Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Forward to 2012, Looking Back at OWS

Arguably the biggest domestic political development of 2011 was Occupy Wall Street, and it’s interesting how it manages to throw my four favorite things (at least up to this point in life) back at me in mutated form:

Comics/genre material: V for Vendetta masks have become almost as important in reality as in the comics that spawned them.

Alternative rock: Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel and others have serenaded Zuccotti Park – and I have tickets to see one of his now-rare concerts on Jan. 21 in the slightly classier setting of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Anarchic politics: Of course, to the extent OWS wants anarchism, it’s decidedly of the left-anarchist variety, but I sort of have to admire the willingness to ask fundamental questions largely shied away from since about a century ago, when anarchists were also making trouble downtown.

(I’ll have more to say in the near future about OWS guru David Graeber’s bizarre and disturbing argument in the book Debt for abolishing not just government debt, student debt, or mortgage debt but indeed all mathematical keeping of accounts whatsoever.)

Skepticism: From the hygiene problems to the odd little shrine at Zuccotti to the refusal to outline a legislative agenda, there were signs reality has not been OWS’s highest priority – but for all my cynicism, I would not want to rule out something new and useful coming out of all this.  Surely, the carnivalesque uncertainty (and potential) was part of the appeal.

In any case, I look forward to the new year and a whole new era – and, I think, even a completely altered list of favorite things – much as I enjoyed the last twenty years of my time in NYC (having arrived just a few months after college graduation) and in this mindset.  

The more mundane key to making it a truly happy new year by my standards, though, will be keeping that Romney-vs.-Gingrich fight going so long that they exhaust each other while Ron Paul – who I think has the potential to change the world in even more fundamental ways than those contemplated by OWS – quietly scoops up all those disaffected, quasi-libertarian, and Tea Partyish votes out there and becomes the plurality voice within the GOP. 

Whatever strange, eclectic, and occasionally reprehensible motivations the Paul movement might have, the common theme for nearly all his enthusiastic fans is creating a world of voluntary interactions instead of domination by force.  I look forward to being able to talk of such things in mainstream settings – instead of just number-crunching election returns and budget tweaks and the like. 

My New Year’s resolution is to renew contact with the world (live and in person instead of just online, as you’ll soon see), including with some people I’ve neglected amidst recent hectic transformations.  Soon, I promise, things will be taken up a notch.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rock N’ Books

Kudos to singer Kelly Clarkson for endorsing Ron Paul (and please consider taking the #JifnotP vow to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson UNLESS the GOP nominates Ron Paul). 

By contrast, a reader of my New York Post piece on the conservative band Madison Rising e-mails to note the longstanding tie between communism and folk music and says, “Bob Dylan realized it too at a certain point when he rejected the Emergency National Civil Liberties Council, when they tried to give him an award.”

My favorite Dylan political moment, of course, remains (the subtly-extended version of) “The Times They Are A-Changin’” being used for the amazing credits sequence of Watchmen.  (And I’m surely not the only person who was reminded of the lesbian kiss in that sequence when he saw this recent-yet-historic military moment in the news.) 

Some will criticize Ron Paul for suggesting he would have tried to keep us out of WWII – but then, he likely would have kept us out of all the other horrors depicted in that credits sequence, too.  He may prove to be a history-altering figure on a par with Dr. Manhattan, so encourage Iowans to start the process by voting for him this Tuesday.

I am not, however, endorsing this Mexican cult’s musical warning about implantable Satanic microchips.   Uh, even though I admit that idea is briefly mentioned in this far catchier pro-Ron Paul rock song by Aimee Allen.

Speaking of musical conservatives, the hip Mark Gauvreau Judge (who I think has finally given up on his middle name) is turning his attention to trying to start up a documentary about the crucial commie-turned-conservative Whittaker Chambers (not associated in any way with conservative punk Angie Chambers).  A film about the author of Witness sounds like a noble project to me, even if Chambers was one of those hysterics over at National Review like the ones I blogged about yesterday who condemned Ayn Rand.  You can help Mark Judge out and say you were a witness to history in the making.

Another nice piece of history (noted by J.P. Freire): this marvelous start to a twenty-year old book review, from a time (as I vividly recall from Brown) when a lot of academic books deserved to be reviewed in this fashion. 

But it may be best to avoid reading books anyway, at least if you’re a woman frightened of having men use them as a conversation starter.  So says trollish feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte, or at least she starts off a recent rant by saying (she-splaining?):

Few things provoke a man gripped by anxious masculinity like the idea of a woman reading, at least a woman reading anything beyond patriarchal assignments in man-pleasing. As any female bookworm can attest, almost no public behavior you can perform is more likely to get men to bother you and demand to know what you’re doing than simply reading a book. It makes sense. Few behaviors signal subjectivity more than reading...

Likewise, if you are a woman holding a Rubik’s Cube and a guy says, “Hey, what’s with the Rubik’s Cube?” he is trying to oppress you.  (To Hell with this whole paranoid, power-obsessed mode of thought: Let’s try liberty instead, people, starting on Tuesday.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#JifnotP: Please vow to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson UNLESS the GOP nominates Ron Paul

I tweeted this message today:

As a #libertarian, I hereby vow I will vote for #Libertarian #GaryJohnson unless the #GOP nominates #RonPaul. PLEASE RT WIDELY: #JifnotP

With Gary Johnson today announcing his departure from the Republican Party presidential race and his plan to campaign for the Libertarian Party nomination, I vowed on Twitter – with the hash tag #JifnotP – that I will vote for Gary Johnson in the general election unless the Republican Party is wise enough to nominate Ron Paul as their candidate.  (Several hundred thousand more like me could actually make conservative strategists rethink their general-election plans.)

I’ve voted Republican in about half of the presidential elections in my adult lifetime and Libertarian in the other half, so I’m not a fanatic who the GOP could never count on.  I am the swing voter they may need to retain in a close election.

And they won’t this year, not without Ron Paul. 

I didn’t want it to come to this. 

•I largely put up with Bush’s wars in hopes that urgently-needed entitlement reform would also be part of the deal.

•I thought Rick Perry sounded like a plausible consensus candidate before we all saw how tongue-tied and clueless he is.

•I urged my fellow libertarians – as well as various paleoconservatives – time and again not to pick divisive fights with the neoconservatives. 

•I have called myself a fusionist, written of Ron Paul on National Review’s website in measured terms, and longed for a happy Reaganesque free-market coalition that seeks compromise on the divisive foreign-policy and religious-rhetoric issues.

And I don’t view contemplating a Johnson vote now as any sort of sabotage or disloyalty.  On the contrary, implausible as it may sound to some, I still see Ron Paul as the ultimate fusionist figure: hardcore libertarian, socially conservative, populist enough for disaffected moderates, and beloved by many left-leaning defenders of the anti-drug-war, antiwar, pro-civil-liberties variety.

More important, the financial crisis has changed the

National Review Apologizes to Ayn Rand (Remains Haunted by Libertarianism)

When people ask me “Who is Gary Johnson?” – alas – they usually don’t mean it as an Ayn Rand homage.  They just want to know who he is.  Nonetheless, I’m excited that in a few minutes he’ll live-stream his announcement of his plan to abandon his Republican run for president to run on the Libertarian Party ticket.

If the Republicans aren’t smart enough to nominate Ron Paul, libertarians will be more pissed off than usual, and it appears we’ll have a better alternative than usual.

And remember, as C-SPAN is reminding us in a series all this week, even losing presidential candidates can do a great deal to reshape political dialogue (tonight at 10pm, it’s the Barry Goldwater story).

On Christmas, though, C-SPAN aired a November 4 panel at Yale of conservatives who’d worked with William F. Buckley, asking what he might have thought of the current state of conservatism – and the specter of libertarianism loomed large during that discussion, too, I was pleased to see.  (Not that NR isn’t eclectic: moderator Linda Bridges noted colleague John Roche objecting to being called a “Disraeli Tory” and insisting he was in fact a “Catholic syndicalist.”)

•Panelist Rich Lowry, disappointingly, took pains to say he didn’t mean to imply by any libertarian-friendly comments he made that Buckley would support Rand Paul.  

•William Kristol went farther, in his weasely way, and suggested that Buckley (who only died three years ago, keep in mind) might not have been as libertarian had he come of age today, since in Kristol’s opinion people were more complacent about big, progressive government in the mid-twentieth century but now, presumably, are fully aware of the problem and thus in no urgent need of such a philosophy.

•Bridges said she thinks Buckley’s awareness of the necessity for “ordered liberty” “inoculated” Buckley against any non-Burkean form of libertarianism.

•Neal Freeman admitted National Review had no clear definition of conservatism when the magazine was young and that they were “making it up” as they went along – but he added that he or someone else of a non-doctrinaire bent responded to the seemingly absurd first talk at NR by fusionist Frank Meyer (who wanted traditionalism and libertarianism explicitly united)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

USSR then, U.S. today, Ron Paul next week, Rothbard forever (despite those newsletters)

Sunday was not only Christmas, it was the twentieth anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union (not that things are perfect in Russia nowadays).  I wish Vaclav Havel had lived long enough to mark the anniversary, but then, he was a smoker, and smoking has claimed almost as many lives as Communism (really: they’re both around 100 million; aliens would say Communism and smoking were the main ways humans killed themselves in recent centuries).

We cut an empire in the process of breaking up a little bit of slack philosophically as it adjusts to its new context.  Russia has had its moments of nationalism and paranoia as it (most likely) settles into being a capitalist and democratic nation over the long haul.  And I hope historians – not to mention voters in Iowa next week if you know any – will forgive the Ron Paul movement for being an odd blend of arch-individualists with a passion for tolerance and peace...and a few weirdo racists and border-obsessives. 

I seek unalloyed truth in philosophy, but in electoral politics, I am happy to pick the least of nine evils – and if, for instance, you want sound money and a decrease in overseas military commitments, you may as a practical matter at this juncture in history have to hold your nose and get there through a dose of nationalism.  Hell, it’s not much weirder than putting up with Obama’s socialist youth or most of the Republicans’ religious views.  Steering the big, stupid ship of state is the main thing, as the Paul-bashing neocons should be the first to understand.


But what about those newsletters?

Much as I admire economist Murray Rothbard, co-founder of the contemporary libertarian movement, he was downright postmodern (perhaps my anarcho-capitalist friend Evan Isaac would say troll-like, in current Net parlance) about gleefully (but temporarily) adopting any damn philosophical/rhetorical tack that seemed like it might piss off defenders of big government, especially since hardly anyone in the broader populace was paying attention anyway.  He was almost like Foucault or Robert Anton Wilson that way.

I look forward to the press conference at which someone, perhaps Rothbard/Ron Paul associate Lew Rockwell, tries to explain how philosophical principle logically led the same group of people to ally with the Black Panthers, sympathize with the Viet Cong, co-found free-market thinktanks, and flirt with racist militias over a period of twenty years or so (any port in a storm, basically).  And I’m not saying I won’t find that hypothetical speech persuasive, either.  I’m just saying I would enjoy that press conference.  (It could happen any day now.) 

Regardless of who (possibly Rockwell) penned the racist passages in the newsletters, it’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that they seem to have occurred mainly around the time the Cold War was ending and Rothbard was fumbling around trying to create a “paleolibertarian” alliance (that is, a union of libertarians and local-tradition-defending paleoconservatives along the lines of Pat Buchanan).  And then – perhaps more tellingly – such passages seem to have stopped by 1995, the year:

(A) Rothbard died (and I do not mean for a moment to give the impression I relish his passing – I even attended the New York memorial service for him and still recall wondering whether it was in bad taste for a friend of mine to wear a Starfleet insignia pin to the event),

(B) Oklahoma City put an end to many people’s brief fascination with the “militia” movement, and

(C) I noticed the Mises Institute’s Free Market newsletter, which started coming to me in the mail around then, sticking to econ and, to my great relief, being devoid of the racist taint of some of the earlier Mises Institute material (I hadn’t then seen the really rough stuff from the earlier Ron Paul survivalist newsletters but had noticed a somewhat fishy passage or two in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, which existed roughly in between the Paul newsletters and the current version of Free Market – and so was relieved to see that, whatever those unpleasant and stupid tangents had been, the group seemed to have worked it out of their system).

Is it possible that the reason Rockwell hasn’t fallen on

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ron Paul/Rand Paul/Rush fallback plan

I still have my fingers crossed for Jan. 3's Iowa caucus – but if we must wait a few years longer...I am told Rand Paul seems to be not only a de facto anarchist but, perhaps more important, a HUGE fan of the band Rush.

Sadly, Rush told him not to use their music during his Senate campaign last year.  Amusingly, a Rush tribute band quickly stepped up to offer their services instead, but I think they were turned down.

It would be neat to someday see Rand say, "I know many of you here at my presidential inaugural gala are also fond of my father [hold for applause] and that this means some of you, like him, feared a conspiracy to create a 'North American union,' but to show that I do not blame Canada for the difficulties that globalization can sometimes bring along with its myriad blessings, tonight I'd like to break with tradition by having a non-U.S. band play at this celebration.  Ladies and gentlemen, Rush.  And now please bow down before your new master, Aqua Buddha."

P.S. Or he could at least use the prog rock band that John Huntsman briefly dropped out of high school to play in.  (Really.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nerd films of 2012! Lars von Trier! The end of the world (twice)! Bane capital! George Lucas vs. Newt Gingrich in space!!

A round-up of thrilling movie news, including my picks for The Sixteen Must-See Nerd Films of Next Year.  But first:

Lars von Trier’s Melancholia: I was pleased that last night’s Radio Amateur semi-open mic event (featuring Jim Melloan and others) featured eight solid minutes of Lars von Trier-bashing, he being the sadistic Catholic convert and Hitler-sympathizer who expects audiences to keep watching women suffer genital mutilation and various forms of psychological abuse in his pretentious films (oh, and speaking of Catholic converts, albeit non-sadistic ones in this case, do note the correction from Dawn Eden I added to yesterday’s entry). 

During last night’s show, large comedian Angry Bob declared von Trier’s recent film Melancholia the worst film he’s seen all year – and further complained that his agent wasn’t comfortable with him bashing von Trier on Twitter, since you never know if you may have to work with von Trier someday, which for Angry Bob seems...improbable, much as it would lighten the tone of von Trier’s oeuvre.

ODD CELEBRITY SIDENOTE: I saw welfare-parodying rapper Mr. EBT on the street not far from the club after I left the Radio Amateur show, or at least someone yelling to a woman that he’s Mr. EBT and that she should check out his work on Wordstar.  She did not seem as impressed as I was, but I wish him luck. 

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Today, of course, you can see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in theatres (I want to see it despite my ongoing one-man war against crazy chicks) and you can see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – which, according to a friend of a friend of mine who lived in Dubai recently, I was correct to peg as lavishing extra-special attention on the Dubai Tower sequences in its teaser trailer a few months ago, since it was indeed big national news – and a vast expenditure of time and money for all involved – when the film was shot there, with de facto local government assistance.  The results are awesome and dizzying, I must admit, especially in IMAX, though I do not plan to visit any place that forbids Israelis.  I will even forgive the film its eventual descent into levitating-magnet-suit silliness. 

Dark Knight Rises teaser sequence: Less forgivable is the muffled voice of Bane in the Batman vs. Bane teaser sequence attached to the start of Mission Impossible.  And as I feared, director Christopher Nolan (perhaps the real villain here) sounds like he’s in denial about the problem.  I vow to you here and now, I will not see Dark Knight Rises unless I am assured that “the Bane problem” has truly been fixed (but for now, I will optimistically include it on the to-see list below).  A friend of mine notes the studio may have $1 billion or so riding on fixing Bane before next summer, so you’d think they’d do something about it.

By the way, in the comics, Bruce Wayne eventually had sex with and impregnated two of the three villains who appear in this film (not Bane), namely Catwoman and Talia (the former’s child growing up to be Huntress and the latter’s growing up to be the fifth Robin).  Millionaire playboys can get away with that sort of thing.  (Technically, Catwoman’s pregnancy occurs in an alternate universe, but, y’know, details.)

ONE YEAR TO GO until the day when crazy mystics think the world will end: Dec. 21, 2012 is (long calendar story short) when some believe the world will end, and though I do not believe in any supernatural claims, purely from a marketing perspective, I have long been curious what lucky big-budget Hollywood production would come out on that day, opening up neat publicity-angle potential.  I was rooting for Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, but that series appears stalled.  

I am pleased to report that it shall be:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crazies, Survivalists, Converts, and Exiles (and Ron Paul)

That’s me above in front of the U.N. HQ here in New York City, wearing my Ron Paul button – and the other picture is me in the free facepaint they were deploying the night before at a “Bowie Ball” downtown, so you’ll understand why some blue smudges may still be visible in the U.N. pic.  It wasn’t because I painted my face blue like in Braveheart before walking down there to shout “Freedom!”

The fading of the Gingrich boomlet means Ron Paul now leads in Iowa.  I hope he’ll win there, win the nomination, and go on to become president.  The fact that he’d do so while having much of the Republican establishment against him would only sweeten the deal – and would be a sad final contribution by that establishment before big government came to an end, with their obstructionism likely viewed by history as a last-minute abandonment of principle.

I can understand people freaking out and saying the old coot’s too weird, but then, all the other GOP candidates are also weird in various ways – and the guy in the White House regularly attended Rev. Wright’s church, you’ll recall.  People rightly condemn kookiness, but they tend to condemn only the kinds to which they are unaccustomed. 

If a political candidate comes from a background of socialistic community organizing and Ivy League postcolonial thinking, or from Texas prayer meetings, it doesn’t surprise us enough to cause alarm.  If instead he comes, in essence, from the 1970s survivalist movement, people want to summon psychiatrists, though it’s not clear that the kinds of claims survivalists made were less true than those made by those other subcultures. 

The question should be who will produce the best results in office, and by any remotely sane limited-government-oriented standard, you have to at least strongly suspect it’s Ron Paul.  He might do well to treat his weird past philosophical (and rhetorical) baggage almost as a “gradual conversion” story.  If Wright didn’t bring down Obama – amazing, when you think about it – I don’t know that Paul need be brought down by past dabbling in conspiracy theories.

In fact, given how badly mainstream conservatives have screwed up over the past few decades, maybe it’s time to let people like the Randians and Birchers back in, precisely the two factions Buckley thought most in need of exiling from the right.  How much worse could they do than, say, Bush? 

(And recall my theory stated years ago that it took a combo of craziness to make the first American Revolution possible: religiosity, populism, individual liberty, anti-monarchical conspiracy theories, etc.  If the Straussians are allowed to steer churchgoers in order to augment their power, perhaps libertarians can steer conspiracy theorists for contrary ends.  Heck, I’d vote for a UFO obsessive if I were confident he’d cut spending – and indeed I’ve just been told that Goldwater intended to release UFO files if elected.)

But as a reminder that conspiracy theories are, generally speaking, a bad thing – and as my little nod to Hanukkah – here’s a link to the final graphic novel from the legendary Will Eisner, The Plot, tracing the sad history of one the nastiest conspiracy-theory hoaxes of all time, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. 

I expect that Paul is focused on the very real conspiracy – or organized criminal gang, if you will – called government, not on imaginary conspiracies like the Elders.  And so, here’s hoping Gingrich and Romney destroy each other and vault Paul to the presidency by default (and that the hackers called Anonymous don’t end up invalidating the Iowa caucuses with their reportedly-planned mischief and having the ironic effect of keeping more-authoritarian candidates in power). 

That’s all I want for Christmas – after which, if Paul sets the tone for his party, I can look forward to the day when all conservatives care more about stopping creeping socialism than about (A) honoring Malcolm Muggeridge or (B) how many troops to keep in Kurdistan, not that those are unimportant topics.  In fact, it might be best for American freedom if some cadres of professional Christians/Mormons and Jews are too distracted by the holidays to pen more denunciations of Paul in conservative publications before January 3 arrives.

I know I feel as if it’s coming up too fast for me to properly prepare.  This could be the turning point in the story of human liberty I’ve been waiting for and not really expecting to see in my lifetime.  I feel like one of those characters in a Left Behind novel – or a survivalist manual, if you will – who suddenly realizes he’s done nothing to prepare for the End Times.  Except this may be a happy new beginning.  America could use one.


I don’t think 2012 will be the end of the world, but (as I noted on Twitter, where my Sunday tweets, by the way, described the Occupy event I was attending) it will be the thirtieth anniversary of Peter Kreeft’s book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley, which was inspired by

Saturday, December 17, 2011

“Occupy!” last night. Rock today. Occupy Onwards tomorrow.

•Well, I think the Occupiers were less freaked out by my Ron Paul button last night than the neocons were the night before.

And I gave some advertising advice to the Occupiers last night in Brooklyn (or at least n+1-affiliated people writing about the Occupiers).  They threw a party in a loft overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate the release of the Verso Books volume of essays Occupy! and neglected to put up a big sign noting that they were selling copies at the event for a mere $5.  That’s a steal!  I got mine.  I hope they’ll be profitable at that price.

But should we even keep track of who owes what to whom?  (Hint: yes.)

A left-anarchist anthropologist who suspects not, David Graeber (ex-Yale prof and author of Debt, that book I retrieved from polyamorists and flight attendants the other night), will be on a panel tomorrow – along with Mike “Rortybomb” Konczal, my recent drinking buddy who (rightly, I suppose) chastised me for not knowing the names of real mediation firms and who appears, by the way, to have abandoned his brief reciprocal following of my Twitter feed [UPDATE: He’s back!  You can follow him too]. 

But no matter: tomorrow at noon, I’ll attend that panel of Occupy-affiliated leftist writers, 5:15-6:15 at the Theresa Lang Auditorium, 55 W. 13th, part of a day-long discussion called Occupy Onward (starting at noon) that I’ll mostly skip.

•I very briefly bumped into a notorious ex of mine, herself a product of Yale suspicious of the cash nexus’s triumph over traditional communal ties, as I was entering the subway last night to go mingle with the Occupiers.  Then, at the party, I bumped into a friend who was almost in that same essay anthology from last year that the ex and I were in but usually writes about art (and she is a tad more conflict-averse than most of my political acquaintances).  Then, returning to Manhattan and exiting the same initial subway station, I bumped into a woman who just days earlier at dinner had told me she believes meaningful coincidences occur more frequently than can be explained by random chance.

Despite NYC constantly reminding us it’s a small world, I’m not quite convinced coincidences happen more than they ought to (people are awash in info and unconsciously sift out the few nuggets that resonate – in countless areas, from religious symbols to science data), though I confess I remember believing that in childhood. 

Indeed, I remember seeing (hearing?) the first album I ever bought, Synchronicity, as musical confirmation of the concept (popularized by Jung).  Within a year, I would no longer believe in supernatural or paranormal claims of any kind – but I STILL BELIEVE IN ROCK N’ ROLL, and so, let us devote the rest of this entry (in what I vaguely recall was supposed to be a “Week of Rock”) to some great music links:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Atheists, Asperger’s Cases, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Other “Crazy” People

I.  Christopher Hitchens, fellow atheist, died last night around the time I was:

(A) talking to economist Bryan Caplan and others about whether a religious person – or indeed anyone at all – qualifies as mentally ill (likely encountering more than one Asperger’s case over the course of the evening, itself an ambiguous diagnosis from a moderate-Szaszian perspective – the evening began at an event about the collapse of the Euro and ended at a dinner full of libertarians, after all)

(B) hoping to find a place to crash this weekend in NYC for a visiting Catholic friend (especially if among her fellow Catholics – but let me know if you’re feeling hospitable regardless)

(C) preparing to host at my own place another friend who wasn’t religious the last time I saw him but, absent my guidance since that time, has now decided he’s a Christian (and is already posting his regrets online about Hitchens not seeing the light, etc.).

The above is not a multiple choice quiz, by the way.  I mean I was doing all these things – and in between was retrieving from a cabal of polyamorists and flight attendants a copy I had misplaced of the book Debt by money-abolishing left-anarchist David Graeber, which will help me prepare not only for a book club in which I’m supposed to participate but for the n+1 party tonight at Verso Books’ loft for the release of the book Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America.

II.  But to get back to the crazy crazy people for a moment:

I have known a couple flat-out schizophrenics, mourned a grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and in general think the brain is just as prone to severe dysfunction as, say, a kneecap – but I will admit that the term “crazy” can be applied over-broadly.  Caplan leans toward the Szaszian view that most insanity is merely socially-disapproved eccentricity that shows the “insane” person has highly unusual preferences (like deciding to wear a Ron Paul button to an econ event where I was seated with diplomats, a Council on Foreign Relations guy, and Commentary editors – all of them quite likable – to return to last night for a moment). 

Nearly a decade ago, Caplan noted his disagreement with the moderately anti-Szaszian essay I wrote for ACSH about whether insanity exists and whether smoking is truly an addiction (regardless of that question, it’s truly the leading preventable cause of death, so you’re at least an idiot, in the conventional sense, if you don’t quit, and I am quietly steeling myself to mourn you an average of a decade earlier than my non-smoking friends).

Ironically, though, I’ll be in trouble if I convince Caplan that he is himself crazy, since Jacob Levy apparently declared him very mentally similar to me years ago when they were at Princeton.  I had forgotten that...but Caplan sort of reminds me of Levy.  Blind leading the blind, maybe.

III.  But the people noted above are mostly males (not coincidentally, I’d say), and in a few days American moviegoers will be in love...with a crazy chick.

Lisbeth Salander, the main character of the thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is a reminder that people can seem crazy while being products of

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Seavey on Madison Rising in NYPost (plus NR vs. Ron Paul)

•Welcome, Post readers (if any).  I must begin by saying I was selling Alex Bodnar short by calling him merely “bass player” in my article today in New York Post about the conservative rock band he’s in, Madison Rising.  He is a guitarist who also plays the bass – and I mean no insult to bass players by apologizing for that oversight.  (If you want a commemorative hard copy, it’s the issue with the headline “ELEVATOR DEATH TRAP” on the front page.)

•The members of Madison Rising reflect a fairly easy-going consensus form of conservatism, honoring troops without disliking Ron Paul, respecting core moral values without harping on religion.  This big-tent approach is something they could learn from over at National Review

I notice that NR, in their board editorial warning Republican voters away from Newt Gingrich in surprisingly harsh terms, also took a brief, tangential swipe at Ron Paul, saying he’s returned to “vile” 9/11 conspiracy theories and proven in the process that they are the very essence of his philosophy.


Just for starters, Paul’s references to the 9/11 attackers likely being angry over U.S. military intervention in the Middle East is itself evidence he doesn’t think they were dispatched from DC, if that’s what you’re implying – and if that is what you’re implying without saying so, that’s almost as irresponsible as the conspiracy theorists themselves using weasel language like “whoever attacked on 9/11.” 

Look, I wish Paul were a bit more hawkish myself – you may remember me saying so even as I praised him in an article on the National Review website during his previous presidential campaign – but when you (and by you I likely mean Lowry in the case of this unsigned collective editorial) stoop to the level of saying that merely criticizing the “glee” (admittedly a poor word choice) of the Bush-hawks in having a rationale for open-ended war is the same thing as peddling 9/11 conspiracy theories – and I assume it’s the “glee” comment by Paul that elicited NR’s accusation of “vile”-conspiracy-theory-mongering – you’re getting very close to saying that anyone who wants war to be rare or limited is some kind of schizophrenic or UFO nut. 

Unsurprising, perhaps, given the vehemence with which Lowry (challenged by Tim Carney) defended NR’s cover-story denunciation of antiwar conservatives as “un-American” (not that the guy who wrote that story, David Frum, is in such good standing with the right himself these days – and I’ll waste no pity on him, as all of these people are starting to get on my nerves; perhaps some Bush administration hawk should write a frank memoir about welcoming the open-ended military intervention 9/11 offered and call it Things Related and Unrelated – Google it if necessary).

•Again, I wish Paul were a tad more hawkish myself, but with his possible victory in the Iowa caucus on January 3 the closest shot the world has ever had to rolling back big government – at the time when we most need to put our fiscal house in order – it is monomaniacal to insist on hawkishness-or-disqualification from Paul, who is essentially the only Republican candidate perfect on every other issue by NR’s own presumed standards (and unlike Romney et al you know he means it). 

I will ask now, as I asked four years ago on NR’s website,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sex, God, and Rock n’ Roll – plus Ron Paul and Devo!

Below is the Devo entry.  If you were looking for the entry on NYPost (and NR vs. Ron Paul), go here (and sorry to lead you astray on Twitter).

Dating political people can go awry over strange issues that wouldn’t affect normal people’s lovelives (consider the hubbub over the Alabama Republican politician who may not have fully informed his spouse about his sperm donations to lesbian couples in New Zealand, to take a story pointed out by Dan McCarthy – though Bruce Bartlett argues the man did nothing wrong unless you consider sperm donations to lesbian couples an inherently bad thing, and I’m just wondering where Rachel Maddow stands on the whole thing). 

The main lesson gleaned from my own dating of conservative types, I suppose, is that women who are simultaneously enthusiastic about sex, God, and rock n’ roll may just be a tad unstable in multiple directions (and I’m not calling them all bad people), whereas my naive initial assumption was usually that those forces must all sort of balance out, making them well-rounded moderates – you know, like an assassin who loves baby bunnies in cups (the cutest thing of which I am currently aware).

In an era in which most people (at least in this city) have gotten pretty systematic and methodical about dating – and sifting, sometimes callously, for ostensibly-perfect matches – I have never (A) done Internet dating, (B) picked up strange women in bars, or (C) knowingly engaged in casual sex (there’s only so much I can do to influence the woman, though). 

I imagine my schedule would become very hectic if I took the time to do these things in addition to my usual low-key approach (facilitated by knowing a lot of interesting people) of meeting about one friend-of-a-friend, friend-of-a-coworker, coworker-of-a-friend, or such per year with whom I click and end up in a fairly pleasant relationship of a few months’ duration before she decides she wants kids after all, has a compelling reason to move to a distant state, goes insane (in only one or two cases, really), realizes she can’t date an atheist after all, or just loses interest in me but remain friends (which I’m almost always happy to do). 

It’s actually been fairly calm and normal most of the time, I swear (and I don’t mean boring).  Not quite permanent yet, but few disasters – for which I should be grateful in a city so strange and diverse that some people who I know oppose premarital sex while others don’t see anything untoward about women taking poll-dancing classes from strippers.  And the low-key approach enables me to avoid stressing over the question of whether men and women can be just friends (addressed in amusing fashion, with interesting results, in this bit of college video journalism). 

Ideally, though – perhaps even inevitably, if that doesn’t sound smug – it would be nice to end up one half of a “creative” couple, sort of like newlyweds comic book writer Neil Gaiman and Dresden Dolls lead singer Amanda Palmer (the latter of whom I am told is not the steampunk dancer in that steampunk/Christmas Justin Bieber video, though it would increase the video’s cred immensely if it were). 

There is that “Bowie Ball” taking place downtown this Friday, but it may not be the best place for straight people to meet.  But enough about dating: for the duration of this blog entry, let us rock

(I have only just noticed, by the way, that there is a “BBC Radio Version” of “Suffragette City” that is slightly different from the album version, if you would enjoy the thrill of hearing the song again for the first time)


Last night, I saw Devo in concert at Irving Plaza, and

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Justin Bieber Ruins Steampunk, Rock N’ Roll, Christmas, and Spacetime

Gawker wisely warns that the days of steampunk’s hipness may already be over thanks to a not-very-edgy but undeniably steampunk video for Justin Beiber’s cover of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”  The video also manages to taint breakdancing and (ironically) is in general so era-non-specific that I find myself worrying it will somehow do damage of some kind to 1987. 

Might there be plans afoot to use those faster-than-light neutrinos to sell Bieber CDs to people who live in the past (I mean people who literally live in the past)?  Is there a business model involving particle collision and “quantum file-sharing” that might make that workable?  Seems almost plausible.  Possibly even the kind of idea that could make a man the first quadrillionaire.

Then again, it may all just be a side effect of the phenomenon noted in this Vanity Fair piece by Kurt Andersen pointed out by Julia Kamin: Pop culture has barely changed since 1992, especially when you compare twenty-year slices of style-evolution from any period prior to that in the twentieth-century (1950 vs. 1970, for instance).  I think a fortysomething can be forgiven for thinking he’s on the same basic pop-cultural (and even political) wavelength as twentysomethings these days, even if he is not retarded. 

On the bright side, I declare a “Week of Rock” on this blog, and things will just keep getting hipper as the week progresses, Bieber notwithstanding, so stick around.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Selections: Politically Incorrect Literature – and Comics Finale/New Genesis Book Selections of the Month (December 2011):

It seems like only last week I unveiled my November Book Selections of the Month, and here it is time for December’s – and likely my last, at least in this format, since I’m changing the blog a bit, in keeping with the unveiling of the new Brooklyn Forum events (live onstage in Williamsburg) – details soon.  After a lot of time online this year, I’m leaning toward thinking we’ve all had enough Net and need more facetime events.

In keeping with this time of transition, I will post an entry in each full week of December touching on one of the four pillars of pre-2012 Seavey thinking: (1) skepticism this week, (2) music next, (3) sci-fi/genre stuff after that, and finally (4) politics.  By contrast, none of us knows exactly what next year will bring.  (Brace yourselves – and kick it off by voting for Ron Paul on Jan. 3 if you’re in Iowa, since he is the only Big Dog.)

The skepticism part will come mainly at the end in this Book Selections entry, in discussing English literature. 

•But first: many of you may have been skeptical over the years about whether I would actually stop reading comics.  Dawn Eden even suggested I write an addiction memoir about it (more about her in next week’s music-themed entry).  I first started cutting back on my comics consumption around the end of college twenty years ago, and then, well, one thing led to another and it’s 2011.  It happens.

Luckily for me, DC Comics finally cut off my supply.  I mean, they’d revised their fictional universe several times over the years, but in September they finally pretty much wiped out the seven decades of fictional comics history over which I’d been obsessing and relaunched all fifty-two of their ongoing superhero series from issue #1, depicting most of the characters as slightly younger and devoid of much clearly-specified baggage.  And it was a hit.  But enough about me – here’s the part that helps you.

Lost souls will often ask me where to start reading if they want to “get into” comics (for reasons as baffling as Foucault’s successful effort to contract AIDS or a teenager taking up smoking).  The responsible answer, as any experienced comics fan knows, is: You don’t want to get into comics, kid – rise above.  The second-most-responsible answer starts out something like: Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, and The Invisibles are all very good – and you might find Maus moving. 

But these are answers for people seeking a one-time experience, really.  If you want to become a comics junkie, you may as well immerse yourself in

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gingrich vs. Anarchism

David Friedman – son of Milton, father of Patri – speaks at the Junto tomorrow night (Thur., Dec. 1 at 7:30pm).  He’s the dean of anarcho-capitalism, the philosophy that aims to privatize all governmental functions until government ceases to exist. 

That’s the philosophical faction to which I belong, though I’m so easy-going I can be satisfied with mere budget cuts and deregulation...which never occur.  Please attend and meet perhaps the best-suited man in the world to answer questions like, “How could defense be privatized?”  Or, for beginners: “But, like, if there were a bunch of different post offices, wouldn’t like the mail go all in different directions and everything would explode and people would kill each other like in the Middle Ages?”

One “an-cap,” as my young co-ideologues apparently call themselves nowadays, says he plans to wear a bowler hat to the Friedman speech so that he can be found by other an-caps who want to make their numbers known, in contrast to the more-mainstream, vaguely-free-market “asshats” he says he fears will attend.

The current Republican primary race features no full-blown an-cap, but Ron Paul comes close, and even New York Times’ Gail Collins says “You can’t totally dislike” him, which may be as close to an endorsement as we can hope for from the Times.

Meanwhile, Gingrich is surging in GOP voter polls – perhaps deservedly, given his intelligence, command of the issues, and ability to speak to all the major Republican factions, from the Tea Partiers I’ve seen him address downtown to the Catholics (to whose ranks he’s converted), not to mention those who still fondly remember the decentralizing impulses behind the Contract with America.

And you know I’m a fusionist. 

If the primaries end with Gingrich solidly first and Ron Paul a surprise second, I will just have to hope that the rebellious Paul faction of voters scares Gingrich into dropping his usual arrogant, authoritarian-yet-market-friendly pronouncements and instead saying slightly more radical things like, “Look, it’s perfectly simple: If you want to return to a society of innovation and freedom, Worshington, DC should be shut down altogether and fifty new countries allowed to experiment.  That’s just common sense.”  

If he doesn’t start a nuclear war, he may yet accomplish great things and help save the nation from economic oblivion.  Oh, for the 90s, when nothing Newt did seemed to raise the stakes quite so high.

I will cope by largely ignoring politics for the rest of December after tomorrow’s Friedman speech but at the same time ramping up the Brooklyn Forum events for an opening show in January – and watching the January 3 Iowa caucus for pleasant surprises (or more of the usual anxiety).  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Selections of the Month: The Renaissance, Luddites, ACSH, and Elf Girl

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the actual Luddite riots – which, it is worth recalling, were not inspired by a conservative aversion to technological progress but by ostensibly pro-worker forces wanting to prevent competition from mechanization.  That sort of thinking is with us still, especially among unions – though present in subtler form among, for instance, those who take the financial crisis as evidence regulators should forbid all novel financial instruments (or among left-anarchist David Graeber fans who want to abolish currency – but more about him in a future entry).

I have been mocked over the years for being pro-tech in principle yet slow to adopt technology in practice, only this year getting broadband Internet at home, cable TV, Facebook, Twitter, and a cell phone, believe it or not, but, like a chimpanzee suddenly returned to the wild, except in reverse, I seem to have taken to them quite naturally and now have 400+ “friends” (almost all of them actual friends, too), 350+ followers (not necessarily actually followers, alas), and a bloody trail of 1,200+ tweets (none of which implies I’m switching to Google+).

To commemorate the grim 200th Luddite anniversary, though: here are ten notable texts related to the ongoing tension between progress and preservation of the ancient ways:

1. Four years from this month is the fictional date on which the Replicants from Blade Runner are supposedly activated – a reminder that when Ridley Scott does his planned Blade Runner prequel in 2014, it might be cool if instead of setting it vaguely in “the future” he just set it in the present, with all the postmodern and metafictional implications that would bring.  Just try to depict our world, as much as is possible, as logically of a piece with the high-tech, computerized, postmodern, dystopian, biotech-filled fictional 2019 of the original film (and maybe throw in some excuse for overnight transformation such as a revolution in nanotech, I suppose).

2. Similarly, I think the time may have come to reinvent the cyberpunk subgenre of sci-fi (big in the 90s and usually depicting near-future implications of media and computer tech) so that it is now a “retro” genre like steampunk but depicting a higher-tech version of the 1990s instead of a higher-tech version of the Victorian era.  That should confuse the future people but good.

3. Wearing elf ears and lacing one’s performance art and comedic essays with references to magic is certainly one way of harkening back to an imagined more-idyllic past – and, done ironically, that’s an element of one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, the memoir Elf Girl by my acquaintance Rev. Jen. 

About two years younger than I am, Rev. Jen in some ways sounds typical of the Gen Xers I’ve known in media circles here in NYC, except most of the others don’t have the gumption to brush themselves off after, say, art school professors dismiss their stop-motion animation films about Metallica-loving unicorns with mullets, or audiences boo their performance as fart-noise-makers wearing feces-shaped costumes, and say: I don’t need the stuffy art world’s approval because I’m going to go create my own alternate universe where art is fun and sometimes juvenile (fittingly, Hole’s lyrics “I don’t really miss God, but I sure miss Santa Claus” from “Gutless” are her opening epigram) and all my friends are in my movies and I have a Chihuahua named Rev. Jen Jr. that sort of looks like me and notoriously copious amounts of beer (and some psychedelics) are consumed and there’s occasional nudity and my apartment is turned into a Troll Museum full of plastic trolls to which I charge tourists admission.

But this, in effect, is Rev. Jen’s message to the art world elite (I’m paraphrasing), and as a bar-event-hosting man with a comic book collection, naturally I agree.  You can’t blame Gen X for wanting its art playful.  We came of age with videos like this (and I think Jen herself directed this rock video about New York by her friend Moby, with fitting guest vocals by Debbie Harry).  The more I think about it, the funnier it is that I pitted the happily-trashy Rev. Jen against the classy and poised novelist Katherine Taylor in a Lolita Bar debate a few years ago (much as I adore them both). 

Rev. Jen (who just mail-ordered her ordination, by the way) manages to be very funny by just being very uncomplicatedly concrete and matter of fact but about very odd things, such as her roommate not being impressed by the painting she did of a kitten riding a unicorn and later physically attacking her and giving her brain damage.  And she does it all without being too downbeat, pretentious, or unwarrantedly philosophical.  If you read this, you’ll also get cameos by notorious New York eccentrics who Jen’s dated, including activist, mayoral candidate, and mayor-annoyer Chris Brodeur (who once wrote me a letter calling me a “tomatohead” and apparently is sometimes far harder to deal with) and mysteriously non-aging punk filmmaker Nick Zedd. 

In the end, you’ll fall in love with Rev. Jen as well, even if you’re frightened that being around her might mean a police raid or drunken brawl of some sort is imminent.  And she’s friends with that guy who danced insanely behind Bob Dylan at a performance with the words “SOY BOMB” written on his torso. 

4. And that logically brings us to the Renaissance:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Animal Spirits

One of the items I noticed in my parents’ basement on Thanksgiving, rescued from the old farmhouse in which my mother grew up, is the Ouija board from 1920 seen nearby, startling in its juxtaposition of such mystical symbols as the Star of David and the swastika.  Together with the phrase “AU REVOIR,” they gave away the fact that either (A) the board is older than World War II, (B) it is a disturbing artifact from Vichy France, or (C) my parents are in the Thule Society (the occult organization from which the Nazi Party arose) and I need to get out of the basement before it’s too late.

I assure you, though, that there is peace not only between humans but between species in the Seavey household, as can be seen by the (non-mystical) juxtaposition of Salty the cat with Mac the Scottie in photo #2.  Are the animals nonetheless oppressed by their status as pets, you ask?  If that topic intrigues you, you might enjoy the online-audio debate on animal rights between two of my fellow libertarians, Jesse Gilchrist Forgione and Drew Rush, on Thur., Dec. 8 during the 8-10pm block on ThinkingLiberty, hosted by Tennyson McCalla [UPDATE: Debate rescheduled, alas].

Speaking of animals and the supernatural: you know that photo of a heroic dog in (or rather, near) a sunbeam that some people were recently enthusing about online?  Before they decide that God was shining a light on a (presumably soulless) hero, they really ought to consider the fact that the world is filled with photos of things in sunbeams: rocks, criminals, pieces of dung, dead cats, etc.


The animals I’m most interested in this month, though, are the Muppets, and here’s an old, brief video of them doing joke screen tests for the role of Yoda.  If their new movie isn’t your thing, though, the same day saw the release of a slightly more “serious” film, A Dangerous Method, about Carl Jung and his mentor Sigmund Freud feuding over a crazy woman with a daddy complex who craves punishment – though I am by no means calling such women more mature than Kermit and company.  There is far too much tolerance for craziness in this society, and someone depicted as villainous and heartless will likely say as much in that film (and be right).

Another alternative to the Muppets, one I’ve praised before, is this catchy little puppet-filled video from the band MeWithoutYou, “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie,” a model perhaps for how all kids could be turned into hipsters if raised properly (instead of being beaten and featured in David Cronenberg movies). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for Failure

If it had all gone smoothly – if the Congressional Join Select Committee had come up with an ostensibly wise compromise on the deficit that pleased both sides, some mix of tax increases and budget cuts – they could (if they were really thinking) not only have announced it with pride to the world but could easily have spun it as a “We listened to you, America” moment that might have helped them save face with both the Occupy Wall Street crowd (who’d appreciate seeing the rich taxed) and the Tea Party (who, like me, just want some damn spending cuts).

But the last thing I really want is the public getting the false impression that government can make tough decisions and reach reasonable compromises.  There are things we should want to see fail, among them:

The Super Committee.  Three cheers for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts – though those are really only enough cuts for a year, not spread out over a decade, as Ron Paul has rightly noted.  I would love to see him now emerge as the one plausible spokescandidate for real cuts and real fiscal discipline – and if he added a more optimistic note about what free individuals can privately accomplish once freed from spending, taxes, and regulation, he might handle this episode as artfully as he did the Occupiers who tried to “mic check” him.  (I’m actually quite pleased that the Super Committee was too boring to really attract the kind of attention that turns political developments into “must succeed” causes for the political establishment.)

Occupy Wall Street.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Like Ron Paul, I sympathize with their anguish and agree with some of their points.  But the silliness of some of their socialistic, redistributionist thinking is well captured in a parody protest noted by Dorian Davis.  (I notice one prominent OWS arrestee, Cornel West, having earlier left Harvard, is now leaving Princeton for NYC’s own Union Theological Seminary, another reminder that the twin evils of pro-government and pro-religion sentiment are in fact closely related – anxiety about a world without a central planner.)

The euro and the EU.  The former because more competing currencies are a good thing (and the best check on inflation absent some unvarying peg such as gold – and it is the unvarying peg that checks inflation that matters in currency debates, not the inherent or use value of gold, it’s important to remember).  The latter because competing governments are also an improvement over one central one (as UK MEP Farage angrily reminded the European Parliament recently, to the visible amusement of the Italian member, as Katherine Taylor notes – not that Italy, where people barely know how to wait in line let alone govern, is in a great position to judge, despite having the right idea about coffee).

Unity, solidarity, and a central government.  George Carlin, as was often the case, comes perilously close to the truth about the advantages of letting people go their separate ways in this stand-up bit about how to get rid of the government

The Whole Damn System.  Even NPR notes the growing influence of Ayn Rand on Capitol Hill.  Sooner or later, ideas have consequences.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Republican Candidate Rankings Redux

All right, in the only poll that matters – Todd’s opinion – there has been a radical shake-up in the prospects for the various Republican presidential candidates.

After Saturday’s Focus on the Family faux-Thanksgiving-table debate among six candidates – a debate widely expected (by me) to allow Gingrich to shine – a poll (of me) instead shows all the candidates who participated in the debate (except Ron Paul) being shunted to the bottom of the (Todd) preference rankings, helping to vault non-participants Johnson, Huntsman, and Romney into slots 2 through 4.

But since I’m sticking to my not-voting-for-Romney vow, I think that now logically/ordinally eliminates six candidates altogether, leaving me with these options:

1. Conspiracy guy (who’s at about 10% in primary polls)

2. Pot guy (closer to 0%)

3. Ambassador guy (about 1%)

4. New Englander (amused though I am by the FunnyorDie parody depicting Romney saying he’ll be our next president because he’s neither insane nor black)

5. Harassment-accusations guy

6. Dumb guy

7. Religion lady (with very ex-gay-seeming husband, disturbing since I also find her attractive)

8. Lobbyist (though he is the one closest in girth to Christie or Taft)

9. Santorum

(10. Leftist-corporatist incumbent)

Let’s hear it for the southwest, then, eh?  (Maybe that’d at least be a good vice-presidential regional balance for New England, if it comes to that – though Huntsman would never be picked as a balance for another Mormon presidential candidate – and there were at least two before them, by the way: a feminist anarchist in 1980 and Joseph Smith himself, who was lynched during his campaign.)

By contrast, I find my patience with Gingrich’s combo of ego and authoritarianism growing thin – and it doesn’t help that he plans to start spewing executive orders (of which I thought we were wary these days) on day one, with suggestions for still more being solicited from the public (fun!).  Then again, at least he doesn’t have “good and bad days” like a faltering crazy aunt, the way some of his rivals do.  Maybe that’ll be enough to make him the nominee.

The trickier question then becomes whether to vote Libertarian Party if the LP candidate were someone as serious as Paul or Johnson.  I think principle would oblige me to do so, come what may electoral-consequences-wise.  If the LP picks no one stellar, though – and the GOP doesn’t pick Paul – I’m likely to just skip voting for president this year.  In short (given Johnson and Huntsman’s dismal poll numbers): it’s become Paul or bust for me.

And believe me, I’d prefer to just have a GOP candidate who appealed to all center/right factions without making so many people nervous. 

In fact, it annoys me when some conservatives (not Paul) talk about the importance of moving beyond Reagan idolization.  This may sound paradoxical, but while I have no problem with people criticizing Reagan – even very harshly – any conservatives who suggest not honoring that coalition-building man rub me the wrong way, especially if they condescendingly imply they’d do a superior job.  By all means try, though.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My GOP Candidate Preferences, OWS Thoughts, and Tea Party Calculations

 •Even though a new poll shows (in order of descending popularity) Gingrich, Romney, Cain, and Paul forming the top half of the Republican field, it may be worth listing the candidates in (rough) order of my preference, revealing a bit of my thinking in the process:

1. the conspiracy theorist who helps spread the libertarian message

2. the pot guy

3. the one accused of sexual harassment

4. the dumb guy

5. the batty religious lady

6. the smart corporatist lobbyist

7. the Santorum

8. the Democratic-administration ambassador to China

9. the flip-flopping faux-conservative from New England

I can fully understand smart-seeming Gingrich and Romney now being atop the polls – encouraging evidence, really, that my fellow registered Republicans do care about intellect – but it’s unfortunate that this almost inevitably (for over two centuries now, really) means they lean more technocratic than market-ideological, despite what the left might tell you about them.  They are faring best, and they are the least likely to excite us market ideologues, alas (still, it could be worse: Huckabee).

•Looking beyond this election cycle, though, it is likely that we’ll see politics subtly reshaped by both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (the latter seen above in pics I took a few days before the OWSter from Zuccotti Park, though one shows protesters literally playing in traffic near Union Square – playing accordion, that is).  A bigger emphasis on economics is probably a good thing.  I’ll try to stick to that point rather than petty hygiene issues when chatting with the NY Salon people tonight at a dinner discussion of the OWS phenomenon (armed as well with the tiny few pages of David Graeber’s Debt I’ve now read). 

I imagine most of the diners will be far more sympathetic to OWS than I am, but they might agree that it’s best dinner is on the Upper West Side and thus less likely to be disrupted by the massive OWS protest planned today for downtown (on the two-month anniversary of the Occupation, mere days after the tent city was destroyed).  Those smelly hippies are right to condemn government-bank collusion, but they had better not cause me to spill my wine.

•Actually, I’m not really a full-fledged social conservative, though

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Religion, Skeletor, Muppets, Robots, Dogs, Duran Duran, and Anarchy

My friend Michael Malice (a) admits that he aspired to be a supervillain when he was young (so he should be pleased I saw Skeletor at a Halloween party recently, as seen above), (b) shares my fascination with Ayn Rand devotees (such as Yaron Brook, seen in the nearby photo with Malice when we visited FEE recently), and (c) once remarked that the Chrysler Building is such an impressive human achievement, you look at it and just know there is no God. 

That’s funny – and I’m an atheist – but I have nonetheless tried to extend various olive branches to the religiony folk over the years – with varying degrees of success, as I was reminded just the other day when I noticed that some dimwit Anglican priest (and blogger) in Lexington, SC named James Gibson declared me “political jerk of the year” last year, even though what provoked him was my on-air defense of monogamy, kindness, and morality (and a lot of other things I didn’t even get into) against an aggressive underminer of these things who just happens (of course) to be from a sect similar to Gibson’s. 

I genuinely worry for his flock if his judgment is this poor and his partisan allegiances this much stronger than his moral discernment.

Nonetheless, despite the numerous examples I have been confronted with of secularists behaving well and religious people behaving like ghouls (and looking forward to their moral Get Out of Jail Free card from Jesus, while the rest of us make an actual effort to be good people), I am willing to concede the possibility that if you really crunched the numbers (I’ve looked, and I swear they’re pretty ambiguous), we might find that religious people (or indirectly religion-influenced people, which is an important qualifier) behave better than non-believers. 

That’s a different question, after all, than whether God exists (the answer is no, except in the laughably limited sense that I must also “keep an open/agnostic mind” about unicorns or tiny talking bears living inside the Moon, etc.).  It’s also a question you can see Dinesh D’Souza and others debate live online at 6:45 Eastern at this link, in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. 

Sociologists and evolutionary psychologists have offered theories about why religion might be morally/socially useful (as did Freud and Marx and Nietzsche in their different ways), but I have a two-part suspicion – not sufficient to make religion seem a socially-necessary thing but reason enough to examine its good points instead of simply ditching it and replacing it “with nothing.”

Basically – and I fully admit this is mere speculation:

1. I can’t help noticing how prominent parent imagery is in talk of gods.  And zoologists will tell you that “taming” is often a matter of keeping animals in a youthful state, since there are instinctive limits to youthful aggression that do not exist in adults.  Dogs, famously, are similar in many ways to wolf puppies – with all the adorable deference to pack leaders that entails.  Humans, likewise, have been described as a “self-taming” species.  For all our wars, most of the time we behave gently compared to many other species and (from what the paleontological evidence suggests) our own murderous ancestors. 

And maybe thinking there’s a parent watching is a good way to get people to behave not just like proper citizens or thoughtful moral agents but literally like young siblings. 

2. Furthermore, even for the loners out there, thinking of