Currently viewing the category: "Politics"
  • images (2)I wrote a thing about Harley Quinn (or Harleys Quinn, considering her different origins) for Bounding Into Comics. Be gentle, boys, it’s my first time writing about comics (even if I am mostly writing about a cartoon).
  • Fascinating B.K. Marcus piece on — among other things — the etymology of “Nazi” and what “national socialism” is or isn’t.
  • Tom Cotton is the worst, and someday he will be president.
  • Joan Walsh is joyfully voting H. Clinton, in spite of her “wonder[ing] whether she’ll be more hawkish on foreign policy than is advised in these dangerous times.” (That is the single sentence devoted to the issue in a long, luxurious piece about how feminism and something something glass ceiling.)
  • The author of a new (for the US) bio of Raoul Wallenberg is convinced he was indeed executed in 1947, and did not die of a heart attack as the Russians still claim. (There were wild rumors of Wallenberg alive into the ’70s, which are arguably more horrifying than if he had just been killed in ’47.)
  • Someone needs to tell the Christian Science Monitor that Vicki Weaver was shot in the head by an FBI sniper, and did not die in a “shootout.” They should also mention 80 Branch Davidians did not die by gunfire. I wrote my thesis on this, AND I know how to Google.
  • Today in 1967, the Apollo 1 capsule caught fire during a test. Gizmodo has an interesting, short piece on how that influenced NASA safety (including inspiring them to make Snoopy a mascot, which explains the names that came later).
  • RIP Concepcion Picciotto, who you may have passed outside of the White House once or twice.
  • Well, the Guillotine is more humane for the death penalty, but also the governor of Maine is nuts. 
  • Several people I like and whose work I follow came out of or have written for Wonkette, and God damn do they make Gawker look sincere and serious sometimes.
  • Possibly the Onion might chill with Hillary Clinton.

Today’s video reminds us that if they weren’t so amusing, Flight of the Conchords could have done more of a Milk Carton Kids thing (well, except that the one dude in the Milk Carton Kids is hilarious, so never mind):

  • images (1)I didn’t do a Christmas Truce piece this year (I know, I know) but mine from last year is really pretty good, I think.
  • I now have a billion podcasts with Sheldon Richman (lucky me!) and here is a list of them in audio form, if that catches your eye. They are also scattered about Youtube if you wish to see our beautiful faces.
  • “When Lemmy Took on the War on Drugs” — RIP, God.
  • I’ve only ever listened to a Motorhead album once, but it was good. “Ace of Spades” is undeniable. It gave me hope that I could perhaps someday like some metal (this is a rare feeling, and usually only “War Pigs” or something provokes it). Most importantly, about 11 years ago I was at a party and was for some reason talking about Lemmy to a group of people. One B.E. had been sleeping in a chair, woke up suddenly, explained how Lemmy got his nickname, and then fell back into dreamland. B.E. had no memory of saying this the next day.
  • Amen, Patton.
  • This British woman is recapping all of The X-Files, and she has the right feelings on the greatness of Scully and the frustrating, absurd, lovable loser that is Fox Mulder. I think I love the Cigarette Smoking Man more than she does, though. I love his weird, non-villainous/Canadian accent.
  • Sort-of-proto-Reason.com Suck.com is now available for easier archive reading. Not that Gen-Xers really rejoice about anything. I’ve seen Reality Bites, man. And it was terrible.
  • Sorry, Carrie Fisher, this is America, and in America a surprising amount of people believe that “how my boner feels in response to this” is an acceptable type of comment to make in a public forum. Or, you know, to the actual person in question sometimes.
  • Suderman is right about The Force Awakens, and he’s one of the few.
  • A worthy defense of George Lucas and the weirdly almost underrated A New Hope.
  • I’m not sure if I’d love Harley Quinn outside of her origin cartoon, but I totally get it there. The amount of pathos, humor, and charm portrayed in an abused, criminal cartoon character is rather astounding to watch. I would say it’s incredible that a children’s cartoon pulled that off, but why insult cartoons or children? (God, I love that gun moll voice, though.) Yet, it’s still impressive that they make her funny, but they don’t make the Joker’s abusive of her a joke. Her whole character strikes this I suspect almost impossibly deft balance.
  • My general dislike of The Force Awakens inspired me to go look up actual fanfiction. I was pleased to discover a nearly flawless, book-length diary of the arch nemesis of one Emily Byrd Starr — L.M. Montgomery’s lesser known heroine, who I think is better than Anne of Green Gables — and some amusingly angsty Fallout 3 pairings. Fanfiction is like poetry, there is a staggering amount of godawful stuff, but now and then there is something special. And hell, practicing writing in the voice of a character you didn’t invent can only help you if you want to write for TV or other serialized mediums. But seriously, the Evelyn Blake diaries one manages to make Emily Starr look bad, yet doesn’t ruin my fond impressions of her. It just confirms that mostly decent people do horribly misread each other often, which is a very useful lesson for life indeed.

And today’s video is not a hot tune, but an interview:

I adore Martha Gellhorn, the late, great war reporter. I had never seen her speak before, however, and this interview from the early ’80s was a hell of a start. She was no libertarian, and she had an unfortunate somewhat knee-jerk defense of Israel (but most people who do didn’t see Dachau, so….). However, her words on wars and on governments in this video are stunning. She scorns the media, she scorns leaders, she waxes poetic on the Spanish Civil War, and she describes in excruciating detail what Dachau concentration camp looked like the day after liberation. Give a watch, and read her work. I recommend Travels With Myself and Another, but she’s got a bunch of works I haven’t gotten to yet. Which is how I prefer it when a wonderful author has passed. I’m glad I got so slow with my Oliver Sacks reading during the last few years….

On a side note, that Dachau description is fascinating and sickening. Someone like me who has read countless books about the Holocaust, and learned nothing from the Museum in DC simply because I knew it already tends to not forget exactly, but forget what it would mean for the knowledge of this crime to have been a shock. Not something we all know as the internet-joke high water mark of human evil, but something entirely new and impossibly evil. Old Ed Murrow’s radio piece after he saw Buchenwald gets this point across. More than anything, he sounds pissed. And his final lines display that need to know thing.

I don’t think I am jaded about the crimes of the Nazis by any means, but at the same time, this kind of thing is good to remember. Especially if you’ve just started playing Wolfenstein: New Order, and feel vaguely awkward about it.

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 Liberty.me 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:

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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 Reason.org 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 TruthAboutCharley.com.

 

The Huffington Post turns ten this week.

It’s seen by lots more eyeballs and it’s much better looking and reading than it was at its birth, when it was nothing but a lot of hype and hope and the political scribblings of celebrities. But the HuffPo is still just a liberal pimple on the big conservative ass of the Drudge Report.

I wasn’t going to celebrate the birthday of Arianna Huffington’s love child, but over the weekend The Today Show, or whatever it’s called by NBC, apparently spoke my name during its celebration.

I didn’t see or hear what Today said about me to the whole nation.

I hear they took a line or two out of context from the critical but fair and balanced magazine column I wrote about HuffPo’s birth to show what a big dummy I was for failing to predict it’d live to see its tenth birthday.

I forgot what I wrote on May 15, 2005,  but I looked it up and here it is:

Huffing & Puffing & Disappointing

Matt Drudge can sleep easy.

Arianna Huffington’s much ballyhooed “Huffington Post” — a new Web site whose chief gimmick is a Malibu Beach party’s worth of celebrity bloggers — is no threat.

If you haven’t heard, huffingtonpost.com features the daily blathering of scores of La-La-Landers — Rob Reiner, Bill Maher, John Cusack, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, et al. — and scores of savvy inner-Beltway politicos such as David Corn, Mike McCurry, Joe Scarborough and Danielle Crittenden.

From the advance hype, you’d have thought that the multiblog site, which debuted Monday, was going to do for the blogosphere what CNN did for TV news. It won’t.

It’s way too early to declare it a flop. But it’s easy to see why the media criticism has run from brutally cruel to “Could this possibly be this dull and uninformative forever?”

Not every celebrity embarrasses himself.

Quincy Jones’ rumination on Michael Jackson’s sordid decline is wise, but contains so much God-talk he may have his star on Hollywood Boulevard removed.

“Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David’s defense of U.N. Ambassador-designate John Bolton as a fellow abuser-of-employees is clever satire.

Rob Reiner’s ranting about the news media being stooges of the Bush administration and voters being misled on Iraq, etc., etc., would make a great sendup of a demented Hollywood liberal, except he’s being serious.

Reiner’s meat-headed rant gives credence to L.A. Weekly Nikki Finke’s conspiratorial suspicion that Arianna is now “a conservative mole.” Finke, a business/political columnist, covering entertainment, wrote in her Huffington Post-trashing column that the Greek-born author-pundit “has served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out.”

Finke could be right. Maybe Arianna — who has morphed from the right-wing conservative spouse of a multimillionaire Republican congressman to a divorced big-government progressive do-gooder — is a double agent for her mid-’90s pal, Newt.

There’s no doubt celebrities are going to be eaten alive by the pros — the politicians, pundits and journalists — Arianna invited to her 300-ring circus. Byron York has already bitten into sports guy Jim Lampley, who opined in his blog that he still thinks Bush stole Ohio last fall.

And conservative Danielle Crittenden, who knows how to mock Hollywood, blogged a clever parody memo to President Bush that plugs a new movie whose heroine is a brave, pro-life Republican congresswoman who fights for family values.

Assembling scores of celebrity bloggers in one place sounds like a really good idea — until you go there and find it’s mostly just a bunch of people with little to say talking to themselves.

At huffingtonpost.com , more is much less. There’s no strong single point of view, which is what all the best blogs have. There’s virtually no interaction or squabbling between libs and conservatives. Libertarians, as usual, apparently weren’t invited.

Arianna’s got lots of tinkering to do before she provides anything close to “a tantalizing mixture of politics, wit and wisdom.” She has to learn how to be an editor and a better ringmaster.

Maybe she’ll figure it out. Meantime, her Internet Free Hollywood may do America some good by forcing the cloistered Hollywood community to debate some nonliberal arguments and ideas it’s not used to even hearing.

Reads pretty good to me.

It’s pretty pathetic when a tin-pot lapsed Commie KBG thug like Vladimir Putin is smarter about the Middle East than America’s foreign policy “experts.”

But he was — and probably still is.us-journalist-critical-of-putin-kicked-out-of-russia

A year ago Putin warned the Obama administration about the folly of intervening in Syria on the side of the rebels.

We (i.e., Obama) chickened out/smartened up and did not  send troops to Syria to dethrone the tin-pot thug Assad. We had already turned the Middle East into a bigger political hellhole than it already was by going into Iraq in 2003.

The Washington Post has a piece out now  entitled “Was Putin right about Syria?” Based on these quotes from a Putin op-ed in the  New York Times op-ed last September, he was:

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Obviously, real bad shit was happening in Syria and it would have kept happening with or without inserting U.S. men and planes.

But as Putin’s ghostwriter  said, “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country.”

Putin correctly/sensibly/realistically said that Assad, though a major league monster, was a stabilizing force who was preferable to the religious fanatics who’d replace him. He also pointed out that the rebel cause in Syria was attracting Islamist zealots/morons from the West.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?

It really is depressing how stupid American foreign policy-makers have been since President Woody Wilson came up with the idea that America should use its guns, money and soldiers to force Western-style democracy on all nations.

Our great leaders never learn about the folly and inevitable failures and (always predictable) unintended consequences of sending armed missionaries to take over bad countries and make them good.

Guess who was right all along about the folly of going to war in Iraq?

That is, not counting Pat Buchanan, 156 members of Congress (seven brave Republicans) and thousands of others who opposed or voted against the Bush administration’s war plans for a multitude of good moral, principled, pragmatic, partisan or personal reasons.

The damn French were right. So was a nobody from the American Heartland.

On Feb. 14, 2003, as President Bush and his neocon dream team geared up to take down Saddam, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin  made a vain attempt to cool Bush’s pre-emptive jets.

De Villepin sounded pretty sensible about Iraq, not to mention prescient.

The “premature recourse to the military option,” he began, might appear to be the “swiftest” way to strip evil Saddam of the weapons of mass destruction.

But “let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq’s unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.”

Nine months later, as Iraq began its spiral into bloody chaos, De Villepin offered this unheard advice to America on CNN: “Don’t believe that you are going to solve Iraq because you are going to send more troops or more money.”

America had plenty of its own anti-war Cassandras who predicted the many bad things that invariably go wrong when you send armies to occupy, democratize and police a foreign land. They were all ignored, ridiculed or slurred for being cowards, just like the surrendering French.

One of the sharpest-eyed predictors who warned America’s Interventionist Industrial Complex to stay out of the Middle East came in 2002 from some unknown state senator from Middle America, where American non-interventionism used to be a religious tenet.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” the nobody said in a speech no one heard as the Bushies rattled their sabers and eyed Iraq.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

The nobody droned on.

Even a successful war against Iraq, “will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Among other accurate things, the nobody added it also would “strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida.”

That wise counsel, of course, came in English from Illinois state senator Barack Obama. But even he didn’t listen to himself.