Currently viewing the tag: "libertarian"

policeIn which I am relatively soft on the police, but advise everyone to not just assume that shooting Miriam Casey was necessary. Never assume it’s necessary, because the cases where it shouldn’t have happened are mixed in and too often the cops are entirely uninterested in sussing them out.

When police officers in Washington, DC, shot 34-year-old Miriam Carey after she took them on a short, frantic car chase from the White House to the Capitol, the initial consensus was that cops performed heroically, that they saved lives from a gunman who might even have been a terrorist. But the first reports, as is often the case, were wrong. Though the spontaneous hustle for news of Twitter first used the hashtag #capitolshooting, the only shots fired were by the police, and Carey was unarmed—in fact, she never left her car. But even after all of that was public knowledge, thewidespread assumption was that the cops and secret service officers were justified in shooting at a woman who was recklessly and aggressively driving toward potential targets for terrorism and who refused to surrender to them.

On Thursday afternoon Carey, a resident of Stamford, Connecticut, drove up to a security barrier around the White House. When the Secret Service approached she turned around quickly, hitting the barrier and then speeding towards the Capitol building. In the course of this chase, two police officers were injured and a cop car crashed into a barrier. When the dust settled, Carey was dead and her now-motherless one-year-old child, in the back seat of the car, was put into protective custody by DC family services.

Now Carey’s two sisters—one of whom is a former New York City cop—are criticizing the cops, claiming they didn’t have to use lethal force on a woman who was probably terrified. There are certainly indications that, in hindsight, Carey was more of a danger to herself than anyone else. She may have suffered from postpartum depression with psychosis—there are reports that medications for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which she may have stopped taking, were found in her apartment. Carey apparently expressed various paranoid theories to police in December, including her belief that Barack Obama was spying on her. (Carey’s sisters dispute her ex-boyfriend’s claim that she suffered from delusions about communicating with Obama.)

Police say they are investigating the use of force, and the FBI is investigating Carey. Odds are the shooting will be ruled entirely justified even if it turns out the cops killed a woman who was merely confused and frightened. Carey’s driving would have been dangerous outside of DC, a town that just went through the Navy Yards shooting and is a ripe target for terrorists of all stripes.

It’s still alarming how quickly the situation escalated. What if Carey hadn’t meant to drive up to that first barrier outside the White House? What if she was freaked out by the Secret Service and sped away in hopes of avoiding a confrontation, and what if when she stopped long enough to have multiple guns pulled on her—seen in this video—she panicked?

The rest over here

Bill Emerson of Kansas City read my book and liked it enough to give it four stars, for which I am grateful.
But he couldn’t understand why I had put so much of my  libertarian politics in the book.
Here’s his comment from Amazon.com, followed by my explanation/response.

I had read several Steinbeck books, but not Charley.

I really did like the “investigative” parts to this. Bill
Steigerwald does a great job of tying the time of Steinbeck
in with today.

One thing I did not understand and would like to ask the author:

What in the hell does Libertarian have to do with it?

Don’t you know that there are only 17 Libertarians
anywhere in the world at any one time? Except when a Democrat is
president, then it mushrooms to most of the Republican party…..

 

My response:

Thanks for the nice comments. As I write somewhere in the book, when you drive the miles and write a road book about America you — the author — get to air/spew your political opinions about what you see and think. Steinbeck did, though most of his (liberal Democrat) comments were taken out of his original manuscript. Bill Barich did in “Long Way Home.” Philip Caputo just did in “The Longest Road.” Heat-Moon did.Everyone does.

Sprawl, commercial development, cars, the environment, energy policy, city planning, race relations, the ups and downs of the economy — they’re all driven by politics (unfortunately) and open to debate. Most travel books are written by liberal Democrats who, as I point out in the book, all sound like they’re reading from the editorial page of the NY Times. They hate sprawl, they hate malls, they make fun of free markets, they unthinkingly embrace government regulation, they hate the culture and the conservative politics of Flyover Country — and they say so in their books. Most reviewers don’t even notice or mention the authors’ left-liberal-East Coast politics, mainly because the reviewers invariably are liberals too. I’ve been an open libertarian journalist/columnist/media critic for 30-plus years. For me to pretend not to disagree with Steinbeck’s political point of view or the liberal Democrat point of view of Barich et al., or to let their political commentaries or biased asides about America or its people pass without comment, would have been dishonest and phony, not to mention foolish.

Road books are about the road, the country, the people you meet, etc., but they’re all filtered through the author — his life, his thoughts, his politics. Not everyone is a Republican or a Democrat, thank god. The two major parties have brought us a national government that is a Big Nanny/Big Snoop at home and World Cop overseas.

It’s pretty sad that my libertarian politics — that peaceful people should be as personally, economically and socially free as possible; that government should be as decentralized and weak and unnoticed in our daily lives as possible; and that America should mind its business overseas — would seem exotic or out of place to a fellow America today. Those basic libertarian principles have been forgotten and abused. But they would be very familiar — and very dear — to Jefferson or Washington or Grover Cleveland or Twain or Mencken or Milton Friedman or hundreds of other dead great Americans whose politics were essentially libertarian.

DEA_badge_CSo, the government is shut down…and by shut down, they mean to hell with national parks, WWII memorials and the veterans who want to visit them, and kids with cancer, but dammit, 87 percent of the Drug Enforcement Administration counts as essential!

Turns out there’s a name for this blatantly political effort to make government feel essential — it’s called “Washington Monument Syndrome.” Makes sense. This game is not new. And liberals are the ones who always fall for it the hardest. They tend to respond to libertarian suggestions of even light trimming with “BUT THE PARKS AND THE ROADS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HUGS FOR POOR CHILDREN WILL GO FIRST.”  No matter how radical you are, even a full-on anarchist knows we’re not going from choking on the corpulence of this government to frolicking in the rainbow and puppydog-topia of pure voluntaryism in one day. And before we get to those cancer kids, there’s a whole lot of stuff to get rid of.

With that in mind, please enjoy my latest VICE piece and just revel in the wretchedness of my number one pick for non-essential, fired forever, burn down their building and laugh at them agency. (They’re allowed to leave the building first, however. Because I’m nicer than they are.)

If last month’s revelation that the the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been keeping a database of phone logs since 1986 wasn’t bad enough, here’s further proof of the intrusiveness of the agency’s tactics: a lawsuit being fought between the DEA, Oregon, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hinges on the fact that the drug warriors believe they should have easy access to the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database and have been acting on that belief, even though it contradicts state law. In plain English, the DEA says that if your medical records are shared with a pharmacy—something that happens routinely thanks to the PDMP—you lose the right to assume that that information is private, even if lawmakers in your state disagree with law enforcement.

The basis for the DEA’s legal argument is the third-party doctrine, the precedent the government leans on if it wants to look into your credit card charges, your utilities bills, your emails, or anything else that you have shared with someone else. The Fourth Amendment protects you against “unreasonable search and seizure,” but increasingly, in an era where the vast majority of our private communications go through a third party, law enforcement is expanding the definition of what a “reasonable” search is.

The rest over here.

 

  • Gold-PanningA new tragedy on 9/11: this unspeakably horrible CBS New York piece on — dun dun dun — unregulated dinner parties. Reason jumped on this for good reason (my mom said it looked like a Reason TV parody of something). It’s a staggeringly pathetic imitation of something I think is supposed to be called journalism.
  • Seriously, just look at it. But at least feast your eyes on the fact that ever single commenter things that these “reporters” are morons.
  • Volokh Conspiracy post on tacky 9/11 memorializing (with muffins) notes such things might be well-meaning and “[t]hat is why we send thank you notes even for ugly wedding gifts.”
  • My most recent VICE piece was about — among other things, since there is always an exciting bullet point list! — the EPA sending armed teams to test the water on Alaskan mining claims
  • I threw together a little review of Jesse Walker’s new United States of Paranoia for The Libertarian Standard
  • I’ve started compiling a Youtube list of videos in which I am somewhere (if not technically seen). So far it’s mostly just Old Crow Medicine Show and La Plebe. I don’t think I will add weird protests or Sarah Palin at CPAC 2012, because who would want to look back fondly on those?
  • I’m still obsessing over the Cold War, particularly movies about nuclear war. I plan to do a post on that sometime soon. In the meantime I was interested to read this short blog post on Soviet movies about nukes and about the conflict with America. It sounds like there just aren’t that many, and they’re not usually the On the Beach kind of grimness. If anyone has any recommendations for nuclear war movies, send ’em my way, please. Same with novels.
  • It’s not just the Bloomberg piece my brother tears apart below, there has been a plague of complete nonsense pieces on libertarians lately. These include AlterNet on the corporate astroturf (is that still a thing?) nature of this philosophy (the 19th century — not a thing! Nor are this country’s founding documents! Weeeee!) and Salon on “11 question to see if libertarians are hypocrites.” (The latter managed to notice that there are degrees of libertarian and no, it’s not just a word for Ayn Rand lover all the time, but it’s still awful.)
  • Horrible things with the word “libertarian” in the title also includes this Cato Unbound piece headlined “The Libertarian Case for National Military Service”, The author gives it his all, and this is a debate format, but it’s still nauseating as a concept. Not to mention, I don’t think the author is a libertarian. Not that supporting the draft isn’t antithetical to libertarianism (though it is), but I actually don’t think the author is a libertarian. I mean, he’s French.
  • Noah Rothman at Mediaite trashes John Stewart and Stephen Colbert for having stopped trying. He notes that Colbert did a staggeringly disingenuous piece about the  right-wing outrage over the Obama puts feet on desk “controversy” (yeah, I missed that), including a short Red Eye clip that suggests Greg Gutfeld and Andy Levy’s horror over the photo was genuine instead of snarky. Lame, lame, Colbert.
  • Antiwar.com: The X-Files as a purely pre-911 phenomenon.
  • (Right now I’m trying to watch what Jesse Walker and io9 commenters and other credible people say is the best X-Files episode ever, Josie Chung’s From Outer Space. I keep rewinding — as we used to call it — and missing stuff. I’ve seen it, but it’s been a while.)
  • Finally!(?) the final word on what killed old Alexander Supertramp (Christopher McCandless).
  • I will forever defend McCandless, Holden Caulfield, and moshpits, even if they are all varying degrees of stupid. It’s the principle of the thing, people.
  • Actually, I think I like marriage better now, Buzzfeed.
  • Awesome.
  • Interesting — especially since they killed of the transgender teen on Degrassi, those bastards.

And finally, let’s have at today’s video:

Let me pass on this ear-worm to y’all for a spell.

simpsons-kodos-treehouseofhorrorStupid Point/Counterpoint is a new feature in which Stag Blog columnist Joe Steigerwald counters the worst editorials on the internet with a well-written and thought out rebuttal. Also: mockery and yelling.

How do you write a critique of libertarianism without doing any research into the subject of libertarianism? Join Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer as they answer that question, and more!

AMERICA, did you know there is a shadowy group of extremists whose only goal is bringing about the destruction of the state? This cadre of radicals operates under our very noses, advocating for less government and more personal freedom. If we allow them to succeed they will plunge the country into destruction. They must be eliminated.

I for one thank God that we have Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu to expose these monsters.

Are Libertarians the new Communists? The question, authored by Michael Bloomberg under the pen name Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, would appear to have an obvious answer: no. Or, more appropriately: hell no, are you stupid? However, that is only because you have been brainwashed by the massive libertarian juggernaut. They of the 1 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 Presidential election and zero active members in the U.S. government.

The article posits that while communism and extreme libertarianism (a word so unpopular spell check doesn’t even recognize it) appear to be “polar opposites” they are actually “mirror images,” and the adoption of either would result in unchecked human misery, poverty, and tyranny.

I’d like to think (or at least pray) that most people would laugh when they read Hanauer and Liu’s anti-libertarian polemic appearing (ever so appropriately) at Bloomberg.com. I’d love to believe that most rational humans who read the article threw up their hands, closed down their browsers, got back into their beds, and pulled up the covers; vowing never again to leave their house. Those few people who actually finished the article probably fell into one of two camps: enraged libertarians and Michael Bloomberg worshiping authoritarians.

Some articles with terrible headlines actually improve upon close reading. This isn’t one of them. It turns out the title is probably the most well thought-out part of the entire endeavor. It’s completely misleading, but it’s excellent link bait. The headline screams that juicy controversial content is inside — it begs to be clicked and shared– but the article can’t deliver upon that promise. It’s obviously unreasearched, blatantly misleading on every level, and poorly written. The writers have to strain the limits of belief to build their rather shaky case that a country run by “extremist” libertarians would develop the same problems that plague the communist-controlled China, Cuba, and North Korea.

By the second paragraph Hanauer and Liu have changed their entire premise: libertarians aren’t the problem, it’s the “extremist” or “radical” wing of the party that is the problem. Unfortunately the named are all Republicans, not libertarians, and certainly not part of the “extremist” wing of the party:

Some of the radical libertarians are Ayn Rand fans who divide their fellow citizens into makers, in the mold of John Galt, and takers, in the mold of anyone not John Galt.

Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.” Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government. Some resemble the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has made a career out of trying to drown, stifle or strangle government.

Yes, liberty is a core American value, and an overweening state can be unhealthy. And there are plenty of self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance. These social libertarians aren’t the problem. It is the nihilist anti-state libertarians of the Koch-Cruz-Norquist-Paul (Ron and Rand alike) school who should worry us.

Liu and Hanauer round up the usual capitalist boogey men: Ayn Rand and her ever-pulsing mass of followers, the “sinister 6,” an evil group of superlibertarians featuring: The Koch brothers, AKA the Kochtopus, Rand “Republican Senator from Tennessee” Paul, Ron “Dr. No” Paul, Grover “The Tax Slayer” Norquist, and Ted “I’m not a libertarian, why am I on this list” Cruz. This band of evil anti-statist extremists want nothing more than to destroy the government and plunge America into freedom anarchy.

Lui and Hanauer make the usual mistake of equating anyone who wants to reduce the size of government (no matter how slight) to extremist libertarians. No self-respecting libertarian (must less a radical extremist) would ever include Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in their secret coven, even if they agree with some of their policies. This is where the authors betray their own statist ideology. Even the smallest notion of shrinking the government sends shockwaves through Lui and Hanauer’s entire being. Their reaction to a tiny faction of dedicated but hopelessly outnumbered ideologues is to go nuclear on an entire ideology. They don’t want to marginalize the radical libertarian movement, they want to annihilate anyone who dares think that government is growing too large. To them this means cobbling together a disparate group of politicians and advocates who loosely share a streak of libertarianism into a shadowy group of “extremists” and “radicals” and slandering the hell out of them.

Lui and Hanauer’s premise — which on its own is ridiculous — is quickly revealed to be merely a hit piece on Republican bigwigs and future presidential candidates  Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are almost a lock to run in 2016, and Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers receive nearly daily slandering from the left.

When you compare an ideology that has produced nearly 100 million victims to one that advocates personal freedom and extremely limited government you should probably introduce some evidence into the equation. Alas, there is little evidence to to be found in the article (though they have plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Which are “kinds of evidence.”)

We say the conditional “would” because radical libertarianism has a fatal flaw: It can’t be applied across a functioning society. What might radical libertarians do if they actually had power? A President Paul would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress. A Secretary Norquist would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and progressive taxation, so that the already wealthy could exponentially compound their advantage, as the programs that sustain a prosperous middle class are gutted. A Koch domestic policy would obliterate environmental standards for clean air and water, so that polluters could externalize all their costs onto other people.

Radical libertarians would be great at destroying. They would have little concept of creating or governing. It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression.

First of all it would be very hard for a single, lone libertarian in the halls of Washington D.C. to do anything close to the kinds of things that Lui and Hanauer propose would happen. Apparently they have forgotten about the hundreds of Republicans and Democrats lining the aisles of Congress. Secondly, once again the authors fail to name a single libertarian. Thirdly, saying Somalia is the “fullest actual expression” of libertarianism is represents an alarming lack of knowledge about Somalia, libertarianism, world affairs, politics, war, culture, religion, federalism, constitutional law, economics, capitalism, rational arguments (etc. etc.). It’s a gross misrepresentation of libertarianism, and all too common from the statist left. (For future reference I do recommend at least wikipedia-ing “libertarian” before writing about it. Hint, hint)

Some libertarians will claim we are arguing against a straw man and that no serious adherent to their philosophy advocates the extreme positions we describe. The public record of extreme statements by the likes of Cruz, Norquist and the Pauls speaks for itself.

Citations? References? Links? A link to a Google search of “extreme statements by Ron Paul?” Something/Anything?  When you include “speaks for itself” in an article, it usually means, “I heard Ed Schulz bashing him on TV and it sounded pretty convincing.”

The rest of the article is a wan, inarticulate defense of government:  cooperation! Evolving blends of freedom! True citizenship! Buzzwords written for the Sesame Street crowd. Not even worth a copy and paste.

Even if  libertarianism isn’t your political ideology of choice it’s hard to imagine an article that does less to actually link libertarianism and communism together. If Liu and Hanauer had used the headline “radical libertarianism is bad” no one would have batted an eyelash. Even if they had written a well-reasoned, researched article about how they don’t believe libertarianism can work in this global climate, there would be little outrage. But they misrepresented their entire argument in the title, thus ensuring angry libertarians would comment/tweet/write blog rebuttals (wait a second…) and their article would go viral. However, this fails to identify this article’s raison d’etre: It’s a hit piece on the libertarian(ish) conservatives currently flexing their muscles in the House and Senate. Somehow the article paints the (slight) inclination to (possibly) reduce the size of government as a tenet of radical libertarianism. That’s not radical, that’s not even libertarian. That’s very basic conservative, small government-type views. (If you want radical libertarianism try Sheldon Richman on for size.)

Liu and Hanauer subscribe to the standard liberal trope: government is inherently a good and pure institution. All it takes is tinkering and fine-tuning to make it work. To all problems, the solution: more government. But the moment anyone wants to reduce or streamline the massive government bureaucracy, they are viewed as radicals. Liu and Hanauer’s piece is one published in fear and reaction to a growing  inclination amongst the plebeians that government might be growing too big and too powerful for its (or, rather, our) own good.

But all is not lost. When the radical libertarian Rand Paul is elected President in 2016 we, dedicated soldiers of libertarianism will descend on Liu, Hanauer and their ilk, and send them and all enemies of the revolution to prison camps, where they will starve and die. No wait, that’s communism. I’m sorry, I get them confused sometimes too.

If you’ve made it this far you already know; this article was written by Joe Steigerwald. Follow him on twitter @steigerwaldino. Don’t follow him on Facebook, but you can follow The Stag Blog. Look at the other stuff I’ve done: Steigerwald Post

Acoustic Music Works in Pittsburgh, PAWhen I was younger I read Dave Barry’s weekly Miami Herald column every week. I remember it resting somewhere in the entertainment section — I think the Sunday section? Maybe Saturday? I don’t know, but I read first, and then comics and the stupid advice columns, then the front page, then the back page of the paper. (Never Sports or Business.)

Regardless of where and when it was, somewhere in those pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review for many years was Barry’s humor column. In it, for 600-odd words, he waxed poetic on the words “booger” or “weasel” and mused about the horrors of toilet snakes, exploding pop tarts, and other things completely up the ally of anyone either 11 or with a particular ease of access to the 11-ness in their souls.

And at some point, once my second generation libertarian brain-washing kicked in and I became one as well (that’s the short version. There were lots of conservative Christian fellow-homeschoolers, then a lot of liberal college professors who helped in the “oh God, not them!” way, as well as a score of different pundits, authors, and thinkers who pointed me in the right direction). And at some point I realized, holy shit, this Barry guy was a libertarian, too! Besides my dad, John Stossel, and my friend Bob who voted for John Kerry the God damned traitor (Bob, not Kerry) in 2004 anyway, who the hell was a libertarian anywhere?

Later still — either online, or more likely in Reason magazine’s compilation Choice — I found the 1994 interview Barry did with Reason. And it was, and remains, fucking amazing.

Within it, Barry talks about minor, but infuriating government money-sucks like the strategic helium reserve. He again mentions the IRS. He describes his generation being “the problem”, thanks to Medicare and Social Security. He has a delightful comment on the absurdity of so-called job creators, and the press who dutifully record that exactly 47 million jobs were created in December. Barry says, “Of all the wonderful things government says, that’s always been just about my favorite. As opposed to if you get to keep the money. Because what you’ll do is go out and bury it in your yard, anything to prevent that money from creating jobs.” And by saying that he — a humorist — demonstrated a better understanding of economics than half the “economists” alive and making money from their dismal grasp of the dismal science.

Most daring and subversive when combined with that economic good sense, he says this:

After a while, the way this country deals with drugs is just not funny. What a waste of everyone’ s time and effort. What a waste of a lot of people’s lives. The way we deal with drugs and sex. I saw one of these real-life cop drama shows, and they mounted a camera in this undercover agent’s pick-up truck, right under the gear shift, and they sent him out to pick up prostitutes.

So the whole show consisted of this guy, who’s quite a good actor, driving to this one street, and young prostitutes come up to him and solicit him. He says OK. They get in. They’re trying real hard to be nice. He’s going to pay $23, that’s all he’s got and they said that’s OK. Meanwhile, behind him the other cops, these fat men with walkie-talkies, are laughing and chuckling because here they are about to enforce the law and protect society. They take her to some street and then of course they come up and arrest her. This poor woman–I don’t know whether she’s feeding her drug habit or feeding her kids or whatever. And the cops are so proud of themselves, these big strapping guys.

It just made me sick to see this. To treat these people who are trying to make a living, one way or another, this way, and to be proud of it. It’s on television and we’re all supposed to watch this and feel good about it. It’s just disgusting.

 

The anti-drug war stuff is a libertarian favorite for good reason. But the prostitution part is what gets me me here. Barry watched this show — COPS, or whatever — and he didn’t root for the the “good guy.” He didn’t cheer them on as they tackled some poor, shirtless buffoon or invited the audience to gawk at some pathetic, screaming loony. He didn’t laugh and cringe at some dumb crackwhore, the way most people would in private and in media. Barry’s sympathies were in the right place, and so was his condemnation.

The woman was trying to make money — maybe not in a good way, maybe not for good reasons, we don’t know. And we don’t need to know. We just need to know the real question: Why the hell is someone getting paid to hurt this woman? To jail her and definitely to shame her? Why are the people paid for by tax dollars, imbued with the use of legal, lethal force, and given great respect in society spending that time and respect and money on fucking over this woman who is trying to make a little money and nothing else?

And that humanity brings us to the other Dave Barry secret of humanity. We see that Barry knows freedom. He knows the stupidity and waste of government bureaucracy. He even knows the cruelty of which police officers are capable. But with his essay on crazy Elvis fans, Barry also demonstrates that even without the “coercion or not” question, he is smart enough to rise above the obvious knocking down of people who seem to be “asking for it” when they dare to not confirm to cool. Like Jon Ronson with his sympathetic, but not endorsing wild ride through the world of weirdos, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Barry didn’t want to sit back and crack wise and broad about the crazy Elvis fans. He doesn’t want to shoot polyester-clad fish swimming in a lard barrel. Those fish never hurt anyone.

So he wrote “Hearts that are True.” (To be found in Dave Barry is Not Making This Up).

The way he tells it in the italics before the essay, he really was all set to write some obvious jokes about fat Southern housewives who can’t untwist their Granny panties over Elvis long enough to realize he’s dead and buried. (And before that he was bloated, drug-addled, and seeping talent from every sequined pore.) But Barry looked closer and he saw the people who cared so much that it hurt, about this dead musician. Intrigued and puzzled, he set out to find the why.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTRzrdkvCr4

And — spoiler alert — he doesn’t really discover anything, except maybe a little reminder that there are a lot of good Elvis tunes. But God is it a killer journey — to Graceland, and to Elvis’s boyhood home, and to lots of friendly, kind folks, to find that unanswer. Barry is subtle and sad and sweet in his writing and it’s just the loveliest thing, this essay. I’ve read it three or four times, but I try to save it up so it doesn’t lose its punch.

That’s what it is. It’s like a really great song you can’t waste. And you can’t say that about a whole lot of simple, on the page writing, especially not the personal-essay-ish stuff.*

Barry is a humorist. I will always fancy his investigations into UFOs and lawnmower races. Hell, his description of Florida could be why I have never been there or wanted to go. But the Barry of “Hearts That are True” is one I want to spend a little more time with, one I wish we had a few more essays by. I’m envious of that piece. If I had made it, I could be satisfied for at least a little while as a writer.

Do you see what I mean? Why I tie that Reason interview — especially the excerpt above — together with the crazy Elvis fans essay?  Why no matter what else Barry wrote, before or since, even if it didn’t strike the same note in my guts, he will always get me on this one? That I will always feel like he understands something that most people never will?

There’s plenty of room for mocking. Even mocking of people who haven’t performed the sort of life-ruining an IRS agent or a cop has done. Mock reality show stars, or members of Nickelback and I am not necessarily going to be outraged on their behalf. It’s fun to scoff and play High Fidelity-snob or culture warrior about things you think are childish, or stupid, or lacking talent. And it’s easy. It’s so fucking easy.

Yet Barry, the humorist who knows economics better than economists, didn’t take the asked-for punch line. He looked at sad, moaning, obsessive people in the South and said hey, why the hell do they care so much about sad, dead Elvis?

And the end result breaks my damn heart every time.

Dave Barry knows how we should treat each other. He knows whose backs we should have: the drug users, the hookers, and the guys crankily doing their taxes each April — and the people who just fell in love with a Tennessean and never would let death get in the way of a relationship like that.

And, since he’s not soft or meek, Barry also knows who deserve to be ashamed: the politicians, the taxman, and the police with nothing better to do.

Can’t they just listen to a fucking Elvis song or something?

 

 

 *(Mike Riggs’ Awl essay about suicide is up there, the bastard.)

  • Here is the most recent stuff I’ve written for VICE, which you should read if you have no already done so.
  • And here are two different HuffPost Live segments I have done in the last odd-week. I am never sure how they go, because it’s a fundamentally slightly weird format for a discussion. But they call me back when they need a spare libertarian, so that bodes well. One is on the zombie rise of neoconservative, and the other is on Rand Paul and the Fed.
  • And finally, finishing up the self-promotion, I uploaded my last five radio shows to Mixcloud, in case anyone is interested, or missed them because they were at 3 pm and people have jobs, for God’s sake. Listen, your life needs more “Old Time (More Or Less).” When I listen I marvel at my inconsistency in quality for mic breaks. When I have something to say on the song, be it “Poor Ellen Smith” or “Strange Fruit,” on the other hand, I am not half bad.
  • An impassioned defense of breakfast, and its essential greasy qualities. [H/T: John Glaser]
  • I have just discovered a new love — Fortean Times Magazine. I haven’t really checked out the website, but the print mag was delicious and well worth $11. I aim to contribute sometime soon. (I Google Image searched “fortean” and got the above, awesome Terry Colon cartoon. If Terry Colon every does a cartoon of me/you/anyone, they’ve made it in life. Spiritually, at least.
  • Terry Colon also explains the mechanics of UFO fuel in a way that makes at least as much sense as anything ever on Doctor Who — except maybe “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.”
  • Speaking of things Fortean, sort of, please do check out Jesse Walker’s new United States of Paranoia. It is excellent and mentions most of the most interesting things about America such as witch trials, Indian captives, communists, drugs, The X Files, militias, and the fear that Satan is sending children secret backwards messages in their music.
  • Can we talk for a second about how all of the Satanist sex abuse panics happened in the 20th century — the LATE 20th century? I will say it again, forget the blacklist, Arthur Miller should have written an awkwardly unsubtle allegory that is still really kick-ass about that shit. Some of those investigators might as well have used spectral evidence for all of the real-world basis their allegations had. Vile.
  • Those horrible Koch brothers strike again.
  • Reminder that John Bolton deserves to be booed. 
  • Important Youtube finds during an insomnia internet journey: 1938 anti-STD film Sex Madness!; and what professes to be the only known recording of H.L. Mencken speaking.
  • I would love to see Jezebel do a lot more of this: this blog says would-be NYC Mayor Christine Quinn cannot be against street harassment/cat-calling if she also supports Stop and Frisk. THIS, Jezebel — apply your support of abortion rights to the bodily autonomy issues related to, say the drug war, or myriad other issues. Take your good feminist inclinations and correctness about smaller issues, and extend into life and death and imprisonment and freedom level of issues. Please.
  • VICE’s Harry Cheadle on the horrible conservative response to Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) and her preferred pronoun. Calling her a traitor wasn’t enough, she’s also crazy now. Blech.
  • Today I read this disturbing, fascinating Verge story on the new science of face transplants.

Today’s video does a good job demonstrating the happiness which can be found in a moshpit, particularly the uber-earnest folk punk sort:

And here’s the album version, which is a better auditory experience:

 

  • Any excuse to post this, in the years to come.I recently discovered the adsorbing Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Its author, an academic, invented various incarnations of a NukeMap, in which you can use Google maps (or Google Earth, for those not saddled with a Chromebook) to see the effects of various atomic bombs — from Hiroshima to the full, unused iteration of the Tsar Bomba — on various cities.
  • The author also wrote a “Why Nagasaki” post yesterday, which is soft on the whole thing, but is enlightening as to the debated motivations of those involved in nuking the shit out of that bonus city.
  • The Onion said it best on Nagaski.
  • I am reminded of the time a few months back where I asked my would-be engineer friend to explain why nuclear stuff is measured by half-life. Drunk friend fluctuated between condescending over-explanation to poor, sweet liberal arts majors, and baffling science attacks (to poor, sweet liberal arts majors). Somehow it eventually made sense, but God knows I couldn’t explain it.
  • Once-classified US government footage of rebuilding Hiroshima.
  • Matt Novak’s sweet Paleofuture blog seems to have wandered over to Gizmodo.
  • Cato’s Julian Sanchez was deliciously sassy on Chris Hayes on Friday, talking NSA and Obama press conferences. And The Guardian‘s Spencer Ackerman was himself, and was therefore great. And Robert Gibbs said the word debate so. many. times. and it was terrible.

Five non-link tweets I have recently favorited, for your enjoyment:

Today’s video(s):

Willie Watson, the lamented and departed member of Old Crow Medicine Show, singing “High Dice Blues/Shooting High Dice” with guitar that sounds exactly like the Mississippi Sheiks version of the song. Check ’em both out:

I love the Mississipi Sheiks so much. But you would know that if you have been listening to my radio show, now tragically nearing its end.