Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Former Lobbyists Say the Darnedest Things

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

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Dean Kleckner, who used to run the farmer's lobby and took corn and soybean subsidies for years, calls for farm subsidy reform in today's New York Times. "It's obvious that we need to transform our public support for farmers," he says. "There's something fundamentally perverse about a system that has farmers hoping for low prices at harvest time — it's like praying for bad weather. But that's precisely what happens, because those low prices mean bigger checks from Washington."

Still waiting to hear Doug Brooks come out against military contractors.

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Halo 3: Now You Can Kill Mother%*#$@#*s in Church

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

Halo 3, the violent video game that made Microsoft hundreds of millions of dollars in its first week on store shelves, is now being used to attract young men to church, the New York Times reports today. "Teens are our 'fish,'" one youth pastor wrote in a letter to parents. "So we've become creative in baiting our hooks."

The headline of the article is "Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church," which seems to be trying to paint church leaders as hypocritical for using Halo parties to get kids in the door, and then selling them the gospel. Sure, being against violent media and then using that same media to recruit churchgoers is hypocritical. But even though the author mentions evangelical opposition to violent games, he never presents an example of a pastor who condemned violent games and then used them for outreach. Without that, there is no evidence of hypocrisy. There are just some pastors disagreeing with other pastors about what is appropriate.

Simply believing in the 10 Commandments and then playing a violent video game is not hypocritical. Killing virtual aliens is not equivalent to violating the 5th (sometimes 6th) commandment, and it's insane for the Times to imply that it is. Most religious scholars agree that killing animals doesn't violate "Thou shalt not kill." Why would killing imaginary characters be prohibited?

But even if the author didn't want to hunt down actual evidence of hypocrisy, there were still plenty of other interesting questions left unasked. As I wrote in an article two weeks ago, the Halo games have always been an online playground for bigots of all stripes. Homophobia, racism, and antisemitism are rampant in the smack talk that is a staple of the multiplayer game. So it's especially interesting to learn that some of the young men (they're almost all men) who are playing Halo are doing it at church. Are they shocked to hear what other players say? Do their pastors insist that they play with the mute button on? Or, more disturbingly, are some of these young Christian soldiers and the hate-spewers one and the same?

Che-nniversaries

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 4:38 PM EDT

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the killing of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. World Hum has the stories behind the popularity and endurance of the Che image, and Gridskipper has a list of all the places in San Francisco you can go to talk about The Motorcycle Diaries and sip mocha frappa whatevers. As they put it: "Oh socialist politics, you are so delicious when you're co-opted for a capitalist enterprise." Viva La Revolucion!

Thomas Friedman Wants You to Be More Radical!

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 11:00 AM EDT

Friedman, from today's column:

I've been calling them "Generation Q" — the Quiet Americans, in the best sense of that term, quietly pursuing their idealism, at home and abroad. But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country's own good.

He's right to call for activism and political engagement, but it's pretty ripe that a war supporter as influential as Thomas Friedman is criticizing young people for being the "Quiet Generation." The Iraq war didn't happen because too few students were marching in the streets. It happened, in large part, because trusted liberal public intellectuals like (gasp!) Thomas Friedman supported it. They legitimized the Bush administration's story and worked as cheerleaders for intervention. Just because it happened behind the TimesSelect paywall or on Charlie Rose doesn't mean we don't remember. The saddest part is that Friedman's still such an influential figure that many people in his generation will pick up on this convenient, self-absolving narrative: "It's all the kids' fault. They didn't protest enough." Don't be surprised if you hear your parents spouting this to you two weeks from now. But that's a pretty big glass house to be throwing stones from, sir.

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