Category Archives: General

Political Progress Through Laughter in Afghanistan

This piece from Al Jazeera illustrates how comedy can positively affect politics. Like in the United States with comedians like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, satirists, comedians and cartoonists in Afghanistan are able to go where conventional journalists are afraid to go. With the dreary headlines coming out of the region, it’s good to see civil society breathing.

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Islamic Fundamentalism: Still A Danger

The hyper-reactionary hatred of Terry Jones and his merry band of bigots down in Florida may have muddled the waters surrounding Islamic fundamentalism and its dangers, showing that we certainly have our own share of anti-intellectual sorcerers. Now that that and the Ground Zero hate festival is over, however, Islamic radicalism’s ugly head is springing back up with a story out of my native Seattle:

In a disturbing and matter-of-fact article, Seattle Weekly’s editor in chief Mark D. Fefer explained to readers that there would not be a cartoon by Molly Norris in that week’s paper, nor would there be one in any future issues. No, she wasn’t fired. Norris has followed advice from the FBI, left town, and changed her name after a fatwa was placed on her by Islamic extremists following her cartoon promoting the made up “Draw Mohammed Day.”

Norris has been effectively silenced into submission (that word used intentionally) by the forces of fear. If we play by the rules of religious fundamentalists, Muslim, Christian or whatever other theocratic label the forces of reaction choose to label themselves with, we are not going to live in freedom any more. We will live in the same feudal regression that now dominates the Middle East and that once dominated the West during the times in which Galileo Galilei was put under house arrest by the Catholic Church for his theory of heliocentrism. While Thomas Freidman may have jokingly called his book on globalization The World Is Flat, forces around the world who fear their “traditional” cultures are under threat by globalization seek to have us regress to an era in which knowledge was illegal and, in the minds of men, the world was flat.

Jon Stewart Is Becoming A Libertarian

As the economy continues to stagnate, Jon Stewart appears to have developed a very healthy helping of skepticism about progressive economic policies. This on top of his tearing President Obama apart for his continued embrace of executive power (completely counter to the criticism of Bush-era civil liberties violations that got him a standing ovation at the Democratic National Convention in 2004) and embrace of Charlton Heston makes one wonder if Stewart is making himself up to be some sort of left-libertarian. If that’s the case, I would be more than happy to have him on board.

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Coming Soon: The War on Tacos

Now, this is just lame:

“The City of Emeryville, California, is looking for individuals to serve on its new ‘Food Truck Taskforce’ — a bureaucratic reaction to the increased competition local ‘brick and mortar’ restaurants face from mobile kitchens. Local worker Catherine Hicks tweeted, ‘restaurants are whining that trucks are more popular at lunch!’ But the city sees this shift in lunching habits as a political problem requiring a political solution …” (09/14/10)

This has been mumbled about quite a bit before, but mostly in southern California. Apparently multiculturalism isn’t a strong enough ethos among Bay Area lawmakers to welcome the rise of taco trucks selling legitimate, authentic Mexican food.

“Thank God for the Constitution”

A great comment from Obdicut, which I found in the jungle of my last post’s comment thread:

Michael, I’m sorry posting this has led to the stalkers having one of their uber-bizarre meltdowns in the thread.

It’s a well-reasoned piece. I too, as an atheist who is against extremist religion of all forms, including Islam, supported “Draw Mohammed Day”, and now, seeing the level that the anti-Muslim bigotry has risen to in the US, feel embarrassed that I didn’t see this coming.

I would like to also note that Charles recently pointed out an old post of his, back in the ‘old days’ on LGF where it was definitely still mainly focused on being anti-Jihad, where he was very disturbed by some of those leading the anti-Jihad fight. Even though the commenters at that time mainly chose to ignore it, he was still, back then, warning that there were bigots and crazy people involved in the anti-Jihad campaign– for whom it wasn’t anti-Jihad, but rather anti-Muslim.

I wasn’t a member of LGF back then. I only became one after the election, when Charles really started getting disgusted with the insanity breaking out on the right-wing, but the narrative he presents– someone shocked by 9/11, shocked by the spread and ferocity of Islamic extremism, casting about for sources and ideas in combating it, and then realizing that many of those sources and ideas have little to do with combating Islamic extremism and everything to do with combating everyone outside a narrow scope of white protestants– rings true for me.

Islamic extremism is still a potent and deadly force in the world, but the main thing that this ‘controversy’ over the mosque has taught us is that those who have been, po-faced, claiming they just want moderate Muslims to speak up are utter liars. They do not even believe in the concept of moderate Muslims. They are anti-Muslim, and, in so being, are anti-American; thank god for the Constitution.

After Cordoba Controversy, It’s Time To Look In The Mirror

Building off of Stephen’s post on Jon Stewart revisiting his past transgressions, I thought it would be worth exploring how my own previous writing and those of others across the political spectrum provided an opening for the pure ugliness of Newt Gingrich, Pam Geller, Michelle Bachmann and the like in the wake of the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

In 2006, we saw a similar explosion with the 2006 acquisition of several American ports by Dubai Ports World. Like the construction of Cordoba House, it was a normal occurrence that had the misfortune of coming after an explosive controversy in which the role of Islam in Western society was at question: the violent eruption in the wake of the Jyllands Posten Mohammed cartoons published in Denmark.

The controversy over Cordoba House has the misfortune of coming only months after a militant Islamist website posted that Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, risked ending up “like Theo Van Gogh” after airing a very, very tame cartoon about the depiction of Mohammed which skewered the absurdity of the controversy more than anything to do with Islam itself.

Like the Danish cartoon controversy, the South Park controversy really irked people from across the political spectrum. Dan Savage, the uber-liberal gay rights activist from my hometown of Seattle, promoted “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” As much as I loved the concept when it first popped up, I have to admit that I’m rather ashamed of it now. Dan Savage may feel the same way, as the post is no longer available on The Stranger website where it was originally posted.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who I respect greatly and whose life story gives her every justification to hold her home religion in contempt, does exactly that. As much as I do respect her, her column on the South Park controversy retrospectively seems like an urging of precisely the reactionary fear mongering we’ve seen against Cordoba House:

Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.

I linked to Ali’s column when it was first written. If I had known that this mentality would have led to attacks on mosques throughout the country or modern day lynch mobs, I wouldn’t have done so. I’m not going to endorse such views in the future.

The same goes for this speech on Real Time by Bill Maher, which I cheered greatly when it aired but that I am now much more unsure of:

Muslims are a full 1% of the American population. Their beliefs range from secular traditionalism (observing Ramadan but infrequently attending mosque just as many Christians observe Easter and Christmas) to donning the nijab and living according to a rigid Koranic doctrine. In the last decade, we’ve seen a great level of intellectual output from Americans with Muslim backgrounds – Khaled Hosseini, Irshad Manji, the aforementioned Ali – and  unless we really want to completely alienate our Muslim fellow travellers, it would be best for all of us, including me, to rethink how we approach these issues.

In moderating his approach, Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs seems to be on the right path. A critic of jihadism during the Bush years, he broke from the right when he began to see people he respected joining up with Nazis and unapologetic racists. Having seen both sides, LGF is now a great staple in the building up of the pluralism necessary for a society in which we can all cohabitate. Let’s move away from the hate of the Pamela Gellers and into something more constructive.

Copyright Absurdity

This story isn’t really that significant, but it’s a case in point of copyright absurdity:

Madonna is being sued for using the name “Material Girl,” a reference to her hit 80s song, in her juniors clothing line designed with her daughter Lourdes. Clothing maker LA Triumph says it’s been using the name to market clothes since 1997. LA Triumph contends it makes similar clothes for the same market and claims it’s now at “a risk of being subsumed by Madonna’s profile, obvious worldwide notoriety.” Madonna’s line launched earlier this month with Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen as its face. The singer hasn’t commented.

As you may know, pop singer Prince found himself losing ownership of his own name when he left his record label, becoming an unpronounceable symbol and “The Artist Formerly Known As.” Comic book creator Alan Moore has had his creations made into several different films (The League of Extraordinary, From Hell, Watchmen), not one of which he has supported or even watched, according to interviews.

There’s alot of disagreement about copyright laws and I’m not sure what the consensus is at TLP, if there even is one. I’ll voice in by saying that the current copyright laws work for executives of corporations who distribute creative work and not those who actually create it.

There is an effort to combat this in the comic book industry, with a rise in “creator-owned” enterprises. A few of these include the Powers series by Marvel (written by Brian Michael Bendis), Bone by Jeff Smith and the Criminal series by Marvel (written by Ed Brubaker). DC also has its own line of creator owned series, which you may have heard of, called Vertigo.

The internet revolution has greatly reduced the concentration of power in the music industry away from the record labels, and the labels have used the artificial protection of copyright laws to try to stop change by prosecuting fans who download, artists who distribute their own music, etc. The freedom of information that the internet provides works for small time artists, but artists who sign with larger labels in hopes of obtaining wider distribution will continue to be selling their own creative rights away.

On Islam and the Middle East, Where is Pat Buchanan Coming From?

When I first heard Pat Buchanan talking about Palestine and Israel as a politically naive teenager, I thought he was a conservative who broke from the path because he thought the Palestinians had been mistreated. Things are obviously a lot more complicated than that.

Given Pat Buchanan’s proclamation that America is “a country built by white people” and his writing of an entire book called The Unnecessary War, a historical revisionist screed based on the absurd premise that Winston Churchill led Adolf Hitler into war, his declaration that there are “too many Jews on the Supreme Court” and his fear of “losing White America” (all of which is the tip of the iceberg for Buchanan) my own suspicions have arisen about where Buchanan is coming from. It seems as if he shares Mel Gibson’s ideology and sees the Palestinians as victims of another war started by the killers of Christ. Why else does he consistently stick up for one oppressed group but no other (like gays, for instance)?

As a person who generally thinks that freedom of religion is good and that people should be able to believe whatever it is that they want, I generally agree with Buchanan in this video:

However, politics does make strange bedfellows and it is easy, especially if governed by principle, to end up associated with a group you have little else in common with based on one or two issues. (This is an eternal curse for libertarians.) Buchanan, as an intellectual conservative, seems to know enough about history to find common sympathy with Muslims who are in conflict with Jews. He’s not the first European anti-semite to do so.

If you find yourself agreeing with Buchanan on policy towards Israel or Muslims, don’t. Read Edward Said’s Blaming the Victims instead, which was co-written by Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky (both of which are most definitely not harboring anti-semitism). If you find yourself in agreement on the insanity of many politicians’ responses to the building of a Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC, don’t. Read Christopher Hitchens’ article on the subject instead.

Pat Buchanan is apparently a really nice and cordial fellow, but he carries with him some wicked and nasty ideas and prejudices.

A Critique of the ACLU

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my defense of the ACLU, click here.

The ACLU frequently backs itself up as being in favor of the Constitution. If one frequents an urban center, fundraisers for the ACLU can be located with pins that say “I’m A Constitution Voter.”

Despite their fervent claimed support for the Constitution, however, the ACLU stands in direct support against the Second Amendment:

“The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court’s long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual’s right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms.”

There is a paradox deep in the constitutional anti-gun position. A people’s militia, of the Switzerland variety, is not one in which large stocks of munitions are held in government custody to be used by hired contractors. This is quite obviously not the intention of the writers of the constitution. There is a layer of intellectual dishonesty to shield yourself with the constitution while advocating an argument that runs counter to it.

A more troubling case comes with the case of New York v. Ferber. In this case, the ACLU defended Paul Ferber, who was arrested after he was found to be selling footage of boys masturbating at his adult bookstore. His bookstore was located in Manhattan, and therefore subject to New York State laws governing the sale of pornography, which banned any pornography with anyone below 16 years  old.

As a progressive organization, the ACLU was started by socialists reacting not only in outrage to the policies of intervention in Europe but also to anti-communist sentiment in the United States following the Russian Revolution. For an organization slated towards artificial economic reorganization to utilize selective defense of businessmen is one disappointing, but to use that selective defense to defend the indefensible is beyond the pale. Sexual abuse of minors in any form is an inexcusable crime.

From the Left and Right, Marijuana Legalization Faces Opposition

At this point in time, there is reason to be optimistic about marijuana legalization. Andrew Napalitano was able to get Sarah Palin to back the “lowest criminal priority” position on his show, while Oakland, California seems to be positioning itself into a future marijuana growth mecca with a local ordinance allowing industrial marijuana production in the city:

Oakland’s City Council passed a resolution late Tuesday night, which could make it the first city in the state to give official permission to the industrial marijuana production. The move is considered groundbreaking as it will ensure commercialization of a crop that is mainly cultivated in hidden gardens. “This is a monumental step forward,” said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and the longtime head of California NORML, which backs the legalization of marijuana. “It really means moving into the era of industrial-scale operations, and Oakland means to do it big.”

Meanwhile, liberal politicians from California, predictably disappointing on this issue, such as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, are coming out in opposition to legalization:

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior U.S. senator, has thrown her weight behind the effort to defeat Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010. Apparently Feinstein believes that California’s present pot prohibition, which was initially enacted in 1913 yet has done nothing to reduce the plant’s availability or use, is worth keeping.

If the double-headed behavior of the Left weren’t enough to give marijuana legalization supporters an aneurysm, the support of Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano and maybe even Sarah Palin isn’t enough to guarantee right-wing support to a final end to the failed drug war:

“Angry old Republicans are not our friends,” warned Dale Gieringer, executive director of the California chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He predicted “a very tough campaign” ahead for Tax Cannabis 2010, even without a right-wing rally. As libertarian and small government as they purport to be, the Tea Party-types are all-but-guaranteed conservative votes, votes that could tip the balance against Tax Cannabis 2010 — which in latest polls is scoring about “50-50,” according to Gieringer, who dropped the news Sunday during day two of the International Cannabis & Hemp Exposition at the Cow Palace on Saturday.

It’s unfortunate to see how unpredictable this initiative is. For bureaucratic educational reasons, I can’t vote while I’m here in California. I’m still registered in Washington state, so I have no voice on this issue except to urge people to go out and vote for Proposition 19. Our state already failed on same-sex marriage. We’d better not fail on this one.

We’re One Species

With economic times the way they are and a demographically changing society, I feel the ethnic tension flowing and the faucet turning, with boiling water threatening to pour on us all. This seems to be an eternal curse of perpetually tribal humanity, and secular humanists seem to be the only ones to not fall on some side of it’s disastrous nature.

As he battles cancer, Christopher Hitchens seems able to battle past the disabling effects of disease and address once humanity once again with reason:

And all this contains the true ingredients of tragedy—and of irony. One of the great advantages possessed by Homo sapiens is the amazing lack of variation between its different “branches.” Since we left Africa, we have diverged as a species hardly at all. If we were dogs, we would all be the same breed. We do not suffer from the enormous differences that separate other primates, let alone other mammals. As if to spite this huge natural gift, and to disfigure what could be our overwhelming solidarity, we manage to find excuses for chauvinism and racism on the most minor of occasions and then to make the most of them. This is why condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival.

This is the tragic flaw. With knowledge of our genetic roots, the reality of our lack of difference becomes undeniable. It is organized religion, with its emphasis on “chosen people,” fate and personality assigned by birthdate that keeps us locked in this death spiral.

For those who seem intent on turning this faucet of hate, I beg you to please stop. What do you expect to gain?

There Is Something Wrong With Mel Gibson

Celebrity gaffes can seem fairly meaningless. Celebrity behavior is normal human behavior: from pistol whipping (Eminem) to drug addiction (Robert Downey Jr.) to weird familial marriage (Woody Allen), the sort of human transgressions that would be at most private gossip among civilians becomes the world’s top news.

Given that, I think there is an underlying political importance to Mel Gibson’s continued episodes of hate. I don’t think Mel Gibson is just an eccentric, angry actor in the way Russell Crowe is. I think he and his father follow a continuous line of political thought that starts as far back as the Middle Age persecutions, moves toward Adolf Hitler and his stateside apologists and ends up at the like of David Duke, Pat Buchanan (coincidentally, or perhaps not, a Traditionalist Catholic fellow traveler of Hutton Gibson and his son who continues to appear on MSNBC despite having published a pro-Hitler revisionist screed), the Muslim Brotherhood and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Lines of political thought are a really good way of assessing your own political beliefs and making sense of the chaotic political spectrum. Generally speaking mine follow the line of Leon Trotsky, George Orwell and on toward Christopher Hitchens.)

It would be one thing if Gibson’s rough rhetoric were a personal problem. Unfortunately his father shares it:

In his interview on WSNR radio’s Speak Your Piece, to be broadcast on Monday, Hutton Gibson, argued that many European Jews counted as death camp victims of the Nazi regime had in fact fled to countries like Australia and the United States.

“It’s all — maybe not all fiction — but most of it is,” he said, adding that the gas chambers and crematoria at camps like Auschwitz would not have been capable of exterminating so many people.

“Do you know what it takes to get rid of a dead body? To cremate it?” he said. “It takes a litre of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million of them? They (the Germans) did not have the gas to do it. That’s why they lost the war.”

Gibson’s homoerotic sadomasochistic torture flick The Passion of the Christ can be found in evangelical households across America, watched as frequently as geeks re-watch Star Wars. Watching Gibson’s film is a constant reinforcement of anti-Semitism; the film portrays the Romans as a helpless bureaucratic body that is forced in to crucifying Jesus Christ in order to appease bloodthirsty Jews. Gibson’s portrayal of the Jews is a narrative as old as Christianity itself and played no small role in their historical persecution.

In that film, Gibson wasn’t just channelling his own madness. Despite the pretty overwhelming support of the worst elements of Israeli messianism, American evangelicals, devout Catholics and other stringent followers of Jesus of Nazareth are not without strong shades of anti-Semitism. (After all, they don’t believe in the savior!) Jerry Falwell was known for making crass jokes about the fiscal habits of Jews while plopping out gems like “The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.” In a public spat with his friend and the very intelligent religious/political commentator Dennis Prager (who is also Jewish, as it happens), Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson was able to get Prager (who has done no small act in addressing anti-Semitism) to admit that Pat Buchanan and other elements of the Right are anti-Jewish.

When you hear about Gibson accosting a Jewish police officer or hear a tape of him ranting about how his wife will get “raped by a bunch of niggers” or rallying against “wetbacks,” you’re not just hearing a crazy person. You’re hearing the sick, intolerant, tribal and morally vacant core of Christianity.

Christopher Hitchens Diagnosed With Cancer

I should honestly not be blogging right now but this required my attention. I have some bad news for those who like having an intellectually engaging political climate. Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. From Michael J. Totten:

Damn.

Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer. According to the Washington Post, he has been “advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me.”

Some thought he published his new book Hitch-22: A Memoir a bit prematurely. I hope they’re right.

Get better, Christopher.

From getting literally beat up by thugs in Beirut after pulling down a nationalist poster to traveling to the worst troublespots of the world, Hitchens put his words to reality in a way that has set him distinctly apart from other writers and pundits. While I’m not an atheist, I distinctly appreciate the message of God is not Great, which took to task the corruption and perverse history of organized faith. From taking on the pedophilia of the Catholic Church to the oppression of Islam, Hitchens wasn’t afraid to critique those who are often taken to be untouchable.

I’m hoping that he pulls through. Without him, the discourse in this country (and globally) is going to get even dumber than it already is.

North Korea’s Mysterious Soccer Team

The intelligence digest Stratfor has a really thought provoking article up about the mystery surrounding North Korea’s soccer team:

North Korea is the most mysterious of all the teams to compete in the 2010 World Cup. As in soccer, so it is in geopolitics. Before the tournament started, no one outside North Korea knew what to expect of the team. There is little reliable intelligence on what goes on inside the country whether it’s soccer or anything else. The secretive communist state keeps its doors closed tight and maintains total control of news media. Paid actors, not real North Korean fans, have made up the team’s audience in South Africa. The one reliable way to gauge the North is to expect the unexpected: last time the DPRK participated in the World Cup — in 1966 — it surprised everyone by blasting through to the quarterfinals.

The first match in 2010, against Brazil, exemplified North Korea’s geopolitical strategy and tactics. Few would have guessed that North Korea was capable of competing with Brazil, the team that has won the most World Cup championships. But for decades the same combination of uncompromising loyalty to the group and the element of surprise have enabled Pyongyang to maintain power despite being surrounded by the likes of greater powers — the United States, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea.

This is not to exaggerate North Korea’s strengths — its economy is a shambles, and despite its military’s size, its capabilities are limited. Fear of defeat by foreign competition is why the North rarely ventures abroad, earning the nickname the “Hermit Kingdom.” Pyongyang knows that public humiliation could weaken the group morale that is essential for the regime to survive. But as with its array of missile tests, it is at least able to use the team’s participation on the global stage as domestic propaganda.

North Korea’s presence in an international sporting event like the World Cup sounds very analogous to the emphasis by Saddam Hussein and his sons on the Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team, who were famously tortured by Uday Hussein when they failed to meet expectations, and the Soviet Olympic Teams, which utilized the Olympic Games as another means to try to best the west. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, the political proxy nature of the World Cup should be fascinating enough to illicit at least nominal interest in the event.

This Week In Linguistic Gymnastics

I’m not the first person to notice how important a role linguistics play in politics – George Orwell’s classic 1984 provided keen observations into the role that minimization of language plays in closing political discourse. In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell stated, “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

As a writer, first and foremost, the linguistic abuse that regularly metastasizes in politics is of particular note. Those who don’t share the passion for writing don’t tend to notice it, and so don’t get when they’re being duped. Hopefully this regular column, which I’ll publish each week, will shed light on the sort of verbal athletics that are regularly played.

“The Democrat Party” – I’m not a fan of either political party but I can’t help but notice this particular note of disrespect coming from the Republicans. It’s often said that you should call a group what they call themselves, and the phrase “Democrat Party” is a term no Democrat uses and which is obviously used to downgrade. In a tense interview with George Stephanopoulos, Rand Paul used the phrase with particular anger, demonstrating his ascendance into Republican partisanship.

Republican Names – It dawned on me recently – Republican politicians often seem to have either single or few syllable names: Paul Ryan, George Bush, Ron Paul, Rand Paul. While searching for the meaning of this phenomenon, I can only espouse it to a further illustration of the culture war – on one side, the Democrats, a leader with a name like Barack Hussein Obama II (whose Kenyan and Arabic names combined with American citizenship symbolize multiculturalism) and on the other, the Republicans, a leader with a name like Sarah Louise Palin, the simple charm of which matches the woman’s personality and upbringing.

“Obamacare” derogatory? – While this story is a little bit old, it’s worth bringing up simply because it will be relevant in the future. Daily Show host Jon Stewart pulled the card of saying Obamacare was “derogatory:”

Stewart immediately jumps on O’Hara’s slip, calling him out on using the “derogatory” phrase and firing back by referring to O’Hara’s book as a “tea-bagger book.” O’Hara stammers for a few seconds and tries to defend his word choice, but concedes to calling it the health-reform bill instead. (It’s a law, by the way.)

With the letter “g” used twice in the middle of “tea-bagger,” the phrase is a little too much like two very politically incorrect terms for sexual and ethnic minorities. Stewart is a comedian, of course, and such a term isn’t offensive enough to make him a bad guy. However, while not a bad guy, he is a hypocrite. How on earth is “Obamacare” derogatory while “tea-bagger” isn’t? Does Stewart prefer one sort of derogatory over another? If you go down that logical road, surely some servicemen must have found it upsetting to hear their mission in Iraq called “Mess-O-Potamia” regularly by Stewart.

Twitter – I am normally not a technophobe. I loved the Economist article critiquing Barack Obama’s rant against technology. Given that, you can’t be absolutely fundamentalist about anything, so it must be said that Twitter is not a means to a literate society. With each tweet limited to 140 letters, comments are limited in their meaning in addition to their length. A quick look at my Twitter main page found these gems of literary genius:

i wish i could just kamehameha ppl when i felt like it.

Nine-year-old boy invents better buns for bratwursts, wins admiration of world [Cool]

Shut Up You Fucking Baby! #FaveDavidCrossAlbumAndActualThoughtIAmHavingAboutMyBabyRightNow

[Jun-17]-Equities: Analysis of the Current Situation and Prospects in the Chinese CWSF Market: SHANGHAI, June 17 /… http://bit.ly/aKTMET

We already have a highly visual based reductionist talking point culture, which has enabled mental midgets like Sarah Palin to positions of influence that would have been laughable years ago. Take a look at old issues of Life Magazine and you’ll find the quality of prose more representative of today specialized digests like Lapham’s Quarterly in its quality than People magazine or Newsweek. In many ways, our society is ahead, but in terms of the average American’s language capacity, I’m afraid to say we’re falling behind.

Hayek Sales Skyrocket

Today I got this message from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation:

I hope your summer is off to a great start! If, like me, you’re a fan of free-market economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom just hit #1 on Amazon, this has been an exciting week.

It’s true! The Cato Institute has been reporting skyrocketing sales over at their blog, providing an illuminating quote from Professor Bruce Caldwell of Duke University:

In the end, however, I think that the underlying reason for the sustained interest in Hayek’s book is that it taps into a profound dissatisfaction in the public mind with the machinations of its government. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over huge growth in the size of the federal government and in the size of the federal deficit, with little obvious effect on unemployment. Things seem out of control.

I am not a fan of him at all, but one key aspect to Hayek’s rise in sales is Fox News host Glenn Beck. Beck had an extensive discussion of the late economist’s work on his show last week. With an audience of millions, Beck probably played no small role in helping Hayek shoot up to #1 on Amazon.

All I can say is that I am glad to see such economic education occurring. John Stossell has been revisiting Milton Freidman as well. Given that, new times deserve new thinkers and new economic thought and debates would be especially prescient now. Where are the programs like Freidman’s excellent PBS program “Free to Choose?”

For further learning, I personally recommend Christopher Hitchens’ talk with Russ Roberts on George Orwell on the show EconTalk. Roberts and Hitchens parlay through the relevance of Hayek, and Hitchens’ assessment of Hayek’s economic analysis, which is brought up in regards to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech that got him canned by the British electorate in 1945, fits mine pretty well.

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