Month: January 2016

The Words Matter

The MerriamWebster online dictionary definition of discourse : The use of words to exchange thoughts and ideas.

The way our society communicates and shares ideas defines our public policy.

Faggot,” butthurt,” libtard,” n—-er,” femiNazi,b—h,” c—t,” “illegal,” bigot,” homophobe and, for the uber-intellectual, “troglodyte.

Disagreement can be edgy and effective without offending entire races, religions and classes of people.

But our discourse is now littered with these words and often accompanied with vitriolic attacks on the identities, affiliations and associations of the speaker. Find a popular social media post featuring President Obama and read the comment section. There’s a good chance a commenter will state that the President is a Muslim (derogatorily) and then connect his “religion” to his ongoing effort to destroy the U.S. (while conveniently omitting evidence).

Aren’t interweb comment sections where good ideas go to die?

Unequivocally, YES. The odds of changing the heart and mind of someone on social media by typing in a pithy comment (no matter how brilliant you think it is) are about as good as cracking aces holding 7-2 off-suit (poker reference). I’m sure it happens (as my laptop goes flying into the teevee), but it’s rare.

If social media was the only place where this dialogue was found, there might be less reason for concern. However, vitriol seeps. The same language is used on cable news, in opinion pieces in major newspapers, in political campaign ads, in presidential debates and even in the well of the U.S. Congress. This language, in some cases, digresses into more aggressive behavior, overt discrimination and violence against groups of people.

So why does this matter?

Policy discussions shouldn’t be measured the same as discussions you have at the neighborhood bar. Calling a buddy a “fucking idiot” for muting the game and cranking out three Journey songs in a row isn’t the same as debating the biggest issues facing our society. Words matter, especially when they affect public policy. Aside from being immature, labeling someone a “Socialist Muslim” to discredit their policy idea demeans their humanity, and it doesn’t validate your point in the discussion.

It also isn’t productive to simply call someone a “bigot” because they say ALL Muslims are responsible for terrorist acts. This may be the dictionary definition of bigotry, however, name calling doesn’t change the experience, which led to their discriminatory statement. It only creates a confrontation where both parties go on the defensive and retreat into their stubborn ideological corners. Elevating the discourse and changing the anecdotal experience of the perpetrator (obviously more difficult), will have a better chance of unrooting the cause of their hate.

When vitriolic language is used across the political spectrum, it makes it easier to dismiss the impact policy decisions have on a subset of people.

For example, the media will often dehumanize people by calling them “illegals,inferring they are on the wrong side of an arbitrary line (probably decided by killing someone else). This overt language makes it is easier for policymakers to take away liberties and displace families: they are no longer fellow humans sharing the Earth, they are merely “illegals.”

Another example is not so subtle. In recent comments at a town hall, Governor of Maine Paul LePage uses words such as “G-Money” to insinuate black men are travelling to Maine (I’m assuming from places where he thinks black people live) to deal drugs and impregnate “young, white girls.” The Governor is placing blame on a specific race of people for the perceived ills of his state. Instead, he could have easily used the opportunity to expand discourse into a productive policy discussion on drug addiction and criminal justice reform.

Donald Trump, who is the leading Republican for the Presidential nomination has used words to prey upon the fears of a segment of the electorate who are disenchanted by politics. The Scotch will explore this phenomenon in more depth in an upcoming post.

 I chose discourse specifically as my first topic. Analyzing the use of specific verbiage in the media, on the campaign trail and in policy making will be a pillar of this blog. Not attacking the attacker is of utmost importance and the way we use words will ALWAYS matter. 

Swearing: effective. Name calling: not so much.


The First Sip

The Scotch – A diatribe on the political spectrum, with occasional interjections into the minutiae of life that make it tolerable.

This is the intent of The Scotch and here’s why I think you should read it:

Because you want an entertaining perspective on public policy, politicians and the campaigns that got them there — plus all the things that fascinate me.

Wait, that’s in the subtitle right? But why THE SCOTCH?

Because of my sharp wit and wry sense of humor! My experience and expertise informs the credibility of the commentary. I have over 15 years of professional political experience. I’ve run local and congressional political campaigns. My federal, state and local policy experience, along with working in government and public relations, gives me a vast background and unique perspective on policy and the politicians who champion it. I offer dynamic context to the political world around us.

Want to know why The Donald won’t go away? Have trouble understanding The Tea Party because you think they are fucked-up-crazy (yes, there will be swearing) and you don’t get why they are still a thing? Or why liberals get mired in romantic Sorkinian idealism (see Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders, et al.)? I’ve worked at every level of government, for Republicans and Democrats, and in blue states and red states, and I want to write about it.

If you crave wry commentary and pithy observations on all things politics, this is the blog for you. I write about novel policy ideas that may have a chance to help people and the bat shit crazy piece of legislation that won’t. I explore unique campaign and messaging tactics from the school board to the Presidency. No issue will be out of bounds, although I tend to focus on issues of sustainability, secularism, education and healthcare.

But this isn’t only about politics. As you can interpret from the subtitle, I have eclectic interests. I’m an avid hiker. I’ve explored several national parks and reached the summit of a few ’14ers, including the tallest peak in the continental United States. I’ll update you on my latest trek with captivating photos, and I’ll give you advice on what gear you need, where to stay, and the best food choices around your destination hike. Think of it like a consolidated space for some expert #hikerchat.

I watch a shit ton of sports. Baseball, specifically the Dodgers is my favorite, but I love watching (and betting) on all the sports ball (and puck). I like to think of myself (kindly) as a degenerate gambler. And, as a retired curler, I obsessively watch curling… even though I haven’t found a way to gamble on it (working on this). For the big sports story of the day, last night’s amazing game, the upcoming match, or sound betting advice (entertainment purposes only), I got you covered.

If I can’t write as much as I want, it is probably because I’m in the middle of a poker tournament. It’s a passion. I read the books and am always willing to talk about a hand or a scenario to try and improve my game. I played in one World Series of Poker event in 2015 and hope 2016 allows me a few more. I love to yell at muppets calling down their three outer to the river and then cracking my pocket aces (if you aren’t a poker player, this means me acting like a 7 year old when I lose). <Sigh>… process over results, process over results.

Cooking is a hobby, and I’m always looking for a “Chopped Challenge.” I love a good beer (IPA) and a better scotch. I’ll share the good and the not so good of both. I’m not the most avid teevee or movie watcher (if only I could focus on new shows instead of obsessing over How I Met Your Mother reruns), but I’ll be more than happy to give you my take on the new Star Wars or why you should stop watching House of Cards. Like now…. Stop watching! I don’t know why Kevin Spacey is doing this to us!

Finally, I’ll comment on the day-to-day complexities I find absolutely vapid, such as double spaces after periods, walking on the wrong side of a sidewalk (we live in a society with rules people) or whatever else is irking me in the moment.

That’s it, right?

For now–but there’s always a “what’s next?” Got a question? Ask. Got a comment? Make it. Please subscribe and share widely and I hope you find this…