Friday, March 27, 2015

18 Links to Mark Leibovich's “This Town” and Other Politics

I’ll explain next week, on April Fool’s Day, why Facebook deciding to build UFOs is the perfect time to transition from frequent use of that social media site to occasional blogging. But before that big dose of philosophical sobriety, a round-up of wackier political notes:

1. Ted Cruz, one of the most tolerable members of an evil government, announced his presidential run, and the negative reaction from New York’s own Rep. Peter King may be the best part.

2. Rand Paul, prepping for his own probable run starting the week after next, sounds more pro-military lately. (Admittedly, imperial military might can look awesome, as this RV Star Destroyer does.) But just as there are ways to signal that you’re sympathetic to Christians without, say, endorsing a constitutional amendment against abortion at the federal level, there are ways to show that you take (true) national defense seriously and respect the military without calling for more spending.

That’s socialist thinking. It’s at least not obviously libertarian thinking. Still, he’s about as good as it gets in the current field, and in a blog entry slightly later than the April Fool’s Day one, I’ll have some final thoughts on pre-presidential-candidate Rand Paul.

3. Oddly fascinating and far less fluffy than some of you might expect: a grilling by Glenn Beck of Grover Norquist on the latter’s Muslim ties makes free-market/democratic outreach efforts on Islam look almost as fraught with peril as CIA/military blundering.

4. Damon Root sticks to the long view on libertarian/conservative tensions (like the inherently fusionist Federalist Society at which I saw him speak), describing the pros and cons of judicial activism from a libertarian perspective in his book Over-Ruled: The Long War for Control of the Supreme Court.

5. Charles C.W. Cooke’s Conservatarian Manifesto is here reviewed by a quasi-conservative reviewer at The Week, who contrasts the book with the “spasm of self-delusion” that was liberal-tarianism.

6. If you’re moderate or liberal, you might find all the characters mentioned above more palatable if you think of their (and my) government-shrinking goals as the alternative to the big-government, bloated, corporate-money-sucking cesspool described in the great, hilarious, alarming book This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral -- Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! -- in America's Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich.

You might literally find yourself wanting to vomit as you read its account of the well-connected getting farther ahead, in terms of fame, money, and influence, simply for being unscrupulous insiders in DC, where even funerals are networking opportunities. And it’s not one party or the other. Once you glimpse how things really work, you realize the politicians, lobbyists, and staffers constitute one party – and you are not a member of it.

They actually seem to feel much closer to each other than they do to their constituents. Leibovich, who is chief national correspondent for the New York Times yet no mere tool of the left, observes with barely-concealed horror the arrogance that the political class displays toward anyone not lavishly subsidizing their campaigns and pet projects – noting, for instance, the recurring refrain among Obama insiders that the man would get elected and reelected with 70 or 80% of the vote if only he were governing some country other than the damn U.S. If only!

7. Yet one gets the impression that even the Obama people are aghast these days at the way Hillary Clinton rolls around in suspicious money.

8. And her husband Bill Clinton is fishy in that and other ways, of course.

9. Despite some similarities between the two power-loving towns, I think DC folk would be shocked to discover New York City’s idea of decadence is more like this.

10. But maybe the increasingly narcotic pop culture serves only to distract us from mushrooming government power – and in this video, I think, oft-mocked Alex Jones makes his most earnest, coherent case that those of who aren’t as paranoid as he is ought to start waking up. He may be right.

11. As a March 11 event hosted by the Atlas Foundation underscored and the documentary Poverty Inc. argues, even the most noble-sounding international institutions and well-meaning government or charitable efforts can have devastating effects.

12. Sometimes the bad ideas are fully conscious and intentional, though. Check out the Green Party’s platform in the UK.

13. Environmentalist and globalist-establishment thinking can combine in creepy ways without most of the public even noticing, I now fear, as with this UN-backed Agenda 21 ad that sure as hell seems to be asking the elderly to die for the sake of reducing the Earth’s population.

14. The UN is creepy in numerous ways, and it’s nice to see Jonah Goldberg contrast the UN’s view of “social justice” with Hayek’s in this very basic video. We need things like that.

15. Politicians aren’t all-powerful, though. Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, has to put up with Jimmy Kimmel asking about UFOs.

16. And again, next month’s blogging will begin with that very topic, but for well-roundedness and to avoid insanity, go see the James “the Amazing” Randi documentary An Honest Liar as well. Randi is the one person I’ve long called a hero and inspiration to me, using his magician skills to debunk paranormal claims by such frauds as faith-healers, so-called psychics, and cable-TV ghost-hunters.

But the film also shows him facing the even deeper mystery of immigration court.

17. Randi’s also a guy who was denounced by climate alarmists several years ago just for expressing cautious doubts about their claims. The most intellectually honest people I know tend to keep doing that, regardless of understandable concern about decades-hence coastal flooding (though that doesn’t seem to worry the government enough for it to simply stop subsidizing coastal flood insurance, even as it comes up with other, vastly more expensive abatement ideas and regulatory regimens for us). Of course, we may also suffer reductions in the number of precious snowflakes in Seattle and other effects.

Still, it was a rather frightening thing to see Randi badgered by former fans into making an (unusually humble) apology for having dared to question something, the way we skeptics do. Those sorts of apologies will be demanded of us more and more frequently, I fear. In this as in other things, though, Randi will remain my hero, occasionally bending like a spoon, perhaps, but never truly breaking.

18. Those of us of a vaguely fusionist bent are of course open to debate on topics like the proper role, if any, for regulation, so I look forward to attending this coming Tuesday’s 6pm debate about the FDA at the bar Irish Exit hosted by the America’s Future Foundation, which asks the proper question: shrink or abolish?

It’s important to come at these thorny issues with an open mind.

Monday, March 9, 2015

12 Thoughts More or Less Inspired by Roger Hodge’s “The Mendacity of Hope”

OK, since Facebook can (and does) easily degenerate into bickering or meaningless posts about porn, cats, superheroes, the war between the sexes/races, food, and jiu-jitsu, I now present slightly deeper looks, once a week here on the blog, at books. Really. Albeit it briefly.

1. If you want live, in-person debate, though, The Nation and the New America Foundation are co-hosting a panel discussion tonight (RSVP here to join me in the audience) featuring my friend Sam Goldman, about the rather abstract and very highbrow question of whether we have exhausted old cultural ideas and are in desperate need of new ones, as Gramsci warned ninety years ago.

The talk is tonight at 6:30-8:15pm at the New America Foundation (199 Lafayette St. in Soho in Manhattan), but I now realize it’s also in the same building as the newly-opened Central Perk coffee shop, inspired by Friends. So you see the irony.

(Meanwhile, the discussion of the future of trashy pulp literature going on over at Half King bar at 505 W. 23rd at 7pm doesn’t look Half Bad, either, but I can't be in two places at the same time, as far as you know.)

2. But maybe you don’t see the irony in the cultural exhaustion/Central Perk juxtaposition.

Liberals, especially in NYC, tend to claim conservatives are the ones who can’t see irony – but, man, just watch what happens if, for example, a Republican politician, attempting to make the simple point that wolves are dangerous, says that releasing wolves in some congressional districts would decrease the number of homeless (I trust you see the point of his joke).

Watch, behold, see – as liberals with PhDs or media-analyst columnist gigs fall all over themselves to interpret the remark utterly literally for us all: HE WANTS TO USE WOLVES TO KILL THE HOMELESS!! THIS IS WHAT REPUBLICANS THINK!! Yet the liberals want me to think Grandma’s the stupid one for not knowing Colbert’s a comedian, right? Liberals love to imagine all their foes are ignoramuses. Makes the imagined fight easier. No more of that arrogance, please.

3. But speaking of old pop culture: yes, it’s the twenty-freaking-fifth anniversary of the Peter Murphy single “Cuts You Up” (the album was the very end of ’89 but the single March ’90) and Social Distortion’s “Story of My Life.”

4. Over roughly that same span of time, both liberals and conservatives have had a generation in which to imagine that their own ideology might become dominant in the post-communist world. Understandably, when conservatives aren’t getting their way, they tend to assume liberals are exultant and winning – and vice versa. The truth, which I think is rapidly becoming more apparent to more people, is that no one with any principles or philosophical integrity is getting his way in politics.

Stop imagining a pendulum, stop imagining a seesaw. Certainly stop imagining a dialectic. Now just picture a gigantic, miles-high revolving door – and passing through it, powerbrokers who don’t give a sweet goddam whether their next big gig is in a corporate boardroom, a well-connected non-profit, their own lucrative PR shop, a wasteful domestic arm of big government, or the Pentagon. They will still rule and you will not.

That is roughly the creepy, deeply disillusioning world described by Roger Hodge in his 2010 critique of President Obama (and others) called The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism. I enjoy (and not in a sadistic way, mind you) reading these occasional reminders that the left is just as unhappy about how things work as anyone on the right or among libertarians, or for that matter among all those ostensibly-pragmatic moderates who wish people would set aside their differences and yadda yadda yadda.

Sure, Obama has done things like veto Keystone, the bastard, but see him – and his vast array of large, familiar corporate donors – through Hodge’s idealistic eyes and he still looks like (and is) just a slightly different flavor of deal-making statist/corporate tool. The long list of banks and hedge funds and mega-corporations who made Obama’s campaigns possible, as Hodge shows, doesn’t sound much different than the one you’d expect to see for his Republican opponents, aside from the labor unions.

Not coincidentally, Hodge’s lament sounds a great deal like that of his fellow former Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham in the book The Wish for Kings, both men being evidence that there is still a real Jeffersonian streak on the left with which libertarians like me can sympathize – people who recognize that America seemed destined for some mix of freedom and/or egalitarianism but at some point during its arguing over those ideals got duped into turning over both the cash and the levers of political power to a ruling elite who don’t actually give a damn about any of those topics.

The sooner we admit it (and by my reckoning we’re almost exactly one century overdue), the better.

5. Obama still has his uses, and though I may not gush about the novelty of a biracial president the way the left does, I recognize that is something that goes in the plus column and teaches some people a valuable lesson. Furthermore, apparently psychologists have done studies showing it really is commonplace, whether you like it or not, for biracial people to be considered more attractive than others (sorry, you can’t argue with instinct, whatever its evolutionary roots might be).

Thus, I am probably not the only one who kinda wants to have sex with both these twin sisters now (simultaneously, obviously). Perhaps it’s some sign of instinctual seeking of novel gene-mixing opportunities. Really, there are scientists studying that sort of thing. Or it just means I came of age when Lisa Bonet and Sheilah E were on TV a lot.

6. But speaking of hybridization, lest I sound unable to overcome the right/left divide alluded to above, let me say, as I sometimes do, that Occupy is not so far wrong. You can’t read the Hodge book (written on the very eve of Occupy’s creation) and doubt that anger directed at corporate-government collusion and bailouts is warranted.

Hell, I’ll go farther than that, though. Despite my frequent criticism of left-anarchist (and math-hater) David Graeber, I would be delighted, like him and many of my fellow anarchists, to see a global “Jubilee” declared in which debts and past legal rules were erased and we began anew – if the prevailing post-Jubilee legal rule (privately enforced, of course, in this hypothetical world without government) were respect for property rights.

The alternative, whether it looks like a monarch or a mob, will always be some form of collectivism running roughshod over the individual, and left-anarchists aren’t the real friends of the individual (and the individual’s freedom) until they acknowledge that hurdle – and admit that it’s a very practical one, not just some metaphysical restriction arbitrarily foisted on the world by Ayn Rand or closet fascists.

Think of me, in my willingness to contemplate a change that radical but very wary of replicating the last hundred years of Progressive corporate-state collusion, as a sort of double-secret backwards – but also inverted – Progressive, if you will. Quite philosophically straightforward, really.

Or at least, the old leftist guy seated next to me on the bus to Connecticut while I was reading Mendacity of Hope seemed to think there might be common ground. That’s a start. I’ll build from there.

And lest my fellow libertarians ever feel as if the whole apparatus of the state is on the left’s side, do keep in mind the FBI won’t even tell the public who it was who was reportedly plotting to kill Occupy leaders a while back. There does come a point when the regime cares less about the radicals’ rightward or leftward desires than about making sure radicalism in general is contained, whether by means internal or external to the radical movements, and the boat is thus unrocked.

7. If you don’t believe the elite can dispense with all its apparent internal divisions when there is money and power at stake, how exactly do you explain media tycoon Chris Ruddy, originally famous for spreading those 90s conspiracy theories about Vince Foster being murdered, donating $1 million to Vince Foster’s ex-bosses the Clintons via their increasingly-infamous foundation? Well, maybe he’s hoping if he pays them enough, they won’t kill him.

8. Closer to home and on a less grandiose scale, libertarian-leaning NYC Councilman Dan Halloran got sentenced to ten years for what amounts to soliciting bribes. You may recall that in addition to being a rare Republican councilman here, he’s also a Norse-style neopagan – and sadly, it now appears he may be in the joint by the time Thor is on the big screen again.

A left-leaning, hippie-style neopagan in Austin, TX warned me the neopagan community was worried Halloran would embarrass them eventually. I know the feeling. Here’s hoping he gets out one day soon, though, and still achieves his dream of becoming a scuba instructor.

9. The new fashion in radicalism seems to be p.c. etiquette-enforcement on steroids, something I think will ultimately just prove annoying to the right, largely useless to the left, and baffling to the general population.

We now live in a society so left-wing and brain-addled by that specific metric that (as Justin Stoddard notes) people do things like produce videos condemning an evil man for taking up two subway seats (and thus abusing his supposed privilege) even while there is visibly a woman nearby in the same video taking up three subway seats and blocking the aisle. Can’t let the evidence of your own eyes get in the way of a liberal narrative, after all. Smash that patriarchy.

Meanwhile, if you use your video skills to expose real corruption, as journalist James O’Keefe has repeatedly done, your reward for your efforts is getting confronted by leftists like this.

10. There would seem to be ample opportunity for libertarians to weigh in about all the ways in which America is now insane, but libertarians aren’t very adept at connecting with public sentiment or riding the zeitgeist, mostly just at sounding half-assed and sold-out.

If you’re like me, you’d largely forgotten the Libertarian Party (a mere subset of the larger movement) exists since the rise of Rand Paul and other libertarians to prominence within the Republican Party, but some idiot at the Libertarian Party’s official Facebook page made a grab for relevance with a post calling for “No more Bushes, Pauls, or Clintons,” as though Rand’s dad Ron Paul spent his days in Congress being just another money-grubbing dynastic statist.

If I was uncertain before, now I know I can guiltlessly ignore the LP, and I don’t expect to mention them again. The search for better ways continues.

11. There are times when it seems as if the only way to predict what government will do is to assume that it is neither right nor left, neither pro-radical nor pro-establishment but simply consistently wrong and dangerous. How else does one explain things like the Department of Justice hiring a man who said Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves to die? Whose side is the government on, exactly, if one still insists on asking questions like that?

One has to suspect chaos and violence, of any stripe, just sound like a good idea to the government.

12. And yet even the establishment gets something right once in a while, usually on the rare occasions it engages in self-criticism. With that in mind, by the week after next, I’ll take a look at a great book by the chief national correspondent of the New York Times, I kid you not: Mark Leibovich’s DC-dissecting, nausea- and laughter-inducing overview This Town

Monday, March 2, 2015

“Dear Reader” Author Michael Malice Inspires, Etc.

1. I only blogged one day in February – and will stick to just doing weekly book reviews here for the next four months – so to compensate and smooth the transition, let’s start March with thirty-one brief thoughts (read one per day if you like, to make it last longer!) – with half of the thoughts below inspired by my friend Michael Malice, author of Dear Reader (those thoughts indicated with a parenthetical “M!” because, well, it would just be weird to leave you wondering which ones).

2. First, I declare March a “MONTH OF DECADENCE” on this blog, during which I’m blogging about books on political excess in North Korea, in the Obama administration, and in Washington, DC in general.

3. This should set the tone nicely for the four months of book reviews, which, I’m warning you now, will all relate, directly or indirectly, to libertarianism.

4. Indeed, those will be my only blog entries until overhauling this site and my general online presence for grander purposes, in a few months.

5. If you happen to be a libertarian moneybags who thinks the four months of book-blogging sounds like a cause worthy of subsidy, by all means contact me. I do not pretend to have set up an “institute” for this or anything, but the rent must be paid nonetheless, and the ghostwriting only goes so far.

6. This emphasis on books is partly meant as an antidote to the last few years of social media seemingly leading to ever-shorter attention spans and ever-shorter tempers. I will aim for more contemplation and less arguing.

7. Since tribalism leads to shorter fuses, the less-frequent blogging will also continue my trend toward de-emphasizing the right/left divide.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not buying into the glib and recurring claim that all such philosophical labels are meaningless – and the distinction will inevitably still crop up for a long time to come – but if one opposes, say, the welfare state, imperialism, taxation, rape, cop militarization, violent street gangs, affirmative action, terrorists, anti-prostitution laws, domestic spying, the drug war, bank and corporate bailouts, and alternative energy subsidies, maybe sorting those items into two separate columns before denouncing all of them is an exercise that does more to prolong intra-statist conflict than to promote anti-statism.

You can still sort them if you like. I don’t think it’s very productive, and it took me years to realize how strongly people prefer the sorting to the (more important) opposing.

8. Permit me, for old time’s sake, though, to take some last-minute pleasure in seeing that at the most recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate here in NYC, about whether liberalism stifles speech on campus, the conservative (so to speak) view won one of the most decisive victories I’ve ever seen reported from one of those debates, with the crowd swinging from only 1/3 before the debate believing liberalism stifles to 2/3 believing it after the debate.

Impressive – and as it happens, Jerry Mayer, who was a Republican back when we were at Brown but is left-leaning now that he’s a political science professor at George Mason, was on the losing side, while my fellow libertarian Greg Lukianoff from the group FIRE was on the winning team.

9. The two preceding comments were an admission, always dangerous in a political context, that my thinking has changed a bit over time – which reminds me of a far more trivial, practical complaint I have left over from the past few years immersed in social media.

Almost as annoying as sites (often for restaurants or big concerts) that don’t get you quickly and easily on the front page to the very-basic “Where is it? When?” info (and in the case of NYC events, “What’s the damn cross street?!”) are online articles with no dates on them – and group blogs written in the first person that don’t indicate who the hell is writing the entries. We want information, Internet.

10. The book I mentioned at the outset, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, is not only a masterful depiction of what the strange, authoritarian North Korean regime probably looks like to its leaders, it is an impressively unsettling blend of funny and dark. The basic formula behind the book’s creation, and something you won’t quite get from any other book in existence, was a trip by author Malice to North Korea and a trip back home to the U.S. with arms full of their propaganda.

What happens when you use (often ludicrous and overblown) propaganda deadpan, as if it’s all completely accurate, to build the first-person story of leader Kim’s life (the one in between the founding grandfather and the current ruling grandson, for those who can’t keep track)? Will the result make you more sympathetic to the regime than ever? More horrified by it? A little of both?

You’ll have to read it and see, then perhaps have students buy a hundred copies for the college class on political rhetoric that you teach, if you do. I suspect Kim’s longing to see a rainbow in one scene also owes a little something to that Mr. Burns biography from an early episode of The Simpsons, but that can be covered in a different class.

Malice says one thing that made him keen to visit North Korea was his own birth in Soviet-era Ukraine and his parents’ memories of living under Communist totalitarianism. Such things are not mere history in North Korea, though it is a thing unto itself. (M!)

11. One nice thing about dealing with Eastern European immigrants in the U.S. is that they haven’t forgotten socialism kills, the way many in the West are rapidly forgetting whatever little they learned back in 1989 on that topic.

Here in New York, the state that’s ranked dead last for freedom due to taxes and regulations, you’re surrounded by leftists all the time, so you almost start to believe you’re the only person who remembers that communism killed 100 million people last century. After all, here the Mayor’s a “social democrat” with old Sandinista ties, and 70% of New York voters still voted for him.

Ah, but then you talk to an Eastern European – especially one who notices the rhetoric coming out of the mouths of socialist college professors (and socialistic U.S. presidents) is very similar to what they heard back in the old country – and you realize that not all has yet been forgotten, and not all hope yet dimmed. Thank goodness for immigrants. (M!)

12. Malice also taught me that early language orientation overseas may mean you have one more shade of “blue” in your bedsheets than native English speakers notice. This neurolinguistic topic is hot lately, of course, and the most drastic observation born of the recent talk is probably the revelation that the ancients had no “blue” at all! (M!)

13. On the other hand, I suspect there are limits to Ukrainian wisdom, not only because of that whole civil war thing going on over there but because a Ukrainian did this on a bridge. (M!)

14. As a former software expert, Malice was admirably cautious while others were leaping to conclusions last year about whether it was actually North Korea that was responsible for that Sony hack purportedly inspired by the Rogen/Franco spy comedy The Interview. Stay skeptical. (M!)

15. If you’re really wary of governments manipulating the Net, though, please stay skeptical about “Net neutrality” while you’re at it. Once government starts setting prices, it’s in charge. (M!)

16. Verizon’s parodic Morse code reaction to the old-fashioned Net neutrality regs was a nice, Uber-like example of companies’ willingness – which is by necessity growing in some quarters – to admit they‘re at odds with government. This nation could use a lot more open defiance.

17. Speaking of wacky spy caper movies, the trailer for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. sure resembles the one for Rian Johnson’s Brothers Bloom, if you ask me. Nothing wrong with that.

18. The cold-blooded, predictable stasis of the Cold War seems almost gentlemanly at times compared to likely-Islamist attackers killing an American “skeptic” blogger with machetes in Bangladesh (h/t Michael De Dora). What a clear confession they are not on the side of reason.

19. That doesn’t mean our every intervention abroad in the name of stopping such people will be beneficial, though, and it’s nice that Sen. Rand Paul got an enthusiastic response at this year’s CPAC in part by reminding the crowd that a government chronically inept in its domestic activities will likely be inept in its foreign adventures as well.

20. There will be those antiwar types who, by contrast, feel no sympathy for Netanyahu as he makes his address to Congress Tuesday morning, but surely even the most ardent anti-interventionist will at least agree (as I trust Rand Paul does) that intervening against Israel, as Obama reportedly threatened to do (if there is any basis at all to that story), would be even more insane than attacking Iran.

Libertarians can recognize Israel’s right to self-defense and, say, still defend Muslims from harassment by Tea Party-ish anti-Muslims if need be, as apparently libertarians did in Texas (h/t Meredith Kapushion and Gary Chartier). There’s no contradiction there.

21. Speaking of war zones, to me the most amusing thing to come out of David Corn and others picking apart Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations about his travels (even if some of the criticisms might be hairsplitting) were reports that witnesses placed O’Reilly in Dallas at a time when he claimed to be across the country visiting a suicidal associate of Lee Harvey Oswald. That phrasing almost makes it sound as if O’Reilly had something to do with the JFK assassination besides writing a book about it! Trust no one.

22. Back in North Korea, they would probably say it’s time for O’Reilly to engage in remorseful self-criticism at a weekly mandatory struggle session – and we almost have those here now anyway, except they usually consist of children apologizing to classmates for being privileged, or to the Earth for letting their parents drive cars. (M!)

23. The law doesn’t quite mandate such behavior yet – but neither was (fascistic) former mayor Giuliani wrong in saying (socialistic) Obama grew up influenced by communists, and like (ex-Sandinista) Mayor de Blasio, Obama still got elected, so who knows what the future will bring? (M!)

24. Oh, how far we’ve come since the days of Hamilton, who is often lauded by Malice (to the consternation of many libertarians who view Hamilton as the big-government guy amidst America’s Founders). Hamilton is the subject of a fantastic rap musical soon to move from Off-Broadway to Broadway. There really were laughs, tears, catchy numbers, and real historical lessons learned. (M!)

25. Malice’s musical tastes usually lean, like mine, more toward the New Wave and indie, though – leading to things like his near-obsession years ago with the obscure “cowpunk” band Rubber Rodeo.

But his is a diverse mental world, and to find out what’s on his mind lately, seek him out in venues like the Fox Business Network show Kennedy or on the site ThoughtCatalog, for which he wrote this piece denouncing the social awkwardness of Lyft. Remember, just because it’s created by the admirable free market doesn’t mean it’s not embarrassing. This simple rule applies to most things in America, actually. (M!)

26. Often playing the mischievous badboy, Malice sometimes sounds as if he’d be delighted if his enemies killed themselves, but it’s probably more scary that the people who actually encourage others to commit suicide send warm glowy tweets like these. Now that’s sociopathic! (M!)

27. And if you’re a conservative and conclude that what Malice needs is religion, note this article he pointed out about a prominent leftist coming out as Christian, namely Wonkette founder Ana Marie Cox – an alarming reminder that religion is pretty useless as a predictor of political ideology, and thus perhaps useless in general. (M!)

28. Despite North Korea having its own brand of politicized quasi-religion, with all sorts of supernatural powers ascribed to the ruling Kims, Malice often reminds people that that country is no mere zany joke. The populace is routinely starved, terrorized, and imprisoned, while we bicker over political trivialities in other parts of the world or laugh at North Korean leaders’ haircuts. (M!)

30. In other authoritarian news, from the land of Malice’s birth, Putin is oddly loved by some – leading, I notice, to some of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ fans being convinced it must have been the U.S. (and/or the Jews) who killed opposition politician Nemtsov, leaving his Ukrainian girlfriend behind.

As with the 9/11 “truthers,” I’m not sure how one combats the odd mental tick that leads people to think that any time someone appears to be killed by his enemies, it must instead have been his allies who did it. Stranger things happen, certainly, but how does it become people’s circuitous, counter-intuitive default assumption, even in the absence of any evidence?

What would the reasoning process look like if these people wrote mystery novels? “Eliminate the thoroughly possible for no reason at all, my good Watson, and the wildly unexpected is then your best bet.” I don’t think that’s quite what Holmes said. (M!)

31. Obama, and perhaps Putin, cannot even retain the love of this twelve year-old black child, nor can the child retain his access to Facebook after the site’s overlords inexplicably locked him out of his account following his (mild) anti-Obama, pro-Giuliani comments.

And I’m not just going back to Democrat-bashing when I say Obama really can be bad in corporate and socialist, imperialist and Islamist-sympathizing ways all at the same time. Every president, Republicans included, has to be a bit of a hodgepodge, after all, with consistent principles mostly getting in their way (at least senators and representatives have a smaller, more homogeneous district to please and thus might almost attain consistency).

And speaking of Hodge and Obama, next time let’s take a look at the former’s book about the latter, which indeed criticizes Obama’s corporate tendencies from the left. (Things will be a bit more focused and essay-like from here on out, I promise.)