All posts by robbo28

Smug Republicans and The French Revolution

Some Republicans are still celebrating Trump’s election. If they knew the history of the French Revolution they wouldn’t be. As tumultuous as the Trump transition has been, it’s going to get much worse. Believe it or not, this really is a honeymoon phase. All the norm breaking and vileness of the Trump presidency will soon be turned on the Republican Party. Trump doesn’t have any other choice if he wants to keep his base with him. Though 18th century France couldn’t be more different from the contemporary United States (debatable), the gyrations of the French Revolution provide an interesting model for what this might look like.

This video owes everything to Mike Duncan and his incredible “Revolutions” podcast. Duncan is working his way through significant revolutions of the modern era. So far he’s covered the English Civil War, and the American, French, and Hatian Revolutions. He’s currently working his way through the Latin American revolutions of the early 19th century. They come out in mostly weekly, breezy, fun and digestible half hour segments. I admire a project that goes on for years like this. He’s working his way towards his beloved Russian Revolution, though I would be surprised if he got there before the 2020s.

Duncan’s work came to my attention about a year and a half ago through his old podcast The History Of Rome. That too was a seriously ambitious project. Over 5 years or so, and 179 episodes, he covered Rome’s history from the founding of the city in the 700s BC (supposedly) to the fall of the Western Empire in 476 AD. I had had the idea that turned into my TEDx talk before finding the History of Rome, but I never would have had the confidence to speak on ancient history, even as an amateur, without this podcast. It’s great stuff. If I can steer you his way, I’ll be doing you a favor, and doing just a bit to re-pay Duncan for his work.

Swimming in history is a great thing. I’m constantly reading it, and thanks to Duncan, I hear about it every day at the gym too. What I try to do with my channel is convey that sense of history, and inject a bit of it into our discussions of politics and current events. Outside of a few issue areas (FATCA, Criminal Justice), I don’t know that much more about politics than your average Washington, DC journalist or academic. But I know a ton more about history, and I think that’s what makes my channel worth watching. Even if the audience finds the comparisons I draw ridiculous (I occasionally do too), the hope is that it’ll get people thinking in new and different ways. One of the things that makes this the best job I’ve ever had is the way that events, my reading, and my somewhat improvisational approach to the weekly topics point me in directions I would not have expected. For example, I now have enough videos on French history to make a playlist. That’s weird.

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Is Russia Winning? | World War 3 II

Mainstream discussion of Russia practically parodies itself. I’ve never been one to avoid low-hanging fruit though, so here you are. We’ve reached new levels in the United States. Previously more peace oriented Democrats are now terribly worried about the Vlad menace. So are any Republicans that have the self-respect necessary to remember the anti-Russia hawkishness their party represented before it got Trumped.

Basically, there’s not a lot of sanity out there.

One article in particular convinced me to make this video. “Putin’s Long War”, published in Politico, was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. Russia’s desperate scrambling has been recast as strategic genius. It’s reckless use of a ramshackle military instrument is portrayed as Bismarck level world-shaping. I think my video provides a more authentic picture. Many thanks to the Economist for visuals for the beginning. I lifted it quite “transformatively” from one of their more memorable recent covers.

This video nicely fits into a “World War 3″ series concept I’ve been developing. This may seem like an odd choice for a channel that’s lately announced that it wants to be more positive. In fact I’m pretty optimistic about World War III. It’s something that will almost certainly happen. What I’m optimistic about is the time frame. It could happen in 50 years, or it could happen in 500 years. I hope to use the series here to lay out how we can push that date further into the future. This may surprise some of you, but there is a sizable on-line subculture that thinks World War III is just around the corner. If this series can reach some of them and get them to chill the F out, that’d be nice. Here’s the first installment of the series in case you missed it.

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Why The CIA is Terrified of Trump And Russia

I don’t like Donald Trump. But that doesn’t mean I should jump in bed with the CIA. Over the past couple weeks, Democrats and progressives across this country have been doing exactly that. If you look at the reports on Russian involvement in the US election objectively, you quickly realize that there’s nothing surprising here. Countries do propaganda and attempt to influence other countries. This is nothing new. James Comey had a lot more to do with Hillary’s losing the election than Russia did and nobody’s going after him. Trump hasn’t helped matters of course, but this scandal has been consciously manufactured over the past few weeks.

Nobody is focusing on why that is. The US foreign policy establishment is terrified that Trump might actually change Russia policy for the first time since the mid-1990s. The point of the intelligence community leaks and press releases over the past month is to keep that from happening. And we’re all helping out. I’m afraid it might actually be working. Trump may want a good deal with Russia, but he won’t do it if he thinks it will hurt him politically.

One of the misconceptions most in need of correcting in this discussion is the idea that we’ve tried being friendly with Russia before. The story is that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to make peace with Russia and got burned. This is ridiculous. In fact the exact opposite is what actually happened. Yes, W. claimed to look into Putin’s soul and see a friend or whatever, but his policy trampled all over Russian interests and concerns. In 2004 he over saw the addition of seven countries to NATO, some of which were once members of the Russia friendly Warsaw Pact, and some of which were actually part of the Soviet Union itself. Additionally, the war in Iraq was carried out in violation of international law and against Russia’s security council veto.

Obama also claimed that he was going to “Reset” relations with Russia. He didn’t. There was more noise about NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, and there was the support of 2014’s ouster of a democratically elected and pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Perhaps most importantly there has been the massive US sponsored proxy war on Syria between 2011 and 2017. Russia has two or three countries in the entire world that are willing to cooperate with them militarily. Syria is one of them.

In addition to that, there is NATO’s little mentioned betrayal of Russia and China in Libya. I made a video about this just a few weeks ago.

Don’t let anybody tell you that we’ve already tried to be friends with Russia. If they do, they’re lying, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.

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Why Are So Many Celebrities Dying?

Celebrities are dying left and right. It’s only going to accelerate. But, as with much about the world it has got a lot more to do with how we look at things than anything concrete that is actually happening. More celebrities seem to be dying because we care more about more celebrities than we ever have before.

The genesis of this one is kind of interesting. With the majority of my videos I’m drawing on a ton of sources. The video produced is usually a synthesis of a number of things that I can tell myself is very much my own. That’s not so much the case here. There’s some of my own thought involved, but the most interesting thing about the video, the explanation for the acceleration in celebrity deaths, is completely drawn from one article. And I can’t find that article. It’s frustrating. There are few things more annoying than taking credit for other people’s ideas. Though I’m sure I unwittingly do it all the time, this time I know I am doing it. If any of you are familiar with the source that I got this stuff from, please let me know.

I’m not really a big celebrity guy. In early 2005 I threw a “Dead Celebrity Party” memorialized in the thumbnail for this video. It’s still one of the best parties I’ve ever thrown. The cult of celebrity holds few charms for me. Though I must admit, if I’m in a supermarket checkout lane I’ll guiltily read the tabloid headlines with some interest. But, I do think our celebrity obsession is bad for us. The worship of celebrity strikes me as a throw-back to an earlier and worse era, as I alluded to here….

We live in a more democratic age, but reading news about Kim and Kanye is part of an old-time desire to know more about our “betters”. We don’t have much of a hereditary aristocracy anymore, so celebrities fill the breach. If you doubt this interpretation, look at the treatment of the few real aristocrats that are left. The travails of the British Royal Family are reported on with exactly the same fervor and worship that is devoted to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I don’t like celebrity culture because I refuse to concede that we have “betters”. The struggles of the aesthetically or monetarily gifted are no more interesting than our own.

So why do a video about celebrities? Views obviously. But beyond that, I feel like it’s a big enough part of our culture that I have to address it occasionally. One must deal with the facts on the ground. Also it would be a bit hypocritical to avoid the subject. Paradoxically, if I avoid talking about celebrities on democratic principles I am actually acting in an anti-democratic fashion. The people want to talk about celebrities. Who am I to deny them that? Plus I got to talk about Bob Ross and his happy little trees, which makes me happy.

If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.

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Cordoba: One House, Two Religions

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Originally constructed in 784, over a demolished Visigothic church, the Mosque is one of the oldest in the world. Cordoba at the time was part of a Muslim Empire. Spanish Christians re-took Cordoba in 1236. Rather than demolish the place, the Spanish decided to convert it to Christian worship. In some people’s eyes, supposedly including those of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, it’s an unholy mess. To my eyes it’s beautiful.

Throughout history, most people spend most of the time getting on well with each other. In her book A Distant Mirror, historian Barbara Tuchman made an important point:

Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening — on a lucky day — without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena.

We know the history of religion and relations between Christianity and Islam as one of unmitigated disaster, cruelty, horror and intolerance. In fact, these moments are few and far between. Most people spend most of their time muddling along. Unfortunately, all it really takes is one bad moment to rob us of an invaluable monument like the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Think of ISIS for example. In just two years, they have destroyed physical heritage going back millennia across a wide swathe of Mesopotamia. Jokers like that only emerge every couple centuries, but when they do, the potential for destruction is immense. We’re incredibly lucky that Cordoba’s monument has survived as long as it has. Spain has had it’s fair share of religious thugs. We’re lucky. The building has many lessons to teach. The video above lays out one or two.

If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.

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YouTube Hates Women

This week I go ahead and punch a gift horse in the mouth and raise some questions about the outsize performance of my last video. It’s my second fastest video to 1,000 views ever, and I question the reasons behind that. I’ve easily done 20 times as many videos singling out male politicians for ridicule. But my two videos criticizing female politicians do better than all of those videos combined. The channel goes where the channel goes, but I’ll definitely put more thought into why it is that I’m going after someone in the future.

I mentioned one caveat. Victoria Nuland is a figure I’ve been thinking of doing a video about for quite some time. She is the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs. Depending on who you ask, she may have been the main driving force behind the disaster in Ukraine in 2014. I’m pretty sure I don’t buy that, as I think the break with Russia was baked into the whole dumb arc of US policy in Eastern Europe since 1992 or so. More research needs to be done. What I am more confident of is that she occupies a weird space at the neocon nexus of the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington, DC. She worked for Dick Cheney, and now she’s helping to run Obama’s Europe policy. I think a video on her career and connections would do a good job of illustrating the point that individual presidents don’t really have all that much to do with the agenda that Washington, DC pursues. Presidents can nudge, but they don’t really steer.

But the more I think about it, why am I even aware of Victoria Nuland? Is it because she’s a woman in power? She’s definitely not the only politician in DC who is more loyal to the Military Industrial Complex than a particular party (actually that’s all of them). She’s probably not the only one married to a self-parodying Neocon pundit either. The only reason I’m aware of her is the fact that folks have gravitated toward her particular scandals and biography. I wonder why that is. Food for thought. Anyway, if she gets up to further hijinks under Trump, I wanted to give myself a pass to mention her.

Something else worth mentioning is the fact that 80% of my audience is male. That’s always been deeply annoying to me. I’ve tried some more explicitly feminist content in the past, but it hasn’t solved the problem. If you’re wondering whether I’m hoping that this video will help me out with that… Of course I am! Also, if I’m going to make a sweeping comment about the behavior of the YouTube audience, I should probably point out that my audience is currently heavily weighted towards dudes who like talking about politics and history. Which is perhaps not all that surprising.

If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.

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How Samantha Power Killed Aleppo | Syria 9

Russia and China have never made a secret of it. They are more interested in sovereignty than human rights. Considering the way that the US has weaponized human rights concerns recently, it’s hard to blame them. But as we watch the brutalization of East Aleppo, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s cries of “Shame!” make a lot of sense. IF you ignore one of those very important things that nobody talks about. This video takes you back to 2011, and the US decision that made The UN’s impotence in Aleppo inevitable.

A certain UN resolution is pretty central to this video. Here it is if you’d like to review it.

Yeesh. This one is heavy. I was lamenting recently that my videos weren’t using clever editing, and didn’t have much emotional range. Coming across the Ambassador’s speech allowed me to deal with both of those issues. I really like the result, I hope you do to.

Lest you think I’m being unfair to Ambassador Power, a bit of explanation is in order. Power was initially famous for writing a book called The Problem From Hell: America In the Age of Genocide. She’s also famous for only seeing America as the solution to problems, and not making much allowance for the downsides of intervention. So far, so average. If I’d read the book, maybe I’d have a stronger opinion, but on that alone I’d be happy to see her make a speech like this. But she’s also been involved in the decision making on Syria from the get-go. She was an adviser to Obama when he was a Senator, and she was on the National Security Council before starting at the UN in 2013. So she was in on the ground floor with both Libya and Syria, and she’s had a hand on the meat grinder this whole time. She’s used her reputation as an international do-gooder to help destroy both of these countries. She’s not alone in that, but she’s the one using this particularly horrific moment to preach from pretended moral high ground. So no, I don’t think I’m being particularly unfair to her.

The topic of this video has bugged me for a while. It strikes me as one of the central blunders of the Obama administration, but nobody talks about it. I thought diplomacy was about being able to see things from the other guy’s perspective. This is right up there with NATO expansion as failures of understanding go…

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Taiwan: An Argument With Myself…

Taiwan is something we don’t talk about too much. In fact, that’s pretty much US policy, and one of the rare ones I agree with. It’s possible to see the question from the Chinese position, and from the Taiwanese position as well. In this video I do both. Please watch the video all the way through. It starts out forcefully arguing the Chinese position, then it forcefully argues the Taiwanese position. I happen to believe both things. Which is very confusing. It makes my head hurt a bit. I look forward to the comments section on this one. Maybe it’ll change my mind?

As confusing as Taiwan can be, it’s vital that we all learn more about it. It’s central to one of the more pressing issues of the Trump Presidency and the coming decades…

Also I love that my research for this video involved unearthing my once treasured collection of He-man figures. It provides an interesting window on manufacturing in the early to mid 1980s. I thought that they had all been “Made In Taiwan” but that wasn’t the case. The figures I had were manufactured in Mexico, Taiwan and Malaysia. Interestingly the most recent, and most complex figures, ca. 1985, were manufactured in Malaysia. Perhaps Taiwan was already moving on by that point. The later complexity may be down to the fact that Mattel had more money to dedicate to the line, after it had proved insanely popular. I also found a Thundercat figure, but Mumm-Ra will have to wait for another video.

Wow I need to get out of my mom and dad’s house. Want to help?

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3 Keys To Managing President Trump

We keep hearing about how Trump is “Not Normal”. That’s true, but it’s not where we should be focusing our energies. Shouting that repeatedly into the echo chamber is a sort of paralysis. What we need to do now is focus on ways to manage Donald Trump, and handle his not normal presidency. The most direct bit of action I suggest is subscribing to a newspaper, physically or on-line. I subscribed to the Washington Post, but there are hundreds of options across the United States, and even abroad. They all need our support, and we need them. The outlets below are all anti-Trump to some degree, or at least will spend time trying to see beyond Trump’s tweets to what he’s actually doing to our government.

“Right-Wing” Marketing Segment:

The Wall Street Journal

The National Review

Reason Magazine

“Left-Wing” Marketing Segment:

The Washington Post

I don’t consider myself to be part of the “Left-Wing” marketing segment, but I subscribed to the Washington Post because they fought Donald Trump in the past election a lot more effectively than the Democratic Party did.

The New York Times

The Guardian

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What Does the More Freedom Foundation Do Now?

Donald Trump really does change everything. I’ve been making videos full time for almost three years now. As you can probably gather if you’ve read my essay advocating for third parties, I had a plan going to the 2016 election. My bone-deep loathing for Trump changed all that. But it’s changed more than that. Starting out, my attitude towards the world and the US government in particular was pretty antagonistic. Now I’m pretty convinced that the world, and the US government need to be saved from themselves. This has led to some reformatting of the mission of this whole thing. I’ve laid it out in this video, and in some changes to the website you can see here. There’s more to come!

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