Debating 101: A Primer

My father was fond of saying “This isn’t a high school debate!” whenever I took exception to anything he said.  It was his way of saying “Shut the hell up!”  That’s pretty much how I would handle a debate if I were a Presidential candidate.

I have never participated in a debate.  I’ve argued a lot and even yelled at people, but that’s different.  I have been married for almost 25 years, so these types of encounters happen on occasion.  That said, I’m sure I would do poorly in a real debate.

I don’t pay that much attention to politics, except for the few issues which interest me.  As a result, I’m not fan of political speeches or heated back-and-forth on the issues of the day.  I do, however, watch quite a bit of television.  Presidential debates are, after all, made-for-TV events. As such they neglect one basic element of good television:  Entertainment.

Despite some thinking that 47% of the public has made up its mind about the election, I doubt that.  My guess is that 45% are in the bag for Obama and 45% are on the Romney bandwagon.  That leaves 10% to decide the leader of the Free World.

Chances are that these folks aren’t much interested in politics, but–like all of us–they want to be entertained.  Something has to resonate with these folks–draw them in.  I don’t think two stiff politicians droning on about political minutia will do it.

The few debates I’ve watched have been dreadfully dull, like most of the candidates.  Given the critical nature of the upcoming presidential debates, I’ve thought about what could be done to spice them up a tad.

The first thing needed is a change in format.  Rather than one dullard as a moderator, I would pick a panel of controversial blowhards.  My initial thought is to have Keith Olberman, Ann Coulter and Simon Cowell.  Instead of the usual mundane questions, they could take turns introducing hot button topics, such as:

  • You, sir, are a damned liar!
  • Tell us about Bill Ayres!
  • Where are your tax returns?
  • Where is your birth certificate?
  • Sing your favorite song!
  • I hate you!
  • You are a communist!
  • You are a rich sonofabitch!
  • You are a Muslim!
  • You are a Mormon!
  • You don’t have star power!

After each topic is introduced, each candidate will have two minutes to respond.  Our panel, being pathologically unable to stay quiet, will be free to interrupt the responses with their own inane rants.

These changes, while helpful, won’t fix things unless the candidates themselves are willing to make some changes to their own approaches.  Below are my suggestions for both candidates:

For Obama:

  1. If asked about the economy, light up a Marlboro and mutter “I don’t know.  I just don’t know….”
  2. Demand that Romney make public all his tax returns…and his wives.
  3. Invoke Patriot Act; Declare Romney an Enemy Combatant.
  4. Announce that Biden is being replaced with The Turtle Man so that someone more qualified will be in line for the Presidency.
  5. Throw Osama Bin Laden’s head into the audience, screaming:  “I didn’t say anything about not spiking his head!”
  6. If asked about taxes, respond with:  “I’m taxing you bastards into the Stone Age.”
  7. Plant Bill Clinton in the audience.  Have him interrupt to answer any difficult questions.
  8. At some point, say:  “KARL Marx?!?!  That’s completely different!  All this time, I thought I was following GROUCHO!”
  9. Counter any valid argument with “I’ve got your predator drone, right here!”
  10. Announce plans to end war in Afghanistan; start war in America.

For Romney:

  1. Enter stage with Honey Boo Boo on his shoulders, thus insuring ratings bonanza and currying favor with the 47%.
  2. Announce that he’s legally changed his name to “Mint” and wear gigantic gold dollar sign around neck.
  3. Pointedly challenge Obama:  “If you’re really Kenyan, then explain to the public why you can’t run faster than Paul Ryan!”
  4. Draw hilarious caricature of Mohammed.
  5. Drink first cup of coffee ever during debate.  Go mental.
  6. Announce plans to invade Canada.
  7. Take vow of poverty, then laugh uncontrollably until time is up.
  8. Respectfully address Obama as “Commissar Commie Pinko Obama.”
  9. Wear a monocle.
  10. Undermine Biden’s inroads with biker-voters by referring to Ann as “my old lady.”

In addition to these specific pointers for the candidates, there are also general tactics which can be used by either candidate. These will insure lively back and forth while not turning off the viewer with wild, controversial stands on important issues.

A tried and true approach is to redirect the question toward a topic you’d really like to discuss. I call this “Debate by Diversion.”  Here is an example:

QUESTION: Sir, you have been accused of being vague on specifics. How exactly will you balance the federal budget?

ANSWER:  I’m glad you asked that question.  A balance budget is vital to our future–and that of our children.  I will balance the budget, but–speaking of children–the more important question is why does my opponent continue to deny that he authored a series of erotic novels for children? 

This outlandish and baseless accusation will subtly divert the viewer from the mundane budget issues, focusing his or her attention on the more inflammatory topic of adolescent erotica.  The opponent will be on the defensive for the remainder of the debate, plus viewers will remain glued to their TVs for the remainder of the debate.

There is also the irrelevant point:

QUESTION:  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was long viewed as a staunch ally of the United States.  With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, what will you do to re-build our relationship with Egypt?

ANSWER:  A strong, democratic Egypt is vital to our interests in the Middle East.  I will work with all Egyptians to build a strong relationship based upon mutual respect and peace.  Of course, the biggest issue facing us today is the rampant abuse of bath salts, both here in the United States and in Egypt.

The candidate has defused a potentially devastating lack of knowledge of the Middle East by injecting an irrelevant issue into the middle of the debate.  Many more undecided voters are likely to be addicted to bath salts than to actually know someone in Egypt.

Then, there is the non-response.  If your opponent makes an especially stinging comment, respond:  “WhatEVer!” Then, storm out of the room and refuse to speak to your opponent until he apologizes, even though he did nothing wrong.  Okay, I’ll admit that won’t improve ratings, but it works.  My wife does it all the time.

Finally–and most importantly–do not take a position on anything, except being “Anti-Terrorist” and “Pro-America.”  Don’t screw up and become “pro-crime” or “anti-God.” Your ratings will plummet.

Trust me, when you watch the debates, you’ll wish they’d read this.  Of course, you can always check out Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and watch the debate highlights on the news.  That’s my plan.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

If Elected….One Man’s Dream

The New Great Seal of the United States

What if I were President?  I’ve thought about that.  Not much, but I have.  Mostly when something doesn’t go to suit me–which is fairly often.  “If I were in charge…”  I guess I don’t so much want to be President as I want to be a dictator, benevolent or otherwise.  But, what if I became President through some Electoral College snafu?

Despite what Rush Limbaugh and others in the Mainstream Media would have you believe, Obama and Romney are not the only candidates.  The Reform Party, The Green Party, The Constitution Party, The Objectivist Party, The Socialist USA Party and many others have candidates.  It’s not so crazy to think that an Everyman like me could pull this off.

Now, I would never want to run for President.  If you want to read about something like that, look no further than Al Franken’s book Why Not Me?  Okay, for my conservative friends:  Don’t start sending me comments about Franken being a left-wing, liberal Communist.  He might be, but he’s also a funny guy.  Read the book.  You’ll laugh.

I wouldn’t be a good campaigner.  I don’t like a lot of travel, and I am famously impatient.  I would do poorly in interviews.  Here is how it would go:

  • INTERVIEWER:  “You’ve taken a pledge to eliminate income taxes.  What do you say to your critics who describe this as foolhardy and completely impossible?”
  • ME:  “I say they can kiss my ass. “

End of interview.  End of campaign.  Likewise, I would be a poor debater:

  • OPPONENT:  My opponent would have you believe that he has the background and experience to lead this country.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He will only lead this country to the precipice of disaster.
  • ME:  “Hmmm.  How about I kick your ass?”

End of campaign.  There would be many other ways my campaign would end.  Someone would come forward with tales of a drunken debauch or mention that I fought a girl one time.  Women I dated in my youth would be glad to come forward and derail my ambitions.  That doesn’t even touch on the many photographs that may exist.  So, no, I would not run for President.  This doesn’t stop me from pondering the possibilities of actually being President.

Many of you have wondered what would I do as President?  I’m not saying you’d waste your time wondering what you would do, but I know you want to know what I would do.  Here’s how it would work:

VICE-PRESIDENT

Since I don’t belong to a political party, I’d probably be bombarded with suggestions from both sides. I’d go against conventional wisdom and go with Kim Jong Nam, estranged brother of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un.  Okay, there’s probably some rule that the VP has to be an American.  Surely, we can work around that for the good of the country.  Nam seems like a fun-loving guy plus he could give us insight into the goings on in North Korea.  Also, like his little brother, I’m sure he’s been trained to look at things.  That would save me a lot of time and travel.

My affable VP, Kim Jong Nam

Nam was banished by his late father, Kim Jong il, for trying to enter Japan on a fake passport.  His explanation?  He wanted to see Disneyland.  What could be more American than that?

FOREIGN POLICY

The first thing I’d do is announce that our new official policy would be a bitter hatred of foreigners.  I don’t really feel that way, but it would be for the good of the country.  Here’s how we’d deal with the problem spots around the globe:

  • Canada:  I’ve already written extensively about this Hell hole.
  • Iran:  Nuke ’em.
  • Afghanistan:  I would consider killing everyone in Afghanistan (except the Americans, of course).  Since I don’t drink, it’s unlikely that I would really do that.  Unlikely.  Not out of the question.
  • The Middle East:  I wouldn’t waste any more time on peace efforts.  I would unilaterally declare a state of perpetual war and wish them luck.
  • North Korea:  I would announce that it’s the 51st state.  That should make them loonier than usual.
  • Pakistan:  Fire bomb the Hell out of it.

I would do all this my first week in office.  I would call it the Michael Corleone Doctrine. That should take care of most of our problems.

HEALTHCARE

I’d outlaw it.  Plain and simple.  If you’re so sickly that you are going to be a drain on our economy, go somewhere else.  REAL AMERICANS DON’T GET SICK would be our slogan.  It would be on every pick-up truck bumper in the country.  My approach would be the same as with sick kids going to school.  If your kid is sick, he or she should stay home.  If you’re sick, we’ll deport you, maybe to Canada.  No need to get the rest of us sick.

SOCIAL SECURITY

I’ll just tell people what they want to hear.  That seems to have worked for every other President.  I’ll craft my message to my audience:

  • If I’m talking to old people, I’ll say “Don’t worry.  We’re not cutting your benefits.”
  • If I’m talking to young people, I’ll say:  “Don’t worry.  Social Security will be there for you.”
  • If I’m talking to people who don’t need it, I’ll call it an “entitlement” and promise to keep it from killing our country.
  • If I’m talking to people who need it, I’ll call it a “benefit” and swear to defend it.

Mostly, I’ll just hope it fixes itself.

DEFENSE

We already spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on our military, but THAT’S NOT ENOUGH!  Within my first 100 days in office, I’ll declare such obscure countries as Seychelles, Tuvala and Benin to be part of a Polygon of Evil.  I’ll also convince the public that we’ve angered the Martians and an attack is imminent.  It might also be possible to play off the popularity of zombie movies and plant that hideous scenario as a possibility.  The Amish and Hutterites will be tagged as domestic terror groups.  Personally, I will carry a pistol and brandish it wildly before Congress during the State of the Union Address.  My indiscriminate use of nuclear weapons will create a continuing need to restock our arsenal.  Don’t worry, there will be no defense cuts.

IMMIGRATION

I’ll randomly pick a day and declare that everyone on U.S. soil is now a citizen.  In this way, we won’t have any more foreigners roaming around.  Then, I will construct a massive wall, but it won’t be on the Mexican border.  Instead, it will randomly zig-zag across the country.  There will be no point to it.

THE ECONOMY

If it’s as big a mess as it is now, I probably won’t do anything.  If I do something, it will come down to two words:  Tax and welfare reform (that’s four words, I guess).

Lower taxes create more jobs and generate more money for the government.  It only follows that no taxes will do even more good.  We’ll probably have to repeal one of the amendments to the Constitution, but how hard can that be?  If my No Tax Plan won’t fly, I’ll issue an executive order that I won’t pay taxes.  The President is the No. 1 job creator.   Less taxes, the more jobs I’ll create.  Simple.

Welfare is a bit stickier, but I have a good plan:

  1. If you’re on welfare, you have to work building bridges and other public works.  Since we don’t have much–or any–tax money, we’ll need all the help we can get.  You’re probably thinking, “Would a bunch of welfare recipients–especially kids–be skilled workers?”  Myself, I believe in American Exceptionalism, pinko.  Under my plan, if you’re on welfare, no one will ever be able to say “You didn’t build that,” because, by God, you did.
  2. Everyone will qualify for food stamps, but here’s the rub:  You can only use them to eat food prepared by other food stamp recipients from government-supplied foodstuffs (we’ll call it Soylent Green).  It won’t take long for people to get tired of that crap. I know that kinda sounds like Communism.  Hey, the Commies weren’t wrong about everything.  If you can look past the 100 million people they killed, they had some decent ideas.

PRESIDENTIAL STYLE

Every President has his own style.  Ronald Reagan was the conservative icon.  Bill Clinton was “Slick Willy.”  There were Honest Abe, Old Hickory, Give ’em Hell Harry.  The list goes on and on.  I hope to be known as “Old Powder Keg.”  Here are some of the things I’ll do to leave my imprint:

  • I will hold frequent (maybe even daily) press conferences and answer every question with either “I’ll get back to you on that” or “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
  • I will be the first President to address Congress wearing a John Deere hat.
  • I will chain smoke anytime I addressed the nation.

Our President missed his chance to make this the new look of the White House.

  • I will frequently quote Franklin Pierce, as the “Greatest of all our Presidents.”

Franklin Pierce, our seediest President, will be my role model.

  • I will also frequently quote Jimmy Carter, but I’ll refer to him as “History’s Greatest Monster.”
  • At least once, I will punch the Speaker of the House in the face just before the State of the Union Address.
  • I will appoint Gallagher, Manny Ramirez and Brooklyn Decker to the Supreme Court.
  • At least once, I will address the nation shirtless.
  • I will close every speech with “So, what the hell are you gonna do about it, anyway?”

Unlike LBJ, I won’t wait until I’m out of office to sport a mullet

  • Finally, if my popularity wanes, I will execute someone on TV.  With my bare hands.

THE FINAL DAYS

Although I fully intend to declare myself President-for-Life, I realize that my time in office will likely be brief.  My finals days will, no doubt, be weighed down by impeachment proceedings and assassination attempts.  There is also a strong possibility of emotional and/or mental breakdowns which go largely unnoticed by the public because of my volatile personality.  When it becomes apparent that I will not stay in office, I will abruptly quit without even giving a two-week notice.

After my resignation, I will immediately check into rehab for a dangerous addiction to bath salts and barely-legal Asian amputee pornography.  I will emerge a new man and spend the rest of my life giving speeches for 500K a pop.  Sweet.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com

The Politics of Facebook

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love Facebook.  I first joined in 2008 to see what my kids were doing on there.  After I figured out that they weren’t joining any cults or plotting my demise, I started to enjoy it.  I post something almost everyday.  It has brought me in touch with many folks I’ve lost track of over the years.  I would never be able to catch up with all the people I know on FB.  Now, I’m up to speed on people who I knew well for many years, a lot of whom I’d forgotten.

I find social media superior to actual socializing in many ways.   I don’t have any way to keep up with this number of people on a daily basis.  I don’t hang out in bars or go to parties.  I don’t like talking on the phone.  Even if I did, I’d still only be in touch with a small number of people.  Social media doesn’t require awkward chit-chit, although I am very skilled at small talk.  I like looking at photos of people’s families but–unlike the slide show of days of yore–I can cut out when it gets dull.  There are also folks that post things that make me laugh.  I’m really big on laughter.  If you can make me laugh, you have a fan for life.

When I first joined FB, I was amazed at how quickly I could find folks I hadn’t seen in years.  We all enjoyed posting photos and updates on our current doings.  It was like a huge class/family reunion.  At the time, young people dominated it.  Over time, they’ve drifted away, just like with MySpace.  Now, it’s dominated by adults.  As such, of course, a lot of the fun has been wrung out of it.

Religion, dogs, cats, babies and random musings are all still very much present.  Oh, and don’t forget all the games.  Mafia Wars gave way to Farm Ville which has given way to City Ville and poker.  I don’t play any of those, that’s cool. Just don’t expect me to give you a cow or horse or something.  I don’t play.  Myself, I try to lighten the mood on FB.  Oh, and I brag about my kids, also a common FB topic.

As with all good things; however, there is a dark side.  The dark side, as in real life, is politics.  Today at lunch, out of curiosity, I scrolled down my wall and counted 26 posts about politics.  I’d say on a typical day the number approaches 100, far out-stripping dogs and religion–two other ubiquitous post topics.

Everything is political on FB–religion, contraception, medicine, the weather, gas prices, energy, war, peace.  Everything.  Except dogs.  Everyone loves dogs.

Facebook does a decent job of filtering out religious hate groups, so you’ll have to do some digging if you want to join a group bashing a religion.  On the other hand, if you want to wander into the political maelstrom, FB is your place.  Here are just a few of the Facebook groups awaiting you:

  • Republican Bigotry Hate Lies Fears and Distortion.
  • Republicans are Idiots and Arguing with them is a Waste of Time.
  • Obama Is A Dumbass.
  • Obama is A Disgrace to America.
  • Romney Is An Asshole
  • Obama Is Gay.
  • Obama Is So Stupid.
  • Obama Is A Llama.
  • Romney Is A Tool.
  • Romney Is An Animal Abuser.
  • Romney Is a Big Government RINO.
  • Democrats and Republicans are Destroying America.
  • Republicans are Morons.

These are all real.  If you don’t believe me, look them up.  These groups provide a veritable mother lode of material for you to post on YOUR wall, in case your friends don’t belong to the group.  For example, I’m not sure what Obama Is A Llama is about, but they probably have all kinds of good stuff about him being born in Africa.  You post enough of that stuff and people will believe it.  Seriously.

You can go to any of these groups and find incendiary and controversial things to post like these:

I could caption this: Projected welfare spending over the next 80 years and cause a monstrous debate.

You can post this with the comment: IF YOU DON’T WANT THIS FUTURE, VOTE FOR SOMEONE! Of course, I made up this graph and the statistics.  That’s insignificant.  I’m trying to make a point about something important.

Here’s another one I made up:

This chart is made up from whole cloth with no explanation of what it means. Yet, I assure you I could get many “likes” of it on FB.

This bit of total nonsense would be taken seriously and reposted by many.

Another favorite is to post a photo of a politician with an insulting and perhaps inaccurate caption, like this:

The President has never said this, as far as I know. That wouldn’t stop me from posting it.

Or, if your political bent is to the left:

The possibilities are endless.  Scroll down your wall on FB and see the many, many variations of this theme.  Doesn’t it influence your choice?  Oh, it doesn’t.  Welcome to the club, I suppose.

Now, please read the following:  I AM NOT TELLING YOU NOT TO POST SUCH THINGS.  I HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO DO SO.  Okay, let’s continue.  I just have a few helpful thoughts regarding this endless wallpapering.

NO ONE IS GOING TO CHANGE THEIR MIND

We all know that politics is like religion.  It can be fairly be thought of as religion’s stupid, obnoxious, deadbeat brother-in-law.  Like religion, people believe what they believe.  Let’s say you’re a communist.  God bless you, I say, although admittedly you may not be receptive to that.  As a believer in the collective nature of property and the state’s obligation to dispense resources, you won’t listen to my well-reasoned endorsement of capitalism.  Likewise, endless FB posts won’t change anyone’s mind.  They remind me of what I heard someone say of religion:  No one was ever shamed or screamed into church.  Same goes for your views.

Even if I were subject to being influenced, what would I believe?  Barack Obama is either a socialist, communist, anti-American, Kenyan Muslim whose sole goal in life is to destroy America and redistribute the wealth to illegal aliens and welfare mothers OR he’s a charming, brilliant, visionary who saved the country from destruction and will lead us into a new era of enlightenment.  What of Romney?  He’s an out of touch elitist who hates the poor, loves the rich, belongs to a religious cult, cheats on his taxes and wants to create a society of super-rich titans OR he’s a visionary businessman, who will cut everyone’s taxes and restore prosperity to every man, woman and child, as well as return American to its rightful place as the leader of the Free World.  Your posts confuse me.

BE PREPARED TO OFFEND

Remember, the more you talk about politics, the more likely you are to offend someone.  That someone might even be your friend.  We all know that some religions believe that you should proselytize, which means try to impose your views on others.  I suppose that politics works the same way.  If you think you can do that without offending people,you are sadly mistaken.  It’s long been recognized that politics and religion are two topics you should never bring up, unless you’re ready for a fight.

In my early days on FB, I had experience with this.  One of my “friends” posted a hateful post about Muslims, suggesting that they should all pack up and leave the U.S.  I commented that we are entitled to worship as we see fit or not at all.  I was told that America is a Christian nation and that if you don’t like that leave, suggesting that I probably need to leave, too.  Let’s just say that the discussion deteriorated from there.  I was “unfriended,” the harshest of all social media rebukes.

As far as I can tell, everyone on FB is either an evangelical Christian or an atheist.  Imagine that I start posting-multiple times a day–anti-Christian photos, jokes, etc.  I’m pretty sure my FB friends list would dwindle rapidly.  Why?  Because I would offend.  I’m surprised that the political posts don’t draw the same fire.

This is probably because that most of us accept political debate.  So, there must be a high level of tolerance for this stuff in social media, too.  But, if you do offend, don’t be surprised.  Now, understand that I am NOT offended. My friends-both on FB and in real life–run the gamut from left wingers who would gladly be Communists if it were still fashionable to ultra-right wing extremists who would have no problem with wearing a swastika were it not for the obvious associated stigma.  We get along fine.

MAKE YOUR POINT AND MOVE ON

I’m a bit of hypocrite on this point, because I post a lot on FB–probably enough to annoy most people.  I’m sure that a lot of my “friends” have blocked my posts.  If you’re one of them, to Hell with you, I say.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, politics.

Here’s the deal:  Although politicians hold to the old standard of saying the same things over and over, I’m not sure it works in social media.  One or two posts a day on a particular topic

You don’t want to be accused of ranting.  Ranting is the act of lunatic.  If you’re a lunatic, no one will listen to you, unless they’re in the Tea Party.  (THAT’S A JOKE!  See how I like to lighten the mood?)

The biggest problem with repetition is that it’s just dull.  Who wants to hear the same things over and over and over?  Obviously, some people do, but most of us don’t.   One can be forgiven for being opinionated.  Boring is unforgivable.

WHAT’S MY POINT?

As usual, I don’t have one. I’m one of those odd people who don’t mind other people’s opinions, even if I disagree or they get ponderous.  People much smarter than I am have long observed that it’s hard to learn anything if one only listens to people with whom one agrees.  Whoever came up with that would love Facebook, because it’s not possible to go on your wall and not disagree with something.

I don’t discount the possibility that you don’t want me to agree with you.  Maybe you’re a pompous know it all.  That’s cool.  Maybe you hate people and need to vent.  That’s not so cool, but I understand.

I’m going to continue to post odd status updates, brag on my kids and post links to this blog.  You can continue trying to convince me to vote for someone.  It’s a free country, at least until one of those bastards wins.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012