Thursday, April 17, 2008

State and/of Society

Life is fairly good, but let’s take a look at some leading cultural indicators to see how society in general is faring, with an eye in particular toward society’s delicate balancing of property rights (a.k.a. freedom) and government oppression.

•Free speech continues to flourish in some quarters, as indicated by the existence of our monthly Debates at Lolita Bar, mentioned in this article by Lisa Biagiotti and Lauren Feeney.

•In these troubled times, some people still believe in self-discipline rather than control by law, like Anna Broadway, who (like Dawn Eden before her) has written a book about how to remain chaste while dating in the modern world, called Sexless in the City.

•Yesterday, as you are no doubt aware, saw Darkseid, the evil god who is the ultimate embodiment of authoritarianism in the DC Comics Universe, fight a knock-down, drag-out battle against a giant, temporarily reptiloid Jimmy Olsen in the pages of the terrible comic book series Countdown to Final Crisis — leading to the most likely good comic book series Final Crisis next month by the great Grant Morrison. Or at the very least, Morrison’s depiction of apocalypse befalling the DC Universe is likely to be far superior to an actual Biblical-literalist comic book by noted idiot Rob Liefeld, perhaps best known to the general public as the creator of an X-Men spin-off comic that got him a spot in a Levi’s Buttonfly Jeans ad by Spike Lee.

•Speaking of Biblical literalist types, goofy conservative leader Paul Weyrich recently rolled his wheelchair to the front of a religious-right gathering and quietly asked God’s forgiveness for endorsing Romney rather than Huckabee in the primaries, and since then he’s even stated his approval of a religious-right site hellbent on keeping McCain from picking Romney as his running mate. Weyrich liked Romney a few months ago, but once again the Republic’s core values are utterly imperiled unless we do whatever it is that Weyrich now thinks we should do. Whatever, man.

•On another comics note, though, the trend continues of historically-significant comic book creators or their estates suing the companies to whom they sold their characters fair and square (or created them as work for hire just like a Starbucks employee makes a mocha frappuccino without retaining the rights to it, obviously) — but I’ll give Captain America co-creator Joe Simon this: That “Last Supper” painting featuring Captain America that he’s holding in this Times article looks very cool and will no doubt fetch him a kingly sum one day.

•In similar fashion, I am informed by U. South Carolina history prof Christine Caldwell Ames that the widow of Guy Debord, the 60s Situationist left-anarchist intellectual who explicitly repudiated the idea of intellectual property, is suing someone who has created a game based on a war-themed board game Debord devised (when that link expires, the piece is permanently available to Chronicle of Higher Education subscribers here).

•Funny how you can just spot ’em sometimes — I saw singer Ingrid Michaelson on Conan and hadn’t heard of her before but thought she seemed like a typical quasi-Lisa-Loeb New York nerd, for good or ill, cute and talented (also possibly smart-but-crazy) but just slightly amateurish and unpolished. And indeed, Wikipedia reveals she’s the daughter of Staten Island artists and became famous for having several songs on soap-opera-ish TV shows without actually being signed to a recording contract, which is not to say you would be better off listening to Top 40 crapola than watching her video for “The Way I Am.”

•I couldn’t help noticing that a deceased movie producer who Hollywood detective Pellicano had reputedly offered to have killed was a libertarian. The latest victim of THE CONSPIRACY?? In fact, no.

•Those jerks at IBM have been training people for government careers, so it serves them right they temporarily lost the right to get federal contracts over some trivial EPA-regulation violations. You go around creating bureaucrats, you deserve to contend with bureaucrats.

•On a more positive job-creation note, three months overdue, I just want to note I was thrilled to see a New York Times op-ed in January by the author of More Sex Is Safer Sex, who had the audacity to denounce government-supplied unemployment benefits — right there in America’s leftist newspaper of record. Awesome.

•But you know who could use a job, last time I checked? Right-leaning (all right, monarchist) and endlessly fascinating history prof/teacher/writer Stephen Stertz, so if you need a history guy, do not hesitate to try him at: sstertz[at] He’ll translate, he’ll tutor, use him for something.

•Chris Nugent brought to my attention a ban on tag in one DC-area school, and while there’s no question that schools are rapidly becoming hyper-regulated training grounds for the docile totalitarian citizenry of tomorrow, I must say the form of tag described sounds violent, and the fact that kids are increasingly a bunch of little savages in need of rules and structure should not be dismissed (that’s Chris’s brother Dave Nugent pictured above standing next to Steve-o from Beverly Hills 90210 — which will have to suffice in place of the photo taken of me tonight, which I neglected to inquire about getting a copy of, standing between Michael Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger — I should have told Bloomberg about our May 7 Debate at Lolita Bar, which will pit Charles Komanoff against Doug Dechert on the topic of Bloomberg’s failed congestion pricing plan).

•But to get back to how to punish violence: ultimately, can dispute resolution be handled privately rather than by government, many of you skeptically ask me (over and over again)? Well, if you believe this hilarious exercise in propaganda from the L.A. Times, there’s only one place that tort reform (pushed by the gun, drug, and tobacco lobbies) and private arbitration can lead: being raped in Iraq by Halliburton. This article crams so many paranoid leftist obsessions into one piece you’re almost rooting for global warming claims to turn up by the end.

•In Spain, it is now illegal for political parties to put forth a slate of candidates that is more than 60% composed of a single gender. Who needs competitive democracy? Let’s just decide in advance by law who the politicians can be! The West is rapidly becoming just another variant on totalitarianism, little better than the Islamism, communism, and Third World kleptocracy against which we define ourselves. And still people will tell me feminism does not lead to oppressive egalitarian regulations.


David said...

Steve O says that Andrea’s lookin for ya Todd

Christopher said...

“…the fact that kids are increasingly a bunch of little savages in need of rules and structure should not be dismissed.”

I’ll agree with “bunch of little savages” but not “increasingly.” It’s pretty clear that the opposite is true. Headlines about school shootings and the occasional psycho cheerleader story on Drudge notwithstanding (and remember, EVERYTHING seems to be recorded on someone’s cell phone video and posted on Youtube these days), the rates of essentially all types of violence in schools have plummeted in the last 20 years. The basic stuff of recess from back in the day would get kids suspended or expelled these days. When my wife was nine she got a Swiss Army knife for Christmas and brought it to school (openly, on a belt holster) every day for a long time after that. Do that today and you get expelled and given a “special test” as the old Steve Martin bit said.

Kids, like American society in general, are far less violent than they were in the past. And if anything, there’s an *excess* of rules and structure in kids lives today that can get in the way of constructive problem solving, understanding consequences, etc.

Todd Seavey said...

Actually, when I wrote that I feared I didn’t really have space to go into yet another layer of the problem, which is that the increased rules may cause a decreased ability to behave well when not in the structured environment — as with regulation generally, I think you’ll find more and more specific acts forbidden while a general tone of indiscipline and irresponsibility also grows (it certainly wasn’t the case in the past that it was nigh-impossible to expel chronically-low-level-violent students, for instance, yet I hear public school teachers complain about that problem all the time now, even while they can easily expel people for hyper-specific, in-the-rule-book infractions like bringing a toy gun to class).

dave said...

I’ve been reading your blog for a little while, and I’ve never been swayed by your anti-government rhetoric, because you mix it in (as most people do) with a bit of anti-government, except when I like it, rhetoric. Pro-corporate and free-markets are not the same by any stretch of the word.

“Being raped in Iraq by Halliburton.” Why not harp on the fact that Halliburton was in every way shape and form enabled for (accurate or inaccurate) better or worse, by the government? Finding common ground isn’t the same as being moderate or compromising. It’s finding a starting point at a place of less resistance.

I just reread about 100 pages in Atlas Shrugged. There is one example of government malfeasance, and about a dozen examples of self imposed corporate anti-market problems. Adding it together, it would seem that the government helping corporations would be the biggest sin of all. (at least in the first 100 pages, she doesn’t attack people for wanting subsidized services for their relatives with alzheimers, but then, there are about a million pages left, so who knows)

I agree with your point on schools, too. A few years ago, this older guy told stories about being a 10 year old running all over brooklyn throughout the day, and the thought crossed my mind that he was probably infinitely prepared to deal with danger than someone who had never encountered a less than 100% supportive adult.