Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Quick reaction to Obama's acceptance speech

I’ll leave the hardcore analysis to Freda and Donald, but as a long time blogger and recovering policy wonk, I wanted to throw a quick reaction to this speech on Lubbock Online, just so you know we’re paying attention.

I won’t pretend to be any kind of objective reporter here, but my personal ideology is so bizarre, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Being utterly disillusioned with the process is not the same as being objective, but for our purposes tonight, I hope it’s the next best thing.

In fact, with so many members of my peer group off the fence and in the tank for Obama, I may be the last cynic left on Earth. For years I’ve watched my friends mope around and whine about how stupid elections are. Now suddenly Obama’s made it cool to care about politics, and they’re walking around like characters from a Capra film — sporting campaign buttons and big goofy grins.

Rachel Sklar actually used the phrase “Happy days are here again” in a video yesterday. There’s something unseemly about watching Generation X wake up and try to believe in something. My people were not built for optimism. There’s something mildly creepy about it, watching this uncomplicated and decidedly unironic outpouring of love for a politician.

We were taught to distrust and sneer at authority, dammit! Not to roll over and sigh at the first sign of a candidate who can form coherent sentences.

Obama brought it home, but let’s face it, his supporters are so in love with him, all he had to do was come on stage without tripping over himself and they’d call it a win.

And by the same token, his opponents are so inflamed I suspect Obama’s appeals to patriotism will be ignored.

I was impressed with the fairness and decency of both candidates tonight. McCain ran an extraordinary ad congratulating Obama and acknowledging his place in history. He played it utterly straight, with no cheap shots or veiled attacks thrown in.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 28, 2008 at 23:54

Posted in Politics

My Wonkette Story

Still can’t sleep, so I’m going to tell my Wonkette story.

Technology has basically given me a new way to stalk Ana Marie Cox today, so this seems like a good time to recout my (fleeting and pathetic) brush with net.fame.

I like to tell people I almost interned for Wonkette.

I used to send in items from time to time, when Ana Marie ran the place. Dishing dirt on Libertarians, mostly. She linked me a couple times and I thought I was hot stuff. This is less impressive now that I know the reality of her working conditions.

She was working in a Nick Denton sweatshop at the time, struggling to fill a ridiculous daily quota. When I got my first link, I was beside myself with joy, assuming this had something to do with the cleverness of my pitch or the quality of my humor.

The truth is, catch a Wonkette editor during a slow news cycle and she’ll post pictures of your cat with a political caption underneath, if she thinks it’ll keep the lights on.

Ana put out a call for interns and asked them to prove their worth by composing a haiku about Al Gore.

I got her attention by ignoring the rules and offering…never mind what I offered. The point is, it worked and she told me I had made the first cut. I spent two hours in a joy/fear coma and started to seriously consider a move to DC.

I didn’t understand the mechanics of internships, of course. Jobs like this are not meant for hardworking Texans who pay their own bills. They’re meant for brats with trust funds, milking that last bit of parental goodwill as they run off to “find themselves” in New York or DC.

I was too old, too scared and too poor to chase a job meant for college kids, so I told Ana I was “just kidding” and wept into my pillow until my ambition faded to a more reasonable level.

Looking back on it, I wonder how many guys were in my position — frantically feeding links to Wonkette in hopes that Ana or someone like her would wave a magic wand and invite them into the big leagues.

Political geeks are a sad, desperate lot. It doesn’t take much to win our love, and it doesn’t take much to keep us going. One little sentence of encouragement was worth a dozen tips from me.

I don’t blame her for exploiting her appeal. Working for Nick Denton is like being in a prison movie from the 70s. Gawker editors will do awful things to keep the hits coming, if only to avoid the lash.

I was never very close to the world of high-stakes blogging, but I see Ana and Rachel eating cupcakes and I wonder what might have been.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 28, 2008 at 05:20

Posted in Gossip, Politics

Cute girls liveblogging at the DNC

I really should be sleeping. Instead I’m up late adding dubious celebrities to my Twitter account.

There are some incredibly smart and funny projects happening at the DNC this year, and the best stuff is actually on Twitter. I’m a fan of anamariecox of course, but the best writing so far is actually from Slate magazine.

For any newspaper people who can still stand to read me, this is how you liveblog a political event. Slate basically turned their writers loose and let them be funny.

The Twitter stuff brings a wonderful sense of fun and immediacy to the process. I mean, where else can you get video of Ana Marie Cox and Rachel Sklar making cupcakes that resemble major figures in the Democratic Party?

Notice in this video, Rachel actually says, “Happy days are here again!” completely without irony, as she sprinkles confetti on a cupcake.

Do you think the Fox News people will film themselves eating cupcakes at McCain’s convention? And while I’m up late asking difficult questions, why don’t my Senior Contributing Editors look like this?

Maybe the answer will come to me in a dream.

DISCLAIMER: And yes, before anyone points it out, I realize I have just referred to some of the finest political journalists of my generation as “cute girls.” Please understand, this language is not intended as an insult or as any kind of disrespect. Our market research has shown that I will get 30 percent more hits on this post if I use language like this. The ladies in question are all familiar with hardcore blog sweatshops, so even if they don’t condone my language, I’m sure they will understand it.

And for those 30 percent of you who would not have clicked on this post if I had used the words “Eminent female journalists,” please take a moment and feel ashamed of yourselves.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 28, 2008 at 03:40

Posted in Politics

Technology 1, Burka 0

Here's the problem. You want to strut your stuff and attract men, but you are required by law and/or faith to wear a Burka.

Now there's a solution.

The CharmingBurka sends a picture of the wearing person to every mobile phone close to it. Potential suitors can check you out without violating holy law.

This may also be useful for people living in cold climates.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 15, 2008 at 15:47

Posted in Politics

Political blogs on Lubbock Online

We've got a couple new bloggers here at Lubbock Online. The staff has been scribbling here for a while, but now our political blogs are live, and both sides are ready to throw down.

In the right corner we have Dr. Donald May, a.k.a. Mr. Conservative.

And on the left we have Freda McVay, a.k.a. A Liberal Lubbockian.

Whatever you believe, I hope you'll agree that it's good to have both sides represented, and I hope you'll share my enthusiasm for the addition of political blogs to Lubbock Online. We've got two pillars of the community here — smart, passionate people who know their stuff and are willing to fight for what they believe in.

I think good blogging comes from passion, and I think politics is worth getting excited about, so I'll be following both these folks as they lay out their positions here online.

I could give you a 600-word civics lecture about voter apathy and the virtues of blogging for political advocacy, but let's face it — at the end of the day, I just like watching grownups fight.

Enjoy.

Written by Michael B. Duff

November 20, 2007 at 16:39

Posted in Politics

Sorry I lied to you that time

A couple days ago, I posted this article by Vin Suprynowicz citing the origin of G.I. Joe, claiming the doll was inspired by Medal of Honor winner Mitchell Paige.

Now Jason Rhode writes to tell me that's not true:

I don't want to ruin anyone's party, but I think that guy's got his facts wrong. It's not the case that Hasbro or Paramount are screwing them on this. If this Las Vegas Review-Journal dude had like spent five minutes Googling this stuff he would have known.

This research isn't mine. Most of it comes from here: http://joes.propadeutic.com/pre82.html

“G. I. Joe began in 1962 in the mind of Stanley Weston, who suggested that the Hasbro toy company produce a line of twelve-inch figures based on his television show, The Lieutenant. The goal was to create a toy line for boys as successful as Barbie had been among girls.

“The television tie-in was ultimately rejected, but Hasbro's creative director Don Levine approached Hasbro president Merrill Hassenfeld with the idea of a “movable soldier” (not a “doll”). The figure was designed by Walter Hansen and Phil Kraczkowski and marketed with uniforms of the four branches of the service under the name G. I. Joe. The name was inspired by the 1945 movie “The Story of G. I. Joe.”

“Mitchell's face was used for a Classic Remake “Medal of Honor” model in 1998. But G.I. Joe is no more based on Mitchell Paige than Barbie is on Lucille Ball. Those were special edition dolls designed decades after the originals.

“G.I. Joe was a Hollywood creation from the start. He was inspired by a TV show, and named after a movie. Each military branch had a version, not just the Marines. Included in the product line was “Soldiers of the World” (apparently with a Russian soldier!)”

It's not a big deal, I just wish this guy had checked his sources. I wouldn't have caught this, except, as you know, I have my weird obsession with Eighties pop culture. I'm sure it'll be “Thriller” that I'll be mailing you about next…

So, what does this mean? Obviously it means Jason Rhode is an evil commie who hates America. Also, I have seen him kiss men.

I finally get my hands on an authentic tale of American heroism, then you have to come along with your facts and ruin everybody's good time. Way to go, hippie. You gonna take on Santa Claus next? Maybe dish some hard dirt on Betty Ford?

I'll think of you first, buddy, next time they talk about bringing back the draft.

P.S. Jason Rhode is a friend of mine and he knows I'm kidding. I wouldn't be that mean to a normal reader. Well, maybe I would, but he'd have to be a real jerk.

Written by Michael B. Duff

November 1, 2007 at 15:23

Posted in Politics

G.I. Joe was more than just a toy

This is all over my friends list this morning, generating a fierce patriotic buzz. Don't miss this outstanding column by Vin Suprynowicz reminding everyone that G.I. Joe was more than “just a toy.”

You can read more here.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 29, 2007 at 12:29

Posted in Politics

Dumbledore is gay. Does it matter?

I'm late to the party on this one. Scott Slemmons already covered this in his Hero Sandwich blog but the Internet is still buzzing about it, and I wanted to weigh in.

First, it's not a publicity stunt. Rowling doesn't need more money and she didn't invent this overnight. These books were planned out years in advance, and J.K. left out more detail than she put in. Check out any random interview and you'll see her reveal fascinating story bits that weren't quite important enough to make it in print.

So when she says Dumbledore is gay, I believe he's been gay from the beginning. This revelation actually explains a lot and fits with the character. The biggest mystery in book 7 is how could Dumbledore be blind to the influence of a villain who started as a close friend. Now we know.

He was blind because he was in love, a situation that anyone with half a heart or half a brain can relate to.

The usual suspects are furious, of course. Bad enough that HP promotes Satanism and Witchcraft, now reading it can give your kids The Gay!

I'm delighted to see Rowling throw this curve ball into our national debate. A big chunk of the world population thinks homosexuality is evil, and we need to confront that. We need to talk about it and deal with it.

I think 20 years from now, prejudice against homosexuals will seem just as shameful and old-fashioned as the Jim Crow laws seem today.

Of course the Bible denounces homosexuality, but the Bible has been used to justify all kinds of crazy prejudices throughout history. Biblical interpretations fall in and out of fashion just like anything else.

In the 18th century, Bible verses were routinely used to justify slavery. Those interpretations fell out of fashion as the culture changed, and I believe the 20th century prejudice against homosexuals will vanish as well.

Religious movements establish culture, but they also respond to culture, and once society starts to accept homosexuality as natural and normal, the message from the pulpit will change as well.

This is a debate we need to have and Dumbledore's outing is a step in the right direction.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 24, 2007 at 10:21

Posted in Books, Culture, Politics

Too old to spank? Try Tasers!

Who do you root for when both sides are wrong?

Today the Internet is buzzing about Andrew Meyer, a student who was Tasered during a Kerry speech at the University of Florida.

Before I tell you my opinion, check out the video for yourself.

There are some important things we can't see here. Supposedly, Meyer ran up and grabbed the microphone before this, and had been asked to leave a few times before the police got there. Meyer also has a history of filming practical jokes.

I'd feel a lot better about defending this guy if this was a genuine political protest. It looks like shallow attention-seeking to me, an attempt to disrupt and hijack the proceedings, rather than to passionately be part of them.

I don't like Andrew Meyer. But just because I don't like somebody doesn't mean they deserve to be Tased. This is where I part company from most of the right-wing bloggers. (Warning! The preceeding link, chosen because it is eloquent and funny, also contains strong language.)

I'm amused by the number of “libertarian” bloggers who think the use of force on students is just fine, as long as the victim is a Democrat. I'm also amused by the left-wing bloggers who want to portray Meyer as some kind of hero. Naomi Wolf talks like he's the next Rosa Parks.

I'm concerned about this recent surge of Taser-happy cops, but I thought the UCLA library incident was much more disturbing than this one.

I think Udolpho is a bit too willing to let cops off the hook for this, but he's right about one thing. Andrew Meyer didn't have to get Tased to get his question asked. Even after he rushed the microphone, he could have asked his question, got his answer, and made his point without disrupting the event.

This was childish attention-seeking behavior from a kid who needs to grow up. I don't want to Tase Andrew Meyer. I want to Tase his parents. Parents, don't let your kids turn out like this. If you don't spank them at age 6, the police will do it for you, 15 years too late.

Written by Michael B. Duff

September 19, 2007 at 10:03

Posted in Politics

Barechested Putin woos Russian voters

The Internet is currently buzzing about the naked chest of Vladamir Putin, pictured here in all its pale glory.

The Russian press is going nuts over this. They think Putin has bared his flesh in an attempt to boost his power and seduce voters — proof, they say, that he does not plan to relinquish power at the end of his second term.

Putin has certainly increased his credibility with female voters. Posters on his presidential web site are all aflutter about his “vigorous torso”.

I'm not an expert on Russian politics, but I think this may be more about personal ego than anything else.

Two questions come to mind: First, how long until George Bush follows Putin's example? And second, does having a nice physique make a president more or less likely to become a dictator? I think most dictators lean toward pudgy — probably from spending all that time in bunkers.

I think most men become dictators precisely because they're not attractive. If Hitler and Stalin had done a little better with the ladies during their civillian lives, they wouldn't have needed to conquer half the world to get a date.

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 26, 2007 at 01:17

Posted in Politics