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Protecting Interests 2: Electric Boogaloo

I’m still subjecting myself to Leonard Peikoff’s podcast, in part because I still find Peikoff funny, even though he’s clearly kind of losing it. (And the fact that he sometimes mixes it up on his podcast by posting extremely old recordings where he had his shit together only hammers that point home.) I think I may have explained that, even though I’m increasingly disagreeing with Yaron Brook, I still think it’s important to listen to his podcasts… Because basically, if I feel compelled to defend attacks on Objectivism, I should know what one of the chief spokesmen for Objectivism is saying to make us all look like idiots.

In the podcast from February 2nd, Brook fields the following question:

Q: Okay, the first question we have is kind of a follow-up on a previous answer I gave regarding the responsibility of the United States to protect the rights of its citizens abroad. The questioner posits that for U.S. citizens, the government should always be protecting their rights abroad and helping them if their property is seized or if they’re in trouble in a foreign country that it’s the U.S.’s responsibility always to protect its citizens.

A: In a sense, that’s right, but I don’t completely agree with her, ’cause I think she’s excluding the possibility, for example, that U.S. citizens are doing things that are really, really stupid. If the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and some American decides to fly in there, or to sneak in there or whatever, I, as an American, do not want to be responsible for the action of this irresponsible individual. And they get captured by the North Koreans, and the North Koreans are doing all kinds of stuff…

I want my country engaged in activities that protect, in a sense, responsible citizens. If the government has already said, “Look, don’t go to North Korea,” and you do, I think you’re on your own. So I do think the government needs to present, in a sense, a list of countries, and what it’s willing to do given those countries. Certain countries should be off bounds for Americans in terms of government protection, where they know they’re not going to get that protection overseas.

Now, the second part of the question: she questions my arguing that the government should stand by American corporations whose property is seized overseas. She says, “Look, corporations are not individuals, and therefore, it’s not the role of government to defend them.”

So, what are corporations? This brings up a much bigger question. Corporations are just legal entities owned by individuals. So what’s the difference between a corporation and a self-proprietorship? If I have a business, and I own 100% of it, and I’m a U.S. citizen, and in the context of me running this business, the business opens up operations in Brazil, and I get tangled in some issue with the Brazilian government, is it the responsibility of the U.S. government to protect me? Well, I think she would say, “Yes, you’re a U.S. citizen. Even though it’s this business entity that’s in trouble, it’s 100% owned by you; therefore, it’s okay.”

But now we have a corporation, and the corporation is owned by a hundred different American citizens, or a thousand different American citizens, or a million different American citizens—it doesn’t matter. As an American corporation—the corporation is just a legal construct, but all it represents is the fact that it has lots of owners.

Now, here I’m not going to address all the issues of limited liability and so on; I’ve done that elsewhere. You can also get my course on the corporation from the Ayn Rand Institute eStore, where I delve into those. But here, just in the sense of protecting rights overseas, when you’re protecting the “rights” of a corporation, all you’re doing is protecting the rights of its owners. And its owners are—now, I’m assuming it’s an American corporation; therefore, its owners are Americans.

So, no, absolutely corporations’ property should be protected overseas by the U.S. government if it’s an American corporation owned by Americans. Your rights don’t end as an individual when you form a business with a bunch of other individuals, and form it in a legal way that’s called a corporation. We have to get rid of this whole animosity towards corporations that exists among so many people in the free-market world.

The same is true of free speech: it’s not that corporations have free speech; it’s that the individuals who own the corporations have free speech. Therefore, all the corporation is doing when it speaks is speaking for the owners. So, when we apply free speech principals to the corporation, it’s just extending the free speech rights that are with their owners to this legal construct. It’s the owners who have the rights, and through them, the corporation has rights. But again, a corporation is not an individual; it’s a legal entity which is owned by individuals, and those individuals’ rights don’t go away ’cause they formed this legal entity.

Boiled down to its essentials, the question is this: if an American citizen breaks a law overseas, is it the obligation of the American government to protect their rights? Brook’s answer is basically, “Yes,” with some conditions. For those unfamiliar with or confused by the Objectivist perspective on the role of government, answering “Yes” under any circumstances should be regarded as, at the very least, slightly insane.

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Yaron Brook’s Lord of Illusions

I told myself I was going to shut up about Yaron fucking Brook, but the son of a bitch decided to flat-out lie in the February 16th podcast.

There’s no purpose in quoting the entire Q&A. The questioner, dumb as a bag of hammers, suggested that American cities have a dearth of public parks (making the baffling statement, assuming Brook is directly quoting the question, that “there are no urban parks in America, with the exception of Central Park and maybe Golden Gate”), especially when compared to “socialist” countries in Europe. The questioner considers this “a clear failure of capitalist thinking.”

Admittedly, Brook has a habit of mangling questions in attempts to paraphrase them, but here it sounded a lot like he read the majority of the question verbatim; it’s just that the question doesn’t make sense. I’ve never been to Europe, but I have lived in two of the biggest cities in this country, and it’s hard not to find parks. The Chicago Park District lists 596 parks, which excludes beaches. Many of them probably aren’t more than a city block, but there’s still Grant Park, Lincoln Park (which is significantly larger than Central Park), Jackson Park, Burnham Park… Los Angeles, of course, has Griffith Park, which is over five times the size of Central Park. That’s not even getting into forest preserves, state parks, national parks, and the wide open spaces a stone’s throw away from every American city.

More importantly, city parks are a feature of urban planning. In other words: a function of government. Even if the claim that there “are no urban parks” was true, even if it was true that American cities have fewer parks and/or smaller parks than European cities (and it may be; I don’t care enough to research the comparison), how is it a failure of capitalist thinking when it’s not up to private enterprise to fund, build, and maintain parks?

That’s what leads to Brook’s lie. He latched onto the questioner’s mention of Central Park and makes the outrageous claim that “Central Park was established by local businessmen [not true]. It was a private park [not true], established by private people [not true], on private land [not true]. It wasn’t established through so-called ‘urban planning’ [not true].”

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Idiot: The Life and Times of Reza Aslan — Part I: An Unexpected Journey

A Note to Readers: I’ve decided to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring Reza Aslan’s intellectual dishonesty. This is part one of four.

About a year ago—maybe a little more—I was nearing the end of my manuscript when I decided to do some research into Islam. I wanted to be fair, since the book spends so much time criticizing Judaism and Christianity. One of the characters is an atheist Pakistani woman, driven to her rejection of religion because of her mistreatment as a woman based on religious premises. I knew enough about Islam and Pakistani society to think it would be plausible for a very intelligent, perceptive woman to cut through the bullshit and reject its root cause…but I skirted around the specifics. For one thing, I didn’t know very much about it, so I wanted to avoid potential criticism based on my own ignorance.

More importantly, I was a total wuss. I knew Salman Rushdie had gone into hiding for years, I knew that attempts had been made on the lives of some Danish chuckleheads based on a dumb cartoon, and I knew that Theo Van Gogh was shot in the street like a dog for making a film critical of treatment of women in the Middle East. Isn’t it weird, by the way, that I have no fears revolving around what amounts to an attack of religion in general, and Judaism and Christianity in particular? But when I even contemplate the idea of bringing in the third Abrahamic religion (which is, specifically, why I chose to give one of the characters a background in an Islamic family in a Middle Eastern country), I’m terrified of getting too specific in my critiques or condemnations. Is that a problem with me, or with something else…?

At any rate, when I decided I should do some cursory research, one name popped into my head: Reza Aslan. It was possibly subconscious, because his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth had been released the previous summer. This might come across to some as hard to believe, but while I was writing Overzealous during 2013 and 2014, I pretty much lived life in a news vacuum. I knew nothing about what was going on in the world, hadn’t heard about Aslan’s infamous Fox News interview or the stupid controversy surrounding a Muslim author daring to write a book about Jesus. When I say it may have been subconscious, it’s because, despite my self-imposed ignorance, those things still happened, and I may have had some dim awareness that had put Aslan back on my mental radar.

Consciously, though, I thought of Aslan because he had a memorable interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart while promoting his previous book, No god but God, in 2006. He was very charming, he trotted out his exaggerated academic bona fides, and he specifically pitched the book as a history of Islam accessible to naïve Westerners like myself. Now that Aslan has been on my radar for awhile, I know he’s known (to me, at least) for dishonesty and pretzel logic; I haven’t gone back to rewatch the interview, so I can’t say that he claimed it was an objective history of Islam. Regardless, I had that impression when I remembered him eight years later.

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Idiot: The Life and Times of Reza Aslan — Part II: The Apologist

A Note to Readers: I’ve decided to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring Reza Aslan’s intellectual dishonesty. This is part two of four. Read part one here.

When I finished the book, I wished I had been able to get into that course in Middle Eastern history (from 622-present) back in college. Focusing much of the book on the early foundational history of Islam, Aslan left me feeling that I knew what Muslims believed their history to be, which as he says is “indispensable and historically valuable.”4 But is it true? Aslan’s book, riddled as it is with pretzel logic, contradictions, and outright lies, gave an overview that left me with as many questions as answers.

Why, for instance, was Aslan so hellbent on making the argument that Muhammad must have been literate5, and later that he was a brilliant intellectual leader6 and social reformer7 (claiming that pretty much every idea expressed in the Qur’an was a needed move toward something that sounds a lot more like a westernized liberal Utopia of the present than anything resembling seventh-century Arabia, requiring him to upsell the rights of women8 and religious opponents9 while downplaying unsavory aspects like slavery10 and destruction of non-dhimmi enemies11)? Why did he try really, really hard to downplay Muhammad’s military career12 (by suggesting, for instance, that Muhammad’s frequent caravan raids were “in no way considered stealing… there was no need for retribution”13)? Why does he downplay the jizyah as a “special ‘protection tax’… that allowed Jews and Christians both religious autonomy and the opportunity to share in the social and economic institutions of the Muslim world”14? (I mean, that sounds pretty cool until you read about the jizyah in the Qur’an and hadith15.) Why, especially, did he flat-out lie about Muhammad’s union with Aisha (most reliable hadith give her age of marriage as six, and they all give the age of consummation as nine16, 17, 18; Aslan claims they were “betrothed” at nine, but “Aisha did not consummate her marriage to Muhammad until after reaching puberty,” which is not backed up by anything—and is never mentioned in his half-hearted endnotes)19? (Aslan also downplays the epidemic of female genital mutilation in Muslim-dominated countries; all of this would lead me to question his true feelings about women and female equality, except he’s generally full of shit, so there’s little point in speculating on a deeper meaning.)

I will give Aslan credit for one thing: No god but God gave me a nice launching pad to perform actual research. His book filled me with so many questions, and such an intense desire to understand the obvious obfuscation, that I was able to dig in and find much more scholarly sources on Islamic history.

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Idiot: The Life and Times of Reza Aslan — Part III: Overzealous

A Note to Readers: I’ve decided to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring Reza Aslan’s intellectual dishonesty. This is part three of four. Read parts one and two.

At the risk of sounding like I’m jumping on the right-wing “How dare a Muslim write a book on Christianity” bandwagon, let me be clear for those who haven’t read my other yammerings: I am an atheist. I’m not what Aslan and others call a “New Atheist,”22 nor am I “anti-theist.”23 People can believe what they want to believe; they can even yammer ceaselessly about it (I know I do). But if they can believe what they want to, then I can believe it’s really, really stupid. You know, like anyone who learns I admire Ayn Rand’s work may assume I’m really, really stupid. That’s what “tolerance” actually means, incidentally; it’s not a requirement to respect or revere others’ belief systems. Sometimes, the things others think are really, really stupid help an individual; as long as it doesn’t cause that individual to hurt others, I’m all for it, no matter how stupid I personally think it is. What does my opinion matter if it helps them?

But it’s the “hurting others” aspect that first made me question religion. A great deal of research has shown me that it’s not for me. At all. But I’m cool with religious people, except for two types that really bug me: first, the ones who use God to justify hurting people (I’m not just talking physically: emotionally, spiritually, financially); second, the ones who have made it their mission to convince everyone that their religion is great. Aslan falls into the latter category, vigorously arguing in favor of religion in general and Islam in particular.

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Idiot: The Life and Times of Reza Aslan — Part IV: “What You Bring to It”

A Note to Readers: I’ve decided to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring Reza Aslan’s intellectual dishonesty. This is part four of four. Read parts one, two, and three.

If strong faith and an emphasis on scriptural doctrine and traditional dogma change a person’s views, isn’t it also possible that even someone with a very moderate or even non-practicing relationship with religion might still be impacted by the tenets of their religion? A liberal, progressive Muslim like Reza Aslan might, for example, say, “In France, there is no limitation [on what you can and cannot say about oppressed or minority classes], particularly with regard to religion and race. And I think Charlie Hebdo was representative of this distinctly French value, and an argument that unless you agree with that value, well, then, you are not really French.” There’s actually no “might” about this: Reza Aslan, “scholar of religions,” did indeed claim that freedom of speech is a “distinctly French value” and implies that the right to free speech is what led some idiots to kill some old men for drawing cartoons. Somebody who tries very, very hard to paint an ancient religion with a brush of modern, progressive, egalitarian, multiculturalist politics implicitly argues that First Amendment rights ought to be limited in order to prevent the “clash of civilizations” that is hurting Muslims’ feelings.30 Isn’t it probable that such an idiotic comment could have only been uttered by someone who believes just the tiniest bit in the Islamic faith, as opposed to Catholicism or Judaism or anything else? And if Islam is the faith, don’t the specifics of the “symbols and metaphors,” then, have at least the tiniest bit of relevance in discussions of religious differences, especially when it leads to violence?

I think the effect religion has had on the world is a mixed bag: some good things, some bad things. What bothers me about it, in general, is the fact that all that nasty stuff that Aslan thinks people (both believers and nonbelievers) misunderstand, misinterpret, or take too literally is still there, whether he likes it or not. In his New York Times piece, he claims that the rampant contradictions of religious texts are actually a virtue, allowing it “to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires.” He then follows this with specific contradictory quotes from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an.31

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Idiot: The Life and Times of Reza Aslan — Addendum: An Illustrative Quote

I’ve become somewhat enamored of Aki Muthali, a fearless author who often takes journalists and pundits to task for what she calls “pseudo-liberalism,” which she defines as the illusion that personal prejudices are ‘liberal values’ and using it to persecute genuine liberals who promote justice, equality and freedom—ultimately aligning oneself with the conservative fringe that trample on human rights.” One of the thing that pushed me away from aligning with the left, other than a general disagreement on how to solve socioeconomic problems, was my observance if that kind of bizarre hypocrisy. One of the defining early posts on this dumb blog is called “The Protest,” in which I was forcefully ejected from an antiwar rally for questioning a charismatic speaker’s claim that protesting the war would protect Iraqis’ freedom.

Admittedly, I went to that protest mainly to meet women, but I did object to the war on the grounds that neither Iraqis nor Saddam Hussein had anything to do with September 11th (I never bought into the WMD/”imminent threat” hype, either), Saddam’s stranglehold over the country had the ironic effect of making it less prone to terrorist activities, and I saw the purpose of the war as little more than an excuse to (1) pilfer oil from a country we could control and (2) pick a fight with someone we thought we could beat, because George W. Bush and his cronies were a bunch of fucking pussies. However, I didn’t object to that war because I thought it would somehow enslave the Iraqis. That’s just nutso far-left thinking, the idea that American corporations enslave people and Republicans empower them to do so, and that such enslavement—you know, the sort that brings people jobs and economic infrastructure (see the recent history of Saudi Arabia for details)—would make Iraqis worse off than a dictator arbitrarily gassing them.

Point being, I observed the phenomenon Muthali forcefully and articulately describes long before she was on the scene. It was only recently that I really put my finger on why it bothered me, but I didn’t speak out. It’s not really in my nature to do so. Muthali’s blog on The Nation‘s website (this is, for those of you not clicking links, Pakistan’s English-language daily, not the American weekly) renders much of my own commentary moot, but she makes me glad someone is saying it. She’s also the one who emboldened me to write a four-part crankfest about Reza Aslan’s intellectual dishonesty. I’d been bitching about him to friends privately ever since reading No god but God, but I thought I was the only one who noticed how awful he is. Then I found Muthali. [Insert numerous heart emojis.]

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The Hitler-Stalin Tract

A few weeks ago, completely unrelated research led me to find two people, on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, saying roughly the same stupid thing for roughly the same stupid reason.

In this corner: Dinesh D’Souza, noted Christian right-wing crackpot, purveyor of intellectually bankrupt media (the “book” The Roots of Obama’s Rage, the “documentary” 2016: Obama’s America), and illegal campaign donation conspirator. In a really poorly written 2006 op-ed for The Christian Science Monitor, he makes this argument about the [clicks on reverb] horrors of atheism:

These figures [pertaining to the death toll of the Inquisition] are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.

In this corner: Reza Aslan, noted Muslim left-wing crackpot, purveyor of annoyingly readable but nevertheless intellectually dishonest media (the books No god But God and Zealot), and trumpeter of questionable credentials. In a frothy-mouthed 2014 missive against arch-nemesis Sam Harris disguised as an op-ed for Salon, he makes this argument about the [clicks reverb back on] horrors of a(nti-)theism:

Atheists often respond that atheism should not be held responsible for the actions of these authoritarian regimes, and they are absolutely right. It wasn’t atheism that motivated Stalin and Mao to demolish or expropriate houses of worship, to slaughter tens of thousands of priests, nuns and monks, and to prohibit the publication and dissemination of religious material. It was anti-theism that motivated them to do so. After all, if you truly believe that religion is “one of the world’s great evils”—as bad as smallpox and worse than rape; if you believe religion is a form of child abuse; that it is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children”—if you honestly believed this about religion, then what lengths would you not go through to rid society of it?

I think I’ve done it… I’ve cracked the code that will bridge the gap between the secular left and the religious right. First, you take the dominant type of far-left liberal (the ones who describe themselves as “spiritual,” don’t really practice any religion, yet keel over prostrate at even the faintest whiff of religious veneration from others; you know, out of respect), and the dominant type of right-wing nutjob (the ones who are one bad election away from holding rallies to burn every known copy of Dreams from My Father while reciting the Lord’s Prayer). You put them in a room together, and you say, “These other guys? They don’t respect any religions. And guess what? Neither did filthy pinko commies or—wait for it—the Nazis!”

There’s just one problem. All that stuff they’re saying about gleefully slaughtering innocents in the good name of atheism? It’s not, um… Well, it’s not actually true. It’s a few disconnected facts—Hitler, Stalin, and Mao slaughtered a lot of people; two of the three were atheists; and the jury’s still out on what the third really thought—jammed together to make a dishonest case against the morality of atheism. Both D’Souza and Aslan have completely different agendas. D’Souza strikes me as too much of an idiot to realize what he’s writing is even factually incorrect, but he wants to score points with conservative Christians (he may find this insulting, but he gets the long end of the stick here). On the other hand, Aslan—to whom I’ve devoted far too much blog space already—seems too smart for his own good. Pathologically committed to presenting Islam in its cheeriest, most peaceful connotation (to make even its most off-putting facets palatable to the secular left), Aslan knows exactly what he’s saying, and likely even knows how intellectually dishonest it is. It’s just that, when someone attacks his belief system, he needs to attack theirs right back. He can’t let people like Sam Harris hurt the Muslim brand.

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Legalize It

I made the mistake of clicking on this article, which a friend shared on Facebook. It quotes President Obama as saying the following at an economic event in Cleveland: “In Australia and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting. It would be transformative if everybody voted—that would counteract money more than anything.” That’s a very interesting comment from someone who has raised more campaign money than any Presidential candidate in the history of the country.

The article also describes some of the punishments, “from fines to even jail time,” that citizens face in countries where voting is legally required:

In Belgium, if you don’t vote, you might not be able to get a public-sector job. In Bolivia, you won’t get paid. And in Italy, you might even not be able to get a day care placement for your child.

This caused me to reflect on my own views about voting and consider Obama’s hypothesis that “money” wouldn’t win in a compulsory election. And yet, here’s one way “money” might win: vote buying. Consider my situation. I’m both a huge cheapskate and a huge pussy. I don’t want to be punished economically for not voting, and I sure as shit don’t want to go to jail. I’d like to believe I have enough honesty and integrity to simply take my punishment as a form of civil disobedience. Yet, if someone approached me and said, “I’ll give you $500 to vote for my guy,” I might really struggle with that. Get $500 to obey a law I don’t agree with, or get punished for disobeying it?

I’d struggle with it. What about people who are significantly less honest than me? I could imagine a cottage industry of vote-buying built up around the heady combination of voters who don’t give a shit about the election and candidates able to raise far too much money to try to win elections. According to Double Down, the very dull book on the 2012 election, the President struggled very briefly over whether or not to take Super PAC money before essentially shrugging and saying, “Well, the other side’s going to, and we have to stay competitive if we want to win.” I could imagine the same statement being uttered by candidates faced with the choice to buy votes or not. What’s a little electoral fraud among friends? It happens in every election, and nobody ever faces consequences for it—especially not the candidates themselves—so what’s the harm?

The President’s “money” remark had less to do with the amount wasted on elections than on using the wage gap as an explanation for disenfranchised voters: “The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.” Hmm… Young, low-income voters… I can’t see any reason why they might be susceptible to a bribe. Let’s also face the fact that the reason they don’t vote likely has less to do with disenfranchisement than with the feeling percolating among the young, especially after 2008, that they are not represented by either half of the two-party system. I’m too old to be considered “young,” but I feel that way, too. It’s the reason I choose not to vote. I’m not disenfranchised—when I go to my polling place, they’ve never even asked for identification; they just take my word for it that I am who I say I am—and I’m not apathetic. I would guess many non-voters, especially young ones, feel the same way.

Young people tend to be more wide-eyed and optimistic about the political process. With no evidence to back me up, I think, in much the same way Nixon’s tenure disillusioned young voters in the ’70s, the 2008 economic crisis had a destructive effect on the attitudes of the young. As time passed and it became clear that Obama’s administration would provide very little of the promised changes—even the one “big” change, the Affordable Care Act, is a mangled pile of garbage that primarily benefits the insurance companies involved in its construction—youthful activism evolved from the misguided Occupy Wall Street movement to…crickets. What’s the point of participating in a movement to effect political change if you no longer think change is possible? Even the act of voting itself becomes pointless when you know voting for a “third party” candidate or writing someone in will only help one of the two reigning parties. Requiring people who feel this way to vote is extremely dangerous to the democratic process. Low-income kids who hate being told what to do and feel unrepresented by the political machine, in this delightful age of sarcasm and irony, might be motivated to vote for the highest bidder as a slap in the face to the machine itself. Why not? If you truly view the two major parties as two sides of the same coin, who only differ on certain social issues, what’s to stop someone from taking a bribe to vote for the greater of two evils?

And what about the people who will simply remain apathetic? Aren’t these the same people who made all four Transformers movies among the top-grossing movies of their respective years? The same people who have made The Big Bang Theory one of the most popular shows on television? What attracts them to garbage? Effective advertising that shows them exactly what they want. Political ads do the exact same thing. They’re as dishonest as any other advertisement, and the product is just as crappy. But the sort of people who are susceptible to surface gloss, who don’t think deeply about entertainment, who just want a pleasant diversion, are the same sort of people who will not think too deeply about the political ads they see. They won’t fact-check claims about other candidates, or promises about what they’ll do. They won’t even think, “Politicians are inherently dishonest, so I should be skeptical.” They’ll vote for the candidates who spend the most to create and run ads. Money will win.

I wish I could blame the President’s statement about mandatory voting on naïveté, ignorance, stupidity, or even just a basic philosophical disagreement between the two of us. But the President is none of those things, and while we do disagree philosophically about many issues, that’s not the major issue here. “There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls,” he says, because he believes—perhaps correctly—that if voting were compulsory, those required to vote would vote for Democrats. Like so many political issues, that’s his main interest: not using this as a way to get people interested in voting and the political process, not using this as a legal means to prevent disenfranchisement (except for disenfranchising all those people who consciously choose not to vote—but who cares about them, right?), not as a way to force a more accurate and/or higher quality of representation… It’s just cheap trick to ensure continued Democratic victories. Party politics dressed up as liberal equality.

Party politics are the problem, not the solution. You really want people to get interested in voting? Here’s an idea: get better candidates.

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Movie Pitch — Snow Dogs 2: Snow Cats

Inspired by a screenplay by Jim Kouf and Tommy Swerdlow & Michael Goldberg and Mark Gibson & Philip Halprin, which itself took is premise from Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

We open in Miami. Dr. Theodore “Ted”/”Teddy Bear” Brooks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has come home for the funeral of his adoptive mother, Amelia, with wife Barb (Joanna Bacalso), two young children, and several huskies in tow. His cousin, Rupert (Sisqó), picks them up from the airport and takes them directly to the wake. Tragedy turns to levity when the dogs excitedly play with the many children of the Brooks extended family, allowing the adults to reflect on the pure innocence and joy of the next generation. Although some family members are disappointed that Ted abandoned the family that raised him, they warm up to him and his new life.

At the funeral, Ted tosses an intricate Inuit necklace, left behind by his birth mother, onto Amelia’s casket while the others toss roses and dirt. Later, at the reading of the will, Ted is shocked by a new revelation: Thunder Jack, who had married Amelia before passing away, was wrong about being his birth father. His real birth father was a Nepali sherpa who had migrated to Alaska looking for freedom and opportunity. Amelia spent her last years tracking down Ted’s real father, but she died before she found him. She bequeaths everything she found before dying.

Luckily, Rupert has parlayed his successful dental practice into a sideline business as a part-time private investigator. (He considers a dentist to be the private detective of the mouth.) Ted, Barb, and Rupert are surprised by how close Amelia came to finding the right man. She had found the man’s name, but not what had happened to him after he put Ted up for adoption. Rupert learns that the father was accused of killing a man in a barfight, so he fled the country. He tracks him back to his Nepali village, where he has lived a quiet life to this day.

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