Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"WilliamsbURGH! A Music War," if you will

I’m hosting a talk at Lolita Bar this coming Monday, as noted yesterday, but since the plan is to host events in Williamsburg very soon, here’s a Williamsburg sampler of sorts to tide you over. 

Famously, at the very end of the twentieth century, members of four impoverished rock bands all lived crammed together in the same apartment in Williamsburg.  Those four batches of total going-nowhere losers are now known to one and all as:

Metric (and more Metric):

The girl bands are far cooler, I think we all agree.  But congratulations to them all, and it's interesting to see the similarities (and I don’t just mean the wolves).

P.S. And since the other half of the bands from the 00s seem to live in Montreal, here’s the wonderful (albeit suburbs-bashing) Arcade Fire song “Sprawl II” while we're at it (with cameo by Black Widow from the Avengers – if I think the singer’s cuter than her, is there something wrong with me?).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lolita Bar (with David Friedman), W’burg (with Eddie Vedder), and talking pictures

•It’s OK to wax nostalgic about silent films (and give The Artist Oscars), but Dan Greenberg notes that musicians, frightened (like typical little sissy labor union members) by the advent of talkies eight decades ago, tried to kill movies with sound in the crib – out of fear that theatres would no longer need live musicians.  Behold the Smithsonian’s look back at the (ironically sci-fi-like) propaganda deployed against the robotic menace of recorded music!

They feared the day would come when there were no musicians at all and music was made by machines.  In short – they knew the score!  (Ha!  Get it?)

•And if all that seems like irrelevant, ancient history, Kevin Walsh points out that Golden Earring was founded (in the Hague) fifty-one years ago.  That’s right, the band that did “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone” not so terribly long ago has existed for over half a century (one year longer than the notoriously-old Rolling Stones).

•But exactly one week from now, we look to the future – with DAVID FRIEDMAN! 

Yes, the famed anarcho-capitalist economist (son of Milton, father of Patri) will give a talk (hosted by me) on the subject “Global Warming and Other Good Things in Our Future.”  Join us and a bevvy of libertarian and anarchist wisdom-seekers – not to mention ordinary folk in search of hope: LOLITA BAR (basement level, 266 Broome St. at the corner of Allen St., one block south of Delancey St. on the Lower East Side), Monday, March 5 (9pm).  One week!

•Of course, the plan is to start a whole new (unrelated) series of bar talks/events in Williamsburg shortly – and as a reminder that spending time there is liable to make me feel old, I recently had the blissful yet disconcerting experience of discovering that DuMont Burger on Bedford Ave. serves a (real!) bacon and bourbon milkshake (you read that right). 

That’s the bliss part – but what was disconcerting was asking the hip young bartender the name of the singer we could hear playing, to which she responded, clearly unfamiliar with the name: “Eddie Vee-der??”

Despite aging a decade or two on the spot, I survived to track down the song online.  Turns out Vedder’s memories of songs like Indio’s catchy “Hard Sun” from two decades ago must be as positive as my own, since he recently did this cover version.  Makes sense: not only are the two acts from the same era, the song has a Vedder-like plodding quality – but I love it. 

•There was a brief period – during which I was lucky enough to be in the vicinity of the radio station WBRU near Brown – when “cutting edge” was the tentative term for all the grungey, postpunk, etc. stuff percolating just outside the mainstream in between New Wave and the later grunge explosion.  Lots of wonderful stuff vanished down that less-easily-branded memory hole, if I do say so myself. 

The aforementioned 1988 Indio song is forever batched in my mind, for instance, close to House of Freaks’ catchy “Sun Gone Down” (1989).  Sadly, the singing half of the band, Bryan Harvey, was murdered along with his wife and two daughters in 2006, with the killers later caught, one executed and one sentenced to life in prison.

Far goofier but batched with them in my mind nonetheless is That Petrol Emotion’s “Hey Venus” (1990).  And there are thousands more where those came from.  But maybe tomorrow some Williamsburg songs are in order.

•A fine musician in her own right, Jessica Eisenberg informs me of this other Williamsburg establishment, which might also be a suitable venue for bacon and bourbon shakes, at least given the name.  Maybe going there would be a good way to compensate for my failure to get tickets to Kraftwerk, ja?  No, that would be sick and wrong. 

And as a lecture I heard at NYU about a decade ago noted, Germany’s New Wave music probably dealt more maturely and thoughtfully with the threat of the police state than any other nation’s New Wave music.  For what that’s worth.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Imagining Post-Ron Paul Coalition-(Re)Building (and bar events!)

Ah, the 23rd.  And that number reminds me of a few odd, prophetic minutes from long-ago early January.

GOP Divisions

For a short, bizarre time on the night of the Iowa caucus, you may recall that it was an even split – 23% each – for moderate Romney, Catholic cultural-conservative Santorum, and libertarian Ron Paul, which says a great deal about the composition of the Republican Party and the right in general.  Someone who was truly able to appeal to all three of those constituencies at the same time would have had the vote sewn up with Reaganesque coalition-building finesse.  Instead, each seems to alienate the other factions.

And so, perhaps, we will continue to economically stagnate under an immense, corrupt government.  And the electorate will continue to choose, reluctantly, between embracing welfare or warfare, probably based largely on their own least-rational psychological proclivities (unthinking compassion and unthinking belligerence).  We almost have a route out of the madness, in the form of Ron Paul – but then, he has no one but himself to blame for striking some people as even weirder than the status quo.  If he’d avoided the more insulting anti-imperialist rhetoric and had not tolerated even a bit of race rhetoric decades ago, well...things might look very different right now (not that I’m giving up, given the current campaign chaos).

But let’s assume for a moment that it’ll still end up being Romney and try looking for a silver lining.

Sympathy for Satan (by which I mean Romney)

It’s a bit unfortunate to have the headlines “Seinfeld Actor Fires Back at Romney” and “Seinfeld Actor Shoots Himself in the Head, Calls 911” in the news on the same day.  At least the headline wasn’t “Romney Shoots Self in the Head with Seinfeld Remark.” 

On the contrary, I think every time he does something slightly goofy, it’s a reminder he’s not as robotic as people say.  Would a truly calculating man – with an odd religion – have told the world that L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth is one of his favorite novels?  (Unless, as one friend of mine said, he wanted to remind us that there are religions weirder than Mormonism.)

I would think even more highly of him if he picked Ron Paul as his v.p. (as Santorum fears) – though that might increase the risk of him getting shot, much as I hate to speak ill of my nutty and lovable fellow Ron Paul fans.  It might be a wiser move for him to pick the younger and somewhat less controversial Rand Paul.  I can promise that would please the libertarians immensely. 

Even if my vote in the NY primary two months from now proves to be a futile protest vote, not to be confused with the futile protest vote for Romney that I cast (against McCain) in the NY primary of ’08, and then I cast what may well be a futile protest vote for Gary Johnson in November (still living in NY, after all), I do think that Romney, for all his mushy-liberal tendencies, is a useful nudge in a more econ-focused direction for the party and away from the Southern-religious-social-conservative stuff, which we now know can happen in Pennsylvania, too.

A restoration of something resembling the northeastern Rockefeller Republican establishment that existed just before I was born could do wonders to raise the level of right-wing discourse, if I do say so my stuck-up New England Ivy League-educated self.  But you know what I mean.  Romney may be stiff, but he’s not dumb.

Romney Still Lame

Of course, he is sort of hollow – but then, so is Obama. 

In fact, Obama is the sort of hollow corporatist the Occupiers decry, and Romney is the sort of hollow statist the Tea Partiers decry, but each side will probably still fall into line and devote most of its energy to attacking the other side’s leader.  And Obama will attempt to (quietly) rally the Occupiers to his side, without alienating moderates.  And Romney will attempt to (quietly) rally the Tea Partiers to his side, without alienating moderates.

Both are the kinds of hollow men to whose banners no idealists should rally.  Intellectuals of both sides might want to start talking – more diplomatically – about how they let this happen.  I recall being part of some fairly highbrow, civil, wonkish conversations back around 2007 about how libertarians and progressives might work together to address the inefficiency of the welfare state – and then all that died in the subsequent polarizing passions regarding Obama, and now crazy rabble in the streets have a (much more hostile) version of that important conversation.  I guess we should have started it sooner. 

As a practical matter, the most productive thing that

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Commentary Assured Us Paul'd Go Nowhere -- and Neither Would Santorum

A reminder to pundits to stay humble, prior to tonight's 8pm CNN GOP debate (of which I shall tweet).

Here's Jonathan Tobin on the Commentary blog in August, cheering the press for ignoring Ron Paul -- but revealing the limits of his own prognosticatory powers in the process:

"…Unfortunately for the extremist candidate and his vocal fans the press is, at least in this one case, completely right. Though Paul has a devoted following, a lot of cash and will undoubtedly win some protest votes wherever his name appears on the ballot, his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination are as minimal as those of Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Thaddeus McCotter, Newt Gingrich [sic] and Jon Huntsman and maybe even less than some of them. If the press prefers to devote far more of their resources to covering the Republicans who have a reasonable shot at the nomination that is simply a case of giving their audiences what they want: more information about someone who might actually become president.

If that seems unfair to the libertarian crowd that follows Paul around cheering his every irresponsible statement, they’re just going to have to learn to live with it. If anything, Paul gets more than his fair share of attention at times simply because at every debate his outrageous statements can tend to be the focus of comment even though few outside of his immediate circle take him seriously. And that is as it should be…"

The tautological, bullying “He has no chance” mantra can be quite effective, I fear – but it’s not foolproof, much as people who have no other arguments might wish otherwise.

Skepticism Wednesday

As many of you walk around with ash on your foreheads (and perhaps Santorum on your minds) today, I remind you that belief without evidence is a dangerous habit, as my hero, James Randi, has reminded people throughout his career – a career recounted in this in-progress documentary, An Honest Liar, if you care to help.

If our own culture’s flights of fancy seem harmless to you, perhaps you’ll be more troubled by this recent report of Saudi Arabia beheading a woman for witchcraft.

P.S. And by the way, if astrology actually worked, dimwits, why would you ever need to ask someone’s sign?  I’ve twice now had people guess when they asked and watched them go through almost the entire (meaningless) zodiac without picking the right one.  Insanity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ten Musical Notes for Mardi Gras

10. Until Whitney Houston’s death, I must confess I was unaware of this number from 1974: the original “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton (h/t Nicholas Campbell).

9. While we’re outside my usual musical zone: I sometimes forget my prog side, perhaps because it’s less socially acceptable than the punk and the indie sides.  But I contend this, for instance, is beautiful: “Lady Nina” by Marillion.  Especially if you never, never see what the band looks like.  And don’t think too much about the fact that their name was picked as a variant on a Tolkien title. 

8. But then, I think Genesis by Genesis was one of the best albums of all time, and I don’t care if they ban me from Williamsburg for saying so.  Recall “Mama,” for instance.

7. The name of my own prog album someday (especially since I worked in a sewage treatment plant one summer) will plainly have to be: Scum Pot Valve Explosion.

6. Yet I could never call a band the Misplaced Modifiers.  Too grotesque a thing for my editor’s sensibilities.

5. And here a young woman says what we’re all thinking in response to “Scum Pot Valve Explosion” because it’s not a thought nowadays until a young woman on the Internet says it.

4. Speaking of young women, here’s a fake Jewel song from a decade ago about the X-Men from the geniuses at the now-defunct ModernHumorist (who also did this swell Vague News Report, worthy of Firesign Theatre).

2. Hard as this may be to believe, in 1978, immediately after the breakup of the Sex Pistols, Richard Branson flew Johnny Rotten to Jamaica to meet with Devo, where Branson tried in vain to talk the band into making Rotten the new Devo lead singer.  (I wouldn’t mind at least visiting the alternate timeline where that worked out.)

1. Of course, it might well have just ended up sounding like “Rise” by Rotten’s actual next band, P.I.L.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Rushmore Round-Up for President’s Day


It’s President’s Day.  Liberals ask themselves if their favorite politicians are as great as FDR (despite the tyrannical, racist FDR doing things like putting a young George Takei in a prison camp along with over 100,000 innocents – a move that makes the 171 remaining Gitmo prisoners seized on the battlefield seem like a minor issue in comparison, so spare me your Bush-is-evil, FDR-was-great hypocrisy).  Conservatives ask themselves if their favorite politicians are as great as Reagan (though even Reagan, for all his good points, did not actually succeed in making government smaller). 

But if we want to aim a bit higher – if we want our next president to be someone like Washington who is plainly more freedom-loving than power-seeking – we have to vote for Ron Paul.  Or you have to tell me, whether you style yourself a Democrat or a Republican, how you first became a socialist. 


Want to see Thomas Jefferson and his Founder pals using flying machines that never existed – and weapons based on real eighteenth-century semi-science – to battle such menaces as Hessian werewolves (and New Orleans zombies, just in time for Mardi Gras)?  Check out Paul Taylor’s “teapunk” e-novella The Burr Conspiracies for next to nothing on Amazon.


One of many benefits to attending a Phillips Foundation Fellows event on Friday was that I got a copy of a swell Regnery Books volume about TR called Bully! – a title I consider fitting in more ways than one, since TR was a profoundly evil man bent on violence and racist conquest, not to mention co-founder, really (along with Woodrow Wilson), of the centralizing, authoritarian, corporatist impulse called Progressivism that remains the primary source of

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A List of Fictional Flying Aircraft Carriers

Perhaps the coolest list of fictional artifacts on Wikipedia:

Airborne aircraft carriers

Friday, February 17, 2012

Todd-Radio, Trade Center, Ron Paul, X-Files, G.I. Joe, Alan Moore, and Sinatra

You’ll hear me (here) on Alan Nathan’s radio show for a few minutes at 5:06pm today [UPDATE: and the health panelists I briefly praised were Joseph Rago, Avik Roy, and Peter Suderman].  I’ll be talking to him from World Trade Center 7, since I’m attending a gathering there of writers affiliated with the conservative Phillips Foundation.  I’ve also been in that building for gatherings of “skeptics” (in the anti-superstition sense).

The irony is that some people out there – including a few of my fellow Ron Paul fans – probably think it was people like my fellow Phillips Fellows who blew up the old World Trade Center 7 and probably whine that the skeptics movement too quickly dismisses conspiracy-theorizing “Truthers.”  Apparently, there’s even a pro-Paul PAC run by a Truther.  (Maybe some of the Truthers even think, like some post-Katrina conspiracy theorists, that the devastation occurred precisely so that establishment groups could take control of the rubble and party atop the graves of the dead.)

But Ron Paul himself has angrily dismissed the idea that the government destroyed the World Trade Center, as well he should.  And with the likes of Romney and Santorum atop GOP polls, now would be a good time to start judging Paul by his actual views and not the views of some of his crankier fans.  (Similarly, plenty of Klansmen have voted for Democrats and Republicans over the years, as you may recall, but that in itself doesn’t invalidate the two major parties.)

The important thing is not who politicians – glad-handers all – have had contact with over the years but what we really think they’ll do once elected.  I don’t think anyone doubts that Ron Paul is on a real, decades-long mission to drastically shrink the government.  By contrast, Gingrich, for instance, claims he was a Goldwater Republican in the mid-60s but was actually a Rockefeller Republican – and there’s some sweet irony in seeing him outed for it by controversial Ron Paul ex-staffer Lew Rockwell (on the now-canceled Paul-friendly show FreedomWatch).

If perchance the GOP is headed toward a brokered convention, I really hope the discipline and dedication of the Paulites wins out amidst the chaos. 

Aside from the obvious political activists and operatives, among those rooting for Paul at one time or another have reportedly been: Juliette Lewis, Oliver Stone, the other guy from the Fugees, Julie Newmar, Kelly Clarkson, the bass player of the Allman Brothers, Joe Rogan, Babylon 5’s Jerry “Garibaldi” Doyle, fascinating comedian D.L. Hughley (who has a book coming out this summer), rappers KRS One and Prodigy and Snoop Dogg, Vince Vaughn, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Blues Travelers’ John Popper, that L.L. Bean heiress, Clint Eastwood (pre-auto-bailout ad, damn him), sort of Stephen Colbert (in a rare non-joking moment), and (the libertarian Katy Perry) Aimee Allen (as seen vividly here). 


One disturbing thing about the complicated array of potential and actual GOP candidates this season is that we seem slowly but surely to have weeded out all the politicians who had libertarian leanings aside from Paul himself

I mean, for all their flaws, Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Johnson all had at least some libertarian tendencies – more so than Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich, I think – and they’re all gone now (not to mention Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Palin, and a cast of what seems like hundreds).  It’s just as well for Paul’s purposes, but it’s worrying if the primaries basically amount to winnowing the options down to (aside from Paul) the most authoritarian options

My choice, noted before, is pretty clear at this point: Paul in the April NY primary, then Johnson in November if Paul is not the GOP nominee.  Let the chips fall where they may.  I’ll have voted Libertarian instead of Republican in half the presidential elections in which I’ve voted, and this is shaping up to be one of those years, much as I honestly wish otherwise.  I don’t like being on the fringe, really.  But the Republicans and Democrats don’t leave me much choice in the matter.

It is tantalizing, though – precisely because of Paul’s flaws – seeing just how well he’s doing this year (as one friend of mine said, imagine if he looked as good and spoke as clearly as Romney – and one might add, hadn’t published controversial newsletters). 

I am reminded of my favorite moment from X-Files,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Progress Report and Ancient Myths (and more Todd radio)

Obama being ousted is not in fact our highest priority. 

This point was implicit in my joking comments on Facebook and Twitter yesterday about the importance of voting for Johnson (now running as a Libertarian) if the Republican option turns out to be Santorum.  The long-term goal is a happy, free, prosperous human race, and while Obama is undeniably an impediment to that goal, he’s not the only one. 

Maximizing the Libertarian vote this year, even if only to spread awareness of liberty as an option, might do more (long-term) to knock down some of the other impediments than merely replacing Obama with a Romney or a Santorum, especially since it means a fresh start for Republican presidential hopefuls (possibly including Rand Paul) in 2016 instead of 2020. 

•The chance to replace Obama with Ron Paul this year would be a different story, but more blogging about Paul tomorrow (when I am also scheduled to appear on the 5:06pm block of Alan Nathan’s radio show, audible here, by the way).

•Don’t get me wrong, an actual small-government conservative would make a difference worth voting for in November.  Civilization is being destroyed before our eyes by dimwits like the ones who gleefully posted that Lawrence O’Donnell picture all over Facebook recently that was accompanied by a list of accomplishments ostensibly achieved by the big-government left, almost all of them historically inaccurate or misunderstood in some way.  (And O’Donnell briefly mocked me on his show in 2010, so you know he’s bad people.)

•We could use Republicans who sounded more like Peter Schiff in his response to Obama’s State of the Union

•For that matter, lest you think that as a Paul fan I must be a culturally-far-right conspiracy theorist: I think we’d actually be better off listening to a (literal) gay Bilderberger like Peter Thiel than to most mainstream Republicans (Thiel’s Kindle book The Blueprint, co-written with Garry Kasparov and Max Levchin, lays out some ideas for economic renewal).

•On a related note, now that the show FreedomWatch, for which I used to work, is canceled, I think one of my most amusing memories from it will be the time I

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love, War, and Tough Dames (for Valentine’s Day)

I always liked strong, outspoken women.  Of course, I naively, perhaps sexistly, assumed in my formative years that they’d never be a danger to me, just admirable in a harmless, cute way – y’know, like tigers in a nature documentary or something.  Or that we’d all be strong together in a healthy, cooperative way, like Superman working with Wonder Woman, if you will (as opposed to Superman being pummeled by Ursa or, weirder, battling the new villainess called Masochist). 

“Power relationships” – even metaphorically speaking – are for people who don’t intuitively grasp mutually-beneficial exchange, which is the basis of all civilized life.  But strength is, in its own right, a good thing.  And so, a list of tough-dame news items on this day of mutual admiration (followed by thoughts on war):

Lolita Bar – where I may be hosting another event in just a few weeks – often has art on its walls and recently amused me with the painting above of a black woman with a sword rising from a lake, perhaps the most sci-fi/fantasy-ish thing I’ve seen on their walls (not that black women in the real world never rise from lakes carrying swords – I’m all for it).

•April brings a major motion picture about President Sarah Palin battling long-lost Nazi colonists from the Moon, I kid you not: Iron Sky.  Someone tell William Kristol (whose daughter’s about to be married, I learned last night at a performance by Hannah Meyers, the thinking man’s Victoria Jackson). 

•I was pleased to see the new Soderbergh action movie, Haywire, at least uses a Mixed Martial Arts chick who looks like she could actually kick the necessary asses to advance the plot instead of being an implausibly wee pixie (much as I enjoyed dainty Kate Beckinsale defeating cops in Underworld Awakening – but she’s a vampire-hybrid, so she’s allowed to look like that). 

•An interesting result of DC Comics revamping/relaunching its characters a few months ago is that Wonder Woman is one of their best-selling titles – mainly because they went “dark” in a Greek-myth-based but almost “Grimm’s fairy tales with all the gruesome parts intact” sort of way.  This is the first time in a couple decades she’s been a best-seller, despite DC constantly trying to raise the profiles of female and ethno-marginal characters. 

But they can never cancel her because (unlike most of their characters) they are contractually obligated to return her to the estate of her creator if they cease publication, no matter how low her sales numbers.  Anyway, they should be happy about this not-wholly-anticipated victory.  (Here are several minutes of Lynda Carter spinning from the 1970s by way of celebration.  H/t Christine Ames.)

•Wonder Woman has not fared as well on the screen lately, with her recent TV-pilot a flop and her movie by Joss Whedon collapsing in the script stage – but WW’s loss is our gain, since that freed up Whedon to direct and write this ensemble (assemble?) item more appropriate to his talents (and Scarlett Johansson can also kick implausible amounts of ass while looking like a pixie without me complaining). 

Veronique de Rugy battles the state using statistics and can hold her own, but it was nice to see someone spring to her defense when she was unfairly assailed by lame Jonathan Chait. 

•I grow weary of gradualist, asymptotic approaches to individual liberty and property rights (the gradualists always seem to start out humble and cautious but at some point forget the truly humble principle “First, do no harm”).  Thus, I am saddened that

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Theatres Today: Phantom Menace vs. Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich will be mocked in The Phantom Menace, which is being rereleased in 3D today in theatres (because this Star Wars prequel wasn’t awful enough in 2D thirteen years ago).

No, they have not digitally added Newt-mockery to keep up with current affairs.  Newt was mocked the first time around, when the movie was released in 1999, George Lucas having presumably started the (painful) script-writing process a few years earlier. 

The convoluted and boring plot of Phantom Menace, as you’ve forgotten if you’re lucky, is basically: two religious cops get stuck in a hick desert town without cab fare, saddled with a spastic amphibious sidekick, and have to gamble on a kid’s racing skills to get enough money to return home.  But the villain who drove them (and audiences everywhere) to this hellish fate – the head of the explicitly anti-tax Trade Federation that is resisting the will of the Republic’s central government and that government’s noble enforcers, the Jedi – is one Nute Gunray, plainly a soundalike for “Newt Gingrich” and the Reagan film “Knute Rockne” plus an anagrammatical “Reagan” (and, yes, Lucas is that left-wing – rather like Gore Vidal in his views, actually – in case you hadn’t noticed, and he was peeved SDI got nicknamed “Star Wars”). 

Nute is also a funny-talking parody of an Asian for good measure, since the left was especially fearful of Asian capitalism in the 90s (and Lucas likes ethnic stereotypes, famously responding to complaints about Jar-Jar’s cartoonish Jamaicanness by saying there would a wider variety of ethnic types in the subsequent prequels, not history’s most reassuring reply to critics).  And the Jedi dislike cigarettes and unlimited campaign contributions, too, as you may remember from other bits of choice Star Wars prequel dialogue. 

In any case, if Gingrich gets his moonbase, the Jedi may be paying him an unfriendly visit (but then: that’s no moon – that’s a space station). 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Comics, Liberalism, and Death

An essay about comics (too) being dominated by liberalism (it’s true, though they’ve probably lost more readers by blowing up the universe and rewriting continuity every few years than because of politics).

And a far funnier video essay – and elaborate performance with some surprisingly famous guest stars – recounting the “Death of Superman” in all its bold yet drama-killing absurdity (h/t Dan Raspler himself, ex-Justice League editor).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Gingrich, plus Santorum, Darth Maul, Gary Johnson, and William Lloyd Garrison

If all goes according to plan, you should be able to hear me talk about political matters on Alan Nathan’s radio show this evening in the 6:35pm segment.  An hour later, you can join me at Shorty’s on Madison and 28th and tell me what a great job I did.

It’s interesting to keep track of politicians who’ve fought enough that it seems unlikely they’ll patch things up and work in the same administration afterwards.

I doubt a President Romney would use Perry for anything (assuming Perry were useful for anything), but it wouldn’t shock me – whereas Gingrich seems to be in gleeful bridges-burning mode.  And most of the other candidates treat Paul as if he’s toxic, but he stuck up for Romney during a wave of anti-Bain comments from other candidates, and Romney might yet throw him a bone at the convention because of it.  I think libertarianish Perry and Bachmann might have been even nicer to Paul if they’d prevailed – and, for what it’s worth, Gary Johnson openly calls his impending Libertarian Party run an effort to have Paul’s message “play in stereo.”

On a similar note, though the smart money’s still on Romney, it’d be fascinating if Gingrich became the nominee and had to proceed without the support of most of the major conservative opinion-givers (but the endorsement of a few former candidates, including Cain recently).  National Review, for instance, is on record saying Gingrich is utterly unfit to be president.  And how could that not get cited by Obama if Gingrich made it to the general election?  “Gingrich’s own philosophical allies, from National Review to Weekly Standard,” etc., etc.

Of course, there’s a part of me that almost starts rooting for him at that point.  And it would be sweet to visit the permanent lunar colony.  It may be unfortunate timing that there’s a movie about Nazis on the moon coming out in two months (and then, unfortunately for Romney, a major summer blockbuster about a millionaire businessman having to fend off an entity called “Bane” out in July, incidentally, by which I mean The Dark Knight Rises).

One thing Gingrich has going for him, I think, is the fact that his (third) wife Callista’s age is so ambiguous.  She’s only forty-five, whereas he’s in his sixties, and I suspect those socially conservative GOP primary voters would be even more inclined to think “home-wrecker” every time they saw her if it were obvious just how much younger she is.  (Republican primary voters are the sort of people who like Rick Santorum, after all – and, by the way, for good or ill, Facebook stats recently revealed that Santorum voters are especially likely to like the right-wing band Madison Rising who I wrote about in New York Post recently.  ) 


On the downside, poor Gingrich (along with Reagan/Knute Rockne) is mocked in Phantom Menace (in theatres in 3D this week) in the form of the villain “Nute Gunray.”  If you were obsessive enough to want to know how that character fits into every other event in the history of the Star Wars universe, by the way, you could check this alarmingly thorough timeline.

Speaking of Star Wars, I notice that the longtime Hollywood swordfighting trainer Bob Anderson passed away last month, having worked with everyone from the Darth Maul actor to Errol Flynn.  He called Antonio Banderas (as Zorro) the best natural talent he’d ever worked with.

In other movie news, it’s now reported that they’re proceeding with a second Atlas Shrugged movie despite the well-deserved critical and box office

Monday, February 6, 2012

Alert: Feminism Is Still Baloney – I Mean Divisive! It’s Divisive.

A cute young woman on the Internet is unsure what to make of feminism (not to mention existentialism – and she sings Adele songs).  Well, I don’t blame her.  My four favorite subcultures aren’t sure what to make of feminism either:

•Periodically, a few libertarians will take it upon themselves to announce that all libertarians should be feminists (as in this recent post on StudentsforLiberty.org by Moriah Costa and Luca Gattoni-Celli), which is roughly analogous to the libertarians-must-be-culturally-liberal claim made by Kerry Howley a few years ago, and I think both claims are wrong, though it’s difficult to make that point without being misunderstood (or just hated). 

Maybe everyone should be a feminist, but there is nothing especially libertarian about feminism, which, after all, insists (as much as any form of rigid traditionalism) upon a certain “patterned outcome” in society – one in which women are as influential as males (or something along those lines), usually backing up the preferred outcome with implicit or explicit threats of regulation (which are not merely hypothetical – such regulations already exist). 

But we’re supposed to be the faction that lets people do what they want and recognizes that the outcomes, whether hippie-like or fundamentalist-like, may not be to our liking – and the faction that knows that even highly mutually-beneficial market outcomes may not look “equal” (height, history, hormones, hetcetera, hetcetera).

(And as my friend Evan Isaac put it recently, the disingenuous – and common – claim that in calling yourself a “feminist” you are merely asserting equal rights for all humans is nearly as suspicious as calling yourself a “whiteist” while insisting that you merely want to remind people to respect the rights of all ethnic groups.  Indeed, it was because of this veiled, disingenuous tribal partisanship, not fear of totalitarianism, that I once likened feminists to neo-Nazis, inflammatory as that inevitably sounds.)

Kerry’s fiance, Will Wilkinson, who (roughly speaking) shared her insistence that real libertarians ought to prefer non-traditionalist social outcomes even threw in the nomenclatural towel recently and decided to start calling himself a “liberal” and very clearly not calling himself a “libertarian” (I’m not sure how Kerry feels about that or whether she’s likely to follow suit).

But to be clear: I never actually insisted that Will and Kerry should stop calling themselves libertarians.  I try to err on the side of inclusive use of labels.  My concern was that they were trying to redefine the term to make the rest of us sound like we didn’t belong – and they were (consciously or not) engaging in some revisionist history along the way, as if libertarianism had never been “merely” a philosophy that says you can do what you want as long as you respect others’ property rights and bodily integrity.  In fact, it had often been framed precisely that way – and avoided lots of culture-warfare muddles precisely because of it.

And to be even clearer: I may have serious disagreements with some (all?) fellow libertarians, but I don’t want to excommunicate them, and I’m happy to have them all within the broadly-defined “libertarian” tent – even Will, if he decides to come back.  On a more electorally-significant note, I think a lot of time and energy will have been wasted this year by

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seavey on Heroes, O’Connor on Cleveland, Long on Libertarians

•I am quoted by Nick Slepko on the financial site Motley Fool on the important topic of superheroes’ political leanings. 

(And I should go see Chronicle to determine the political implications of teenage telekinesis.  Rumor has it that director may do a reboot Fantastic Four film, which sounds like a good match – but not with the writer of Green Lantern, which was terrible and should leave fanboys everywhere with permanent doubts about producer Geoff Johns, even if he is a fellow geek.)

•On an arguably more important topic – the politics of Grover Cleveland – another rare free-market Democrat, congressional candidate Dan O’Connor, opines in the Brooklyn Eagle. 

•And on another left-leaning yet free-market note, this talk by Roderick Long, affiliated with the Mises Institute, explains Murray Rothbard’s reasons for thinking (in the 60s, though certainly not the late 80s) that libertarianism – and indeed capitalism itself – fit better on the left than the right, if you’re interested (though I admit it’s 53 min. long). 

I remain suspicious of Long’s embrace of feminism (more on that evergreen topic in a few days), but at the same time I have to admit I have more sympathy for his view that libertarians can work with the far left than I do for the seemingly more-moderate “liberaltarian” view that we naturally fit with welfare-minded mainstream liberals (left and liberal being two different things, at least in some contexts). 

Liberte, egalite, et fraternite – libertarian, leftist, and conservative/communitarian virtues, respectively – are in some sense better understood by kooky nutjobs like the Occupy people, who are at least willing to argue about their implications, than by the average person whose jaw drops with horror if you suggest Medicare cuts. 

The bland center is where most of the problems are, in fact, which is why this blog – and the onstage events it portends – will have to grapple with stranger and fringier views (not that I’m blaming anyone at those events for the views expressed here, I should say in advance).