waco_fireToday is the 21st anniversary of the holocaust that killed 76 Branch Davidians at Waco. And though their deaths have been politicized in a thousand different ways by now — and even used as an excuse to commit more mass murder — their deaths were real and they were completely unnecessary. And, regardless of who set the fire or how it happened, the fault lies with the federal agents and government officials who are tasked with legal force and who fell down so colossally on their jobs that day. Waco should be an issue of bipartisan horror, and in some ways it is. But there are people who still refuse to admit that it was more than just a battle cry for the anti-government fringe; that it was real, and it was wrong, and it didn’t need to happen at all.

A hundred years ago, or perhaps a decade, Rachel Maddow seemed like a reasonable, nuanced type of liberal. She and Tucker Carlson — who, even if you are not wild about the Daily Caller, is a fantastic magazine writer in his own right — used to have respectful, interesting debates on Carlson’s MSNBC show. Now Fox has turned MSNBC into the Fox of the Left — though arguably worse, since MSNBC were sniveling hacks during the war in Iraq; Fox at least hates the executive branch half the time — and Maddow has turned into the female Keith Olbermann, with the towering self-satisfaction to match.

I don’t particularly care that Maddow seems to be for some modicum of gun control, or even that she believes some type of federal agency should be in charge of enforcing some of those firearms laws. What disturbs me, and what makes me believe that Maddow has truly crossed over into the realm of pure partisan hack is how she talks about Waco or Ruby Ridge. Maddow seems barely able to recognize that those two tragedies involved the deaths of more than 80 people (including federal agents). She seems to believe that to reference Waco or Ruby Ridge with anger or as a remembrance of what government excess can do is simply a sign of right-wing extremism. Whether she believes that truly, or whether it is part of the act, isn’t really the point.

Though CNN’s shockingly one-sided “documentary” on Waco from last year cannot be beat in terms of excluding information that provides shades of gray or context, Maddow’s bizarre campaign to be best friends with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF, in common use) is still impressive in its dishonesty.

Take her piece from early 2013 about right-wingers who dislike the ATF. Besides making me like the NRA more than I ever have before by mentioning (clutch your pearls!) that they published something that called ATF agents “jack-booted thugs” a mere month after the Oklahoma City Bombing, Maddow also has a bizarre screed about how right-wingers think Waco was a conspiracy.

In the report, Maddow traces the history of fringe candidates in ’92, including Bo Gritz who helped to talk Randy Weaver into surrendering after an 11-day standoff at Ruby Ridge. Or, as Maddow put it a “violent, fatal standoff” — then she cuts to a contemporary news report on the situation, to make sure no larger context is available. The Weaver family is described as “hiding” in the cabin which they lived — that became a cause for the anti-government, far right. (Fine.)

Then she moves onto Waco, making sure to call David Koresh a cult leader (accurate in my mind, but a very loaded term — she says “four members of the cult were killed”) and the Davidians’ home a “compound.” Maddow doesn’t touch the fire controversy herself, she simply cuts to Tom Brokaw on April 19, 1993 talking about the apocalyptic messiah complex of Koresh and heavily suggesting he “took his followers with him.” Again, why bring in any uncomfortable nuance or context from 20 years on, when you can just sum up the situation with a media report from the day of the tragedy? (Sure, the press was kept a mile away and forced to depend on FBI press releases, but that’s no reason not to believe them.)

Now Maddow gets very strange. She says “what happened at Waco was an absolute nightmare. But on parts of the very far right — the anti-government, far-right fringe, it was seen not just as a a nightmare, but as a conspiracy — as a government conspiracy. As something that was ginned up and in fact faked by the government to create a big enough, scary enough, situation that it would justify taking away everyone’s guns.”

Her language choice is fascinating. The tamest possible acknowledgement that Waco equals bad was used — it was “a nightmare.” But then come the dire suggestions that anti-government folk think Waco was a conspiracy. How exactly? That it was a false-flag or something? She doesn’t say what she means exactly, but by merely mentioning “conspiracy” the lens shifts — suddenly viewers are thinking of Alex Jones’s wildest claims, not those found in Academy Award-nominated documentaries.

Some people do think it was a deliberate execution. I believe they are probably mistaken. Waco was “merely” criminal negligence, criminal homicide, assault, and a staggeringly high level of incompetence. But Maddow, by focusing on the unspecified crazies who seem to think Waco was a gun-grabbing excuse, doesn’t have to focus on any of that. She goes on to talk about then-Congressman Steve Stockman who also once wrote a piece on how Waco was an excuse for gun grabbing. This is what outrages Maddow — that a US Congressman would engage in such paranoid fearmongering. Paranoia — only slight paranoia — is the moral failing. Twenty melted children is a “nightmare.”

And now we’re on to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. McVeigh, not a militia member in spite of what Maddow said, went to Waco! He was angry about Waco! He hated the ATF! McVeigh, that asshole, made sure there would always be a tie between being mad about Waco and being suspicious. But someone actually smart — and God knows, Maddow thinks she’s smart, and is certainly book smart — can recognize that there is nothing strange about being horrified at Waco. Maddow doesn’t have the courage to just say she thinks it’s suspicious, she just presents all this in a faux-neutral manner. She thinks Waco was a “nightmare,” so she is fair.

Now, I didn’t follow the beginnings of the standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and agents from the Bureau of Land Management. According to Maddow last Wednesday (and various clips from pundits), Fox News was going a little crazy with the comparisons between Bundy Ranch and Waco. Although any kind of resistance to federal law enforcement instinctively goes there for some people, the comparisons are not always ideal. Certainly, if the Fox News pundits were rubbing their hands together in glee, it could be seen as bad taste — they want dead patriots to prove their own ideological points. (The clip includes comedian Tom Shillue noting that the folks in all these places were a little kooky, so yes, a reasonable government would BACK OFF). Nobody sensible wants that kind of bloodshed to happen again. But Maddow’s objection doesn’t seem to be about the victims of Waco whom she barely acknowledges. No, it’s about Fox News being paranoid about “jack-booted thugs” again. Again, paranoia and fear towards the government is the ultimate moral failing according to the MSNBC queen.

So, to demonstrate her true news bona fides on Wednesday, Maddow spent six minutes letting former ATF agent Jim Cavanaugh spout off about the dangerous cultists that he confronted in Waco. She doesn’t ask one single question that is remotely confrontational. She just lets him talk, then thanks him.

When researching my senior thesis on the media’s unquestioning narrative towards Ruby Ridge and Waco, one chapter in this compilation on Waco stood out and influenced my conclusions — the one that used Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.  I have yet to read the latter work, but in the chapter the authors note that the victims of Waco were not, to use Chomsky’s term on how the media treats certain people, “worthy victims.” They were, as is and was endlessly repeated, members of a cult. They were strange and heavily armed and dared to resist federal agents. The Weavers were racist. Koresh probably molested children.

And, there were no photographs of the Waco victims when they died. Their deaths were simply a burning building a mile away. Hell, before the fire the feds refused to release the video the Davidians shot during the siege to the media because it would humanize them too much.

The same can be said about most war victims, at least where the American press is concerned. This point was raised disturbingly eloquently by none other than Timothy McVeigh back in a 1998 essay. And McVeigh’s crimes at Oklahoma City were captured by the famous photo of the fireman holding a dead toddler. Naturally this made the victims of McVeigh true and worthy ones. Waco didn’t have that. Sam and Vicki Weaver didn’t have that. They were weirdos and victims of law enforcement. They “deserved” it.” Just like foreigners in countries the US chooses to invade.

Had the media been honest at Waco, they would simply have said, “We don’t know what happened, though law enforcement says X.” They didn’t do that. They treated — and continue to treat — law enforcement as ivory tower experts, instead of individuals with their own biases and agendas. And at Waco, where the press were corralled more than a mile away, trusting the very people who were infringing upon their access was particularly lapdog-like.

Maddow is free to advocate for gun control all she likes. But her inability to admit that the victims of Waco and Ruby Ridge were real people, not just dog-whistle causes for the anti-government fringe she fears, makes her a callous hack and a true journalist in the saddest, most craven definition of the word.

The best summation of Ruby Ridge, culturally-speaking, is by bluegrass musician Peter Rowan. Here is Dave Rawlings and Old Crow Medicine Show covering it:

“I got a wife and kids on Ruby Ridge/Please don’t shoot me down.” Human beings were there, human beings died at Mt. Carmel —  this is something Maddow seems completely unable to grasp because it gets in the way of her agenda.

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ob2James Kunstler is a brick-throwing leftie, but he’s had it with Barack Obama, the dissappointer in chief:

“Barack Obama, who I voted for twice, is on his way to becoming the worst US president in my lifetime, at least — and maybe in the whole cavalcade going back to the very start of the republic. I don’t want to get too sidetracked in this brief blog space today, but isn’t it stupendously asinine that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department and his SEC appointees only just last week became interested in the pervasive swindle of high frequency trading on Wall Street after author Michael Lewis went on 60 Minutes. Like, they hadn’t heard about this years-long orgy of front-running until now? Strange to relate, I actually might feel more comfortable if Vladimir Putin was massing troops on the Mexican side of the US border to keep Americans safe from our own bungling and destructive government.”

Thirty years ago Ronald Reagan disappointed me because he gave speeches like a libertarian but governed like a practical politician and didn’t do much of anything to reduce the size and scope of the federales, no matter what his followers say today.

Obama must be a huge disappointment to progressives and true believers like Kunstler (not the moronic masses who blindly voted).

After almost six years Obama has shown he was nothing but an attractive Chicago-style pol with the right skin color who could write nice speeches and read a TelePrompter real good.

Instead of bringing a socialist paradise to America, which is what his followers and haters both thought he would do, he’s just screwing up healthcare stuff and still doing evil military and financial stuff that any Republican could do.

Maybe it’ll be Obama who brings us the WWIII everyone thought RR was going to bring us by doing something stupid in Ukraine (this time, unlike Syria, he won’t have Putin around to save his intervening ass).

He’s proved, for those who are paying attention, that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats who go to Washington.  Both parties suck for the same reason — they’re in it to get more power over us, not for freeing us up and leaving us alone.

To boot, and for the benefit of all, and I hope but I’m not counting on it, Obama’s made it impossible for any openly Big Government guy to get elected again.

He did the whole country and future generations a favor by botching health care because now no politician like Hillary who wants to be prez will ever dare to approach the subject of national single-payer healthcare. Half-assed federal healthcare, as we see, is awful enough.

Obama, bless him, has betrayed the “promise” of national healthcare and given it the third rail it didn’t have before.

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Elizabeth-KolbertElizabeth’s Kolbert’s latest epistle in the April 14 New Yorker is a textbook example of climate change BS posing as journalism.

Her sermon won’t influence anyone, because the only people who will actually read it have already been converted to the AGW faith.

The scary thing is, the typical New Yorker reader — not to mention most journalists — won’t see a thing wrong with Kolbert’s warning that we all have to act fast because the “looming crisis that is global warming”  is no longer looming but is already here.

Kolbert, in case you haven’t heard, is the official High Priest of Climatology at The New Yorker.

Her latest “Talk of the Town”  item, “Rough Forecasts,” is essentially another of her riffs on behalf of maintaining tax subsidies for renewable energy, ending current fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon, toughening up building codes, praying for the recovery of coral reefs and heeding the latest divine revelations, recommendations and warnings of the IPCC.

Kolbert recites the usual silly truths about AGW  that New Yorker editors and readers swallow as a matter of faith — because of humans and their fetish for fossil fuels the reefs are dying, the Arctic ice is disappearing, famines and droughts are coming and Gaia has already gone into her death spiral.

She also points out, with displeasure, that the U.S. government underwrites the use of fossil fuels to the tune of $4 billion a year.

As a libertarian, I’m against all kinds of corporate welfare. I agree with Kolbert that the fossil fuel subsidies should be repealed — along with all those renewable energy subsidies.

But that $4 billion number is either wrong or insignificant. Kolbert’s soul mates at PriceofOil.org put the subsidy number between $14 to $52 billion per year, depending on how it’s figured.

What Ms. Kolbert is referring to, I think, are the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies President Obama has proposed cutting from his budget every year he’s been in office  but has never done.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. A lousy $4 billion is chump change in a trillion-dollar U.S. energy sector where hundreds of big and small public and private companies no one has ever heard of pulled in at least $271 billion in profits in 2012.

For a science wiz who yearns to be officially crowned the Rachel Carson of climate change, Kolbert has a history of trouble with hard numbers, big and small.

In 2005 I caught her and her fact-checkers telling her gullible New Yorker readers than one of Greenland’s mightiest glaciers was moving at several miles per hour, not several miles per year.

Her glacial speed trap, as I happily pointed out in a column, was off by a factor of 8,760.  The magazine was forced into running a rare correction confessing its error (arguably my greatest feat in 35 years of newspaper journalism).

Kolbert also goofed up some numbers in 2007 in her profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and “natural capitalist” who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation instead of government micro-fiat.

Here’s what I wrote in my Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column:

“After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that ‘In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.’

“Quadrillion — Kolbert actually meant ‘a trillion dollars.’ And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.”

Kolbert’s chronic numbers problem isn’t the point. It’s not even really her fault. Copy editors are supposed to save her by catching such embarrassments as speeding ice sheets before they appear in print.

You can’t really blame Kolbert for her apocalyptic climatology or her god-awful politics, both of which make her New Yorker-safe. She is what she is — an G-W alarmist Bible thumper on a mission to save the world.

The people who deserve the blame for Kolbert are the people who run The New Yorker. They’re the ones who feature her relentless proselytizing and moralizing and pass it off as the thoughts of a reasonable journalist.

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Here’s a bit more from my Liberty.me interview with Kyle Platt. I flailed about drug legalization.

I am also pro-coffee legalization, clearly

 

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I also have this sweet new graphic.Check out the latest War at Home:

On April 2 at the Fort Hood, Texas, army base, Iraq war veteran Ivan Lopez killed three people, injured 16, then shot himself before he could be taken into custody by military police. Initial reports that Lopez may have been suffering from depression, a traumatic brain injury and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have made some veterans skittish about a tie between PTSD – which affects 155,000 troops – and the propensity for suddenly turning on your own people.

Certainly this sad incident is no reason to suddenly become terrified of all people with mental disorders or all veterans of various wars. Violence is rare in America, and contrary to the media and their panics, shootings like this are particularly rare (in spite of the creepy familiarity of the location). On the other hand, the staggeringly high rate of PTSD in returning veterans does suggest something good about humanity. It’s a tragic, costly, and endless lesson – but war is bad for humans, even those who make it happen. If 22 veterans a day by last year’s count kill themselves – more die that way than they do in combat since at least 2008 – doesn’t that suggest that there is something fundamentally harmful about war, and something sadly good about humans who react so badly to having participated in it?

The rest here

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258c9a567fba3fc64abf3573d93b0db1Okay maybe guest blogger Todd Seavey didn’t stick to the Tuesday Apocalypse theme, but if we can’t go off theme at a libertarian/anarchist blog, what good is having an anarchist/libertarian blog? Seavey is a great writer, so we let him go on a nerd journey about some of the new X-Men films. The Stag Blog welcomes submissions on any and all subjects — including delicious nerdery. Check out below for links to some of Seavey’s other works. — LS

Word is that 2016 will bring the film X-Men: Apocalypse, set in the 1980s and featuring the centuries-old, conflict-creating, villainous, Egyptian mutant named Apocalypse (and perhaps a teenage version of X-Men team member Storm, back in her days as a street thief in Cairo?). This is just one of several reasons I can confidently predict that this year, in the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, the X-Men timeline will be rebooted (a la J.J. Abrams’ relaunch of Star Trek). Every X-Men film you’ve seen except for 2011’s X-Men: First Class will be erased from the fictional timeline at a theatre near you one month from now, mark my words.

But why? Well, when Star Trek, Star Wars, and Tolkien all went the prequel-film route, those franchises got worse. X-Men, by contrast, arguably gave us the best entry in the whole series with the swingin’, James Bond-influenced X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbinder were as engaging, in their own way, portraying the 1960s versions of heroic Professor X and anti-heroic Magneto as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen had been in portraying the aged, present-day versions of the characters in the other ensemble X-Men films. More important: McAvoy and Fassbinder’s contracts weren’t about to expire, as are the contracts of many of the Stewart/McKellen ensemble.

Rumor has it that Fox had long had its doubts about whether the unwieldy, megastar-filled cast of the main trilogy of X-Men film was worth the trouble of paying and scheduling, especially given what a small portion of the general film-going audience can keep track of all those mutant characters. The tortured one-on-one relationship of McAvoy and Fassbinder is easier to do — and Mystique, the shapeshifter mutant for whose loyalty they’ve battled, is played by Jennifer Lawrence, suddenly a big star in her own right. Why not focus on these three?

But first: this year brings X-Men: Days of Future Past, with a great built-in excuse for starting from scratch at film’s end. The whole plot (which was not conjured up just for the strategic purposes I’m describing here but was genuinely derived from a classic story in the original comic books) revolves around the Stewart/McKellen versions of the characters using time travel to prevent an apocalyptic war between mutants and humans circa 2023 — by teaching their younger selves (McAvoy and Fassbinder) to be peacemakers instead of warriors. Clearly, it’s easiest to end this film with a clean slate, back in the 1970s, and just proceed with McAvoy, Fassbinder, Lawrence, and whatever fresh, young actors we choose, leaving Halle Berry and other potentially-pricey old cast members to exit with dignity.

The fact that 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in the 1980s, then, strongly suggests that from here on out we’ll just keep moving forward from the newly-improved 1970s. That means Stewart et al — and the five films in which those actors appeared — will no longer be the foregone conclusion to which the franchise is leading. From here, it’s just First Class (which took place in the ’60s, remember) and forward. New viewers looking to save time can skip all the rest. It makes everything so easy! (Though admittedly having a major film franchise stuck in the fictional 1980s is a bit odd — not that you’ll hear any complaints from this Duran Duran fan).

The fresh start would also make it easy to ignore/erase the multiple continuity errors that the series has accumulated by skipping around to different eras (even before the time travel-themed film comes out on May 23), nitpickily cataloged by io9 here (though I don’t think any of those are impossible to reconcile). To avoid creating new continuity errors, though, let us just hope they remember in X-Men: Days of Future Past to show the 1960s Wolverine with bone claws, since he didn’t get laced with metallic adamantium until 1985 (as depicted in mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

 That’s a cold, hard fact, and you can’t just go changing facts willy-nilly.

You can catch guest blogger Todd Seavey talking about similarly nerdy things on this YouTube channel, his personal blog, the libertarian pop culture site LibertyIsland, and, on April 18, 2014, live and in person onstage in New York City as part of a comedic panel discussion (details of which will be announced on the aforementioned blog shortly).

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I also have this sweet new graphic.Check out my most recent War at Home:

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it did not intend to appeal last month’s court decision which removed Rahinah Ibrahim from the “No-Fly list” – making her the first person in years to be taken off that bureaucratic black-hole relic of the Bush war on terror.

This is great news for Ibrahim. But she has been battling for seven years to win this victory for herself. The rest of the however many thousands of folks on that list remain there, with no clear road out of that swamp. And that’s only a small aspect of the myriad ways in which Americans and visitors to America are harassed, oppressed and impeded during their travels.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study that harshly critiqued the U.S. government’s various watch lists, including the “no-fly” list that Ibrahim found herself on. Some of the problems the ACLU highlighted were the secrecy and the lack of an appeals process for folks who find themselves flagged at airports or downright prevented from flying. They estimate up to a million people are on such lists, and this includes US citizens. People who suspect they are on the no-fly list can only go to the airport and see if they’re prevented from flying. But they still may not get a straight answer from the government, or have any way to get off the list. There is no other way to discover whether a typo, knowing the wrong person or being from the wrong country put them on a list that radically decreases their right to travel.

During the last week of March, the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) official report to Congress said the agency wanted armed police officers to be nearby during peak passenger hours. Considering the state of cops in this country, and the complete lack of rights travelers – especially at the borders – have, this is a terrible idea. Yes, last November someone targeted and killed a TSA agent. That’s unfortunate. But thebureaucratic, thoughtless, petty TSA does not need any more power than we have already let it take. We do not want air-travelers who attempt to film their pat-downs or express objections to their treatment fearing that if they reach in their pockets, some itchy-fingered cop will get worried.

The rest here

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In which Kyle Platt asks questions, and I flail and rant about government hypocrisy in response:

More Liberty.me videos starring some of my favorite non-dead thinkers are over here.

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