In the second season premiere of Politics for People Who Hate Politics, I had a terrible connection, and we all had technical difficulties, but then — wonder of wonders — things went really well. And that is very surprising when you consider that we were not discussing paranoia or aliens or fun stuff like that, but politics.

My panel was me (hi), Joe (he’s terse, I can be terse — once in flightschool I was laconic), Franklin Harris (assistant metro editor for the Decatur Daily News), Todd Seavey (website! book!), and king Jeff Tucker (also he’s at FEE now!). We covered the debates, what hope libertarians can have in politics, how much Rand Paul sucks or doesn’t, how dangerous Donald Trump is or isn’t, how Jeb Bush could possibly seem less awful than, well, anyone, and why libertarians always pick one dumb side or another. Our Better Than Politics segment was about Halloween! Spoiler alert: Jeff Tucker is a very dapper fast food item. (To be fair, that’s sort of every day, isn’t?)

Give it a watch. It was one of those fun discussion that I therefore hope is fun to watch.

Rand Paul has virtually disappeared from the media and the polls.

Even his die-hard supporters can’t tell you what the senator has been doing or saying for the last month.

But if the presidential wannabe from Kentucky wants to return to viability — and visibility — as a 2016 candidate, he has to separate himself from the GOP’s boring herd at tonight’s debate on CNBC.

Here’s some free advice for Rand Paul from a career libertarian newspaperman:


Rand Paul needs to follow his father’s path.

First, rip off that ill-fitting Republican mask you’ve been wearing for five years and let people see your inner libertarian soul.

Then start sounding more like your father Dr. Ron, not less.

You need to start tapping more deeply into that young demographic that your father appealed to in 2012 merely by being his own lovable, Fed-bashing libertarian self.

For starters, and especially for early primary voters, Rand, tonight you need to begin branding yourself as an unabashed Pro Peace, Pro Pot and Pro Uber libertarian.


It’s probably already too late for Rand Paul.

But boldly pushing the principled libertarian angle on peace, pot, Uber and homeschooling in Iowa would have great appeal across both parties and independents and especially among college-age voters. Plus they are strong anti-establishment positions in a year when being against the establishment is no longer a strike against you but an asset.

Being for Peace, Pot and Uber for libertarian reasons would not just be more honest. It’d quickly bring Rand Paul the media attention he desperately needs before he mounts his next filibuster.

He’d be able to separate himself from the mangy crowd of GOP establishment candidates and their tired conservative ideas while allowing himself to proudly stick up for the principles and values libertarians love and want to implement.

Rand Paul should blast and shame Marco Rubio tonight for his awful prohibitionist stance on marijuana by sticking up for personal freedom; defending states rights comes second. Ditto for Christie’s horrible drug-czar position on drugs.

(Speaking of pot, our friend Matt Welch of has a deeper, more substantive “Dear Rand” letter that urges Sen. Paul to separate himself from his fellow debaters this evening and foresquarely call for the legalization of marijuana.)

Rand Paul also should be mocking Rubio’s tough talk about using troops to fix the Middle East hell we made with our previous bloody foolish military interventions and regime toppling fiascos. Ditto for Fiorina’s sure-to-fail Mid-East foreign policy.

Trump, for all the dumb and dumber stuff he says, has done a huge favor for a libertarian like Rand.  Trump’s politically incorrect statements and ideas have lowered, or maybe raised, the bar on what radical things a candidate can say without being punished by the voting public or the media.

Because of Trump and his refreshing “so-what-if-I-said-something-politically-incorrect” attitude, the national liberal media, thankfully, has lost its power to destroy a candidate over a single gaffe at a coffee shop or something like Howard Dean’s scream in 2004.

Thanks to Trump, Rand Paul can take more radical libertarian positions on his natural issues without fear.

Homeschoolers, for  example, are often Christian evangelicals but they are almost all soft libertarians at heart; they deeply understand the importance of freedom from government and school choice and they have made sacrifices to practice it in their everyday lives. They should be Rand Paul’s natural constituency — not Rick Santorum’s.

Another issue tailor-made for Rand Paul is Uber.

I’m an Uber driver in Pittsburgh. I know from experience (1,700 trips, 3000-plus riders) that Uber is universally loved by young people.

It’s also a great libertarian issue because Uber’s ride-sharing business model — micro-transit at its best — is destroying the local government cab monopolies that have tortured the poor and carless citizens of every major city in North America for nearly 80 years with high fares and horrible service.

Only the bad guys hate Uber — existing taxi interests and their big-city political pals and protectors like NYC Mayor DeBlasio.

Uber is well established in Des Moines, for example. As far as I know, Rand Paul hasn’t publicized himself taking Uber rides in Des Moines or, better yet, becoming an Uber driver there for a weekend night.  Where are his campaign people sleeping?

Jeb Bush or Rubio should not be the Uber candidate; Rand Paul should be. He should own the Uber vote. Arguing with Hillary Clinton about the benefits of  the gig economy is not enough.

I’m sure others would like to see Rand Paul tear off his cheap Republican mask and unleash his inner libertarian.

He needs a unique brand. He needs to become the pro peace, pro pot and pro Uber candidate, not to mention the anti-war, anti-IRS, anti-Big Government, anti-Nanny State, anti-surveillance state candidate.

Coming out of his libertarian closet tonight won’t win Rand Paul the GOP nomination or the White House. It may even lose him his seat in the Senate. But it’ll make it a lot easier for him to stand out from his fellow Republicans in 2020, when he runs against President Clinton.

Ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald is a career libertarian and author of Dogging Steinbeck, which exposes the truth about “Travels With Charley” and celebrates Flyover America and its people. Blogs, photos, a 1960 Steinbeck/”Charley” trip timeline and more are at


In honor of the fact that Sheldon and I are doing another podcast tomorrow, here is the most recent one we did on guns and the absurdity of suggesting bans. Charles C.W. Cooke was praised, liberals and conservatives hated upon, rants were had. Check it out. And then tune in tomorrow at 8 PM because for some reason we’re talking about Benghazi? But maybe there will be tangents. Hopefully.

vivianVivian Versus the Apocalypse (2012) by Katie Coyle:

In my apocalypse fiction travels, I haven’t done a lot of slow crumbles. This YA novel written by a MFA-gettin’ author whom my one friend knew is about a declining America thanks to environmental  shenanigans, violence, and an aggressive new cult called the Church of America. Our heroine is Vivian Apple, whose parents have converted to the Church and vanished on what was supposed to be Rapture Day.

There are YA novel and coming of age tale tropes: Apple is a goody-goody with a wilder friend and a dreamy boy with dreamy eyes who also has a — dun dun dun — secret. There’s a whisper of over liberalism, based mostly on the fact that the Church of America is hardcore mocking American Christian conservatism (not that that’s not frequently deserved). Even the existence of decent religious people doesn’t fully wash away the suggestion that this is all a metaphor for fleeing flyover country. But hell, that’s okay. Vivian the character herself seems to be a 16-year-old liberal. Sometimes you have to get to the promised land of California. Everything is okay except for the Walking Dead-esque “no, I won’t use a gun!” moment of stupid. (Nothing in the world is as stupid as a woman objecting to her sheriff husband teaching their 11-year-old son to use a gun in the middle of zombie apocalypse, because it’s not safe. Nothing. I haven’t watched that show in a while.)

Fundamentally, all of these pieces work together much better than they should because Coyle is a solid, serious writer. And Vivian Apple is a sophisticated, but not overly adult character who has to deal with learning that her parents were real, perhaps not good people and that the world is not chock full of answers. That world which may also end in a few months. See, this new Church of Frick (Pittsburgh Homestead Strike shoutout? Probably! The books begins in Pittsburgh!) has a holy book. That book mentions two raptures. This is a great detail, because it sends those Believers left behind into a pious frenzy. They don’t want to be left behind again. That makes some of them very mean, and very against fornicating and homosexuality and such.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the revelations with the would-be villain at the end of the book. Plus, every YA novel and comic book movie now has to end not in an awesome open-ended way, but in a “YEP, A SEQUEL’S A-COMIN'” way.  This bugs me, but I’ll be reading the sequel without question.

This is the kind of book that gives YA fiction a good name. There’s nothing unserious about it, even if it’s not perfect.

Long_Loud_Silence_The_-_Tucker_Wilson_-_1952-_Dell_-SF_-_G_-10_1024x1024The Long, Loud Silence (1952) by Wilson A. Tucker:

My copy of this early nuclear doom novel has the most gorgeous pulp cover. It’s a cheap paperback from the mid ’50s, but it looks amazing. I had meant to read it months before, but I would have bought it just for the cover (as I did a few other books I may or may not read).

Unfortunately, the cover is the best thing about this book. It’s not all bad. It has a stoic vibe that works well enough to hold interest for the 180-some pages. Basically, the US was attacked by nukes, regular bombs, and disease bombs. Unfortunately this happened right as our hero Russell Gary is on a major bender. He wakes up to a bad hangover of a dead hotel, a dead city, and oops, soldiers are preventing him from going back across the Mississippi river. This we have our class system. (I guess the West IS better. No, it is.)

Gary is a mildly interesting sort. He is a practical, unpleasant, manly man who smacks a girl, and keeps denying that she’s 19, because she looks young (spoiler alert: seducing him convinces him of her age). Wilson manages to write the first female character we meet as a ditz who clings to Gary, and who is wasting post-apocalyptic time collecting jewels.

There’s other awkwardness: Some years after the event, Gary implies at one point that he’s going to go back to a farmhouse of people in order to groom their child to be into him later. Unless I read that way wrong, and I rather hope I did.

For all the dramatic setting, this is kind of a character study of a man who was never very pleasant or kind, who becomes colder and crueler over the years, but never actually becomes a full monster. There’s some nuance in this picture. He saves a child from cannibals, then uses that fact to get a farmhouse and a place to stay and work for the winter. He never murders or steals without cause. But he’s a bit of an asshole (maybe he always was. There’s interesting hints about what war did to him that aren’t really mentioned after the beginning). And the part where he finally succeeds at his years-long goal of getting across the river is…odd. It’s the only part that doesn’t feel quite real in the book. I suppose it had to happen.

The ending is supposed to be cute, I think. I suppose it is a fair capper to all that has happened. Maybe ditzes have good survival skills after all.

mad maxMad Max: Fury Road (2015), directed by George Miller, starring myriad hotties and/or people in awkward masks

Somehow — somehow I accidentally saw the Fast and the Furious Seven (I forget its actual title, therefore I don’t know what to italicize!) in theaters, not having seen a single one of the previous six movies. (It’s because I was supposed to see American Sniper, and then I didn’t get to see that either, and everything was stupid.) I regret that all the more when I realize I saw “sure, cars can fly, and let’s film this action sequel in the dark because Paul Walker is unfortunately dead” in theaters instead of Fury Road. I watched this on the biggest available TV, but I curse myself for not seeing it theaters, the way I curse the six-year-old me who saw Free Willy while my brother and cousin trembled in exhilaration and fear at the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

This is an action movie with strong characterization and world building, that doesn’t spoonfeed context to you. This is a manly action movie that is chock full of bad-ass women. This is a post-apocalyptic movie whose world defies logic and has way too much pageantry and nobody cares, because it’s awesome. This is a movie in which gorgeous women at one point spray each other with a hose, and the camera never leers. (Seriously, seriously picture that scene as shot by Michael Bay or a thousand other assholes).

It’s an ugly, bizarre world in Fury Road, but once you accept that this is is a freaky, car-based cult in control of almost all the resources around — yes, even resources for flaming guitar trucks —  it’s difficult not to be hooked. And for me, that’s saying something. The aesthetic in this film is is exactly the type I dislike because it feels bullshit and embarrassingly cheesy. It feels like people playing dress-up in fake gladiator garb. It feels awkward and inherently low budget. Somehow this movie completely kills that awkwardness through the power of serious, quality acting, and strange amounts of heart.

And with really scary, unexplained shit like those hunched over stilt people. I never want to know what that was about. I never want to know exactly “who killed the world” or how and why Immortan Joe’s cult came to be so quickly and effectively. I know this is mostly action movie that is about a million serious things, the way Attack the Block! is about a lot more than neon aliens. Yet it’s also just a good action movie.

I know a libertarian who hated this film. But once you see “we are not property” (libertarian tears) written on the walls of the wives’ cell, you should be getting hopeful. And once Max and Furiosa fight for the first time, you should be fully absorbed into George Miller’s brain. Do not resist. This movie is so gorgeous that occasional action movie cliches like Furiosa dropping to her knees in the sand in anguish, or the slightly intrusive non-diegetic music feel more frustrating than they would be in an inferior movie.

signsSigns (2002), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Mel Gibson’s sanity, Joaquin Phoenix, a Culkin, wee Abigail Breslin

Honestly, this film, plus Fury Road, plus Miracle Mile are on my short list of “I do not give a shit if it doesn’t make sense.” And they all involve at least the threat of world ending. Fury Road works becomes of pure audacity and seriousness in the face of absurdity. Miracle Mile is a nightmare, in logic and in pacing, and in ever-growing surrealism. But to me, Signs has always been too scary to mock. It may not be your nightmare, but it is one of mine.

I was 15 when I saw it in the theater with a group of friends. It was quite simply one of those great theater-going moments, where the place buzzes with energy but without distraction or loud noises getting in the way of the enjoyment of the movie (or enhancing the enjoyment, like when the most Canadian man in the world yelled “GET ‘ER PHOONE NUMBER!” at the screen when Mark Wahlberg kissed Helena Bonham Apewoman in Planet of the Apes). Well, quiet except for that moment when Joaquin Phoenix’s character is watching the footage from the children’s birthday party in which something very scary happens. Phoenix’s character shrieks, I shrieked out loud in the crowded theater. Now, I couldn’t sleep for three days after seeing this movie (shut up, my parents live near a cornfield in Pennsylvania), but it was worth it in the end.

It’s a claustrophobic alien movie that’s funny, terrifying, and slow-building. The acting is fantastic from every single person (remember when Mel Gibson was awesome? I do). Maybe there was fluoride in the water, or some weird mineral. Maybe it’s the pipes! Maybe it’s all a metaphor. Maybe the aliens are demons. It doesn’t matter. The movie justifies its own logical evasions by being awesome and scary. If two or three things came together to save the day, it would be Hollywood bullshit. But in the narrative, the obviousness of the puzzle piece is on purpose. This is a world in which everything came together so that Mel Gibson’s character could save his son. Maybe that’s not our world. That’s okay.

(Honestly, the least credible thing to me is the happy ending. Those children would need MASSIVE therapy. Massive. The adults, too.)

  • everestI wrote a review of Everest for The Federalist. You should read it, because that’s almost a slant rhyme.
  • And I wrote some stuff at Don’t I always?
  • I read Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). It was a very easy, but enjoyable read about her trials and tribulations. The strangely relatable bits for me — not having ever been on Buffy — were the part where she was homeschooled for secular reasons, and then had anxiety and a thyroid problem! (Sorry to put your thyroid problem with enthusiastic punctuation, Ms. Day, but I was excited.) The best bit really was where she writes that if she hadn’t been homeschooled (and she seems slightly less positive about it than I am, but still mixed in a real world sort of) she would not have this fearless weirdness. She might actually be better at maintaining friendships and being a normal human, but on that first day of school her desire to love whatever she loved would have been drained out of her thanks to what she calls the girls with bows in their hair. I get this. I am inclined to agree about myself. There are trade-offs in being weird and not having the obvious reference point of school. One of the perks (which in itself has trade-offs) is that it helps you become your own person (especially if your parents aren’t rigid.) Oh, and I think I am searching for my own version of The Guild. Unfortunately, my interests are not entirely unique (yes, the internet taught me that) but they are a bit more obscure than Warcraft.
  • This is a pessimistic look at libertarianism and libertarian movements that doesn’t feel like a hit piece or a (total) misreading of the philosophy. 
  • Austin Bragg of ReasonTV kind of already made a video that includes my gun control argument. Sigh.
  • It is not offensive to say that gun control is a boon for totalitarian societies. And in particular, Nazi Germany has a few examples of Jews with guns surviving and even fighting back. The Belarusian Bielski partisans are a great example of how firearms can help you survive, without even the confrontation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (which…didn’t go that well, but it was also more of a suicide mission), much less the strawman of going up against the entire Germany Army. But Dr. Keith Ablow(hard) has written what can only be described as a victim blaming piece about the Jews under the Nazis. Additionally, he basically is letting the world that let six million Jews die off the hook because they didn’t fight back in an inspirational enough fashion.
  • First female photojournalist in Japan is 101, still kicking ass.  Hat tip to photographer friend Emily.
  • Cool piece on forgotten female journalist who broke the whole invasion of Poland news. Unfortunately, said piece refers to Martha Gellhorn and Clare Booth Luce in reference to their husbands. Ahem.
  • Started listening to Gilmore Guys podcast a little. It feels like it’s annoying, and then it’s entrancing.
  • Good Wired piece on the state of fandom, and how its pure enthusiasm (maybe) beat irony. I’ve never really been to a good, nerdy con, which is a sad thing.
  • BBC behind the scenes look at the latest “Doctor Who” and the cool, deaf actress they found for the part. I just wish the plot had been a little less…something. As a watcher of Switched at Birth, I tried to see a difference between British Sign and American, but I clearly can’t. I can sign my name, “baby”, and “thank you” in ASL, though, so I am a champ.
  • Oh, and via Ms. Julia, attorney at law, I found the podcast Criminal. I listened to one about a guy sent to a minimum security prison that also had a leper colony. No, really. Also it was the 1990s. 
  • Kitty Genovese: still much more complicated than just a metaphor for urban indifference and the bystander effect.
  • Townes Van Zandt was great. Here are some of his words on songwriting.  And here’s a whole bunch of people covering “White Freightliner Blues” on Austin City Limits in what can be argued is a way to upbeat manner. Still good times, if only because I cannot resist saloon pianer. Yet still an argument for diminishing returns.

If you’re ready — and only if you’re ready — you can watch Townes himself making an old man cry by singing “Waitin’ Around to Die”:

I never get tired of running my favorite photo — a dead Pittsburgh Yellow Cab being hauled away on a flat bed, taken while I was Ubering.

It’s now my lot in life, as a good libertarian who as a working journalist tried his best to bring an end to the Yellow Cab racket in Pittsburgh, to stick up for Uber whenever I get the chance.

It’d be nice if Uber’s bad boy CEO Travis Kalanick would hire me so I could get paid for my pleasure, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

The Insider blog of Crain’s business magazine in New York City ran this article Oct. 6:

Uber doubles number of drivers—just as de Blasio feared

More than 20,000 UberX drivers are roaming the streets of New York City, twice the number from September 2014. The mayor is scrutinizing their impact.

In reaction to the usual idiot cab hacks who wrote in to call Uber names, predict its demise and accuse it of various war crimes against the working man, I wrote this:

Uber has succeeded and will grow exponentially because of one simple reason – consumers love it. Uber has ended 80 years of consumer abuse by monopoly cabs and their political patrons in cities. That racket has been blown up forever and society is better off in numerous ways. From now on no politician who ever hopes to get re elected can come out against uber for long. The people who’ve suffered from taxi cab abuse for so long — while the local media didn’t notice or care and public officials said nothing – are voting by the millions with their uber apps every day. I’m an uber driver in Pittsburgh with 1700 trips and 3000 total riders siince January. As far as I can tell — and I “interview” my passengers like the ex-journalist I am — only a handful of those 1700 riders will ever consider using yellow cab again. Uber is micro transit at its best and it’s changing the way young people are moving around the city. Smart democrat mayors like Pittsburgh’s Bill Peduto know it’s great for their city and their poor and rich constituents and it is.

By the way, the Boston Globe reported that Uber drivers carried two million passengers just last month. That’s about 100 riders per each of 20,000 drivers. Their average wait time was under five minutes and as far as I know, not a single rider was robbed, murdered or raped.