Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bane/Bain…Friedman/Romney...Hughley /Malice

I’ll propose a toast to Milton Friedman on his hundredth birthday tonight shortly after 7pm at a Belfry Bar gathering of libertarians on 14th Street.  But allow me to explain why, below. 

•This blog’s “Month of Heroes” ends, perhaps fittingly, on what would have been libertarian economist Milton Friedman’s hundredth birthday – though of course I devoted much of the month to talking about heroes more along the lines of Spider-Man.  If only the sapient tiger named Tawky Tawny were a Marvel character, perhaps he too could be explained as a product of biotech.

(NOTE: I have hereby fulfilled an earlier promise to blog about Tawky Tawny, which I misspelled last time – and you don’t want to know how long it took me to find an acceptable Tawky Tawny link for the paragraph above.) 

•The villain Bane is a good deal darker than old Tawky Tawny, and though I didn’t like Dark Knight Rises, I actually sort of liked Bane, who was a bit like a cross between Lord Humongous and Patrick Stewart.  And now we associate that film with such a dark event that at least Romney will likely be spared any more lame Bane/Bain jokes from the DNC.

•More disturbing than Romney’s lameness, by the way, is my realization that by libertarian standards, he may still be the best GOP presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan.  Think about it: Bush twice, Dole, Bush II twice, McCain – that’s it.  And suddenly, here we are, twenty-four years later, $16 trillion in debt, and with government even larger as a percentage of the economy.  And the presumptive nominee denounced one of his primary challengers for wanting to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. 

And still Romney gets likened to an anti-government “Ayn Rand” radical – with the bizarre side effect that Andrew Sullivan praises Obama as more “conservative” (h/t Gina Duclayan), as do some other “Obamacons,” surveyed by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the piece linked in Sullivan’s first sentence.  They seem to be using an absurd (and dangerous and Orwellian) definition of “conservative” in which (for instance) defending existing government-run healthcare programs constitutes conservatism (how profoundly British to treat existing healthcare programs less than a century old as if they are ancient, inviolate traditions, even while they run down or go bankrupt!). 

If Sullivan were merely indifferent between Obama and Romney, I might not be forced to declare him loony (I’m voting for Gary Johnson, after all, so I can understand being wary of Romney), but Sullivan’s praise of the “grace” and wisdom of Obama is painful, and is accompanied by the left-paranoiac assertion that milquetoast Romney will destroy entitlement programs.  How can Sullivan, who (like me) favored Ron Paul mere months ago, suddenly imagine Romney to be so – well, so terrifyingly Paul-like??  Sullivan’s paradoxes aren’t worth working out. 

•Economist Don Boudreaux laments that in the piece “How conservatives misread and misuse Milton Friedman” (Washington Post, July 28), Nicholas Wapshott leaps from the fact that Milton Friedman was no anarchist “to the conclusion that

Monday, July 30, 2012

BOOK NOTE: “The Communist” (plus social justice and “The Death of Liberalism”)

The great danger in declaring that THE PRESIDENT IS A COMMUNIST is that most people will either think you’re crying wolf or think “Well, obviously” because they’re the sort of people who are themselves prone to crying wolf. 

Complicating matters, American liberals and leftists have, for over a half century now, perfected a form of popular doublethink whereby they spend half their time lauding people for their commitment to socialism and the other half of their time denying that there are any socialists.  Blame Joseph McCarthy, I suppose.

I suppose I got a small taste of this when I went to a Christmas party at Communist Party USA headquarters, which is right here in New York City (West 23rd Street, in fact).  For miles around us, there were well-meaning liberals who no doubt would call me insane for saying Obama is a socialist, as well-trained liberals are supposed to do – yet at CPUSA HQ, they were explicitly celebrating in part because they recognize Obama as (at least in a sympathetic sense) one of their own. 

But Paul Kengor’s surprisingly balanced and straightforward (and thanks to publisher Glenn Beck, popular) book The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story does not in fact assert that Obama is a communist, nor even a socialist.  Kengor is keen to avoid the Jerome Corsi route of making each factoid a tool of attack and shows some genuine sympathy for his subjects.  (In truth, I assume that anyone who reaches the office of the presidency must in some sense be an amorphous, moderate gasbag in order to survive and at least ostensibly represent a majority of the populace, whether his philosophical roots were left-wing or right-wing.) 

But the book documents in exquisite detail the fact that Obama’s elderly political mentor when he was a teenager in Hawaii, Frank Davis, was not merely a socialist but a literal, full-fledged Communist Party USA member – card-carrying, Stalin-defending, the whole nine yards – and that Obama would later refer repeatedly to the man as a sort of guiding figure in his mind (even while Obama delicately avoided naming Davis in those places where he was praised in Dreams from My Father).

Of course, as a survivor of left-wing Brown University, I would have to be at least a little wary of Ivy Leaguer Obama, even if he had never written anything besides this passage:

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully.  The more politically active black students.  The foreign students.  The Chicanos.  The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.

Not that all of that’s bad, but spend four years at an Ivy League school in the late twentieth century and you should be able to predict what sorts of policy views will likely follow.  Then again, one of my young anarcho-capitalist friends responds to the revelation that Obama was at least a hardcore revolutionary Marxist-Leninist in college (as the Kengor book details and as has been suggested by at least circumstantial evidence in other books) with the question “Well, who wasn’t?”  The anarcho-capitalist in question also notes this video clip, which is a pretty good reminder of how sappy and nostalgic so-called Progressives can be about the Communist past without technically considering themselves (heaven forfend) Communists

They just don’t have anything particularly negative to say about Communism and feel compelled to spring to its defense – a bit like a charming Alternet editor and Huffington Post contributor I met at a Naomi Wolf-hosted event a few weeks ago, who bristled at hearing “fascism or socialism” uttered in the same breath and was armed with some anecdote about the Communist Party building some nice housing in part of Eastern Europe or something.  Similarly, if you ask Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel why the Soviet Union collapsed and listen carefully, you’ll notice she seems to blame all those (ungrateful) seceding republics for causing the economy to fall apart, instead of the other way around.


But none dare call these people Communists, of course.  They’re Progressives, dammit, which is also Hillary Clinton’s preferred self-descriptor – not “liberal.”  Perhaps she just calculates that “liberal” sounds too left-wing in modern parlance.  But

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Astronaut Note for This "Month of Heroes"

In the absence of the homogenizing, gender-equalizing illusions of feminism (the philosophy that, tragically, has perhaps done the most to retard the investigation of human psychology), a saner culture could discuss the idea of a Sally Ride marrying -- and then just as calmly discuss possible biological reasons that lesbians are disproportionately likely to be athletes and pilots.

And then perhaps legalize gay marriage (or better yet simply get government out of marriage altogether). And then abolish affirmative action, since homogeneous, equal outcomes are not reasonably to be expected even in the absence of discrimination.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marvel complicates IP, genetics, and time travel

•Prior to tomorrow night’s debate on Batman vs. Spider-Man (moderated by me, 8pm at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg, 2 Havemeyer St. near the Bedford Ave. L stop), you might enjoy this financial comparison of Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne from H&R Block (pointed out by Ali Kokmen). 

•On another quasi-business note: in the new Spider-Man movie, I liked the fact they connected some of the dots linking all the “biotech” (or “biotch”) elements, with Oscorp basically studying how to give people animal DNA.  I mean, besides Peter and Lizard, like half his friggin’ rogues' gallery are some kinda animal guys anyway, so you might as well have a sweeping-explanation future scene where someone just says, “And we could give a man the hide of a rhino!  Or the wings of a vulture!” etc.

•And that brings us to science: time travel will figure prominently in the 2014 X-Men movie and in a new X-Men comics series.  Swell – but time travel also makes fans worry about continuity errors.  And so, X-Men comics writer Brian Bendis, in an effort to reassure fans, stated: “The space-time continuum is of utmost importance to me.”  (He lies!  Not that I care anymore, you understand.  Mainly, I just thought it was a funny quote.)  I just turned in a time travel-themed short story myself, the venue for which I hope can be unveiled shortly (more soon).

•Intellectual property law has interesting and sometimes silly-seeming effects on the superhero movies you watch.  So, there’s nothing stopping DC Comics from doing a possible Justice League movie in 2015, and rival Marvel Comics will almost certainly do Avengers 2 that year (indeed, at the rate we’re going – with Marvel doing three movies next year and five in 2014 from three different studios – all films will be Marvel productions within a decade, I’d say).  But you will probably not see the Avengers, Spider-Man, or the X-Men team up – even though they’re all Marvel – since each of those franchises is contracted out to a different movie studio.

By contrast, the X-Men might meet the Fantastic Four (both franchises are at Fox) – but it appears Fox may let the Daredevil rights they currently have lapse, in which case (as in the comics) he can join the Avengers instead of swinging by in the background of a future Fantastic Four movie.  I will say that I wouldn’t mind seeing Reed Richards meet Prof. X.  Perhaps they should time the rumored F.F. reboot to coincide with whatever follows the time travel shenanigans planned for that 2014 X-Men movie: Do a temporal Big Bang in that film followed by a fresh start that yields some cross-fertilization and world-building to (friendly-)rival the Avengers films.

The most bizarre side effect of all of this is that X-Men villain Magneto’s children, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, can in fact appear in either X-Men or Avengers movies (since they were prominent members of the Avengers), but if they appear in an Avengers movie, they cannot be referred to as mutants.  Fascinating.  What would their father say about this burial of their heritage?  (Sidenote: Marvel/Disney, which does the Avengers movies, has quietly regained the Punisher and Blade rights, by the way, so if those characters appear again, they may be handled with Iron Man-level quality.)

•Well, here’s hoping our (no doubt free-ranging) Wednesday-night discussion goes well.  As it happens, one person attending last month’s Dionysium, in his fifties or so and fairly sympathetic to the counter-cultural left, told me he was nonetheless literally nauseated by Marvel comics and couldn’t read them when he was young, simply because of the shocking amorality.  That is now hard to imagine but probably speaks well of his character.  (Then again, one of the DC trade paperbacks I recently read reveals that the first-ever Fortress of Solitude story in 1942 was called “Muscles for Sale,” so how innocent was the whole culture ever, really?)

I first encountered comics in the 70s, with Star Wars my main standard of quality, so to me the crucial difference between DC and Marvel will always be that DC feels like a 1950s cosmos and Marvel feels like a 1960s cosmos – Space Patrol vs. Starchild, as it were, with the latter seeming in some ways more momentous and awe-inspiring.  (Thanos!) 

Perhaps as a subsidiary debate, for instance, we should discuss who’s cooler, Jor-El or the Kree Supreme Intelligence.  Maybe I could try roping esteemed DC Comics staffer Scott Nybakken into debating that one, just to see him tell me it’s a stupid idea.  I’m grateful you all put up with me, really.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Batman and Bombs (such as the underrated “Speed Racer”)

With every deck of 52 comes a Joker – but heroes will be our focus this Wednesday (8pm) at the DIONYSIUM at Muchmore’s, as we discuss Batman and Spider-Man.  For some, it may be a chance to renew the spirit of fun dampened by news of the mass-killing on Friday.  We can’t let that stop us. 

I also hope the killings won’t cause DC Comics to do anything crazy like yanking any Batman-related books from the shelves.  In two months, for instance, they’re scheduled to number their fifty-two ongoing series with issue #0 for each, presenting an origin story, flashback, or other beginning-point especially friendly to new readers – and for the series Batman: The Dark Knight that happens to mean taking an unprecedentedly detailed look at the night Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down at a movie theatre.  [UPDATE: My favorite comics writer, Grant Morrison, takes the fall: Tomorrow’s Batman Incorporated issue #3 has been bumped to late August due to content that might be deemed insensitive after the shootings.  Morrison has also announced his intention to leave monthly superhero comics altogether after his 2013 Multiversity and Wonder Woman projects.]

And – though I do not pretend for a moment that this is as important an issue as the recovery of the shooting survivors, obviously – I do hope Dark Knight Rises won’t have its box office haul too badly dented by people’s association of it with horrific events.  (Whether it will be dented by what one friend claims are Prometheus-sized plotholes is another question.)

I just saw a list of the ten biggest box office bombs, gauged by amount of money spent vs. taken in, and I was sad to see, by that (reasonable) standard, that 13th Warrior and Speed Racer were on the list.  Heck, I was so impressed by the way the Wachowskis turned anime tropes (including blurry speedlines and everything) into live action that I saw Speed Racer twice in the theatre – and just recently bought the DVD in a drug store.  The woman with me the second time I saw it had a seizure from the flashing credits, surely high praise for any film. 

(I see that many critics compared the villainous industrialist in the film – played by the same actor who was the arrogant TV pundit in V for Vendetta – to Christopher Hitchens, which casting directors should keep in mind in the event of a biopic.)

The Wachowskis aren’t perfect, but every nerd should be proud of the way they have combined genre-geekery with real artistic ambition and innovation.  I’m sure their meta-fictional Cloud Atlas movie this year and Jupiter Rising sci-fi opus a year or two after that will be interesting and bold even if they turn out to be completely bizarre.  The Wachowskis were at one point planning a complex-sounding “gay sci-fi Iraqi soldiers romance” movie, but maybe that one being put on hold isn’t such a terrible loss.

Speaking of the Middle (and Near) East, I was reading about Gobekli Tepe and Tell Aswad being among the oldest (sophisticated) architectural sites in the world (located in Turkey and Syria, respectively).  As a result, I think if I do a film that is a meta-fictional, multi-era history of humanity combined with political commentary on current military conflicts and sexual politics, it shall begin with the ringing words: “YES – TELL ASWAD!!”  I think like an artist, really.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dark Knight Rises, Old DC Universe Falls

You can skip the nerdy list directly below if you want to move on to the more Batman-related stuff in this entry, which normal folk might understand.  I mention the time I met Christopher Nolan.  (Regardless, you need to attend the Spider-Man/Batman debate I’m hosting next Wednesday at Muchmore’s at 8pm). 

Here’s a (very rough) list of twenty-five things I liked (in no particular order) about the past few decades of DC Comics.  Those of you in the know will see this list and understand how easy DC Comics has made it for me to (almost completely) stop reading their stuff, even though I sincerely hope new readers will love the future as much as I loved these bits of the past:

•Gog, in some sense (more for the questions he raised, as with many time-things)
•all the multiversal/time hijinx over the years (including Freedom Fighters)
•Wally West
•Donna Troy
•the whole New Teen Titans-era lineup: Cyborg, sometimes Wally, etc.
•Silver Scarab
•Obsidian and Jade
•whole intergenerational aspect of JSA, Infinity Inc., and even Justice Society Infinity
•Stephanie Brown becoming Robin and Batgirl
•Ambush Bug
•Doom Patrol permutations
•Rann, Thanagar, and Throneworld’s entangled histories
•Justice League history of lineup changes (including Identity Crisis)
•Justice League’s nationalist suffix
•interwoven elements of the Superman mythos from just prior to Flashpoint
•the Flashes’ marriages
•Superman’s marriage
•Green Arrow and Black Canary’s relationship
•ambiguity of Phantom Stranger’s origin
•Final Crisis, which killed off Darkseid

Despite all these losses (these things all having been eliminated in last year’s reboot), I am, in the end, comfortable with the reboot for the simple reason that most comics are stupid – as you can tell by going back and reading them years later – and every few years most of the accumulated crap has to be disavowed one way or another anyway.  I mean, hell, prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot in 1985, one of the Freedom Fighters, the Ray, was described as having gained his vast energy powers simply because he was exposed to lightning and sunlight at the same time while hot air ballooning.  That’s beyond retarded.  And so I do not weep for the Millennium Giants, so to speak. 

(I’d thought the Legion – very ironically, given all the reboots that team has gone through – had emerged from last year’s relaunch as the DC series with the most intact continuity, since writer Paul Levitz’s current run sounded like it was of a piece with almost all his prior stories and, since it takes place in the thirty-first century, is sufficiently removed from most of the DC Universe to suffer few necessary editorial ripple effects from the overall line-wide relaunch.  But in an interview, Levitz said a six-issue arc in 2013 will introduce the villainous Fatal Five as if for the first time, in keeping with “the new DC logic.”  Sad news for anyone still clinging to that tiny bit of the old ways.  The future dies last, as it were – but at least it’ll be drawn by the nostalgia-inducing Keith Giffen, as it was in the 80s and early 90s.  But is Gates still supposed to be from an alternate universe?)

But let us move on to Batman.

•When I briefly met Christopher Nolan,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

DIONYSIUM RISES: Spider-Man vs. Batman debate (w/Van Lente vs. Raspler)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 8pm

Politics and philosophy aside, there is one question on moviegoing America's mind this month, and we debate it at the next DIONYSIUM:

"Who would win a fight between Spider-Man and Batman?"

Featuring FRED VAN LENTE (whose work includes Hercules, Zombies, and X-Men stories for Marvel as well as "Action Philosophers" -- and Amazing Spider-Man)


DAN RASPLER (who has edited such characters as Lobo and the Justice League -- featuring Batman -- as well as creating Young Heroes in Love)  

Your host and moderator: TODD SEAVEY (http://ToddSeavey.com/)

Plus: boating enthusiast and political activist ALLISON OLDAK will explain why Aquaman is best.

It all takes place Wednesday, JULY 25 (8pm) at MUCHMORE'S (2 Havemeyer St. on the corner of N. 9th, three blocks east of the Bedford Ave. subway stop on the L, first stop into Williamsburg from Manhattan).

Get updates via e-mail or:

And in the meantime, the always-helpful Ali Kokmen notes this subway spat between two guys who may or may not be the actual Spider-Man and Batman.  And MovieFone purports to show us how Batman would defeat the Avengers, one by one.  (But at the box office, Avengers has already beaten 2008's Dark Knight -- we'll have to see what happens when Dark Knight Rises opens this weakend.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


As the world prepares for The Dark Knight Rises this week (and next week’s similarly-epic Dionysium debate hosted by me on Spider-Man vs. Batman, July 25 at 8pm at Muchmore’s), here’s an inspiring reminder that even Batman writer/artist superstar Frank Miller was once a mere high school student: art from his strip The Fixer, which continues today, forty years later, in a far more polished form.  (It’s fascinating, though, how even in its crude high school form, it still has the distinctive noir-ish Miller style.)

Miller’s recent Batman work includes this notorious panel, which I strongly suspect was inspired by this scene from the excellent comedy film Bad Santa (h/t my anarcho-capitalist pals on the Trollboard, which has not only been debating how to end all government but also who’d win a fight between Superman and Goku from Dragonball Z; I swear these people exist and will drink at Belfry at 7pm if you care to join us).

Quick thoughts on several other comics in this momentous season of Avengers, villainous reptiles, and decadent Gothamites:

Before Watchmen

Several of DC Comics’ bestselling series at the moment are prequels (regarded as sacrilegious by many) to the classic comic Watchmen, sold under the umbrella title Before Watchmen.  I’m not reading them, but their existence doesn’t really bother me.  Keep in mind that Watchmen, like some other classics such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, was itself a very derivative work, so it’s a bit odd to treat as a pristine thing that can never be imitated or reworked.

Just to take one example of how its characters were derived from or pay homage to earlier ones: in some sense, not only is Ozymandias also a reworking of Thunderbolt (who DC does not even own anymore, last I knew), he is also sort of Marvelman, a.k.a. Miracleman, and thus Capt. Marvel...and thus in some less direct sense Marvel’s character Mar-Vell – and Capt. Marvel, it was argued in a successful lawsuit, was in some sense Superman.  It’s all connected.

And it’s about to get weirder...


Grant Morrison publicly vowed that his long-awaited miniseries reworking the DC Universe, Multiversity, will come out in 2013, though he says he dreads the pressure so much he’s “praying for the Mayan apocalypse” to happen instead.  And, largely unnoticed by normal mortals, that series will include, in a sense, an After Watchmen story.

Or rather, Morrison plans to unveil five versions of Earth, each home to a variation on one of DC’s superhero teams – including the Charlton heroes on whom the Watchmen are most directly based.  And Morrison has hinted this depiction of them will be an attempt to outdo the storytelling techniques used for Watchmen by Alan Moore (with whom he has something of a rivalry).

Morrison’s version of the Charlton team will be called Pax Americana, and other worlds will be home to the Just (youthful analogues of the Justice League), the Society of Superheroes (resembling the Justice Society), Thunder World (a la the lightning-empowered Capt. Marvel), and Master Men (a fascist nightmare blending elements of Justice League and the Freedom Fighters, the hyper-patriotic team I wanted to write myself a decade ago).

DC’s regular ongoing series

Good things come in threes, the gullible pattern-seekers say – and DC’s fictional reality now contains at least five mystically-significant systems of threes, which may have nothing to do with each other for all I know:

(1) the three universes that combined to form the current DC reality (universes previously depicted under the DC, Vertigo, and WildStorm banners)

(2) "the Three Sinners," mystical beings who watch over reality

(3) an impending "Trinity War" that may focus on them – or maybe on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – or on three versions of the Justice League, for that matter

(4) a sort of animal-vegetable-mineral war (I wish they called it that – and reintroduced Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man as a peacebroker) between forces called the Red, the Green (served not only by Swamp Thing but by the [gay] Earth 2 Green Lantern), and the Rot (presumably related to “the Grey” of Earth 2, and also intriguingly referred to as Anti-Life, a term associated with Jack Kirby’s characters)

and (5) a so-called Third Army poised to replace the Green Lantern Corps as part of the Guardians' brilliant plan to eliminate free will. 

All one massive super-plot or unrelated comics?  I don't know, and I don't have time to find out.  So, on to our next item:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Johnson, Obama, Romney, and Whedon

1. Gary Johnson

People are using the Twitter hashtag #BlackoutCNN today to urge CNN to include Gov. Gary Johnson in fall presidential debates.  He’s not only the Libertarian Party candidate and the man I plan to vote for – at the libertarian event FreedomFest, he was also referred to by my ex-boss Judge Andrew Napolitano as a man “whose sandal straps I am unworthy to fasten.”

2. Barack Obama

By contrast, Obama is now encouraging people to treat the election as a referendum on taxes and regulation, painting himself as the defender of these things.  And, of course, he wants to remind you that if you have a business, it’s not really yours.  Indeed, Ronald Radosh has been moved to argue with Milos Forman, defending the idea that Obama really is, roughly speaking, a socialist.  The fact he’s also a corporatist doesn’t change that. 

(I notice the Radosh piece has a stray line at the bottom that was meant to be a link to a story about Joss Whedon saying positive-sounding things about socialism at ComicCon, a politically-disappointing moment that should nonetheless surprise no one – more on Whedon below, though.)

3. Mitt Romney

Between Obama bashing business and Romney reportedly toying for a few days with the idea of arch-neocon Condi Rice as running mate, it’s almost like both major-party candidates are trying to avoid getting libertarian votes.  Well, fine, we have a perfectly respectable third option this year, whatever you may think about the relevance of the Libertarian Party in other years.  Looks like they – we – are on track to be spoilers this year, sending a message that must be loudly echoed by disappointed Republicans, disillusioned Democrats, intrigued Independents, and stirred-up Ron Paul fans for years to come. 

The Condi speculation was a particularly saddening sign that even after the Ron Paul 2012 campaign, the GOP has barely taken notice of libertarians.  If they had, they would know that – for good or ill – Condi is not merely a neutral figure to Ron Paul-style libertarians but a much-despised villain, a living reminder of military overreach in the Middle East and Bush-era emphasis on domestic security instead of markets.  Most Americans may need a reminder who she is.  Ron Paul-era libertarians remember, with hate.  I’m a bit more flexible than most of them, but I’m telling you, that’s how they feel.  Foolish to ignore it (mostly irrelevant, of course, if it’s going to be market-friendly but bland and weak-seeming Pawlenty). 

Look, for a decade I tried to get the mainstream conservatives and the libertarians on the same page when I could, but neither side wanted it.  Now Romney will probably be the one who suffers hardest because of it.  The libertarian vote, more than ever before, is there as a bloc to be claimed – but not by the likes of McCain in 2008, and only maybe by Romney (who is at least business-oriented) if he had done and said just the right things – but flirting with Condi is like having as your running mate a giant neon sign that says, “REMEMBER HOW LITTLE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION CARED ABOUT LIBERTARIAN ISSUES?  WELL, THAT’S BACK, ESPECIALLY THE WAR PART!”

And no neon sign has ever won a presidential election.  (I am confident in making that generalization even if I’m not a political scientist or sociologist – but then, maybe those disciplines should be ended anyway, as suggested in this Freakonomics entry pointed out by Jacob Levy, who disagrees, at least with the polisci part.)

4. Joss Whedon

Rich Johnston on BleedingCool reports the following

Monday, July 9, 2012

Punk, the Island, and David Lynch vs. the Sex Pistols

David Lynch's film Eraserhead came out in Sept. 1977 -- one month before the Sex Pistols' song "Bodies."  But do we actually know if Lynch's later film Elephant Man was mimicking them with the line "I'm not an animal"?  

1977 was quite a year -- it also gave us Star Wars, for instance.  It would make perfect sense, obviously, for Johnny Rotten and company to remind Lynch of the twisted outcast John Merrick -- but do we actually know?  I found no confirmation with a few seconds of Googling, but that's hardly scholarship, of course.  (In unrelated news: Tom Lehrer is alive.  Just makes me happy to think about that once in a while.)

This past weekend brought a few punk and punk-like moments (with dashes of post-July 4 weekend relaxation), so here are some photos -- of Tibbie X playing bass in the band Reagan Youth (at Grand Victory on July 6) with the drummer's kid assisting, a blurry shot of a bearded Williamsburg indie-folk band playing nearby on Bedford Ave. shortly afterwards, Agent Bleach from the old Jinx Society days looking baffled by a costumed lunatic performing some sort of art on the Bedford subway platform still later, a birthday celebration (complete with small dog and a shot of my anti-Communist leisure reading) for my friend Maria at Laurel Lakes Vineyard on Long Island the next day, and last but not least Rev. Jen showing off one wing of her Troll Museum. 

All of that should combine to inspire me to put the final touches on a sci-fi short story about punk, Reagan, and time travel that I'm working on.  More soon.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

10 Final Thoughts on Politics for 7/4

Before turning my blogging attention to Spider-Man, Batman, and the debaters of the July 25 Dionysium (Fred Van Lente vs. Dan Raspler, 8pm at Muchmore’s!), some final thoughts on politics.  Then, just in time for July Fourth, this blog (and its affiliated Facebook and Twitter pages) quietly and passively submits to the new, health-conscious, social-democratic era.

(Or at least, in the current statist climate, maybe I shouldn’t bother opining on politics without pay – it doesn’t necessarily win friends or entertain, after all.  I suffered a pair of rare Facebook-unfriendings in the past few days, one by a leftist who thinks I want children to suffer and the other by a conservative who thinks I should be supporting Romney – anything to beat Obama.  I’m inclined to think this is not wholly coincidental and that the Obamacare decision has reminded people there’s a divisive election approaching.  Whatever.) 

1. In more important news, it’s amazing how many of my young anarcho-capitalist acquaintances seem to be learning archery and/or moving to the wilds of New Hampshire, the sorts of things we libertarians used to imagine doing but which I didn’t think anyone was motivated enough to do.  People are lately getting very motivated, which despite my lament in the prior paragraph, is encouraging. 

(Now if only there were as many women around forty who wanted to avoid government and kids but seek out philosophy and sci-fi as there seem to be in the younger set.  Most of the ones over thirty I encounter usually seem to want kids urgently or to be rather bitter Democrats.  But there may be hope.)

2. Though she is not, as far as I know, an anarcho-capitalist, here’s a young woman shooting and renocking with the speed of Legolas.  Yeah!

3. The goal is not violence, of course, but a society as free of it as possible – and that means devolving political decision-making (which under government is always in the end a threat to jail people and thus violence) down to the level of the individual, so that no one’s body or property need be subject to violent threats by the collective, be it a nation, state, city, or mob. 

Widespread respect for property rights (a beneficial practice, not some arbitrary metaphysical assertion) means each individual charting his own course and acquiring whatever resources people think his services valuable enough to trade for.  Many trades but few occasions when preferences need be squelched by being forcibly overridden – thus a very tight correlation between property-rights-adherence and maximal utility/happiness. 

That doesn’t solve all the problems in the world (and barely even begins to describe the system), but by getting rid of government, this legal/moral framework eliminates a surprisingly high number of the currently existing problems (even ones most people think government is ameliorating), including the basic, ultimate definitional problem with democracy: the problem of having to get the rest of humanity’s approval before you can do anything with your own body and property. 

I very much doubt you have a simpler legal formula than the one I suggest or, no matter how complex it may be, one that does half as much good.

Philosophies such as anarchism, liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism have all served at one time or another to facilitate the goal of individual, property-owning liberty (as the Tea Party or even some small elements of Occupy Wall Street yet may – and as the first draft of the Declaration of Independence endorsed explicitly).  To the extent those philosophies stick to that goal (or at least served humanity as training wheels enabling us to totter in that direction), they are valuable and understandably have their loyalists even when they falter.  To the extent they deviate from that goal, though, they are impediments. 

One’s political/legal loyalty, in the end, should be to property, the great social problem-solver, and the rest of the content of these political philosophies – which admittedly can get very complicated and divisive – is largely a matter of strategy, coalitional affinity, and rhetorical choices. 

Keep that in mind whether the future brings prosperity, revolution, or a comfy government-subsidized hospital stay.  Whether the best path forward will involve a prominent role for, say, Gary Johnson, a retired Ron Paul, Rand Paul, an improved Mitt Romney, or the “liberaltarians” over at BleedingHeartLibertarians, I do not pretend to know.  Always, I hope people will end up happier in the future than in the present, even when I am uncertain what is most likely to get us there. 

4. Face it, though, GOP: Hard as it may be to believe, you really are probably going to lose the election because of Gary Johnson.  First, you drove him from

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spider-Man vs. the Lizard – and an even bigger DIONYSIUM battle!

•Looks like we’re on for a Wednsday, July 25 (8pm) Dionysium (at Muchmore’s) that will include two major authentic comic book professionals – Fred Van Lente and Dan Raspler – duking it out over the timely question “Who would win a fight between Spider-Man and Batman?” 

•Surely, I must declare July a “Month of Heroes” on this blog.

•But this week, let us celebrate young Mr. Parker and congratulate him on his new film, out in IMAX 3D in mere hours.  And that makes me think of the Ramones.

•The last song on the Ramones’ last album, Adios Amigos! was “Born to Die in Berlin.”  Many music critics would probably like to remember that song as if it were their fitting end.  But I am unusual in thinking that their truly final song – a few months later – was their best: their cover of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon theme song.  What could be more New York?

•Speaking of the Ramones and thus punks, consider checking out CBGB’s Festival 2012 this Friday and Saturday, the 6th and 7th.

•But can a spider beat a hooded mantis?  That question is answered in what may be the most dramatic nine minutes of video I have ever seen.

•Of course, humans are no slouches – except for you, you slug.

•And after years of unsatisfying online animal clips, it turns out almost all the (non-mantis) action is in this one clip, wherein we learn the deeply disturbing answer to the questions “If animals are surrounded by obvious predators and constant death, do they necessarily evolve the smarts to get out of town?” and “How might close proximity over centuries lead to cooperative symbiosis between species?”

Beware watering holes, and be glad you are not a gazelle.