Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.


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

Duff: YouTube debate satisfied craving to see politicians answer to real people

Duff: YouTube debate satisfied craving to see politicians answer to real people

American politics changed Monday. We can’t see the whole shape of it yet, but the CNN/YouTube debate broke up the pattern of boring, predictable debate questions and brought the concerns of ordinary people to the forefront.

Too often it seems like our political system is made of granite blocks – giant, ponderous forces that are invulnerable to change.

The YouTube questions took a big chunk out of that system, and the politicians are scrambling to deal with it.

The questions were a spin doctor’s nightmare – rude, shrewd and merciless. The YouTube contributors stripped away the protective layers of PR and asked point-blank questions about issues the politicians would rather avoid.

Candidates were left stammering and off-balance, struggling to cope with questions that no rational process could prepare them for.

It was deeply satisfying, in a way, to see politicians answer questions from people who, in a normal campaign, couldn’t have made it through security.

The oddball queries elevated some candidates and made others look hollow. A questioner asked Chris Dodd how he was going to be different, and he bragged about being the same for 30 years.

Someone asked Hillary Clinton if she was a liberal, and she arguably hit it out of the park, proudly calling herself a progressive and (correctly) explaining how the word had changed over the years.

The best inquiry came from Saheedb. He asked which Republican the candidates would pick as a running mate. This question is remarkable because it gets to the heart of how politics really works.

I’m fascinated by this experiment because Internet culture is fundamentally the opposite of political culture. Political communication is all about reserve, control and good manners. Internet communication is about candor – ruthless, unfiltered honesty. Those two cultures clashed Monday, and I think the process is better for it.

The citizens asked smart, tough questions, with a few rude ones thrown in for flavor. I didn’t need to know if Hillary was woman enough or if Obama was black enough, but it was fun watching them answer.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 27, 2007 at 14:52

Posted in Columns, Politics