Sunday, November 01, 2015

Political Scatology

Something old and something new
The process of elimination
Just what are we to do
With the least of our creation
So common and so varied
We step around it when we can
But sometimes feeling harried
We did not walk, but ran
And oops, just like that
We have fallen into scat
Political Scatology is a subset of the wider field of Scatology, but after the recent cycle of presidential debating began, I felt that we should step back and address this in the context of defining the many forms of scat we encounter.  Scatology itself is insufficient to characterize it although there are common elements in some of the definitions.  We generally think of scat by the source, for example, bear scat (produced by bears).  We also think of the usual locations for specific scat.  Bears leave theirs in the woods, except here in Southern California where they may leave it by your swimming pool or by your rubbish bins.  We classify scat by its contents so that we can determine if the provider is herbivore or carnivore or perhaps an omnivore (like bears).  That is important in determining what is on the local menu and sometimes it provides insight as to the health of the local environment.  Is the expected food plentiful or are the local fauna substituting less desirable food?  Now we rarely think of intent or motivation when we generally think of scat.   Scat happens.  It is the normal elimination process that keeps us from building up dangerous waste.  Sometimes, however, even animals will deliberately produce scat to make a point.  Latte, our 8 pound Bichon Frise, gets upset when my wife and I travel.  If she detects suitcases in our living area, she shows her objection by dropping scat at my dresser.  It is a specific target and she does not do this for my wife, but may see me as the “pack leader” in the terms some dog trainers use, and she gives voice to her objection through deliberate assignment of location that communicates her objection to the pack leader.  As we shall discuss, this distinction of intent or motivation is a significant difference in political scatology from ordinary animal scatology.   

Political scatology also entails motivation as well as intent like Latte.  Sometimes the motivation is self-protection while the intent is to obscure reality.  As an example, Dr. Ben Carson delivered a clever oral scat by denying that he was paid to promote a questionable dietary supplement.  It was a lie, of course, but his demeanor was so sincere and non-confrontational, that it seemed true during the debate.  That protected his reputation during the debate and the apology by Armstrong Williams, his business manager, was a next day, low-key interview event with perhaps 1% of the audience size.  Most probably believe that Dr. Carson was never compensated for promoting Mannatech, Inc. products.  That scat was huge and yet probably successful for an audience that numbered about 14 million.  The CNBC crew failed to challenge the lie on camera.  The scat delivered by Donald Trump on immigration during that same 29 October debate was likewise a whopper although CNBC’s Ms. Becky Quick was not quick enough to find the reference until a break and Trump was able to evade the revelation with sheer bluster.

Political scat is the strangest of all scat, however.  For example, as Jeb Bush has receded in the polls, he has complained or even whined about the development.  At one event in South Carolina, he exclaimed "I've got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them," he said. "That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that."  To some, that may sound like sour grape scat, while others might refer to it as Chanel scat as in “my scat even smells great!”  Clearly, the arrogance or hubris sensed by others in Jeb’s remarks is not going to sell well with people who see and smell scat every day, but perhaps Jeb felt that he was above campaigning and that this was positional scat.  He was in a position to drop scat on all those beneath him.  Sometimes that is called “kiss up and kick down” scat.  Some people in power, including some who were historically famous in military positions used that scat.  You can relate to your own experiences to find specific examples.  There are so many kinds of scat when it comes to politicians that it is difficult to name them all.  If you recall the 2000 presidential election, that was one for the ages in scat beginning with John Edwards who clearly, firmly and absolutely denied having an affair while his wife was hospitalized with cancer.  This was the old smoke screen scat that has been used for centuries, but the smoke cleared rapidly when his mistress admitted the birth of their baby.  The question remains, why would a guy with a great haircut use smokescreen scat?  Later, we witnessed chad scat when irate Bush supporters overtook the ballot counting areas with noisy and borderline violent protests (bully scat).  As the ballot counting and minimal recounting occurred, we transitioned to Supreme Court Authorized Travesty or Electoral SCAT.

On August 6, 2001, Richard Clarke, counter-terrorism expert briefed President Bush about several indications for a major terrorist attack against US facilities.  When Clarke finished, President Bush sarcastically scat:  “You have covered your ass now.”   Bush then went on vacation. Fresh scat on that just occurred in an exchange between two presidential hopefuls, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump when Bush stated that his brother George “kept us safe,” and the Trump response was that we lost 3,000 people on 9/11.  There were at least two types of scat involved in that exchange.  First, Bush imparted revisionist (bovine) scat that is in direct contrast to the reality offered by Trump.  Trump, on the other hand, bombed Bush with corrosive (and rude) scat scoring points and appearing to be informative while actually burning Bush with his rude scat.

All the preceding are examples from history, but we have an election to consider, and much of the scat is seasonal so we must learn to recognize it and be prepared to step around it as the season wears on.  First and foremost is hyperbolic scat that is sure to continue and grow in volume.  Trump has already suggested that he would create a 14% economic growth rate simply by reducing taxes and regulation while bring back manufacturing from China and Mexico.  Wow!  How much scat is that? Another election season scat mound is variously called “trickle down” economics so named in the ‘30s by Will Rogers who saw humor in the gift to the wealthy that might only trickle down to the ordinary person.  Later, Reagan resurrected it calling it Laffer economics, but then scat sound-bite developers decided to call it “supply side” economics because that sounded more scientific and less accurate.  David Stockman was originally Reagan’s spokesman for supply side economics but personally repudiated it after seeing that it failed.  Actually, the concept goes back at least to the 1880s when it was called “horse and sparrow” economics.  It was explained simply as “If a horse is given enough oats, eventually some of it will pass to the sparrow.  Of course, the sparrow has to peck through the horse scat to find the grains that remain.  So even in the 1880s the image of scat was clear in defining conservative economics that favor the wealthy.  For those interested, it failed then also, and is sometimes blamed for the economic panic of 1886.

In my four years as a cadet at West Point, we had a location called the Poop Deck within Washington Hall overlooking the huge dining area. It was so named after the partial deck atop the stern of a ship.  In those days, “poop” was information (official or not).  Important news and announcements emanated from the poop deck.  Today, poop is more commonly meant to be scat than information, but only the latter is mentioned in the 1961 Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.  What’s new with you?


1 Nov 2015
George Giacoppe

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