CNN’s new tone in the Biden era

A sharp contrast from CNN’s knee-jerk negativity of the Trump era

Representatives of the mainstream media, led by the editorial staff of CNN, are already tripping all over themselves doing fluff pieces about President-elect Biden.

As a concrete example: Over this past weekend, Biden broke his foot while playing with his dogs. (This blog wishes him a speedy recovery, of course.) CNN managed to interpret this arguably inauspicious omen as a hopeful sign about his upcoming presidency. 

And for one of today’s lead CNN editorials (see above): Biden’s “genius”. (Yes, really.) 

The woman in the above photo is Janet Yellen. Biden has nominated Yellen to be the Secretary of the Treasury in his administration.

And the Biden administration will, let us not forget, descend upon the land next month, barring conclusive proof of voter fraud, or some other heavenly reprieve.

Yellen was the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank under President Obama. In that capacity she printed money like an official from the Weimar Republic, contributing to a skyrocketing of our national debt.

Geniuses, indeed. 

Biden’s economic team: first impressions

It seems fairly clear that Joe Biden’s incoming economic team will attempt to use COVID as an excuse to “restructure” the economy.

Well, “restructuring” is good, right? 

Not so much. This is code for: wild-eyed government bureaucrats engaging in schemes of redistribution and market manipulation.

Neera Tanden, Biden’s intended Director of the OMB, has written:

“To fix what is broken and rebuild stronger than before, we need a new social contract for the 21st Century, one that updates the New Deal.” 

Here’s the problem: Neera Tanden has spent her entire life in “public service”–i.e., government and liberal think tanks. She was involved in the founding of the Center for American Progress (CAP), for example.

In other words, Neera Tanden has never held a real job. She has never run a business. She has never met a payroll. We’d be lucky if she’s even balanced her own checkbook.

And yet—Neera Tanden is representative of the bureaucrats who will be “restructuring” the economy, top-down style, for more than 328 million Americans under Joe Biden.

What could possibly go wrong?

Distracted by the election? So am I.

Hey, folks. We have an election coming up in just a few days—four, to be exact.

The GOP and Democratic Party visions for the next four years are radically different.

If you’re a reader of this blog, then you already know my feelings about the matter. I won’t rehash old arguments again in this post. (And if you don’t know where I stand, poke around a bit; it will become clear enough.)

I will, however, mention two related points:

You should vote.

Most states allow early voting. I voted here in Ohio more than two weeks ago.

Unless you have a loved one in intensive care (or some similar personal emergency of a life-or-death nature) virtually nothing you have on your plate over the next 4 days is as important as casting your vote.

I’ve been watching politics since 1976, and voting since 1988. Not every election in my lifetime has been critically important. This one is.

It’s okay if you’re distracted by the election.

With four days left, you might find your thoughts drawn repeatedly to the upcoming election. You might be thinking about politics more than usual.

That’s perfectly all right. Politics are important. While US politics have generally tended to be moderate, there are historical examples of politics affecting real people’s lives in major ways. You should give politics at least some of your attention.

I have never understood people who become emotionally invested in say, professional spectator sports, and then claim that political outcomes don’t matter. They do. A lot more than the outcomes of the World Series and the Super Bowl.

I’m mostly an optimist. I firmly believe that whatever the result on November 3, life will go on. But the next four years will be very different, depending on next Tuesday’s results. Make no mistake about that.

Don’t obsess; but don’t tune out, either. If this all feels like a matter of great significance, well…that’s because it is.

‘The Last Jedi’ controversy

I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi (2017) tonight. This is the Star Wars film that created so much of a stir three years ago for its perceived nods to identity politics. Google “The Last Jedi SJW” and you’ll get some idea of what I’m talking about.

I’m coming very late to this controversy. I’ll therefore be brief, but I will have my say. The Last Jedi is well…rather ho-hum. But the controversy about it is much overblown.

I am the sort of viewer who is supposed to be offended by The Last Jedi. The original Star Wars is part of my youth. I was nine years old in the summer of 1977, when I watched the first film in a cinema in Cincinnati with my dad. The last installment in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi (1983), came out when I was fourteen, and a freshman in high school. Back in the day, I loved Star Wars.

I’m also politically conservative. Guess who I voted for last week! Poke around this blog, and you’ll find that I don’t care much for divisive identity politics. This blog is full of microaggressions and triggers!

I also recognize that the cast of The Last Jedi is perfectly—and improbably—racially diverse and gender-balanced. And yes, I caught the not-so-subtle feminist messaging in the film, too. Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) reminds me of an officious manager I had to endure for three years in the corporate world.

And finally, all the bad guys in The Last Jedi are white dudes.

Yes, all that’s true. But…so what? I didn’t think it was racist to make Lando Calrissian a shady (and Black) character in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I never complained about the predominance of white males in the original Star Trek. I could have cared less! I still don’t care.

In 2013, there was a loud and unnecessary brouhaha over actress Alice Eve appearing in her underwear in a scene in Star Trek Into Darkness. I was like, “Big deal; Alice Eve looks damn fine in her skivvies.” Because she does.

Alice Eve in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Therefore, I’m not going to get worked up over a little self-conscious diversity in The Last Jedi. Furthermore, I rather like the characters Rey (portrayed by Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega).

This isn’t 1978; and yes, I understand that filmmakers, novelists, and television show runners take diversity into account. Partly this is politics, but partly it is just good marketing.

For example: It would be self-defeating to create a story/film/TV series with no interesting female characters. Women are one half of the viewing/reading audience, don’t forget!

I frankly roll my eyes at the outrage over The Last Jedi. But then, I rolled my eyes at the outrage over Alice Eve’s underwear scene in Star Trek Into Darkness.

I have a message for everyone: Lighten up! Life is too short to get worked up over freakin’ science fiction movies.

That said, all of the Star Wars films to come out after the original trilogy (1977 – 1983), have been lesser films for me. I remember watching The Phantom Menace in 1999, and thinking: This isn’t as good as any of the first three films.

Part of that is nostalgia, perhaps. I’m open to that possibility. Also, my youth at the time. I was nine years old when I watched Star Wars (1977) for the first time. I was in my early thirties when I saw The Phantom Menace

I rather think, though, that Star Wars should have ended in 1983. All of the films since then have failed to capture the dramatic feel of the original trilogy. At the same time, they haven’t been equally compelling in their own right. To me, they feel like movie versions of fan fiction.

Speaking of Daisy Ridley: She was born in 1992, fifteen years after the first Star Wars hit the cinemas. The Star Wars franchise is now more than 40 years old. It was great! But it’s time to move on to other stories.

Allow me to reiterate: I don’t like divisive, bean-counting identity politics. I don’t like contrived outrage over innocuous cheesecake scenes like the Alice Eve scene in Star Trek Into Darkness. (Everyone really, really needs to lighten up.)

But I’m good with diverse characters and strong female characters. I would just like to see them in something other than yet another Star Wars sequel/prequel/standalone. That universe has already been milked for all it’s worth.

Barry Farber: talk show host and author

Amid all of the loss and chaos of 2020, there was one death I missed: that of radio host and author Barry Farber. Barry Farber died on May 6, 2020.

I became a fan of Barry Farber’s radio talk show during the 1990s. I was in my twenties then, and my life circumstances necessitated a lot of driving. I don’t mind music; but a little bit of music goes a long way during a two-hour drive. For a really long drive, talk radio is a much better alternative. (Yes, audiobooks and podcasts are even better alternatives. But audiobooks in the 1990s were expensive, and mostly distributed in packages consisting of multiple cassettes. Podcasts were still twenty years in the future.)

Farber was a political conservative. As those old enough to remember the 1990s will know, this was the age of the bombastic Rush Limbaugh, and the outspoken G. Gordon Liddy. Rush Limbaugh declared America during the Clinton era to be “America under siege”. G. Gordon Liddy once advised listeners to “go for a head shot” if their homes were invaded by federal law enforcement officers.

Barry Farber was different. He was a soft-spoken man who appealed to simple standards of common sense. He saw both sides of complicated issues. In the aftermath of the LAPD’s beating of African American suspect Rodney King in 1991, Farber condemned the LAPD’s excesses. But he also condemned the excesses of those who insist on running from and fighting the police. Extreme actions invite extreme overreactions, Farber pointed out. Continue reading “Barry Farber: talk show host and author”

Ayn Rand and me

I had a brief flirtation with Ayn Rand the year I turned twenty. The most torrid part of the relationship lasted only about as long as some of Dagny Taggart’s warm-up love affairs in Atlas Shrugged. Officially, I broke off the romance; but it remains a memorable phase in my formative years.

Twenty is probably the perfect age to have a fling with Ayn Rand. In the enclosed terrarium of your teenage years, it is easy to hold any hifalutin concept of yourself that you can imagine. When you are twenty, though, things begin to change. The adult world looms large in the windshield. You realize that you aren’t quite as special, quite as brilliant, or quite as destined for spectacular success as you fancied yourself to be, only a few short years ago.

Ayn Rand, with hyper-individualist titles like Anthem and The Virtue of Selfishness, is the perfect salve for the twenty-year-old who suddenly fears that he might turn out to be quite ordinary, after all. The twenty-year-old’s brief burst of Ayn Randian egoism is a final cry of rebellion for the self-important teenager that is slipping away.

I first heard of Ayn Rand around 1983, when I was in high school. My favorite rock band was Rush. Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer and main lyricist, wrote at least two songs based on Rand’s novels and philosophical tracts. Continue reading “Ayn Rand and me”

John Mellencamp, campaign music, and champagne socialism

Hey, did you know we have an election coming up in a few months? And yes, it promises to be a real mess. (We could get a whole bunch of blog posts from that, and I expect we will.)

One of the minor controversies from this year, though, involves the Trump campaign and rock music. Various musical artists, including Neil Young, Elton John, Rihanna, and some group called Panic!At the Disco have either objected to Trump playing their music at campaign events, or issued actual cease-and-desist orders.

Brendon Urie, the frontman of Panic! At The Disco, wrote in a tweet:

“Dear Trump Campaign, F— you. You’re not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company.”

Come on, Brendan, quit beating around the bush. Tell us how you really feel.

This is not a new controversy. It didn’t begin with Donald Trump, who is (whether you love him, hate him, or accept him with reservations) an undeniably polarizing politician. Almost no one is neutral about Donald Trump.

Most celebrity musicians, like the rest of the Hollywood/entertainment jet set, are millionaires who fancy themselves socialists. Taylor Swift has a net worth of $360~$400 million. (It fluctuates with the market value of her immense portfolio.) Taylor Swift is the ultimate “one-percenter”, to use Bernie Sanders’s term. And yet, Taylor Swift has recently come out as a vocal proponent of the Democratic Party.

Back in 2008, John McCain was the GOP nominee. McCain got into hot water with his campaign music, too. McCain made the mistake of playing several songs belonging to John Mellencamp, a rocker whose popularity peaked in the 1980s.

Mellencamp objected, and issued a cease-and-desist order of his own. Speaking through a publicist, Mellencamp said:

“If [McCain is] such a true conservative, why [is he] playing songs that have a very populist pro-labor message written by a guy who would find no argument if you characterized him as an ardent leftist?”

A few points to unpack here. First of all, it is rather foolish for GOP candidates to use the music of elite musicians who probably hate their guts.

Consider, for example, the aforementioned Neil Young. Neil Young has moonlighted as a left-of-center activist since the 1960s. Neil Young also has a net worth of $65 million.

Even fellow musicians, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, recognized Neil Young’s hypocrisy long ago. They openly rebuked him in their 1974 classic, “Sweet Home Alabama”.

That said, Donald Trump should have known better than to use a Neil Young song at a campaign event. What was he expecting?

John McCain should have known better than to use a John Mellencamp song in 2008, too. Mellencamp, who spent the early years of the 1970s immersed in the drug-addled counterculture, has long distinguished himself as being left-of-center. The signposts have been out there for years. Mellencamp has never been shy about expressing his views, such as they are.

I’m too young to care much about Neil Young, and too old to care about Taylor Swift. I hadn’t even heard of Panic! At The Disco until just the other day. I’ve maybe heard of Rihanna, but I couldn’t name one of her songs to save my life.

I do remember John Mellencamp, though. His breakout album, American Fool, was released in 1982. I was then entering high school, and the heart of my teenage years. John Mellencamp was never one of my favorite artists; but a few of his songs I genuinely liked, and still listen to from time-to-time.

That said, I have to call Mr. Mellencamp out on his self-description as an “ardent leftist”. Mellencamp has a net worth of $25 million. That makes him a pauper by Taylor Swift standards. He’s pretty poor compared to Neil Young, too. Nevertheless, with a net worth of $25 million, John Mellencamp more than qualifies as a one-percenter.

Here’s the way I see it: If you want to call yourself “an ardent leftist”, then act the part. Give away your fortune to help the less fortunate—or to fund the revolution. Move into communal housing in the inner city, or perhaps a dingy cubbyhole of an apartment. Eat rice and beans for dinner every night.

But if you have $25 million in the bank—and you keep it—then you don’t get to call yourself an “ardent leftist”. And no, you don’t get to simply “identify” as a leftist, either. This isn’t like sex reassignment surgery. All Mellencamp (or Neil Young, or Taylor Swift) would have to do is give away their vast sums of wealth. Then they’ll be “ardent leftists” in name as well as deed. Until then, they’re Republicans in denial.

Actress Cynthia Nixon, known for her roles in Sex and the City and The Pelican Brief, tried to retool herself as a progressive politician a few years ago. Her plan, so far as anyone can tell, was to run against Governor Andrew Cuomo from the left. At one point, Nixon referred to herself as a “democratic socialist”. (This is basically socialism without the gulags and firing squads (at first, anyway).)

Nixon, however, has a net worth of $25 million. This makes her about as rich as John Mellencamp.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but a “democratic socialist” with $25 million is just as much of an oxymoron as an “ardent leftist” with $25 million. Some things go together, and other things don’t. The Pope, or so I’ve been told, must be a Roman Catholic. The Pope can’t be a Muslim, a Jehovah’s Witness, or an atheist. A proper Marxist, likewise, can’t be filthy rich. 

I would issue the following challenge to Cynthia Nixon, John Mellencamp, and other “champagne socialists” out there: Socialism, like charity, starts at home. If you want to impose socialist economic policies on everyone else, start by giving away all your excess millions, beyond the bare amount you need to live. Redistribute your own wealth first. Give it all away! Then you can talk to us about redistributing everyone else’s wealth.

A banker or a sex worker?

Which one would you rather be? Well…maybe it depends on the bank’s 401K and dental plan (?)

After a conservative Canadian MP declared that no woman would willingly become a sex worker, banker-turned-sex-worker Madison Winter wrote this rebuttalAu contraire, she said, citing her own journey from a corporate finance career into escorting.

I’m not here to cheerlead for sex work, but I see her point. It’s somewhat contradictory to state that women have complete agency on one hand, while simultaneously depicting women as hapless victims, who will be constantly exploited if someone isn’t protecting them at every turn.

Likewise, I think we can agree that most women wouldn’t be interested in becoming sex workers. But anyone who claims to speak for “all women”—or “all” of any demographic—is standing on shaky ground from the outset.

Brexit is official

A new beginning for the United Kingdom

Today the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union, ending the nation’s long and costly experiment with the European Union.

This is the day on which the UK reclaims its national sovereignty. 

There is nothing scary, or even revolutionary, here. The United Kingdom existed as a sovereign nation for centuries before the European Union. And as I seem to recall, the country fared quite well. 

As a sovereign nation, the UK spread British law, civilization, and the English language throughout the world. 

Congratulations to all readers from the United Kingdom. And (I’ll say the words that the traitor, Jeremy Corbyn, wouldn’t) God save the Queen

‘American Dirt’ and another kowtow to the Internet mob

Yet another example of cancel culture in action. The book tour of Jeanine Cummins, author of the novel American Dirt, has been cancelled after the backlash of an Internet social justice mob.

What’s the issue? Apparently a woman who is not of Mexican heritage is not allowed to write a novel about Mexican migrants. 

Or so the mob declares. 

***

Update: 124 relatively unknown authors have signed an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, asking Oprah to abet the book-burning project.

I’m not familiar with the majority of the authors. Quite a few of them, though, seem to be authors of competing books (also about the Mexican migrant experience) that have not achieved similar commercial success.

A hint of the green-eyed monster, perhaps?

Make of that what you will.

Technology and the voluntary loss of privacy

This is bigger than Katie Hill…

A certain politician from California has been in the hot seat of late because of embarrassing revelations of a highly personal nature. 

Katie Hill, a freshman representative from California, has recently seen her private life aired on the Internet, from The Daily Mail to Twitter… 

And what a colorful private life it is, apparently. Say what you will about Representative Hill and her politics, but she isn’t boring and she isn’t a prude. 

This naturally raises a lot of questions: Should a politician’s sex life be an issue, so long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating anyone’s rights? Can a politician who leads an unconventional sex life govern effectively?

Politics tends to attract horndogs of both sexes, irrespective of ideology: Consider the examples of Bill Clinton, JFK, and Donald Trump.

Further back in history, consider Catherine the Great and King David. 

That isn’t the angle I want to consider, though. 

I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, unless you were a famous person, most of what you said and did simply wasn’t documented.

Photographs existed, obviously. But individual photos had to be developed, usually at a Fotomat. And since they also had to be printed out on paper, there was a cost associated with them. 

“Instant cameras”, with self-developing film, enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. But the film was expensive, and the photo quality wasn’t very good. 

Because of such negative cost and convenience factors, people tended to take photos only when it was an “event”: a birthday celebration, a school play, a family portrait, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that having your photo taken was a big deal in the 1980s, but yes…it was kind of a big deal. It didn’t happen every day, for the average person. 

As a result, most of what you said and did died in the moment. There wasn’t this minute-by-minute record of your life that we have now. 

Those technologically primitive times had their benefits. Suppose that you said something dumb, or you did something that pushed a few boundaries. Unless it was really over the top, it was quickly forgotten. 

Which is, I would suggest, the way it should be.

Katie Hill certainly didn’t want her private photos published on the Internet. Her reasonable expectations of privacy were violated. Let’s be unequivocal about that. 

But the vast majority of the photos which came to light were clearly posed. This strongly implies that she consented to them being taken. 

This, in itself, represents a major lapse in judgment. Why, pray tell, would anyone consent to a naked photo of oneself, smoking from a bong, with an iron cross tattoo plainly visible near one’s pubic region?

We’ve bought into the notion that every moment of our lives needs to be Instagrammed, Facebooked, and selfied. Perhaps this is mass vanity, or perhaps this has just become a habit. Either way, it’s what we’re all doing. 

And this isn’t just the Millennials and the GenZers. I have friends in their forties and fifties who seemingly can’t go out to dinner without taking a half-dozen photos of themselves and uploading them to Facebook. 

Look at us, and what a happy couple we are, having a fancy meal out on the town!

More of our lives needs to remain private. But our private lives especially need to remain private. 

How do you define “private”? Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t consent to any photo of yourself that you wouldn’t want posted on the homepage of The Daily Mail. Because as Katie Hill now knows, that may very well happen.