Following the November election, in which Ralph Northam (D) was elected to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I began composing a letter to him. Today, Northam was inaugurated . . . and I sent it to him via his official web site. If I receive any response, I will publish it at the end of this post.

I hope and pray that Northam reads it, and that he considers it seriously. I hope you will consider it seriously too. And, as I say in the letter itself, I hope and pray for Northam’s good judgement and success in the coming four years. . . . Continued

The Big Three

I love news. Every day I read stories from a wide variety of sources—left and right, mainstream and fringe. I want to really understand what is going on in the world, and especially what is going on in United States politics. I mainly stick to online media outlets, some of which are online-only and some of which are the online arms of print newspapers or television and radio outlets. While I make a real effort to read a good cross-section of left- and right-wing outlets, my main go-to sources are those that are fairly even-handed. The even-handed outlets have their biases too, but I like them because they at least put some effort into seeing all sides and reporting objectively and accurately.

Unfortunately though, in the age of President Donald Trump (R) and a predominantly Trump-hostile press, it is difficult to find many of these even-handed outlets anymore.

Some online U.S. news sources like CNN and the Washington Post used to be among my favorites. They had a fair track record on hard news reporting (even though their opinion sections tilted pretty far left) . . . but both of them, among many others, have since abandoned any semblance of objectivity. I have therefore dropped them from my main rotation. At this point, my top sources for U.S. news are the three general-purpose national newswires: Associated Press (AP), Reuters, and United Press International (UPI). AP and Reuters lean a little to the left, and UPI leans a little to the right (sometimes), but all three want to avoid angering the variety of left- and right-leaning outlets that subscribe to them, so they try to keep it pretty fair.

Other U.S. sources that I rely on now are USA Today, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, and WTOP Radio, each of which does a fairly good job of reporting political and other news objectively (though, again, they often have fairly strong biases in their opinion sections). And of course I rely on a variety of foreign sources in addition to all of these U.S. sources for international news, but I generally ignore what foreign outlets have to say about our domestic political issues because, frankly, they usually don’t understand them and rarely report them well.

But what about the twenty-four hour television news networks? . . . Continued

The “Nolan Chart”

We live in polarized times here in the United States.

The Democratic Party his shifted far to the ‘left,’ espousing positions that only a few years ago would have been viewed as radically socialist. Today’s mainline Democrats are rabidly pro-abortion, rabidly pro-redistributionist, rabidly anti-business, and rabidly anti-religious. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has shifted to the right, embracing a righteous hard-line against abortion, a semi-nationalist position in favor of harsh immigration restrictions, and a deep aversion to any kind of compromise on its principles.

All of this is a good thing (believe it or not).

For a long time, the two major U.S. political parties had much in common. Both supported free trade, which meant that Americans who opposed free trade were unrepresented. Both supported some variant of a “safe, legal, and rare” view of abortion, which allowed leeway for small-but-notable bands of “pro-choice” Republicans and “pro-life” Democrats. Both took fairly interventionist positions on foreign policy, leaving “isolationist” Americans unrepresented. There were disagreements between the parties—some real and some theoretical—but on the whole, both operated in the same middle slice of American politics.

In this dynamic, the fervent right- and left-wingers found themselves largely unrepresented in the U.S. political duopoly. So they revolted. On the left, many Democratic Party voters abandoned the ordained successor of President Barack Obama (D)—former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)—in favor of a self-proclaimed independent democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Clinton only emerged victorious because of the Democratic Party’s internal corruption and its bizarre, un-democratic nomination process. And on the right, sixteen standard-issue Republicans lost a primary campaign against a center-left demagogue who adopted a sort of neo-nationalism and gave lip-service to some hard-right talking points. . . . Continued

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, just after Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker hire Han Solo to take them to Alderaan, Solo is approached by a bounty hunter called Greedo.

In the original 1977 theatrical cut of the film, after a brief conversation, Han Solo blasted Greedo and killed him. In the 1997 “Special Edition” re-cut of the film, the scene was changed to show Greedo shooting at Solo first (and missing) and then Solo killing Greedo with return-fire. In the 2004 DVD release of the film, the scene was modified again to show Greedo and Solo firing nearly simultaneously, and showing Solo dodging Greedo’s shot. In the 2011 Blu-Ray release, the interval between the shots was shortened even further.

This all led to a lengthy and ongoing “Han Shot First” controversy in the Star Wars fan community, with the fans generally opposing the changes to the scene that have been (repeatedly) made by George Lucas.

I thought it would be funny to imagine a universe where the fans are right, Han shot first, and Greedo was a victim of a cold-blooded murder . . . and where the subsequent re-edits of the footage are, in fact, an effort by New Republic officials to cover-up what really happened and thereby protect Solo’s image as a hero of the Rebellion. So here’s a website about it. Enjoy!

Justice for Greedo

Over the last few weeks and months, countless celebrities and public figures have been caught-up in sexual harassment scandals. With accusations ranging from inappropriate comments and touching all the way up to sexual assault and rape, it increasingly seems like no corner of our society is immune from this kind of horrible behavior.

Two years ago, when a massive cheating scandal was unfolding after the hack of the Ashley Madison website, Off on a Tangent offered ten tips to avoid getting caught. In the same tradition, here are ten tips to help you avoid getting caught-up in the harassment scandal: . . . Continued