Mark Pelta

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Sam Donaldson Goes All Founding Fathers on Jan Helfeld’s Ass

By: Mark Pelta Sunday November 11, 2012 12:46 am

Jan Helfeld is a minarchist libertarian troll on Youtube who tries to make media figures and politicians look stupid with a package of tough questions he’s put together to lead the interviewee to contradict himself; Helfeld’s had some viral successes on Youtube. His goal is to bring us back to the allegedly libertarian values of the founding fathers. In an interview with George Will, he asserted that he believes he can objectively prove his philosophy to anybody using logical methodology, but when I asked him once if he’d ever tried to interview the most celebrated left philosophers and/or major critics of libertarianism (e.g.  Michael Walzer, John Rawls/Mike Huben, Iain Mckay), he (kindly) responded in the negative. Apparently he prefers interviewing the famous to the philosophical.

He seems to have lost his touch a bit though, and although his followers swear he’s never “lost” and anybody who thinks he did is delusional, I think he has. (For example, I think David Corn did quite well in rebutting the libertarian ideas here). Yesterday, Helfeld released a new video of him interviewing Sam Donaldson, where Helfeld as usual sneers that Congress “forcing” the “redistribution of wealth” on the public is an illegitimate function of government. Donaldson basically shows how it’s actually Helfeld whose ideas are antithetical to our democratic system. I was struck by how…well, classic, his argument was. He harkened back to the precedents set up by the constitution, thus destroying the premise that folks like Jan are the True Defenders of The Ideals of the Founding Fathers (TM) and I think FDL readers will find the discussion of interest as well. Enjoy!


The Economist Burns Reason Magazine

By: Mark Pelta Saturday October 27, 2012 6:02 am

Not voting seems to be a popular option among libertarians right now, and so unsurprisingly, Reason Magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote an article arguing against voting.

Over at The Economist’s Democracy in America blog, S.M. counters in part by slowly explaining Robert Nozick’s view of decision theory for libertarians who apparently aren’t so familiar with him:

Nozick suggests that decision theory ought to be widened to make room for considerations that are less tangible than the standard factors economists point to. We might have reason to vote, then, even if our vote were sure to have no impact on an election. If we view voting as an activity that expresses our democratic citizenship, our concern for our fellow citizens, our hope for the future or, to return to the Kantian principle, our affirmation of the constitutional system itself, we have good reason to vote.

Obituary: George McGovern

By: Mark Pelta Sunday October 21, 2012 1:27 pm

George McGovern passed today. He had many roles in his personal life — a distinguished World War II veteran, small hotel owner, and history professor — but the controversies he became involved with as a Senator would define his legacy; nobody can say McGovern didn’t fight for his ideals, and this fight led to a controversial legacy. After the infamous 1968 Democratic convention, McGovern headed the commission which would controversially reform the presidential candidate selection process in the Democratic party to make it more democratic (the Republicans would later follow suit). He worked very hard on the unsexy issue of both world and U.S. hunger; in 1970, William F. Buckley asserted to McGovern that instead of spending government money on multiple food programs for the poor, the problem could be solved if they learned to cook the little they had like “Allyson Roosevelt Longworth…she serves Bulgar wheat…she makes something that is considered an extraordinary delicacy out of it, and it’s simply a matter of expertness;” McGovern demurred and explained the importance of the programs the government was instituting. As a point of leftist principle, he fought the Vietnam War tooth and nail, offending many of his colleagues in the Senate by telling them they had blood on their hands. Supported by the base but viewed with suspicion by the Democratic establishment, McGovern ran for president in 1972 in one of the most disastrous campaigns in American major party history. Despite being a disliked long-time leftist critic of the centrist voices in the Democratic Party, he also appreciated their accomplishments. In one of his last public appearances this past year, he expressed his general opinion on Lyndon B. Johnson, and here it is for posterity:


“I just want to say, as a critic on the Vietnam issue, that before I went into politics I was a history professor…And I think, just thinking about what Johnson did on civil rights, what he did on poverty, what he did on education, all these other things, that whole Great Society program, those were good ideas. Some people ridicule the Great Society. Why would you ridicule a president who was trying to build a great society in the United States? I thought every point in that program made America stronger, and if we’d have gotten the whole thing in full force it would’ve made us even stronger. I honestly believe, and I’m speaking now as an old history prof, that with the exception of Roosevelt who had four terms in the White House, I think Lyndon Johnson was the greatest president of the 20th century.”

Open Letter to Dan Abrams

By: Mark Pelta Wednesday October 17, 2012 12:32 pm

Dear Dan,

I’m nobody of great importance, just an avid reader of your site, and a new FDL blogger. I have a fascination with media, but I don’t have time to watch much TV; on a daily basis, Mediaite has for a long time helpfully provided the most interesting clips of the day. I read it more consistently than any other site on the Internet. It’s an important source of what’s going on in the media and politics world for a lot of folks.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid something has happened to Mediaite, something terrible. That something is Mediaite’s most prolific new contributor, Noah Rothman.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Since Noah’s a conservative, I must be a liberal, and that’s why I’m complaining. Well, you’re right about me being on the Left, and it’s true that it’s easier to notice the flaws in the writings of those with different ideological moorings than ourselves. But while I’ve commented on your blog taking issue with the opinions of Andrew Kirell and Frances Martel in the past, I’ve never written an open letter to you about them, and actually like that your website allows respectful conversation and different points-of-view. I’m writing to you about Noah because he has a perpetual problem with facts. The other night, you tweeted out, “Congrats to @mediaite for terrific coverage of tonight’s #debates,” but Dan, Noah’s coverage was dead wrongAccording to Noah, after the debate, Candy Crowley said Mr. Romney was “‘Right’ That Obama Didn’t Call Libya Terror” the day after the attack. This morning he followed up by sneering that Crowley’s debate moderation “Exemplifies Why Americans Do Not Trust Their Media.” He claimed that the President’s reference to terror in the Rose Garden speech on September 12 was “after two paragraphs of recounting how Americans responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001.” He alleged that after the debate, Crowley “half-heartedly admitted that Romney was correct.”
That’s an imaginary narrative. President Obama referred to acts of terror twice on September 12. In the Rose Garden speech, he had mentioned 9/11/01 two paragraphs earlier, but then shifted to Benghazi; by the time he got to “acts of terror,” he clearly was talking about the Benghazi attack (“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.”). In another speech that evening, the president said, “As for the ones we lost last night: I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. (Applause.) And we want to send a message all around the world — anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”
During the debate, Obama and Romney got into a heated argument about what the President said. Here’s the part of the exchange where Crowley breaks in:
MR. ROMNEY: I — I — I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.
MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
MR. ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration — (applause) — indicated that this was a — a reaction to a — to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
MS. CROWLEY: They did.
So Crowley clarified during the exchange that Romney was wrong in saying Obama did not call it an act of terror (he actually used that literal phrase), but right that we were told wrong information about what actually happened in Benghazi. She was right. Contra Noah’s claim, she did not back down in the videos he posted, but defended what she said originally; she’s since clarified this morning for folks like Noah who apparently didn’t pay attention. Noah has not retracted.
Now, I could understand if Noah was usually a good journalist who had just gotten caught up in his emotions following Obama’s fine debate performance.  But Noah makes up his own facts to suit his partisan agenda all the time. When Noah cried that the President’s U.N. speech did not provide a “clear and definitive defense of the principles enshrined in the First Amendment of the American Constitution,” instead suggesting “that the future will be one where religious critiques must be curtailed, lest one fear for their personal safety,” never mind that the President said exactly the opposite ( “Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened.”). Noah thinks the Daily Telegraph has a liberal media bias; yes, that Daily Telegraph. He alleged that O’Donnell ridiculously considered Romney’s statement that he would appoint justices who would hopefully reverse Roe v. Wade “inconsistent with another recent statement from Romney in which he said ‘there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda;’” as Noah noted, Romney was clearly not proposing any anti-Roe-v.-Wade legislation in his former statement describing his ideal justices (Just for the record, Romney has proposed anti-choice legislation). Noah had a clip where O’Donnell denoted the contrast between the two statements, but Noah failed to include O’Donnell going on to say, “…[Romney] said there that there’s no legislation that he’s contemplating. Well, you don’t have to contemplate legislation when you put in those Supreme Court justices who are going to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Of course you don’t need federal legislation after that!” So actually, O’Donnell does realize the difference between legislation and appointing Justices.
I could go on, but you get the gist. Look, I’m searching for a job myself right now, it’s a rough economy, I wouldn’t wish anybody to be fired, and I’m not asking you to fire Noah. But I do think the senior editors over at Mediaite should exert increased editorial authority. It would be a real shame for Mediaite’s front page to be filled with partisan hackery on a daily basis. I get why the Right has FOX News, the New York Post, Breitbart, et al. I think many readers would agree that Mediaite should remain a site with multiple voices, but we want them to be honest and compelling.
Mark Pelta