Should Time Travelers Kill Baby Hitler?

This is a serious topic of discussion in today’s Bizzaro World.

At a live broadcast at the March for Life in Washington, DC on Friday, political commentator Ben Shapiro made the claim that no one who is pro life (or anti-abortion) would go back in time and kill notorious 20th Century German dictator Adolph Hitler when he was a baby. Shapiro’s critics seized on this opportunity to mercilessly attack him, and so far, have even gotten two sponsors to leave his show in protest.

Shapiro’s statement is perhaps more shocking because he is an outspoken Orthodox Jew, and Hitler was responsible for the targeted mass murder of millions of European Jews during WW2. While it’s rarely a good idea to mix history and politics, the ethical question of killing Hitler as a baby is an interesting one.

Hitler, who rose to power in Germany in 1934 and reigned as absolute dictator until his suicide in 1945, is almost solely responsible for the Second World War (in Europe, anyway) and subsequently the deaths of millions of people. Could this apocalyptic war be prevented if someone went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a baby?

Ben Shapiro’s reply to this hypothetical scenario was that, as a baby, Hitler had the potential to be anything. He could have, given different circumstances, gone on to live a normal and unremarkable life. The entire premise of the time travel murder theory is that Hitler’s life trajectory was inevitable, or it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Continue reading “Should Time Travelers Kill Baby Hitler?”
Advertisements

Media Bias on Full Display in Buzzfeed Debacle

Mainstream news outlets rush to promote an unverified tabloid story, seriously undermining their credibility at a time when a majority of Americans are skeptical about news.

One of the most incredible displays of foot-in-mouth I’ve ever seen unfolded yesterday as jubilant media figures pounced on a BuzzFeed story purporting to reveal that President Donald Trump ordered his former lawyer to lie to Congress. If true, this would constitute the grounds for impeachment, and possible prosecution, Trump’s opponents have been looking for since the day he entered office.

There was only one problem: it wasn’t true. Special Council Robert Mueller’s office took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement denying the report.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office

Taking a break from publishing lists of “cringeworthy moments” and celebrity gossip, BuzzFeed based the bombshell off anonymous sources. The usual suspects in the mainstream news media gleefully and uncritically spread the story as if it were fact. You could almost hear the collective cry: “We’ve finally got him!”

Continue reading “Media Bias on Full Display in Buzzfeed Debacle”

“W.”: History Written by the Losers

Oliver Stone’s two hour lampoon of President George W. Bush failed to leave a lasting legacy.

Written by Stanly Weiser and directed by Oliver Stone, W. (2008) was meant as a final middle-finger to the outgoing Bush Administration; an attempt in film to solidify negative public perceptions surrounding President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. But years later, W. looks more like a relic of its time; a forgettable albeit slightly humorous political drama by filmmakers who accidentally made their subject a sympathetic figure.

W. intercuts between George W. Bush’s ne’er-do-well youth and his presidency, particularly the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003. Events surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are glaringly absent. How can you make a film about George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House without mentioning September 11? Probably because he received the highest recorded presidential approval rating in history after the 9/11 attacks, and the filmmakers didn’t want to remind the audience about the tremendous crisis his administration had to face.

The film opens with a young-ish George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) getting hazed in a Yale fraternity. He jumps from job to job, to the great disappointment of his stern father, President George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell), until he meets his future wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks). With the help of political strategist Karl Rove (Toby Jones), Bush becomes Governor of Texas, and later, President of the United States, where he uses his office to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, something his father never achieved.

The filmmakers use real quotes and incidents to portray George W. Bush as a comedic figure, including one incident in which he almost died choking on a pretzel. In hindsight this comes across as mean spirited, since Josh Brolin’s Bush is sincere in his religious convictions, appears to genuinely believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and wanted the public to be on board with the war, and is constantly frustrated by his disapproving father. As National Review’s Tom Hoopes pointed out, this had the unintended consequence of making Bush relatable and sympathetic to the audience.

Continue reading ““W.”: History Written by the Losers”

Like its Protagonist, Vice Takes No Prisoners

Vice President Dick Cheney’s life is creatively recounted in this bullish political biopic.

Written and directed by Adam McKay, Vice (2018) is bolstered by incredible performances by its lead cast, but hindered by strange and often jarring film techniques that pull your attention away from the drama. Both Christian Bale and Amy Adams show once again why they are among the best actors of our time by saving what could have otherwise been another mediocre polemic against the Bush Administration.

As the film opens, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is a young man struggling to find his place in the world and teetering on the brink of alcoholism. His wife, Lynn (Amy Adams), gives him an ultimatum to clean up his act. Cheney gets a job as an intern in Washington, DC and is fatefully taken under the wing of Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), who becomes the youngest Secretary of Defense in U.S. history under President Gerald Ford. For a time, the two men’s fortunes seem to go hand in hand.

After seemingly retiring from politics, Cheney is approached by presidential candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell), to be his running mate. Cheney manipulates the gullible Bush into handing him unprecedented control in the executive branch. He uses his influence to fill various White House positions with loyalists, and virtually runs the administration from behind the scenes, when he’s not recovering from numerous heart attacks. There he pushes “unitary executive theory,” which seeks to hand greater control to the President, and by extension, himself.

Vice interweaves these political machinations with Cheney’s personal struggles. At home, he tries to juggle his deep love for his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) and Liz (Lily Rabe), while shielding them from the public eye. When Liz decides to enter politics, Cheney must decide between supporting her (and her position against same-sex marriage) and his longtime support for Mary, who is a lesbian. This more intimate look at Dick Cheney’s life almost translates into a sympathetic portrayal. At least, his motivations are more relatable.

Continue reading “Like its Protagonist, Vice Takes No Prisoners”

US Joins Ranks of World’s Most Dangerous Places for Journalists After Falling Tree Kills Two

No, this isn’t an Onion headline. That’s the conclusion of Reporters Without Borders, who added the United States to its list of deadliest countries for reporters after six journalists died here in 2018. News outlets across the country seized on this data to malign the United States alongside Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen, and India as a dangerous place for journalists.

But the facts behind these deaths call into question the rational behind the ranking. The worst incident was, of course, the murder of four journalists and a sales assistant at the Capitol Gazette in June. The shooting was not politically motivated: the gunman had a personal grievance with the newspaper. While horrific, the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded this was one of only two deadly attacks on journalists in the United States since 1992.

So what deadly incident put the United States into the top ranking for most dangerous countries for journalists in 2018? I’m not kidding you, it was the death of a reporter and his cameraman who were killed when a tree fell on them in a storm. How in the world does this random tragedy put the US in the same league as countries like Syria and Afghanistan when it comes to being a dangerous environment for journalists?

Continue reading “US Joins Ranks of World’s Most Dangerous Places for Journalists After Falling Tree Kills Two”

Esquire Writer’s Embarrassing Historical Ignorance

Political commentators should leave historical observations to historians.

When writing political commentary, it’s always walking on shaky ground to engage in hyperbole, but it’s doubly problematic to employ historical analogies, especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about. Case in point: in a recent political rant in Esquire, Charles P. Pierce wrote:

The Republican Party as it is presently constituted is the greatest threat to the American republic since Appomattox.

Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, Dec. 3, 2018

I’m sure Mr. Pierce thought he was making a clever observation about the American Civil War, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865 represented the end of the war, not the beginning. Did he really mean the end of the Civil War and the surrender of the CSA represented a threat to the American republic? I’m pretty sure he thinks the exact opposite of that.

His Civil War analogy is even more awkward because it was President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party who prosecuted the war to its conclusion and the Southern Democratic Party that tore the country apart with secession. Oops.

But that’s the danger when someone with a cursory knowledge of history tries to make a historic analogy.

In June, President Trump’s pick for our representative at the United Nations, Heather Nauert (then State Department spokeswoman), cited D-Day as part of our long history of close relations with Germany. Of course, we were at war with Germany when Allied soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches during the D-Day invasion.

While Nauert might be forgiven for making a stupid observation while speaking off the cuff, it’s hard to give Esquire’s Charles Pierce any leeway because he had time to sit down and think through his argument while writing it. His column has been up on the website for over a week without any correction.

Pierce’s rabidly partisan column contains so much exaggeration, fear mongering, and wild accusations it’s hard to take seriously anyway, but his tenuous grasp of American history tells this history buff he engaged in zero fact checking before hitting the “submit” button, and you know the editors at Esquire are asleep at the wheel.

White House Employees Warned About Violating the Hatch Act

A reprimand for engaging in politics on official accounts shows the importance of distinguishing between official and personal social media.

Last summer, in what seemed like an eternity ago as new scandals and outrage constantly emerge, there was a brouhaha over news outlets treating President Trump’s Twitter posts as official White House statements. Despite a contrary statement from then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, I still believe Trump’s personal Twitter feed should not be treated as official statements from the White House, and this latest incident shows why.

According to CNN, six White House officials were sent letters of reprimand from Office of the Special Counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder for violating the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials, from engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity. Most relevantly, the Act allows federal employees to express opinions about candidates and issues, but prohibits them from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle.

Continue reading “White House Employees Warned About Violating the Hatch Act”