I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.


Posts tagged politics
Most people don’t care about politics. They’re not running around with these preformed opinions in their head. They worry about what they’ll make for dinner and how to get their kids to bed. And that hasn’t changed. For us, that’s an alien world. We think about politics all the time. But we’re not normal. The 24-hour news cycle has not really affected the average American who isn’t into politics. And that’s really important to remember.
UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck, as quoted by Ezra Klein, who makes convincing case that Etch-a-Sketches, Hilary Rosen tweets, and other news cycle blow ups don’t matter.
In addition to paying the lower tax rate on his investment income, Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans.

ABC News illuminates Romney’s tax tactics. Gawker’s right: this stereotypical rich guy behavior isn’t exactly surprising. But, it’s incredibly disingenuous.

Avoiding taxes on this scale raises an important question that Romney should answer: why does he want to be President? Is it because he cares about American and wants to help? Or is it because he desires the power and prestige? Stashing millions in the Caribbean to avoid contributing to the state only supports the latter.

Further, I fail to see the logic of relocating a family, devoting years of effort to a campaign, and spending large chunks of money (indirectly at this point; Mitt hasn’t funded his campaign) in an attempt to lead America while hiring specialists to keep as much of your money from government coffers as possible. The disconnect is telling.

Occasionally, companies rebrand in an attempt to leave their image behind.

The SciFi Channel decided it was too geeky and became “SyFy.” Comcast, hounded by a reputation for horrible customer service, adopted the “Xfinity” moniker. The private mercinary group Blackwater became mired in some particularlly rough coverage regarding alledged weapons smuggling, secret assasination programs, and firing on civilians1. So it became “Xe”.

These companies hope that our memories are short and that constant reiteration will allow them to leave their pasts behind. Sadly, this is often correct.

In the case of Xe, however, several noble reporters have taken to explicitly reminding their readers that Xe is the same shadowy, militia-for-hire formerly known as Blackwater. Here’s an example from Mattheiu Aikins’ fantasic piece “Our Man in Kandahar”:

As part of a countrywide initiative, his men have been trained by two controversial private military firms, DynCorp and Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, at a U.S.-funded center in Spin Boldak, where they are also provided with weapons, vehicles, and communications equipment.

Ever since the 2009 name change, the phrase “formerly known as Blackwater” has become a common addendum to contemporary war coverage. Thankfully, journalists like Aikins recognize that weapons smuggling and other claims should not be as easily shakeable as Comcast’s Xfinity’s poor phone support. I only wish they’d abstain from using “Xe” at all.

To help them out, I’ve written a quick little Safari extension which will correct every instance of “Xe” to “Blackwater.” I call it, “Back in Blackwater.”

Download, install, and quietly brand rebel.

  1. It’s worth mentioning they also hired John Ashcroft to head up a newly created ethics division in 2011. 

The study rated every U.S. county for their manufacturers’ exposure to competition from China, and found that regions most exposed to China tended not only to lose more manufacturing jobs, but also to see overall employment decline. Areas with higher exposure also had larger increases in workers receiving unemployment insurance, food stamps and disability payments.

The authors calculate that the cost to the economy from the increased government payments amounts to one- to two-thirds of the gains from trade with China. In other words, a big portion of the ways trade with China has helped the U.S.—such as by providing inexpensive Chinese goods to consumers—has been wiped out. And that estimate doesn’t include any economic losses experienced by people who lost their jobs.

[A new study by David Autor, Gordon Hanson, and David Dorn](a new study from David Autor, Gordon Hanson, and David Dorn) confirms common sense.

It’s a vicious feedback loop: we demand WalMart prices, which puts pressure on corporations to outsource US jobs to cheaper regions, cutting our own income, spurring more demands for WalMart prices… Cheap goods and low unemployment cannot coexist.

(Via Marginal Revolution)

This is not a boring book. More to the point, it’s not even a book about Rick Perry. It’s a book about Rick Perry’s ideas. And his big idea is that most everything the federal government does is unconstitutional.
Ezra Klein on Rick Perry’s book.

Michael Lewis details how the Market has Changed 

Lewis’ recent Vanity Fair piece on German banks and culture is easy to criticize for being reductive, thin, and conflicted. But the following paragraph is a clear summary of how our financial industry has mutated from something empowering into something destructive:

The global financial system may exist to bring borrowers and lenders together, but it has become over the past few decades something else too: a tool for maximizing the number of encounters between the strong and the weak, so that one might exploit the other. Extremely smart traders inside Wall Street investment banks devise deeply unfair, diabolically complicated bets, and then send their sales forces out to scour the world for some idiot who will take the other side of those bets.

With this business model, you’re not hoping for business investments to grow and succeed. You’re hoping for others to fail. One wonders how this practice can remain sustainable.

Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.

GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain, who keeps quoting this line from the theme from Pokémon: The Movie 2000 on the campaign trail.

He attributes it to “a poet”.

(via ericmortensen)

I would not be surprised if this is seen by future generations as California’s undoing. (Via The Bay Citizen)

"Job Creators"

To follow politics is to follow language.

Note of the euphemisms, metaphors, and turns of phrase. Linguistic innovation allows for rhetoric and logical tricks and turns. It takes a program or idea with one meaning and cloaks it in another.

If you want to know what’s important and what’s being hidden, pay attention to new phrases. These emerge due to political needs. They’re carefully vetted by marketing and PR agencies, focus grouped to death, and hammered into representatives and candidates so the natural noun or verb is all but forgotten.

No new term has made me quite as angry as “job creators,” today’s euphemism for corporations.

The term is unavoidable if you’re paying attention to the debt ceiling debate. It made it’s first major appearance in May of this year when the GOP rolled out the “House Republican Plan for Job Creators.” Lobbying groups and other associations are taking up the flag. The Job Creators Alliance only recently emerged (whois dates the URL to October of 2010) and sports a who’s who of conservative backers.

What’s particularly evil about the phrase is how it hides one of the major reasons for the GOP debt ceiling hold up. John Boehner keeps refusing compromises from the left due to “tax increases on … job creators.”  And if we unpack this populist tinged language we’re lead back to corporations, and from there to lobbyist and reelection money.

So with just a little linguistic twist, a carefully chosen and tested euphemism, playing chicken with US interest rates can be cast as defending jobs, not kowtowing to the future funders or reelection campaigns. And this noun isn’t yet a year old.

If you want to follow politics always mind the language.

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