Political Animal

Shorter Newt Gingrich

SHORTER NEWT GINGRICH….Over a decade ago Newt Gingrich wrote a pamphlet called Language, A Key Mechanism of Control, a primer on how to “speak like Newt.” Among other things, it contained a list of negative words to be used when speaking of your enemies. These words, he said, should be repeated over and over and over.

Well, Newt is still Newt, and that list of words still forms the core of his speeches. In fact, it pretty much defines his speeches, including last week’s all-too-typical blast at the State Department. The speech itself is too long for most of you to want to bother reading it, so instead here is Shorter Newt Gingrich:

… failure … failure … politics … appeasing … corrupt … excusers … murky … deceptive … failed … failure … ineffective … incoherent … pathetic … hand-wringing … desperation … failed … ineffective … ludicrous … unimaginable … undermine … watered down … distorted … disaster … coddling … corrupt … absolute failure … entrepeneurial failure … disaster … bureaucratic … failures … broken … broken … broken bureaucracy … defensive … dangerous … collapse.

Got that?

UPDATE: William Safire chimes in on the same subject today in “Invective’s Comeback.” It’s a little thin, but still entertaining.

The Democratic Horse Race

THE DEMOCRATIC HORSE RACE….Patio Pundit has a pretty good rundown of the Democratic field here. It won’t be big news to anyone, but it’s a nice, succinct, summary.

However, in this post he brings up a familiar complaint: the entire field is weak because it’s mostly senators and congressmen, who can’t get elected because they don’t have executive experience. I’m not sure I buy the whole argument about congress critters being unelectable, but if there is something to it I’ll bet it has nothing to do with the differences between being a good legislator and being a good governor. Rather, it may be because national legislators have too much of a track record and it makes them easy to attack. Governors tend to be more of a blank slate on national issues, and this allows them to take any position they want without having to explain away a flip flop. Mighty convenient, isn’t it?

The Mirror of History

THE MIRROR OF HISTORY….Yesterday I wrote a post about math education that attracted a lot of interesting comments, including a couple from a Fields Medal winner. (My new motto: “Calpundit ? Home of Commentary from Fields Winners!”) That was pretty cool, so today I think I’ll try another pedagogical category: history.

This is a subject that I talk about frequently with my mother (an actual teacher, mind you), trying to figure out why it’s such a disliked subject. After all, we like history, but surveys routinely show that it’s the least liked subject, ranking even below obvious suspects like math and spelling.

Why is it so disliked? Who knows, really, but it’s probably because it seems so remote from normal life. It’s pretty hard, after all, for most teenagers to get very enthused about a long-ago debate over the Missouri Compromise that has only the most tenuous connection to the present day.

So in the true spirit of blogging (especially weekend blogging!), here’s my dumb amateur idea about how to teach history: do it backward.

It’s hard for kids to get interested in century old debates without knowing all the context around them, but they might very well be interested in current day events. So why not start now and explain the events that got us here? War on terrorism? Sure, let’s teach it, and that leads us backward to a discussion of how the current state of affairs is the successor to the bipolar world that came apart in 1989. And that leads back to the Cold War, and that leads back to World War II, etc.

In other words, invert cause and effect. Try to get them wondering about the causes of things they already know about, and then use this curiosity to lead them inexorably backward through history.

This is for teenagers, of course, not grammar school kids, who are probably best off with pilgrims, ancient Egyptians, and other picturesque topics. But it might work in high school and junior high school.

All we need now is to get a brilliant historian together with the guy who directed Memento and we’ll have it made. We can call it “The Mirror of History.”

UPDATE: Over at Atrios, a commenter makes the point that recent history isn’t really even taught at all in high school, let alone as part of a broader history curriculum. As Atrios suggests, this is probably because recent history is so overtly political that it’s hard to teach it without offending a lot of parents, but even so, how ridiculous is this? Really, which is more important: understanding the American Revolution or understanding the Cold War? An entire year devoted to understanding the most recent few decades of history would probably be one of the most valuable classes a kid could have.


PEACHY….Hey, have you been following the Georgia flag controversy? Me neither, really, but here’s the nickel version from CNN:

1956: Georgia changes their flag to incorporate Confederate “rebel” flag.

2001: Gov. Roy Barnes gains adoption of new, more neutral flag, but subsequently loses reelection because of it.

2003: Yet another new flag is proposed and is now ready for adoption.

The CNN story indicates that “The new flag is modeled after the ‘Stars and Bars’ national flag used by the Confederacy,” but unfortunately their picture doesn’t really give you a good idea of what “based on” means.

The Calpundit Art Department is on the case, however, and you can see the result for yourself. I suppose you can make the case ? and the designers did ? that using the original Georgia flag is a decent compromise all around, but if that’s the case then why did they deliberately make changes to make it more similar to the Confederate flag than the original 1879 state flag ever was?

It’s true that the new flag doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the old battle flag motif ? and at least they had the decency to use 13 stars instead of 7 ? but still. When it comes to the Confederacy, Georgia Republicans sure do turn out to be surprisingly studious history buffs, don’t they? Go figure.

(Thanks to Tacitus for the idea.)

UPDATE: blogoSFERICS points out that on Friday the legislature finally approved a slightly different flag, apparently removing “In God We Trust” from the middle bar, and approved a referendum that doesn’t include the old 1956 flag as an option, thus gaining enough Democratic support to pass. The whole story is here.