What’s Really Wrong With Pete Hoekstra’s Ad

Written by Matthew Gallant on February 7th, 2012

People are upset about this ad that ran nationwide during the Super Bowl. It concerns the Michigan race for U.S. Senate:

Not many are able to articulate what exactly is so awful about it, they just say it’s obviously racist, end of discussion. Is the ad racist? Absolutely. Not as overtly as it could be. Go-for-broke racism caricaturizes; the only thing that gets close to grotesquery here is when the young lady’s lack of an accent posits an apparently much more stubborn Chinese misconjugation problem (“your economy get very weak”).

No, the Chinese people as depicted by the actress are good-looking, intelligent, and significantly westernized– not the typical racial cartooning at all. So, great! Well, no.

We have here a Chinese woman in her early twenties, living humbly but happily in a farming community. Riding her bike along a dirt road. She’s humdrum. She has no political relevance.

Yet she is giddy because America might be negatively affected by a macroeconomic issue that’s mediated nowhere near her tiny piece of Earth.

More than giddy, she actually uses body language that indicates she’s sexually aroused when talking about her government owning America’s national debt. It’s a good thing that China owns only 8% of the debt; a 15% or a 20% video and she’d be violating YouTube’s terms of service.

This is guileless xenophobia– portraying another nation’s citizenry all the way down to the proleiest of the proletariat as extremely enthusiastic, actively pernicious antagonists of ours. It’s their national character, you’re meant to believe. That’s where the racism lies. Even China’s farmgirls are sarcastically thanking you and reveling in your imminent destruction by debt, America, are you going to just sit there and let them? Er, did I say America? I mean Michigan. Let’s go Michigan, clearly you need to vote for the guy who’s so fiscally responsible he ran a nationwide ad during the most expensive ad time possible to win a state election.

This was an ad made by a GOP candidate for national office. Vote for me, or fetching rural bicyclists will enslave you. This is where we are at as a country. What a joke.

Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

Written by Matthew Gallant on January 8th, 2010

I’m trying to figure out this world. A world where over 6 billion people have the ability to forget about 9/11, and the one who actually does is none other than Rudy Giuliani.

The 10 Year-Old Partisan Hack

Written by Matthew Gallant on August 25th, 2009

ghwbushI was just about to turn 11 when George H.W. Bush came to my hometown of Westbrook, Maine campaigning for re-election as Reagan’s Vice President. I was wearing a sign around my neck made by cutting a rectangle out of a manila folder. Written on it in ball-point pen was the word “REPORTER”. One word, but five times: once big in the middle, and once at an angle in each corner. With me were three other sixth graders, with their own badge designs.

He stopped his car because he saw our badges. Or someone did. Who knows? The badges were big enough and stupid enough, and he stopped his car. He got out and started giving us some pens and pins. He wasn’t really playing up our claimed credentials though. No interview was playfully offered. No jokes about who we worked for. Swipes at the media wouldn’t play like they do today, I’d say. Or maybe he just wasn’t that good with kids. His son certainly supports that hypothesis.

One by one, the other kids took what was offered and said thanks, or nothing at all. I was last. I don’t remember if I said thanks for what I got. I remember thinking that if I didn’t ask one of the questions we had written, he might just say “easiest interview I’ve ever done” and hop back in the limo.

Here’s the background on the index card that I pulled out and read from, without looking up. In case you don’t remember the time: Bush was doing all the stumping for this campaign. Reagan was taking it easy. Well, why not? Were they in any danger of losing? But I had my question.

“Mr. Vice President, how do you respond to those who are saying that you are doing the bulk of the campaigning because President Reagan is too old?”

To his credit, he gave a decent enough answer that I don’t remember exactly what it was. Failure is always more memorable. He said that wasn’t the case at all, of course. The Iran-Contra scandal would of course find Reagan himself implying that it might have been. Though we’re seeing that “not recalling” seems to afflict politicians at earlier and earlier ages nowadays.

The next day, I was on the front page of the American Journal, the very, very local paper of small town Westbrook. But the day after that, it was old news. Still, I wish I had saved that paper. Man, if I’m wishing, I wish I had it on YouTube. I do wonder, though, what would my poor dad would have had to go through in this day and age if this had happened today and it ended up on YouTube. I wonder what it would be like to see a picture of your son with a Hitler mustache drawn on.

Sarah Palin, the Facebook Ghost

Written by Matthew Gallant on August 23rd, 2009

palinghost1Sarah Palin hasn’t been seen since she handed over the largest state to her lieutenant governor, what’s-his-name. The one she sarcastically admonished the media not to hound in her farewell fair warning speech. Her edict has enjoyed a rare, if coincidental, success.

But since then she herself has only been “heard” on Facebook, via a series of propaganda-laden notes. Her big hit was the first one, where President Obama was painted as personally demanding that all medical treatment be withheld from her poor kid saddled with Down Syndrome, as well as from her parents, who were only slightly more lucky with their loin roulette spins. After that, she started writing notes that weren’t quite crazy enough for anyone in the media to care about.

But for your information, those notes include:

1. A piece of investigative journalism in which the lid is blown off of a secret plot by President Obama to buy oil from a foreign country— Brazil! Palin is disgusted that Obama isn’t doing all he can to deplete America’s oil first, while creating a job market for the important and patriotic task of moving us toward the goal of being completely vulnerable to oil embargoes. At this point, you might want to recall that stewarding natural resources was pitched as her strong suit.

2. A plea for tort reform, so corporations can be negligent in a more cost-effective manner. Nothing too exciting there, just basic GOP class warfare.

But what’s going on? Is it even her making those posts? The death panel one sounds somewhat like her, but the rest don’t read at all like other things she’s written. A couple of them are just collections of verbage from lobbyists and their pet legislators.

Is this what she’s offering her cultists in exchange for flaking out on the only thing that could have legitimized her? A mute and invisible “celebrity endorsement” of policies? Sarah, George Foreman got on TV to sell the grill. All you’re accomplishing here is showing people that you don’t know anyone who knows how to upload to YouTube.


Written by Matthew Gallant on February 26th, 2009

Q: What is Volcano Monitoring?

A: On February 24th, 2009, Governor Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana defined it as “something.”

Q: Isn’t Volcano Monitoring simply trying to detect when a volcano is getting close to erupting?

A: Yes, but you can’t expect the leader of a state to be able to make such an assumption. If you think about it, “Volcano Monitoring” could mean many things besides the obvious meaning, like checking to make sure all the volcanoes have hall passes, or throwing monitor lizards into the volcanoes. Governor Jindal implying it’s a positively engimatic grouping of two words in no way displays a lack of common sense on his part.

Q: Why shouldn’t the government spend money on Volcano Monitoring?

A: Well, the government has a pretty big budget deficit. Mostly because lots of people don’t have jobs and thus can’t pay taxes. They also can’t buy things from businesses that need money to keep from having to lay off their employees too, who then are not be able to pay taxes or buy things, and so on. So the best solution for the problem is not to try and keep people working, but to let the people who still have money keep it. Then it will be easier for the starving and homeless people to know who to rob. Then the poor can be shot in self-defense, quickly eliminating the problem entirely with a bare minimum of economic depression and loss of life.

Q: Sounds good, but who even needs Volcano Monitoring?

A: Well, there are 14 states that have volcanoes. The first 13 have volcanoes which haven’t erupted for around 200 years. Except for the one that did and killed 57 people. It was called Mt. St. Helens. In fact, it still is called that. Apart from the 13 mostly non-volcanic states, there’s Hawaii, where they kind of expect it.

Anyway, most people don’t have to worry about it. Probably. I mean, the last time Mt. St. Helens erupted– before the one in 1980 that killed all those people– was in 1857. It turns out those 57 people are the only ones that really had to worry about it. Well, there was a lot of damage from mudslides and stuff, and a plane even had to make an emergency landing when its jet intakes got clogged with ash.

The fact remains that it’s pretty hard to say when a mountain is going to explode– unless you monitor seismic activity and use sensitive laser surveying equipment to look for terrain that is bulging and other science-type stuff. Governor Jindal is right when he says people should take care of that locally. Otherwise, data might be shared and we might someday be able to figure out ways to minimize damage. Then we’d have to make disaster movies about hurricanes or some other thing not as fiery and awesome. That would be bad. Imagine if we could develop a way to slowly relieve the pressure of tons of magma trying to boil up out of the earth instead of just letting it go all at once. That would be no fun at all!

Q: So what does this site propose?

A: Well, we want to be a place where people who live near a volcano can come together and do some DIY Volcano Monitoring. If we show the finks in Washington that we can pull together and monitor our own volcanoes, then we can save some money (as long as we collectively do it for less than $140 million) and hopefully at the same time be able to get out of town before a superheated mudslide gives us a different sort of ride. At the same time we can stem off the erosion of our proud volcanic disaster traditions and values.

Q: Should I become involved in Volcano Monitoring? I live near a mountain, but I don’t even know if it’s a volcano.

A: You should go to your local city hall and ask, or you can wait to see if a Volcano Monitor comes to your residence to collect a Volcano Monitoring Fee.

Q: What is a Volcano Monitoring Fee?

A: Well, since it is wasteful to pay for Volcano Monitoring if you don’t need it, only the people who are in danger of being personally affected by an eruption should pay for Volcano Monitoring. Thus, those people pay a Volcano Monitoring Fee to fund the local efforts of Volcano Monitors in their area.

Q: How much is the Volcano Monitoring Fee?

A: Not much; $20 a year at most. It will very much depend on the budgetary requirements of Volcano Monitors in your area.

Q: How do I know that my local Volcano Monitors aren’t ripping me off? What does proof that I live dangerously near a volcano look like?

A: You certainly aren’t suggesting that a private enterprise providing an esoteric service while being accountable only to their volcano-endangered local governments would attempt to charge too much, cut corners, or charge people who don’t really need the service in the hopes of making extra money. That goes against free market principles, as any other Volcano Monitoring company would then be able to swoop in, charge less, do the job right, and get all those customers. But if that really was a concern for you, you could always become a geologist yourself and review the data collected by your local Volcano Monitors.

Q: I became a geologist and requested the data collected by my local Volcano Monitors. They told me that the data is their property and they didn’t have to show it to me. What’s up with that?

A: Well, that’s your fault. You and your fellow citizens should have waited for a Volcano Monitoring company that offered public data usage and paid them instead. Get a better deal next time.

Q: I just became a geologist to find out if I was getting a good deal on Volcano Monitoring. I had to put my career on hold and spend over $100,000 to learn geology. How will I ever get a better deal than paying a not-for-profit governmental entity 40 cents a year to employ geologists?

A: Well, you are now qualified to enter the booming business of Volcano Monitoring. You can beat all the other Volcano Monitors into the ground and get all the Volcano Monitoring money in the entire country, all you have to do is convince millions of people who know nothing about geology to give you money to study something which, statistics show, only 57 of them will actually need.