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inside the seamy valley sweat box

five freakin' hours. that's how long i was watching the republicans last night. it's like watching a marathon of a guilty pleasure trash reality show, which i don't really have because i watch things like the republican national debates in five hour increments.

since cnn were "kind" enough to broadcast both the opening act and the main event, i figured the only way to make sure that i was as offended and disgusted as i could possibly be was by committing to the entire thing. i'm not sure why i thought that was a good plan, but it's too late to be analyzing now.

reflecting on my night of american right wingnuttery, i have many thoughts. many terrible thoughts. the first, of course, is that one of the people i saw last night could get elected and become leader of the most the most powerful army the world has ever known. but there are a few other things that come to mind:

  • dividing the candidates by popularity is stupid. if you're blocking off five hours of air time anyway, do two debates of two hours each with the same questions asked and candidates should be assigned randomly to one or the other. any of the guys on the first stage could easily have held their own with the so-called big guns. making the division according to polls ensures that most of those on the "kiddie stage" won't be able to move up, unless they happen to come up with some soundbite fodder and have a p.r. genius spinning their performance. 
  • candidates need to be questioned on the content of their platform, not just on comments they've made to the media. all of these people have developed plans for what they'd do and while some of them spring up to mention them on their own, but those plans are the blueprint for the kind of presidency they would have and most voters aren't going to have the time to read through all of them in detail. debates are supposed to offer a type of public service and allow voters to compare and contrast the candidates. that should be based on their ideas, not their past media appearances. 
  • which leads into my third point, which is that the moderation of the debates was worse than the candidates, and that shouldn't even be possible. the first debate began twenty minutes late and much of the build up centred on a discussion of whether or not nancy reagan was in the building [she wasn't, although cnn's cameras tracked a woman they identified as her for some time] and whether or not donald trump had arrived. the first fifteen minutes of the debate were dedicated exclusively to questions about donald trump, who wasn't on the daïs. the candidates politely tried to turn the conversation to themselves and their ideas, but moderator jake tapper was having none of it. but that was only a quibble compared to the atrocity of the second debate. nearly the entirety of its three hours was made up of questions framed in exactly this way: candidate x called said you were ratchet- are you gonna take that or what? on twitter, i saw several people referring to it as the mean girls school of debate. it was like the producers wanted to outdo trump in how crass they could make the forum. i was a little disappointed that no one pulled a newt gingrich and called bullshit on the questions. if that's the only way that you can think of to get candidates to interact, you need to find some new people to do your thinking. large portions of the debate were so out of control that you wondered if tapper had gone to take a leak. the crowning glory however, was seeing the only question on women's rights [leaving aside the usual clamour to vilify planned parenthood, which was a discussion of the deeply misleading videos rather than anything meaningful] described as a "light-hearted" one. women's issues are frivolous. thank you cnn for clarifying this. i miss candy crowley. fuck, i miss megyn kelly. 

as to the candidates themselves, starting with the warm-up acts. [and fyi, whoever decided to arrange them by height, way to go. i spent the entire time thinking i was looking at a demonic set of russian nesting dolls.]

george pataki :: you sounded rational, conciliatory and experienced. i expect this is the last time we'll see you on stage.

rick santorum :: you said that iran was an apocalyptic cult who were dead set on bringing about the end of the world. you also implied pretty heavily that you favoured a theocracy, where the laws of god [your god] supercede the laws of man. and i'll bet you don't appreciate the irony.

bobby jindal :: consider what i just said about rick santorum when i tell you this: you really brought the crazy to the debate. you said you would defend the idea of america. i'm guessing that if you get elected, that'll be all that's left. kudos, though, because i'm pretty sure that your two mentions of bernie sanders doubles the coverage he's received from cnn.

lindsey graham :: you want to bomb everyone and everything while you toss back a few shots of bourbon. i have very conflicted feelings about you.

winner :: honestly, the match was fairly even, but i think that lindsey graham edged out the others. his militaristic crazy was outdone by santorum's religious crazy and jindal's... well, by jindal. the line about drinking more was legitimately hilarious and he deftly blew away questions about his past praise for democrats [including hillary clinton] by using it as evidence that he could work with both parties and get congress moving again. tore a strip off those who would be willing to risk another government shutdown like a boss.

prediction :: not one of these guys will make it as far as the iowa caucus.

and then it was time for the big guns...

rand paul :: i don't think the post-debate media gave you enough credit. considering that you're you, you did ok. questions on foreign policy and drug policy are right in your wheelhouse and made you look like you think about things a little differently than your peers. i'm not sure that people in your party like different, unfortunately.

mike huckabee :: you even whiffed the kim davis bits and that's your issue. you are so doomed.

marco rubio :: i thought you were one of the winners last time, but the polls tell me i was wrong. nonetheless, i sticking with my original line of thought: you had a pretty good showing; a little weak in the earlier bits, but you kept picking up steam as the torture night wore on. and making a tasteless joke about california's disastrous drought isn't going to hurt you with the party base anyway.

ted cruz :: meh. if you're just going to be another boring hypocritical right winger, you're spoiling all our fun. it hurts me to my soul that you crushed the "frivolous" question about what woman you'd put on american currency. seriously, you not only chose rosa parks but you also said that you'd make it the $20 bill and not the $10, so that she'd be replacing a pretty despicable racist to boot. and as i'm saying without irony that you were the top guy on the sole women's question of the night, i realise how much trouble america is in.

ben carson :: there's soft-spoken and there's medicated. whoever told you to down those ambien with a few shots of wild turkey is not your friend. i think you're getting pushed back out to the edge of the stage next time around.

donald trump :: unfortunately, even questions as soft as the ones last night make it clear how vacuous you are on any issues. the only time when you sounded like you knew what you were talking about was when you were going back and forth with carly fiorina about business experience. it takes some serious effort to seem like the least informed person in this group, but you succeeded. slow clap. but what really struck me? you looked bored out of your mind. this little publicity stunt isn't nearly as fun for you anymore, is it?

jeb bush :: when you said that your brother kept america safe, there were more mentions of september 11th on twitter than there were a few days earlier on september 11. i know everyone's saying that you did well because you joked about smoking pot and it made you look human, but i just don't see that getting you where you need to go.

scott walker :: you continue to make us all wonder why people were hyping you as a strong candidate.

carly fiorina :: as far as i can tell, everything that came out of your mouth last night was complete bullshit, but damn if you didn't pull it off with style. while the boys were playing in the mud, you spooled off "facticles" that made you look like the only student who'd done her homework [even if she'd done it wrong]. your moment with trump was perfect. even your body language was perfect. 100% style over substance, but i wasn't expecting much substance anyway.

john kasich :: you should really bring back first debate john kasich, because he was way better. every time you opened your mouth, i felt like all the oxygen was getting sucked out of the room. personally, i thought your answer about why you weren't attacking hillary clinton was effective and classy, but i heard republican strategists afterward call it "bizarre", so i'm guessing my thumbs' up isn't much consolation. my choice for "man most likely to be demoted to the kids table" at the next debate.

chris christie :: first, i want to thank you for putting an end to that interminable debate between trump and fiorina about business experience. in theory, the moderator should be doing that sort of thing, but you saw what had to be done and you stepped up. i have a feeling that doesn't happen too often. and this was a decent night for you all around, as long as you weren't trying to sway any independent voters your way. you've got the far right talk down and you've recovered some of the swagger that made everyone wish you were their candidate last time.

winner :: fiorina, hands down. i suspect, however, that this may prove a bit of an albatross for her. as journos were quick to point out in the wake of her excellent performance that she gets a lot of stuff really wrong and now that she's about to see a bounce in the polls, people are going to start calling her on it. same thing goes for her business record. trump landed some punches [not literally] last night and those are only going to get harder the more prominent she becomes.

prediction :: fiorina will get a bump, quite likely a substantial one, in the polls. to a lesser extent christie, rubio and jeb [although i don't get it personally] will also get more in the game. trump didn't exactly bomb, but he wasn't his attention-grabbing self, either. i suspect he's working on his exit strategy. i could never really make sense of ben carson's run up the polls anyway, but my guess is he's going right back down. kasich's brief flicker of life after the first debate is pretty much gone, and i expect him to go with it. huckabee and cruz are fighting for the same evangelical vote and if one of them doesn't blink soon, they'll both fall by the wayside as well.

so that's it for the round up of this debate. i'm nearly certain that watching five hours of republicans talking caused some permanent brain damage, but as the head of more like space enterprises, i am dedicated to bringing you the complete and sarcastic coverage you deserve throughout this election season. and yes, i will eventually have something to say about the canadian election as well. [if you follow me on twitter, of course, you've already heard  me say quite enough.]

for now, i bid you adieu and wish you sweet dreams, as difficult as it may be in light of this topic.

fyi, you can get that spiffy cup pictured at the top of this post [no, it is not a rubbish bin, as i originally thought] as party of a debate party pack right here


as long as you're here, why not read more?

don't speak

you might think that it sounds dramatic, but linguistic genocide is something that happens. people in power will go to great lengths to eradicate certain languages, not just for the sheer joy of making the world a lesser place, but as a way of beating down the culture that's associated with it. language has a unique reciprocal bond with culture, and every group that has attempted to break down another has recognised that forbidding a cultural group from communicating in their own language is an extremely effective way to tear apart their culture.

there are lots [and lots and lots and lots] of examples of this sort of thing, some successful, some not, but far too many to cover in one blog post. however, i thought it was worth looking at some languages that have been the subjects of active repression, and what the political consequences of that have been.

devastation :: the native north american languages :: it should come as no surprise that the largest genocide in history [by a ma…


just a short time ago, i waxed prosaic about trump supporters who felt betrayed by their candidate pursuing in office the exact things that he said he would. short version: i have no sympathy.

today is a bit different. in the wake of america's bombing of a syrian air strip, in response to a chemical weapons attack by the syrian government, my facebook and twitter feeds were peppered with plaintive shades of "we believed you". these are the people who heard trump say that he wanted the united states to step back and focus on defending its own. indeed, trump did say such things, over and over; america cannot be the policeman of the world. even arch-liberal cynics like me had to admit that this was a refreshing argument to hear from someone outside the paul family, and, could easily have been turned into trump's greatest argument against hillary clinton. [he chose to go another way, which also worked.]

trump also said, repeatedly, that america needed to invest heavily …

long division

after the united states election last year, there were the usual calls for the country to unite behind the new president. that never happens anymore, because, since george w. bush scored a victory in 2004, having launched the country into a war in iraq for no reason, the people on the losing side of a presidential election have been pretty bloody angry about it. democrats hated bush 43. republicans really hated obama. democrats really hate trump.

it didn't help that trump didn't make the typical conciliatory gestures like including a couple of members of the opposite party in his cabinet, or encouraging his party to proceed slowly with contentious legislation. barack obama arguably wasted at least two and as many as six years of his tenure as president trying to play peacemaker before he felt sufficiently safe to just say "screw you guys" and start governing around the ridiculous congress he was forced to deal with. not-giving-a-shit obama was the best president in …