Now that the President-elect elected to select the unelectable Rick Perry to direct the Department of Energy — the very agency he infamously tried, and failed, to inform voters he would shut down if they made him President of these United States — I thought now might be a good opportunity to instruct the media on word choice.
From Charles Blow’s column in the New York Times, Rand Paul Goes to Howard, listing all the various grievances African-Americans have with the modern Republican Party (a list, I would venture, closer to incomplete than not):
They lost it in 2011 when a Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, who was the front-runner for a while, falsely and preposterously claimed that: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”
In the weeks and months leading up to November’s Presidential election, I was quite vocal about the electoral outcome I preferred.* But since the election ended, I’ve given in to the temptation to gloat only once — and even then, only sort of, and in passing.
*I would have linked to more articles but I ran out of words. OK, here’s one more.
The point of this post is not to gloat. The election is now last year’s news and Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44 and 1/2th President of the United States of America, so I’m hoping people are not sensitive about the election anymore. Which is good, because that means I’m cleared to write about how Mitt Romney actually did worse against Obama than you thought: he won exactly four states.
Immediately after the election, there was a brief flurry of map-making. People compared the electoral map to other state-by-state breakdowns. Some of those parallels may have had something to them —
I just finished The Good Rain, Tim Egan‘s 1990 exploration of the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed the book tremendously, but that alone would not move me to write about it here. Instead, I wanted to share a particular passage about Mt. St. Helens I thought so worthwhile I typed it all up, just for you:
“Within a few minutes, the mountain went through three transformations. First, more than a cubic mile of rock, snow and ice – the entire surface of the mountain’s north face – avalanched at speeds of two hundred miles an hour. Spirit Lake, surrounded by an ancient forest and lodges to house the summer hordes, was raised by two hundred feet; in other spots, the debris piled eight hundred feet. The Toutle River, which flows from this lake that the Cowlitz Indians believed to be a home for the dead, was blocked by a mile-wide dam of debris. Blue went to grey, green went to black, all life was smothered.
A lateral blast followed the avalanche. This explosion carried pulverized pieces of rock, organic material and hot gases at speeds of up to hour hundred miles an hour. Imagine a hurricane, blowing at twice the speed of the highest winds ever recorded, with a temperature just under 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and you have some idea of the blast that carried the north side of St. Helens with it. All trees, including firs which had clung to the ground for three centuries, all shrubs, meadows and grass, all deer (more than 5,000), elk (1,500), mountain goats (15), black bears (200), birds and small game (several million), snakes, fish, bees and anything that might later have contributed to new life were wiped out within 150 square miles.
One consequence of my recently-adjourned month-long sojourn to Israel and the Atlantic Seaboard is that I have fallen uncharacteristically behind on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I’m currently somewhere in late January and am valiantly attempting to make up ground on a daily basis.
Where I am in the ‘plot’, a major storyline is Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC – more specifically, its iteration as The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert SuperPAC.
Watching Stewart and Colbert, viewers are (/were) encouraged to understand that the SuperPAC has raised an astronomical sum of money.* The actual financial success of the SuperPAC is obviously not critical to the point about campaign finance and the need for reform. But I’ll admit that based on Stewart and Colbert’s behavior, I imagined that the amount was substantial.
So it was that when I happened to stumble across the actual sum involved, I was somewhat disappointed: the SuperPAC has raised just over $1m, and has only $800,000 in cash on hand (after spending $48,000 on finance consulting and $17,000 on Trevor Potter’s appearances on the show – most adorably here**). This doesn’t exactly qualify as investigate journalism: a quick search reveals that Colbert discussed his totals on the air February 2nd – but for me, that’s still the future.
This post is an attempt to bring that figure into some perspective. Yes, it’s a lot of money for a SuperPAC that exists only to parody the existence of SuperPACs and serves no real political objective (in the sense of trying to get somebody elected, e.g. ‘Newt Gingrich’s SuperPAC’). I also understand that Stewart and Colbert are acting for the sake of making a point, and certainly for the sake of comedy. But in the context of Colbert’s annual salary ($4m) – to say nothing of Stewart’s ($15m) – his excitement over the size of the SuperPAC comes off as somewhat patronizing.
I don’t mean to begrudge Colbert and Stewart their financial success. Personally, I think Comedy Central should offer them lifetime contracts (the current iterations are set to expire in June 2013!). But I would suggest that in an effort to make his SuperPAC adventures more realistic, Colbert should consider contributing a portion of his vast personal fortune ($45m) to himself – sorry, to the SuperPAC that is definitely not coordinating with him.
*For instance, in the clip where Colbert signs over his SuperPAC, check out what Stewart asks at 3:22 (sorry it’s not Youtube and I can’t just make it start in the right place). And at the beginning of this clip – the The Daily Show‘s first after the SuperPAC transfer – check out Stewart’s tiara, and his description of ‘money, money, money’ – and here, where he describes the SuperPAC as ‘a staggering amount of money’.
**Really, it’s adorable. I want to adopt them.
My, my. That certainly is a lovely piece of… art? – but why am I sharing it with you? Good question. We’ll get to that. But first, please excuse a brief digression: