

A well-crafted public lie, often constructed from obscure technical interpretations, has staying power. It becomes a cultural or social norm. The jubilee myth of Lincoln appearing at plantations after the war; Obama’s birth certificate or Muslim faith become accepted as facts, even when untrue.

Successful public lies met six criteria: unwavering absoluteness/boldness, broad utility/purpose, emotional appeal and shock value, craft and technical roots, wide social support/institutionalization. Once a lie is fixed, its politics trumps its ethics. Continue reading Digging Deeper: The Grand Old Appeal of Political Lies

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Take Five (Who'da Thunk It edition)

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ONE: Scumhog Millionaire et al.

Donald Trump wrapped up his latest and most Rococo exercise in crass, self-aggrandizing buffoonery on Monday with the altogether unsurprising announcement that he has decided not to vie for the GOP Presidential nomination after all.

Trump used the opportunity both to pat himself vigorously on the back and to indulge in some rank untruths, all of which was also altogether unsurprising:

“This decision does not come easily or without regret, especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country.”

What Trump should have said is “ranking down there with ditch water,” since his Icarus-like fall from political favor has been swift, despite most Republican voters being unable to distinguish Shineola from, let’s say, um, Santorum:

Trump’s support for the Republican nomination fell from 26 percent in April to just eight percent in early May in surveys done by Public Policy Polling.

The announcement came hot on the heels of Mike Huckabee’s admission a couple of days earlier that he doesn’t particularly feel like getting his ass kicked by Barack Obama next year either:

“All the factors say go, but my heart says no.”

Trump was quick to offer up this ludicrous tidbit of congratulation and commentary on the Huckabee announcement:

“Mike Huckabee is not going to be running for president. This might be considered by some people, not necessarily me, bad news because he is a terrific guy — and frankly I think he would be a terrific president. But a lot of people are very happy that he will not be running, especially other candidates. So, Mike, enjoy the show. Your ratings are terrific. You’re making a lot of money. You’re building a beautiful house in Florida. Good luck.”

Now, you might be thinking at this point that the race for the Republican nomination just got a little more rational. And you would be dead wrong:

Rep. Michele Bachmann said Tuesday she’s close to deciding whether to jump into the 2012 presidential race, and she suggested that Mike Huckabee’s and Donald Trump’s exits from the field make it more likely she’ll get in.

Huckabee’s and Trump’s decisions have “changed the grass roots and what they’re looking for,” the Minnesota congresswoman said on Fox News Channel on Tuesday. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook, our Facebook has been lit up, our donations are pouring in. People are saying ‘Michele jump in, we want you to run.’’

Bachmann has decided to utilize a two-tier approach to campaign fundraising:

… asking supporters to choose to donate small amounts if they want her to stay in the House, or larger amounts if they want her to pursue the presidency.

No word yet on how big a donation is required if one simply wants her to shut up and disappear, but I have my checkbook handy. Continue reading Take Five (Who’da Thunk It edition)

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