Friday links! Just sayin’ stuff edition

Billionaire grandpa Foster Friess, wearing his Santorum for President sweater vest

Every schoolchild knows the fundamental lesson of George Orwell’s novel 1984: language is a tool for convincing people or whatever. Since reasoning is conducted via language,* it therefore follows that reasoning is also a tool for convincing people or whatever. And since reason is a matter of opinion,** language is clearly a tool for doing whatever with whatever. It’s the great American tradition of Just Sayin’ Stuff, which as near as I can tell began in 1968. Regardless, it has reached its apotheosis in the present day. We all know what we think about everything now, so the use of language as a means to disseminate and preserve true propositions is kind of old-fashioned. This week’s link roundup is full of people who use words for something other than that. They’re Just Sayin’ Stuff, and don’t worry—they’re all billionaires or congressmen or law enforcement officials. Plus some jerkoff who likes books.

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Close Readings: The Marriage Vow (2nd ed.)

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, standing up for something or other

Last week, when Michele Bachmann and other, less amusing Republican presidential candidates visited Iowa, they were approached by local busybody Bob Vander Plaats and asked to sign something called The Marriage Vow. You may remember Vander Plaats from his infuriatingly successful campaign to recall Iowa Supreme Court justices who said gay marriage was constitutional, or from when he offered to fellate you in a highway rest stop, although that second one is technically libel. Anyway, Bachmann and man-on-dog guy signed the heck out of that pledge, taking the politically risky position that families, children, not cheating on your wife and church are all good. Plus, by deduction: homosexuality is bad. Oh, and also black people had it better under slavery, because more of them were married then.

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Quarter of Americans sympathize with South in Civil War

Our ancestors did not have public opinion polls and therefore knew what their fellow Americans thought only through conjecture. If the country was building railroads and allowing the Irish to consume rock candy, people seemed happy. If they were arming themselves and claiming sovereign authority against the US Constitution, they were pissed. The past was a terrifying time, but it was made more palatable by the fallibility of any given assessment. Sure, back in 1861 it seemed like A) thousands of Americans were willing to die so that other Americans could own a third group of Americans as slaves, and B) everyone was therefore retarded, but maybe it was states’ rights or tariffs or something less awful. Now, of course, we enjoy no such comfort. Telephones and computers and Wharton graduates have allowed us to peer into the opinions of our fellow citizens with chilling comprehensiveness, and the chilling comprehension that results is, yeah, other people are dumb. Super dumb, as suggested by this CNN poll in which one in four Americans expresses sympathy for the Confederacy over the Union in the Civil War. Of course, they might just be contrary dicks. You can guess which sort of person I like better.

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Rick Barber’s new campaign commercial a sprawling masterwork

Patriotic hyperbolist Rick Barber has released a new campaign commercial, and it is to his last commercial what 2001: A Space Odyssey is to Lolita. Props to The Cure for the link. In preparation for his run-off against Martha Roby for the Republican nomination to represent Alabama’s 2nd District in Congress, Barber has once again enlisted the help of some dead Presidents, but not in the cool way like Nas. In a video called, wisely, “Slavery,” Barber takes his case against the “tyrannical health care bill” to the ghost of George Washington and, at the climax of the narrative, the reanimated corpse Abe Lincoln, who is tastefully shot from the front.* Then comes bonus material. A crowd of people sing the fourth verse of the Star-Spangled Banner amid footage of wars, wars, wars, followed by a shot of Barber and Dale Peterson watching Glenn Beck in a bar. Since he’s going out, Peterson has brought his gun. Video after the jump.

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A little historical perspective and a resolution for 2010

Problem: You wonder what it would be like to touch a black person, but your maid is too skittish. Solution: Internship at the RNC!

The photo at right comes from a whole set of shots of RNC chairman Michael Steele fallin’ out with his interns, at least one of whom appears to be developmentally disabled. Props to everyone’s favorite Meghan Gallagher for the link. 2009 draws rapidly to a close, which means that Combat! blog’s New Year’s resolutions—stop drinking well whiskey, provide a more balanced assessment of both ends of the American political spectrum, and reduce violations of resolution #1 to three per week—will soon be in force. Until then, though, screw those Chicken Little sons of rich bitches. There are two legitimate political parties in the United States right now. One of them is powerful, disorganized, corrupt and cowardly. The other is the GOP, which lacks political power but makes up for it by being well-coordinated and brave. Maybe “brave” isn’t the right word so much as “audacious.” Whether they’re organizing protests against quote-unquote tyrannical taxation three months into the new presidency or blaming the current crisis in health care on people who exercise too much, Republicans proved in 2009 that they know how to play from behind. In the process, they also made this one of the most hysterical, counterproductive years of American political discourse in recent memory. Oops. Then again, a lot of things have slipped from recent memory. As Timothy Egan points out, the GOP’s frothing over health care reform in 2009 is not unlike it’s general flip-out over Bill Clinton’s tax reform in 1993. Check it!

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