Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MPAA vs. Sucker Punch: MPAA Is Probably Right

OK, one entry during my off-week, which you can think of as a prelude to the geekery-filled "Month of Heroes" entries I'm starting Friday: People on HuffingtonPost and elsewhere are denouncing the MPAA on feminist grounds due to actress Emily Browning saying that the MPAA would have given the film Sucker Punch a harsher rating if she'd appeared to enjoy herself in a sex scene with Jon Hamm than if he appeared to be taking advantage of her.

Since I don't get the impression that most of the people weighing in have seen Sucker Punch, and I was stupid enough to do so, the duty falls to me to point out that Hamm's character is a notoriously-frightening user of young sex slaves, such as Browning's character.  Browning the actress (who might be an idiot, it's worth remembering) may well think it's fun to do a sex scene with Jon Hamm, but that doesn't mean her imprisoned character enjoying an assault -- indeed, the impending, feared, talked-about assault that inspires most of the characters in their bid for escape -- would be more feminist or empowering (or less disturbing) than her character continuing (as throughout the rest of the film) to regard the Hamm character as an exploitative threat to be escaped.

Indeed, the Hamm character is supposed to have purchased the opportunity to forcibly de-virginize the Browning character.  Is that supposed to be feminist nowadays?  I've been lambasted before about not getting the nuances of modern feminism, so maybe the problem is me.

And the weight of increasing evidence suggests that if director Zack Snyder was on her side, it's likely just because he thought his preferred version of the scene looked fetishy and cool.  (None of us have seen the scene in question, since it was cut, but, again, at least I suffered through the rest of the film and so can provide the context few other online commenters have bothered to offer.)  Indeed, I now fear that Snyder is so shallow when it comes to anything beyond visuals that his Superman: The Man of Steel next year could be an even bigger disaster than the Bryan Singer Superman movie.

OK, I will resume on Friday with zombies.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Break from Breakdancing Octopuses (and the Net)

I may sound like a killjoy, but I just don't feel drawn to see the movie Paul, which depicts an alien who behaves a great deal like Seth Rogen, because it just seems like lazy comedy to me, as do computer-animated movies about hip talking jungle animals and the like. 

I know Kyle Smith liked it, but if comedy writers want to impress me, have aliens and animals that don't behave just like humans (or even like Seth Rogen) but are funny anyway.  That would be an accomplishment.  Anyone can come up with ideas like "He's an octopus -- but he breakdances!  Just like he's people!"  Why should it surprise or delight us that imaginary beings we made up behave like us?  And how myopic is it to want them to?

(I realize I may sound as picky here as Isaac Asimov, who once criticized the show ALF for its failure to make ALF convincingly alien, unhelpfully suggesting that if ALF communicated through electrical sparks, for instance, he would seem more otherworldly, to which my friend Marc Steiner says, "Yeah…that'd be…hilarious.")

By contrast, here's some real geek comedy.

P.S. But to get back to laziness for a moment: I need to catch up on some real work, so I'm laying off the blog, Facebook, and Twitter until Friday but then will do a Book Selections entry -- with zombies! -- kicking off a whole "Month of Heroes" (which will see the release of Atlas Shrugged: Part One, my trip to Texas to educate the Russia-like commies in Austin, and much more).

Don't panic if I'm aloof until then.  I must go and blaze my own trail.

But feel free to e-mail me if anyone out there's still having trouble posting comments -- or, if so moved, show that you're not having trouble by posting away here as an open thread until I resume posting on Friday.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gene-Splicing: The Strange Fate of Gene Loves Jezebel

A bit of Jezebel blogging to set the record straight: No, the alternative rock band Gene Loves Jezebel did NOT break up ten years prior to the conversation about them I attempted to start with a woman in a bar once, though she dismissively suggested as much (roughly the first and last time I ever talked to a complete stranger in a bar, which in fact has put no dent in the social life).  But shortly after that bar conversation, the two twin brothers at the heart of the band had a falling-out and embarked on a decade of lawsuits against each other for control of the band name -- while two bands by the name Gene Loves Jezebel performed, confusing fans -- until, in 2008, per Wikipedia:

Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel announced that an agreement had been reached with Michael Aston regarding the use of the name "Gene Loves Jezebel": Jay Aston's band will be known as "Gene Loves Jezebel" in the UK and "Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel" within the US; Michael Aston's band will be known as "Gene Loves Jezebel" in the US and "Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel" in the UK. The settlement agreement has been posted on Michael's Gene Loves Jezebel website.

So strictly speaking, there is a U.S. "Gene Loves Jezebel" and a UK "Gene Loves Jezebel," with a different twin fronting each.  Much like the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Superman.  (And speaking of geekery: tonight, I weasel my way into a free Sucker Punch screening AND PLEASE NOTE THAT I WILL BE ROOTING AGAINST THE CRAZY CHICKS, ALWAYS.  Tomorrow, by contrast, I will explain my doubts about Paul, backwards as this movie-preference hierarchy will sound to some.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Conservadurismo para Punks

Emilio Quintana reviewed Proud to Be Right (with my essay "Conservatism for Punks," and this blog, serving as the lengthy climax) for TheAmericano.  If you don't speak Spanish, please don't entirely trust the automatic translation function, which leaves me sounding as if we must "maintain to the State" and foster "holy madness," which doesn't sound quite right, but I trust the original Spanish captures things perfectly (and remember that "liberal" still means more or less "libertarian" in the non-English-speaking world).

The review starts, though, with praise of Nathan Harden's essay, which warned that the women of Yale are highly theatrical and promiscuous.  As it happens, I was witness to one of the other essayists mentioned in the Quintana review, religious conservative Ashley Thorne, who was on the C-SPAN2 panel about the book in October, praising Harden’s essay to one of our co-panelists – who had herself gone to Yale and finds Harden’s work annoying – just before the panel got started, an unintentionally slightly-awkward moment. 

(Thorne seems very nice, I should add.  By contrast, I only just noticed that one TNR reader, who knew that other co-panelist back at Yale, rather hastily declared that panelist to be “fine” – and me thus an “asshole” making false accusations for denouncing his fellow Yalie – when he weighed in on the matter over on TNR.com.  That makes him the only ardent anti-Todd voice of which I am aware, offhand though his comment may be, among people who claim to have some knowledge of one of the disputants.  Mistaken judgments based on cursory information are the bane of human thought, young Yale alum, so I’ll just say: be more careful in the future.)

The translation function works well enough on that review for me to understand that Quintana refers to this blog as a successor of sorts to ConservativePunk.com and ConPunk.com, and even as times and political contexts change, I will try not to forget that. 

In other Spanish-language news, Don Boudreaux notes that Obama should not honor Salvador Allende’s grave.  Just because Pinochet’s coup was violent does not mean Allende was a good man.  Boudreaux points out Chilean finance minister Jose Pinera’s observation that the democratic government of Chile, mere weeks before the coup, "presented [to the Chilean people] a list of twenty legal and constitutional violations of President Allende's government [including illegal detentions and torture]."  The left doesn’t just defend its own thugs, it reveres them.

As for the U.S., I don’t think it’s quite as imperialist as sometimes made out to be (even when unnecessarily intervening in Iraq or Libya).  But there are abuses.  The "kill team" photos from Afghanistan are a reminder that there are sadists among us -- including many who never actually murder but, for example, find cruelty sexually arousing.  Normal humans rightly despise them as subhuman beasts, whether they take the form of soldiers, meathead frat guys, or arrogant intellectuals. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Song Parodies, Maybe-Parodies, plus Muslims and Mexicans Rocking

•There’s been debate over whether Rebecca Black’s video “Friday” is so bad that it has to be parody, but it’s not so different from all of the by-and-for-kids pop emerging from “the Orlando scene” and the like ever since the Mousketeers started stealthily taking over music in the late 90s (causing me to tune out for about a decade, but I’m attentive again).

Now this is definitely a parody – and indeed I think it might be the best fusion of original song and lounge-ified Richard Cheese sound of any of his songs: "Welcome to the Jungle."

•More ambiguous is the huge, operatic, and disturbing Puddles the Clown – seen here as Nybakken and I saw him last year, touring with the live Aqua Teen Hunger Force show and accompanied by a dancing gorilla girl – finishing his alarming medley of “My Heart Will Go On” and “Enter Sandman.”

•The band MeWithoutYou hits enough spiritual themes to be very popular with Christian audiences (as I learned from Daniel Radosh).  There’s a certain Bible boot camp feel to their video for the great manic song “Nice & Blue, Pt. 2.”  I am even more impressed, though, by their more recent song “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie.”  I imagine hipsters sing songs like that to their children. 

Rather than being Christians, though, the Weiss brothers at the heart of the band were raised Sufi Muslim by parents who'd converted from Episcopalianism and Judaism.  (Might that explain the line "Let the crescent cookie rise"?)  Eclectic.

The song’s story itself may come from ancient Southwest Asia -- somewhere around Pakistan -- but reaches the West through Aesop, itself a reminder that ancient societies were not wholly self-contained, despite fear of globalization erupting anew circa 1999.  And again in 2001.

•Speaking of Muslim rockers, anyone (who I already know) who’s keen to be my guest Saturday, April 2 to see Muslim convert (and vegan and Turkey-dweller) Peter Murphy, formerly of Bauhaus, perform his (far more beautiful) solo stuff at the Highline Ballroom should (be the first person to) let me know.  (I wonder if there’ll be a moment of extra applause from the audience for the Middle East uprisings, comparable to the big hand for a fleeting reference to Tunisia – just a mention of the country, not even its politics – by singer Nassima at Carnegie Hall when I saw her there last month.)

•And if MeWithoutYou and Peter Murphy make you feel more comfortable about culture getting eclectic, you’re ready to watch a video by a Mexican rock band I’ve mentioned before (pointed out to me by Michael Malice – an immigrant himself): Hello Seahorse!’s “Won’t Say Anything.”  We are not so different, you and I, senorita.  (And Gerard Perry points out that even the Irish can joke about the IRA.  World peace through global pop culture, as an anime company slogan used to put it.)

P.S. If anyone’s wondering: truth be told, if I had to distill everything I actually respect about rock into one (relatively simple, non-postmodern) band, it would likely sound less like New Wave (often as I praise that) and more like Guadalcanal Diary, the Connells, or Crowded House.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Good Word (and Altered Comments Functionality)

•No sooner do I dis religion (Sunday last week) than I begin to suspect my comments threads, for purely technological reasons, don't accept some posts, be they supportive or negative (though I switched to a pop-up format that may be more accepting).  I will compensate by letting people post anything about God they want under this entry -- if they now can -- without me responding negatively in any way, barring robo-data-dumps and the like.  So, partly to check how my blog's tech is working, go ahead and tell me, masses: Do I need Jesus?

•Speaking of religious divisions, my Alabama kindred spirit Franklin Harris pointed out the story (by Matt Ridley) of how that evil bastard Thomas More, who hated property and gave us five centuries of utopianism, essentially murdered the creator of the King James Bible (no, the murder victim wasn't Shakespeare -- nor was Shakespeare really Francis Bacon).

•In a reminder that religion is a poor guide to public policy, the (useful) fiscal right finds itself under attack from the (counterproductive) religious left, who've been asking in ads "What Would Jesus Cut?" -- with the implied answer being "Nothing!  Jesus would love big government!"  (Don Boudreaux echoed Jeff Jacoby's condemnation of this tactic.)  I, of course, would love it if all the religious factions just canceled each other out and gave up, though I don't expect that to happen anytime soon.

But tomorrow, a sympathetic religious-music note to heal all divisions.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Century of Change and Sheena Easton

The creation of the Saudi Arabian government, World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Nazi Party, and the American welfare state all lay in the future when my grandmother was born (around the same time the Panama Canal was completed in early 1914) -- and she's still here, but not all of those things are (neither is the British Empire).  Maybe someday soon none of those new-fangled things will be.  Things change quickly.  Don't let people -- right-wing or left-wing -- convince you that impermanent things are permanent, not even religion, about which some more tomorrow.

But tonight a tradition endures: socialize at Langan's from 7pm until late, at our monthly Manhattans Project gathering.  Extra libertarians are likely to join us.

Meanwhile, it seems as though many libertarians or conservatives would like to switch from talking about politics to talking about neuroscience, touched upon lately in books, blogs, comments, or articles by Ken Silber, Ryan Sager, Will Wilkinson, and the mushy and unprincipled but trend-watching David Brooks.  This may prove useful when taxes and regulation become passe in fifteen years and everything hinges on cyborg liberation.  Well see.


I must ashamedly admit that I was reminded of how quickly the culture changes by something pretty fluffy recently: stumbling across a Sheena Easton 80s video clip for the song "Modern Girl" on YouTube (this is my version of Scottish Enlightenment). It's no older than my childhood -- and wouldn't sound aesthetically out of place on the radio even today -- but the lyrics are in large part an assertion that Sheena can earn her own money and thus plan her own life, still a novel and tough-sounding stance at the time ("She don't build her world 'round no single man/ She's just gettin' by doin' what she can," etc.).

On a related note -- as foreseen by us capitalist types -- we've now reached the point where millennial females (at least in urban areas) out-earn males, and we simply do not have the political or cultural-analytical tropes on hand to say (without tumultuous repercussions) that

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anarchy Everywhere Immediately! (A Cautious Explanation)

Am I rapidly changing my tune, after spending the past two decades trying to subtly nudge the culture rightward and the right punkward?  Yes, but I am not backpedaling or contradicting myself.  

Rather, I think (a) the urgency of the financial/spending crisis, (b) the heightened awareness of government-business collusion on both sides of the political spectrum, (c) the popularity of the (mostly) anti-big-government Tea Party movement (highly popular relative to the small hardcore libertarian movement in the decades preceding it), and (d) the diminished appearance of legitimacy of big governments around the world all combine to make this an appropriate time to switch to a more econ-focused and more urgent mode, even though a reserved gradualism, I swear, suits my temperament (not to mention Edmund Burke's) better in most circumstances.  

Also, the ever-diversifying media make gradual, subtle approaches passe, I fear.  The Whole Message must be conveyed in each sentence if anyone is to stop long enough to hear it.  The ship of state still turns slowly, but the ship of political discourse is becoming a jet ski among jet skis. 


When it appeared that bland decades stretched before us in which to subtly steer the ship of state into one of two highly-popular channels, it made sense to focus on that tactic.  But if even the elderly are in the streets wielding signs painted with Rand slogans while wearing tricorn hats, things have changed.  I must change with the ever-more-fluid times as well, as must this blog (and its new-minted companion media modalities, products of this "twenty-first century" thing in which I have begun taking an interest). 

I will no longer assume there will be a right and left twenty years from now.  I am not confident there will be a stock market or welfare state as we know them, for good or ill.  There is no time left in which to mince words, then.  And no time to waste, over and over, on using political labels that confuse (and amuse) by meaning one thing this decade and the opposite thing the next (true of terms ranging from "anarchist" to "liberal" to "conservative," perhaps even "libertarian").  I will try to keep things more concrete and clear as we ride the changes together (hint: "property rights…taxes… spending cut…"). 

Tomorrow, a concrete reminder of how quickly things change (and tomorrow at Langan's at 7pm, a Manhattans Project gathering, where we can discuss it all). 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

OK, I think it is now fair for us to judge…

…both the conservatives and liberals by their adherence to libertarians' increasingly well-known standards, even in public discussions with the uninitiated, rather than to continue weighing in on which of the two larger factions is the lesser of two evils.  (The "not a dime's worth of difference" attitude seems pretty widely shared at this point, in part due to intervention in Libya.)

Time for the two big factions to catch up to us, even if -- admit it -- the GOP perhaps has a slight lead over the Dems at the moment by libertarian standards (a lead that will get bigger if people like the Republican Liberty Caucus, to whom I spoke last month, and Tea Party-affiliated politicians such as would-be Departments-abolisher Sen. Rand Paul have anything to say about it). 

The important thing is that I think we libertarian and Tea Party types are closer than ever before to being popularly regarded as the yardstick (prior to this point, I think that would've been a bit presumptuous).

As a corollary, if the GOP falters yet again, it's time to steer the Tea Partiers and everyone else who's willing into the Libertarian Party, strange and painful as that process would likely be -- and/or simply to start telling conservatives our ideology, not theirs, is the future of the GOP itself.  A party can have deeply divided factions, after all.  Maybe it should. 

(Note that I'm not saying libertarian principles just became correct yesterday -- they always were -- but rather that I think they have far more potential to mobilize voters and even politicians at this juncture than before, since in the past almost anyone being told to "switch to the LP," or "away from the old guard of the GOP," would merely have said "To the what?" and "You mean to the Democrats?" respectively.)

You have under two years to drink the tea deeply, GOP.   Then, I think, it's over -- not because we despair but because we may now be able to pull this off without you (and by "now" I mean…"eventually" -- but in this actual timeline/universe, which didn't always appear to be the case, if you follow me).  You'd better not nominate Huckabee.

P.S.  I predict it will be relatively easy for future students of law to remember the Lysander Spooner-like crackdown on private currency that ended with a conviction this week, since there are mnemonic devices aplenty in the tale of Bernard von NotHaus being convicted in Statesville for selling Liberty Dollars, in a case involving the Sheriff of Buncombe County.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Political Villains

An impending remake by David Fincher of the British political-intrigue series House of Cards could help, just a tiny bit.  It's as anti-government as Atlas Shrugged, in its way.

Imagine if Hollywood suddenly woke up to the fact that politicians and bureaucrats (not to mention a lot of pundits) are Machiavellian scum and thus provide plenty of fodder for drama.  And politician characters have plenty of time to scheme because, unlike business people, they do not have any productive work to do.  It's all drama and lies with politicians.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Wave Remembered, New Wave Betrayed (and Another Anti-Lady Gaga Note)

•One of the Todd-defenders, writing at Daily Caller after the C-SPAN2 thing last year, was Mark Gauvreau Judge, who is a music-savvy Catholic (mentioning him will have to count as my nod to St. Patrick’s Day).  He understands the subtle yet creepy difference between Madonna invoking religious (and sadomasochistic) imagery – which is troubling enough to begin with – and, worse, Lady Gaga invoking religious (and sadomasochistic) imagery.  He wrote a book last year on such things, and you can read a few brief, pivotal excerpts from his article on the specific Madonna-Gaga tension right here

In short, the decadent tail should not be wagging the impassioned dog or else real, dehumanizing nastiness has a tendency to ensue, even if it’s tricked out with imagery borrowed from more wholesome sources.

•But let us turn our minds instead to New Wave, starting with perhaps my favorite Miami Vice scene ever, the one that confirmed my status as a Peter Gabriel fan – with “Rhythm of the Heat” playing as a deranged arms dealer, a former colleague of Crockett who to this day I remember was named Evan (William Russ would make a good Joker), demonstrated what MAC-10s can do to mannequins – and why Vice looked and sounded cold and stylish enough to air three decades later without seeming hokey.  This version of the clip is dubbed into German, but in a weird way, that helps (“Zvitek!”). 

•My Favorite became: Secret History.  The band My Favorite, who I mentioned a long time ago, eventually parted ways with their lead singer but reorganized as the band Secret History, this time with two female singers, one the daughter of David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson (whose widow not only created the Ziggy Stardust haircut but once cut the hair of my friend Michael Malice).  I’m pleased the reconfabulated band still shows New Wave influences.

•How about some real, vintage New Wave, though?

If the Fixx (who inspired the title of my March 14 blog entry) don't sound New Wave enough in their usual quasi-prog mode, how about their song "Liner," in which they sound a bit ABC, I think?  A nice balance of ominous-robotic and snooty, like much of the best British New Wave stuff (and very catchy, I think).

And if the Fixx sounding like ABC doesn't help, how about them sounding like Talking Heads?  (Dave Whitney thinks that one sounds a bit like this Talking Heads song -- with Robert Palmer on bongos.)

•Truth be told, although I’m always happy to hear New Wave, even as a kid in the 80s I never lived by New Wave alone.  No, I didn’t go through the metal-loving hair band phase that most of my contemporaries did.  What I had a special soft spot for at the time, really, was classic rock acts enduring into the New Wave era or making comebacks (and new bands, especially if fronted by women, that were more hard rock than effete-Brit).  Thus, the following twelve songs were all great sources of joy for me back in the day:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Science, Economics, and Storytelling

Which will have the bigger long-term impact on stocks -- not to mention human health -- the reactors in Japan or Obamacare?  The former is unlikely to have any significant effect on human health, despite the press using phrases such as "nuclear crisis" almost interchangeably with "small leak" (as it always does) -- and the absurd European energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, deploying the phrase "apocalypse," which one suspects he would also have deployed if vegetables were exposed to higher than average amounts of pesticide.  

"Almost everything is out of control," he said, sounding a lot like that Alan Fram and Eileen Putnam column that James Taranto has been mocking for three years.  The Europeans shutting down reactors over the situation in Japan makes about as much sense as shutting down the Jersey Turnpike over a freak nineteen-car pileup on the Autobahn. 

Ali Kokmen (who used to sell manga) has not given me his predictions, but he has pointed out this article about an MIT economist who tries to explain Obamacare in comic book form.  More comics during my "Month of Heroes" entries in April.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Geeky Homage to Japan

As the stories about devastation in Japan first rolled in, I happened to be reading the most Japan-centered part of the novel World War Z (which is all a series of self-contained brief anecdotes, done as flashback oral reports from around the globe, about the zombie war).  The section builds up very gradually and subtly to a super hardcore-geeky premise (unlike the highly "realistic" tone of the rest of the book), without telegraphing strongly in advance that that's where it's headed, which ends up being beautiful in an Unbreakable sort of way. 

Basically, one of the personal histories recounted is that of a blind Japanese man, who hid in the forest when the zombies started killing everyone and the entire country of Japan had to be evacuated.  

And most of it is fairly low-key and just about him coping with his blindness, until, at the end: while in the forest, he gradually becomes adept at killing zombies who approach him with a shovel even though he can't see them...and then he learns there's one other guy out there alive, who agrees to assist him...and they have an old sword but little else...and it ends with the two deciding that if it's just the two of them left alone in Japan, one blind sensei with a shovel and his sidekick with a sword, with an estimated fifty million zombies against them...then it is still their duty to try to kill all those zombies and preserve the nation. 

And we are given no subsequent details about how things went...except that we know they survived to give the report.  And believed the gods were on their side. 

(More about World War Z in my Book Selections entry next month.  And on my Facebook page today: amazing Japanese bear-jitsu.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

S/he Will Speak for Us Both, S/he Will Speak for Us All

Here's a transsexual professor, Deirdre McCloskey, with whom I once sang a Guns N' Roses song, giving a superb hour-long lecture on the rise -- and underrated importance -- of bourgeois virtue.  I'm not saying the sex change is the most important thing, but you have to love the irony (or what many would superficially see as irony). 

Once more, the commercial wisdom of the Dutch (who I mentioned yesterday on Facebook) is relevant.  As I've noted before, today's global trade is in some sense built on an older American trading order, built upon a still older British trading order, built upon an even older Dutch trading order, for which coffee made from beans that had been eaten and defecated by civet cats was a crucial commodity.  

Anti-globalization, then, is both anti-coffee and anti-ass.  Regardless: trade is nice, and it actually makes us nicer in the process, despite what some say. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heather Mac Donald vs. Religion and Deconstructionism

Clay Waters – himself a formerly-religious person, I think, though I wouldn’t want to mischaracterize his views – last month pointed out a New York Times article about Heather Mac Donald being an atheist conservative.  That’s one of many things about Mac Donald that pleases me and, as it happens, I learned another when I saw her speak to the Phillips Foundation the day before that article came out: She says she was motivated to go into political writing by her disgust at the Continental philosophy and deconstructionism rampant at Yale when she was an undergrad. 

A decade later, it was in large part the rampant deconstructionism at Brown – arguments by obscurantist French theorists aimed at showing that all language and symbol-use is a mind-controlling web best decoded through a combination of Marxism, feminism, and phallus-obsessed neo-Freudianism – that motivated me to fight back and start writing regularly in defense of reason, morality, and civilization, as I still do (and as my friend Alyssa Pelish recently reminded me, one of my big inspirations was Jonathan Swift).

I think it’s worth pausing to consider the fact that neither my motivation nor Mac Donald’s would fit into the usual religious narrative – nor the usual deconstructionist narrative – about how atheists and capitalists think.  Religious conservatives like to paint atheists as nihilists, undermining everything and sneering at purportedly-evident Truths, while deconstructionists depict capitalists as unreflective dupes of the system who would as readily buy into religious lies as we do into mind-controlling advertising. 

In fact, it is religion that is (necessarily) averse to truth, and deconstructionism that is in love with its own self-absorbed, mesmerizing-and-flattering poetics.  If atheists sometimes seem pushy to religious people, it’s only because atheists do not have as much need to flee from arguments as religious people do.  And no shampoo ad in history has ever made as snooty a pretense of offering you instant sophistication as has Continental philosophy, with its ritualized incantations about metonymic signifiers and instantiations of hierarchized hegemony – offering, as David Lipsky put it in a short story shortly after graduating from Brown, to reveal the sinister clockwork behind reality, at the price of leaving you a haunted, cynical, sexy, and hip – often black-clad – shell of your former self, possibly with tenure and cigarettes. 

Far from atheist-capitalists being afraid of the truth, we’re the ones always happy to discuss it – and to learn more – while defenders of faith and socialism alike, as their lies become more painfully obvious, are the ones driven to the last-ditch defensive measure of hiding behind postmodernist obfuscation.  In essence, religion and Continental philosophy alike are now

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Meltdowns Attack

At least the risk of a Japanese nuclear meltdown has caused people to pay slightly less attention to the Charlie Sheen meltdown.  After all, if he’s really going insane, we’ll all feel guilty about the laughter later.  Or will we?

I contend people have gotten a bit more vicious and impatient over the past couple decades – not a night-and-day complete-unraveling-of-morals thing, but perhaps a subtle shift due to instant gratification getting even more instantaneous.  I could therefore easily see the next generation of reality shows, driven by people’s callous desire to see something ever more shocking and tawdry, taking it for granted that we will all watch real descents into dysfunctional mental illness with the same chuckling detachment that we now watch cat videos. 

If it entertains the normals, why not put crazies on TV, people will say, and eventually: why not put sociopaths in charge of programming, to make the process even more efficient?  Conscience can get in the way of the tough decisions, like whether to air footage in which a stand-up comedian mercilessly mocks his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, etc.

If this sounds like pessimistic cultural conservatism, here’s a related optimistic note: Conservatives often complain about the value-neutrality – and thus potential amorality – of psychiatry (how do you feel about that?).  But I think it’s a very good – and conservative – thing that psychiatry regards the lack of a conscience as a form of mental illness.  After all, as Dostoyevsky reminded us, you couldn’t strictly speaking give a rational argument to a complete sociopath about why she should care about other people if she just doesn’t – you have to bank on there being some hint of compassion in there. 

(But the psychiatrists seem to be right from a purely biological perspective: Normal brains are heavily influenced, even formed at the most basic level, by their sympathy with other brains, even across species, and there is indeed something “missing” in the sociopath – the question is just how you could ever convince a stubborn sociopath to care about that problem rather than feeling liberated by the difference – though my impression is that sociopaths are not a happy bunch, so if they’re neither good for us nor good for themselves, you’d think they might acknowledge the problem.)

Once an interest in doing right by other people is established, though, I’d contend, you are logically bound to some form of more or less utilitarian ethical code and numerous objective statements can then be made about “what must be done” or at least “what should not be done,” given economic, political, scientific, and psychological constraints.  Moral rules (though complex, ambiguous, and highly debatable) are objective – you just need something to give people that initial push to care enough to inquire about what they are.  But the handful of people who just don’t care may always be as unreachable – and as dangerous – as a few scattered vampires or zombies among us. 

And speaking of fundamental questions that risk unraveling one’s whole mindset: tomorrow, deconstructionists and atheists.  (And today I tweet and Facebook-update about the crazies in a more callous fashion myself.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Separation of Islam and State

One added Steyn-like thought after mentioning him yesterday: you have to suspect that NPR exec Ron Schiller was really fired for telling the truth, in an almost Asperger's-like unguarded way, rather than for saying or doing things NPR genuinely finds inappropriate (that it was a gaff, in the when-a-politician-tells-the-truth sense).

And while I'm decidedly not in the Islamophobe camp (and have long been quietly betting that the Middle East would eventually surprise us in a 1989-like way and reduce tensions generations sooner than ancticipated), you can understand conservatives of a certain bent feeling pretty damn justified in their worries that all their foes function almost like a single "panidiotarian" conspiracy, when a (taxpayer-funded) NPR exec is commiserating with ostensible Muslim radicals over the evils of the Tea Parties even as social-democratic European courts are starting to use (First Amendment-less) rules against fomenting hate to punish critics of Islam, in effect giving true-believers a handy means of punishing blasphemy -- cloaked in modern, p.c.-speech-code terms (the kind of partisanship-cloaked-as-neutrality one learned to fear at Ivy League campuses in recent decades).

I should confess I now have two friends -- and have met one other person -- who have been either hauled before a government committee in Canada or threatened with such actions for things they've written or said about Islamic immigration or similar topics (not Jacob Levy, I should note, since I mentioned him yesterday as well).  And I really shouldn't have to waste time saying whether I agree with their views or know lots of rabble-rousers.  The important thing is just that I want free speech for people in Canada and Europe -- not to mention the Middle East -- as in the U.S., not censorship by government nor subsidies by government.  Without the state to fight over -- and in turn use as a weapon -- many of these issues quietly go away.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Most Shocking Things Libertarians Have Ever Said

My congratulations to the state of Wisconsin.  I assume most reading this blog feel the same way – but whether you prefer the Ayn Rand Institute or the social-democrat thinktank Demos, remember that the presidents of those two outfits debate tonight at 60 Washington Square Park South, if you care to join me and tell me in the next few hours (or if you can still register for it).

I often find myself thinking that however much you may disagree with libertarians, you ought to at least find our positions fairly predictable – or at least you would if libertarians all took my approach of treating property rights as the simple, game theory-like rule that should generate all (or at the very least virtually all) legal rules.  But I admit libertarians sometimes throw even me a curve.

I think the four arguments I’ve heard from libertarian or – more confusingly – mostly-libertarian people that have surprised me most (I’m not saying they’re necessarily wrong, just that I didn’t foresee these positions) over the years have been the following:

•At least some of the libertarians in my college cabal balked (at the time) at the idea of legalizing incest between consenting adults.  I do not see any rationale whatsoever under libertarianism for their position.  They must have been channeling Leon Kass and his “wisdom [sic] of repugnance” position.

•One – just one – was briefly in favor of anti-flag-burning laws on the grounds that a Hayekian shouldn’t “rock the boat” by attacking certain national symbols or something.  Absolute nonsense, as he later admitted himself.  (I was less alarmed by the same man’s desire to maintain the Library of Congress and government storehouses for deeds and titles – not that I think we need government for this sort of record-keeping, but these things are simply too boring and minimal for even an anarchist like me to get worked up about, for good or ill.)

•The Antiwar.com-style denunciations of America as “imperialist” alarmed me when I first heard them, though I’ve almost come to take them for granted in some libertarian quarters.  It’s just the kind of rhetoric you associate with the dangerously America-bashing (and usually not very capitalist) left, regardless of how rare military deployments ought to be in practice.  Rand Paul seems to understand that better than his father does.

•The Mises Institute (and, as I learned later, Ron Paul) wanting limits on immigration seemed to me so at odds with freedom of movement that I didn’t really consider the “paleolibertarian” crowd true libertarians a decade and a half ago – which is somewhat ironic, given that their ranks have grown so much that some young libertarians think we non-Mises Institute types are the heretics, in much the same snotty-ingrate way many paleocons think of neocons, as if everyone fighting socialism in mainstream ways for the past half-century just crashed the paleos’ dinky party moments ago. 

Rothbard and some of his colleagues, shortly before his death, were even supplementing their concerns about burdens on the welfare state with more blatantly cultural arguments about whether newcomers might be disproportionately socialistic – and this was not all Mexico-bashing at the time, I should say.  Rothbard was reportedly troubled by the way Russia and China would consciously use mass immigration to alter the politics of their satellites, and he might well have had Steyn-like fears about Muslim immigration in Western Europe if he were around today. 

And speaking of the Mises Institute and culture wars...


I see that one of Jacob Levy's seven fellow "liberaltarian" bloggers at Bleeding Heart Libertarians is Ludwig von Mises Institute senior scholar Roderick Long.  I have no

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bowie + Sinatra, Seavey + Seavey, and the House of Freaks

Strange musical connections:

And not only did the song not originate with Frank…Bowie did an unreleased cover of it before Frank did, called "Even a Fool Learns to Love."

And when he heard the Sinatra song a few years later, it inspired him to write something of a parody, and that song, the best song discussed in this blog entry by my standards, was "Life on Mars."

History is complicated.


Speaking of duplications and space aliens, I only just noticed -- right after mocking belief in malevolent extraterrestrials earlier this week -- that one of the tiny handful of other Todd Seaveys in this world (there being only two or three others of whom I know, located in New England and therefore probably distant relatives of some sort, another in Minnesota having passed away recently) lists as one of his main interests on his Facebook page Exopolitics Radio, which is a station devoted to the belief that UFOs influence earthly politics (MLK, Eisenhower, and others having supposedly been secretly visited). 

And there was a time when Bowie believed in this sort of thing as well, but he was doing a lot of drugs and wearing Nazi uniforms back then, too, so it's best to put that all behind us, marvelous as it is how much the combo makes him like a living Michael Moorcock character.

NOTE: My doppelgangers are not as cool as those of my friend Diana Fleischman (evolutionary psychology researcher).  When I told her about another Diana Fleischman (who is herself a Facebook friend of a friend), Diana #1 said she’d previously known of only three other Diana Fleischmans: a sailboat-maker, a private investigator, and a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.  That’s a lot for a namesake to live up to.  Come to think of it, I met a guy about my age named James Bond once.  (Since Diana #1 is a vegan, she may be unhappy both that her own name essentially means Huntress Meat-Person and that the most prominent Seaveys of all are arguably the family of accomplished Iditarod champions.  Perhaps McGregor, from my March 6 entry, could work with them.)


On a grimmer musical note, I only just learned what became of the band House of Freaks, who did the wonderful rockabillyish song "Sun Gone Down."  The singer/guitarist -- and his wife and two young daughters -- were murdered five years ago (and the murderers later caught, one sentenced to death, one to life).

I haven't been this bummed about checking up on an 80s musical act since reading up on what became of Stuart Adamson, lead singer of Big Country.  He moved to Nashville and drank himself to death in 2001 (luckily, my singer friend Nick Beaudoing, newly relocated there, does not seem likely to follow a similar path).

All right, off now to IFC to see the 11am My Perestroika.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Liberaltarians" vs. Anarchists vs. Objectivists vs. Social Democrats

Two fun events for free-market folks noted below, but first:

I try to be big-tent, I really do, but I notice my friend Jacob Levy, among other claims to fame now one of the bloggers over at the new Bleeding-Heart Libertarian blog for “liberaltarians” (I gotta either use the scare quotes or a hyphen or everyone’s going to read it wrong, which is not my fault) is still talking about the importance of a libertarian “break” with the right, not just cozying up to the left – and I think there’s an important difference, one which shows why I am really the peacemaker here, not the divisive one.

(I can understand Jacob being wary of any purported libertarians making partial defenses of the Confederacy – based on its right to secede, etc., not anyone’s right to enslave others – but then, if real-world policy outcomes are his metric of success, as he suggests at great length, is he sincerely worried that some libertarians are secretly plotting to reinstitute slavery?  The only person I’ve met who even obliquely lamented the end of slavery was, unsurprisingly, far more of a labor union enthusiast and anti-marketeer than a libertarian, in fact.) 

I think it takes a great deal of tortuous reasoning to see the left as more hospitable to libertarian ideas even at times when the right is behaving horribly, but now?  Now, when the left has been openly talking about a renewed interest in socialism and the right is throwing anti-big-government, anti-spending, pro-revolutionary Tea Parties?  Wha??

I mean, fine, do outreach to the liberals if they’ll actually listen to you.  I would have said no way as recently as two years ago, but since government is bungling so badly lately, I’m willing to accept the possibility that even liberals have become educable.  “Liberaltarians” might as well do the dirty work of buttering up the left so that I don’t have to, and if leftists actually come around, fantastic. 

But in any outreach mission, left or right, it is worth asking not just whether one might be compromising principles but also whether one is alienating more people than one is attracting.  If you sway a few thousand liberals but do it through a “break” with the right that drives away millions of almost-libertarian people, you haven’t really accomplished much – so why poke the right in the eye with a stick if you don’t have to?

And I’m increasingly inclined to think there’s no real need to declare almost anyone the enemy if they still seem open to market-oriented thinking, but people like to fight, being closely related to stupid chimpanzees and all. 


Yet the “liberaltarians,” as if that name weren’t awkward enough, are now declaring

Monday, March 7, 2011

Death from Space!

Yesterday, I mentioned meteorites that may carry signs of life, so for balance it's only right that today I discuss the asteroid that has just the tiniest smidgen of a chance of bringing death to us all.  Follow me now...

In an odd confluence of cultural and physical influences, I see that the Egyptians feared an anti-Ra god named Apep, bringer of darkness, who was called Apophis by the Greeks and came sometimes to be regarded as synonymous with the serpent-god Set by the Egyptians.  

Both Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft made use of this demonic version of Set, and Howard's depiction of the Serpent Crown has been repeatedly used by Marvel Comics despite ambiguous property issues (Set has also been imitated in Marvel stories by the powerful, ancient ur-mutant named...Apocalypse). 

A recurring villain in the gods-themed, long-running sci-fi franchise Stargate is called Apophis. 

The scientists who discovered one particularly large near-Earth asteroid are reportedly Stargate fans -- and named the asteroid Apophis. 

Apophis happens to pass near the Earth in late 2012, no doubt causing a frenzy among the Mayan-prophecy paranoiacs (some of whom have long accused NASA of concealing the approach of a runaway planetoid).  At that time, NASA will determine whether it is likely that Apophis could strike the Earth upon its later 2036 passage, necessitating counter-measures, which would then be likely to be deployed on its intermediate 2029 passage. 

The odds of Earth being destroyed by Apophis are very, very slim -- yet is it conceivable that Conan the Barbarian, H.P. Lovecraft, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, a show based on a movie in which the villain was played by a chick with a wang, two geeky scientists, and the ancient Mayans were all wrong?  Tremble.  

(But just in case someone's reading this who really doesn't know me: We'll be fine, and there's no such thing as prophecy.  Religion, mysticism, and claims of psychic abilities are for cretins.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dogs, Microbes, and Athletes

Aye, b’hold McGregor (a.k.a. Mac), ma parents’ nyew Scottie! 

This is dog #3 for the Seavey household, Uber having passed away in 2005 after sixteen highly acclaimed years and her successor Jaycie having passed away earlier this year.  Given the dogs’ names (unplanned except for Uber, since the other two were taken in from other people), I like to think of them as my parents’ Nietzschean, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Scottish Enlightenment dogs.

This new lifeform enters the Seavey household the same weekend that reports surface that scientists may have stronger evidence of simple microbes existing in meteorites, and thus life existing beyond Earth.  Let us hope the three Seavey cats (the less artfully named Salty, Pepper, and Meow) get along with the alien in their midst – or at least better than the cats in this video clip get along with this angst-ridden spider.

In other stupid-animal-video news, I think I actually saw this highly talented and very enthusiastic skateboarding bulldog with the naked eye outside the News Corp building when I was working there last year.  I would certainly rather watch him in action than watch an actual sporting event, and I am baffled by the press’s continued practice of interviewing athletes, which seems almost invariably utterly pointless.  Maybe I’m missing nuances since I’m not a sports fan, but it seems to me that almost every clip of a talking professional athlete after a game sounds roughly like this:

“Well, we’re glad we won, and we realized going in, y’know, that we would have to play well.  The other team put up a really good fight, but we managed to beat them on offense and also on defense, and I think there were times when we thought we might lose, but in the end we managed to get more points than they did, and that was really what put us over the top in the end, so I’m just glad that we had a victory instead of a defeat, and I hope the next game will also be one that we can win, which would be something everybody here would feel good about, whereas if we lost, it would be hard.” 

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.  (I was pleased to see Christopher Hitchens – no wuss – mention in his recent memoir that he does not fully understand and does not at all share his fellow males’ emotional investment in the outcome of sporting events.)

Getting back to animals, though: I had the dubious honor of meeting the woman whose pug puking on the subway sparked heightened tension between Williamsburg’s hipsters and Hasidim (and I met the pug), and I see that n + 1 last month had an essay on the hipster/Hasidim parallels and conflicts.  I trust McGregor will spark no comparable battles in New England – though he might well feel conflicted loyalties if he ever travels with my parents to Nova Scotia.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Anarchy and Disunion

I think the funniest quote from last night’s David Friedman talk may have been “I think seasteading is an idea that will not work,” a claim met with groans of amusement and disappointment from the audience – and quickly followed, I should say, by some positive thoughts from Friedman about that particular project of his son Patri (building new nations at sea), as well as the fledgling new generation of Friedmans that Patri has been producing. 

(It would be odd and surprising – to Patri as well – if 7 billion people started living in boats, but there’s something to be said for putting a little added pressure on land-based governments with some floating offshore corporations and a few rich expatriates.  Galt’s Galleon, if you will.)

For the moment, it’s the politicians who seem to be in hiding, though, at least in and around Wisconsin, and if we could convince all politicians to join them, that would certainly solve some problems.  Alas, it now appears we have to wait two weeks for public sector layoffs in that state, just as we have to wait nearly two weeks for the federal government partial-shutdown (if it happens at all).  All good-hearted people hate unions, and the day after our anarchist discussion at Lolita, it’s worth reflecting on how institutionalized unions have become compared to the days, a century ago, when many were more closely affiliated with anarcho-syndicalists (who envisioned local worker control of every firm) than with government. 

It’s been a long time since American unions were being fended off with machine guns instead of fatter contracts created through government-mandated contractual negotiations – the former being horrible, obviously, but the latter a violation of freedom of contract whether the union is literally public-sector or merely an entity with which businesses are regulatorily forced to make deals.  In a true market, you should no more have to hire union members than you should have to hire nudists, suspected vandals, or Mafia members. 

Resisting the fiscal parasitism of the Wisconsin unions is certainly not fascism, as so many leftists seem to think – if anything, Hitler and Mussolini wanted to turn their whole economies into public-sector unions.  If we must indulge in childish visions of make-believe fascism, better it should be this photo of Hugo Weaving as Captain America’s archenemy, the Red Skull.  Now, that’s what real fake fascism looks like. 

In other news, after I asked the other day if anyone was reading this blog, I got two comments about ToddSeavey.com: one on Facebook and one from the very author about whom I was writing in that blog entry.  I’d call that very mixed signals, but it’s better than silence.  I will continue.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Government Shutdown EVERYWHERE? More “Jasmine Tea Party” Thoughts

Frustratingly, America will have to wait nearly two more weeks for the federal government to shut down (and then, it will only partially shut down).  Most people will barely notice when it does, and it will be interesting to see if the press is as eager this time as it was back in 1995 to hunt down cases of mild inconvenience resulting from the shutdown and make them sound like crises. 

The press’s favorite, endlessly repeated example back then, you may recall, was the difficulty of getting last-minute “emergency passports” during the shutdown, a great example of the press thinking that the one small thing that irks their rich friends is something that strikes at the hearts of all Americans (my parents do not even have passports, last I knew, having traveled no farther afield in recent decades than Canada, apparently without being detained). 

I’m not saying the ruination of your last-minute plan to ski the Matterhorn is irrelevant, but it’s a small price to pay to get the government (partially) off our backs, and absent government, we wouldn’t have passports in the first place (nor borders, which a true libertarian should view with as much suspicion as prison walls and guard towers).

But – as I will likely say in my intro remarks tonight at Lolita Bar (7pm) prior to DAVID FRIEDMAN’s speech there about the third edition of Machinery of Freedom – I would love to see government shut down, as both idea and practice, the world over.  Now may be the time for it, with people irked enough here to stage Tea Parties, irked enough to riot in Europe, and irked enough to rebel across the Middle East.  I know, I know, the grievances vary and are in some cases at odds with my own, but how hard would it be, I wonder, to ju-jitsu the current mood into across-the-board anti-government sentiment – and crucially, into a sense of global common struggle – if we all agreed to start thinking of this mood as a single, broad “Jasmine Tea Party” instead of unrelated Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East, complaints in China, and marginalized right-wingery in the U.S.?

I used to be something of a gradualist, but there’s already a sense of crisis in the air, and we might resolve it faster if we spread the recognition that humanity has a common enemy, and that enemy is government.  Not the current crop of bums.  Not just Mubarak.  Not just the latest Democrat to spend money on his friends or the latest Republican to say something insensitive.  Government.  Leave the idea of governing our fellow humans on the ash heap of history, alongside the idea of selling them as slaves or forcing them to pledge fealty to a monarch.  Good people do not (for example) rape each other, and they do not govern each other.  I hope I live to see the day when people are ashamed to recall they ever thought otherwise. 


Recognizing a common enemy across so many regions means accepting diverse motivations and philosophical perspectives instead of expecting my own precise formulation to reign unchallenged, of course. 

But my pals on the libertarian right may, I dare say, have a good model for a meta-philosophy or at least strategic approach in the idea of “fusionism,” which was the

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Selections of the Month: "Death of the Liberal Class" and "How to Disappear"

ToddSeavey.com Book Selections of the Month (March 2011): Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges and How to Disappear by Frank M. Ahearn with Eileen C. Horan

Avoiding indulging in “confirmation bias” (disproportionately registering data that confirms your existing notions) gets harder with each passing year.  I was once criticized, for example, for saying that I largely just read whatever books my friends give me (especially if they wrote the books themselves), but that passivity was partly an effort to combat the inevitable impulse to pick things myself and end up even inadvertently reading more sci-fi, libertarianism, and pro-science stuff I may not need.  (NOTE: Don’t recommend anything!  I’m swamped!  And if you want to talk about one book at length, remember to join us tomorrow night at Lolita Bar at 7pm to hear from Machinery of Freedom author David Friedman.)

Occasionally, worried that my friends are themselves obviously a biasing cohort despite their ideological diversity, I will attempt to strike out on my own – and still often end up picking more Seaveyesque books than intended, I must admit.  So, when I bought Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges, I was honestly trying to give my brain a dose of leftism to compensate for its usual drift – and I literally picked up the Ahearn/Horan book on How to Disappear just because it was nearby on the display table and sounded more earthy and concrete than the philosophical stuff I had just, once more, picked up. 

Well, turns out Death of the Liberal Class is largely an Old Left lament that self-proclaimed “liberals” have all turned (back) into de facto libertarians over the past several decades (a lament so negative that, although I am no sadist, I actually had to laugh a couple times at how bleak – and laissez-faire capitalist – Hedges thinks everything is).  And the main author of How to Disappear, it becomes gradually apparent throughout the book, is, yes, a libertarian (or very close to it).  I don’t plan these things.  The world – and our brains – are full of rather fine-tuned filter mechanisms of which we are only dimly aware, as I often say. 

(Similarly, you may have had the experience of walking into a hotel and just sort of knowing that someone in the lobby is in town for the same event you are because she sorta looks like the type.  Other scrimshaw and polka enthusiasts, or whatever it may be, just have a walk that you immediately recognize as akin to your own vibe.)

But on to the books.


Death of the Liberal Class is largely an angry history-recounting rant about what Hedges sees as twentieth-century American liberalism’s dereliction of duty.  There was a time – though apparently we have to go back not just to the 60s or FDR to find it but really all the way back to a century ago – when left-leaning intellectuals were not interested in pleasing governmental, corporate, or fellow-hipster establishments but were genuinely ornery and ready, like communist insurrectionists and

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Magna Carta Yes, Nazis No

Not only am I on Twitter and Facebook now, but this is entry #1215 on my blog!  Why is 1215 significant, you ask?  1215 means Magna Carta, of course!  It was the first time in the history of English law that the citizens had pressed upon the king a contract limiting his powers, rather than waiting for the king to simply proclaim what he would or would not do (guided by tradition, if you’re lucky). 

Contracts before government.  Voluntary agreements before traditionalist coercion.  The rest is history -- and not coincidentally the best eight centuries humanity has known.

Without the tradition of limited government that followed, we might well have ended up with politics as incoherent as those of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party (their Robert Lindstrom essay about "bunglers" is sort of amusing, or at least the accompanying photo).

But tomorrow: a monthly Book Selections entry that reveals how the Old Left sees modern America (it’s heartening how depressed they are) and a book on how to disappear when you decide you just can’t fit into the system at all anymore.

P.S. Speaking of the Middle Ages, by the way, remember that our Friday speaker at Lolita Bar (March 4, at 7pm), David Friedman, is not only an economist but a recreational medievalist and Icelandic poetry buff.  You wouldn’t want to miss it if he recites something about a blood feud, would you?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

DAVID FRIEDMAN Speaks This Friday at Lolita Bar

What does DAVID FRIEDMAN (son of Milton, father of Patri) have planned for the upcoming third edition of his groundbreaking anarcho-capitalist book Machinery of Freedom?

Find out when I host a speech by the man himself, this Friday, March 4 (7pm) at our old stomping grounds, Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; Broome runs east-west one block south of the Delancey St. FJMZ subway stop), as a special Manhattans Project event. 

With resistance to government occurring around the world from Boston to Beijing -- something I hereby declare a global “Jasmine Tea Party,” but more on that in the days ahead -- what better time to hear from the man who best explains how we could do without government altogether?  Join us -- and please spread the word!

Speaking of spreading the word, note that I’m now doing so on Twitter and Facebook, so please join me there, too.  And my thanks to Megan McClellan and to Chris Whitten of WikiTree.com, a neat site for tracking and writing about your relatives, since those two have been nice enough to put up Prof. Friedman post-speech.  (Will he be properly incentivized to treat their property as his own?)


I plan to hit this Jasmine Tea Party theme of mine -- the idea that now is the time for anti-government forces the world over to make common cause, be they neocon, Muslim, or anarchist -- repeatedly in the days ahead, but is that any guarantee I won’t spend another two months blogging about romantic tribulations, you ask yourself?

Well, one reminder that this blog’s traditional themes -- political philosophy, sci-fi, scientific rationality -- do not necessarily lend themselves to blogging about women is provided by this almost verbatim, only half-joking conversation I once had with a model-beautiful female:

TODD: That's admirably rational!

FEMALE: Well, you know, I was a philosophy major.  And a science fiction fan.

TODD [almost as if joking]: Are you single?

FEMALE: No, I've got a pretty serious boyfriend.

TODD: Damn it!!

FEMALE [very calmly, amused but humble]: Yeah, I gather I'm kinda "rare."