Friday, August 31, 2012

BOOK NOTE: “A Partisan Century: Political Writings from Partisan Review”

There is no better way to end this blog’s “Month of Partisanship” (a month that even saw the Dionysium host a performance of the classic folk song “Which Side Are You On?”) than with a look at the anthology A Partisan Century: Political Writings from Partisan Review. 

Since Partisan Review was a left-wing magazine, gradually developing some neoconservative tendencies over the eight decades it existed, this also serves as a good start to this blog’s more bridge-building “Month of Reform.”  September 17 (8pm) at the Dionysium (at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg) will even see me hosting a political-spectrum-scrambling Occupy/Tea Party “Summit” – and so I will hereby strive to be suitably diplomatic.  Rescuing politics from politics demands it.

Sorry about the past couple decades.

But if you think political squabbles are ugly these days, you should have seen the 1930s, when well-meaning people often felt compelled not merely to pick between left and right (which is tragic and stupid enough) but literally between Stalin and Hitler.  (Troubling to think many people, even faced with those choices, might have declared a vote for Gary Johnson wasted – if they were even allowed to vote, that is.)  Partisan Review, to its credit, had Stalin pegged as a totalitarian monster from the very founding of the magazine (at least judging by the essays selected in this 1996 volume by the magazine’s final editor, Edith Kurzweil).

Contributors – including Trotsky himself – criticized the left’s passive acceptance of Soviet Communism as a form of democratic socialism.  They even criticized the facile equation of Freudian-toned sexual revolt with political change – but considering that it took another forty years for the naivete of the Sexual Revolution to become apparent to mainstream society and fifty years for European Communism to implode, I don’t think we should exaggerate the speed with which the left learns to curb its own excesses.  (I trust that fifty years from now, they will cautiously admit that Obama has made mistakes, but we cannot always wait for the left to crawl toward the light, no matter how fascinating the left finds its own writhing and self-correction.) 

The Partisan Review editors – way back in 1946 – were chastising “liberals” (a term they put in scare quotes pretty much for the same reasons libertarians today might) for having no clear principles yet always, always engaging in knee-jerk defenses of Russian Communism against the U.S., as if for no other reason than to oppose their own homeland.  (This is the intellectually-sophisticated criticism-from-within version of the much-derided Ann Coulter argument that modern liberals have a natural inclination toward treason, to use her phrase.)

That 1946 editorial named The New Republic and The Nation specifically and even said that it was suicidally insane for these magazines to defend Stalin’s right to nuclear weapons and a balance of terror, as if in the name of social-democratic consensus and peace, when, the Partisan Review editors said, real social democrats (like the editors themselves) were being murdered by Stalinists all over the planet – hardly a formula for lasting peace.

The almost-conservative cherry on the sundae is their terrified lamentation that former Vice President Henry Wallace was always in the Stalin-defending camp and might well have become president had FDR died a bit earlier.  They call the “liberals” a “fifth column” with no real allegiance to freedom and individualism of the sort that characterized liberalism in the pre-WWII days (and the nineteenth century), even as they stress their own social-democratic distance from those pre-WWII principles.  They predict – incorrectly (so far) – that modern liberals will be looked back upon with as much shame for their “appeasement” of Russia as were the appeasers of Hitler.

Partisan Review, with contributors that included Norman Podhoretz and the wise Daniel Bell in later decades, resembled some neoconservative publications and organizations in turning politics in large part into a narrative of gradual retreat from Trotskyism and toward an embrace of American culture that included skepticism of the New Left – even though many contributors remained explicitly Marxist.  (This decreasingly-radical arc is familiar to some inhabitants of the Upper West Side where I partied just last night.)

For a laissez-faire capitalist like me, it’s easy to forget sometimes just how conflicted modern liberals remain to this day about their relationship to socialism.  I read a long online comment thread just a week ago in which liberals argued over whether existing government programs are piecemeal “socialism,” and it was fascinating to see them tie themselves into knots due to differing assumptions among them about whether (A) socialism exists in the U.S., (B) socialism is bad, and (C) socialism involves government or, as at least one idealist asserted, is something wholly unlike government in which “the people” just communally do things without politicians and leaders through some sort of ill-defined direct action (if they really knew how to make that work, Occupy Wall Street might now be the world’s third-largest economy – but I will be polite from September onward about such things).

Some other passages of note in the anthology, in chronological order:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Left Gone Mad: 10 Political Thoughts After Convention Week

1. Nearby, four hip images with quasi-libertarian implications, all photos by me except for the Constitution tattoo (and below: a link to my appearance on the comparably hip show Rew and Who?):

the Constitution on a back (from the Facebook page of a woman, not necessarily the one possessing the tattoo, who appears to be both a Ron Paul activist and an Occupy employee – exactly the sort of person who needs to attend my Sept. 17 Dionysium at Muchmore’s, a “summit” for both Occupants and Tea Partiers to learn from each other)

•a photo from a Foundation for Economic Education event of one of several tattoos I’ve now seen among libertarians of a cuneiform word for “liberty” (though its meaning is admittedly complicated somewhat by its “freedom from both slavers and creditors” implications, as Occupy-affiliated anthropologist David Graeber knows)

•a sidewalk chalk artist who, on other occasions, has drawn figures including libertarians such as Hayek on sidewalks near Columbia (I gave him ten bucks)

a payphone with both a misspelled anarchist announcement and a pro-life sticker on it and an ad for a “psychic” in the background – not far, fittingly, from the McDonald’s that had an Anarchy “A” symbol on its garbage can for a while, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and the rockabilly- and punk-friendly bar Otto’s Shrunken Head, where...

2. ...I taped this appearance yesterday on Rew and Who?, giving a brief explanation of libertarianism to the hipsters and musicians. 

Lovely host Rew Asterik noted, as it happens, that Pete Seeger, the folk musician discussed at our most recent Dionysium, ended up getting her fired from a teaching gig because she taught the kids the Seeger song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and a line asking “Where have all the husbands gone?” was seen as offensive – offensively conservative, presumably, given her urban, non-white audience.  Pete Seeger: too right-wing for NYC. 

3. Speaking of radicalism, I was pleased by the sheer multi-level right-wingery last night of Rand Paul, in his GOP convention speech, mentioning an anecdote about Ronald Reagan that’d been reported by Paul Kengor (the author of the book The Communist, about which I blogged last month). 

Rand Paul gives me some hope for 2016 and the future of the GOP (after I vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson in November, no matter how smoothly Romney’s speech tonight goes).  Rand Paul’s not perfect, though – so hard to keep everyone happy – and yesterday I had not only my hardcore anarcho-capitalist pals but leftist Daniel Radosh complaining about him online, the former usually over Rand’s endorsement of (necessarily trade-stymieing) sanctions on Iran, the latter for Rand’s endorsement of the Keystone XL oil pipeline – something that the anarcho-capitalists, too, joined in criticizing, since it makes some use of eminent domain. 

I will only say that even if you agree with libertarian Richard Epstein that eminent domain for truly general-welfare purposes such as roads is acceptable (with compensation to the displaced, always) but that takings merely for the purpose of giving property to new private owners are pure theft, something like a pipeline still presents a sort of grey area (or would that be halfway between a grey area and a black area – dark grey area?) in that while undeniably enriching private owners (and customers), it does involve the sort of massively-multi-party coordination hurdles that for most people serve as an indicator something warrants public-sector involvement. 

I (unlike Rand Paul) am anarcho-capitalist enough to concede that ideally everything should be done with no government involvement or private property seizure at all, though.  Massive contracts that only go into effect if every party agrees to a single compensation schedule can be proposed for projects.  When they fail, humanity can – and will – discover other means. 

Rand Paul can spend the next four years refining his views on all this while Gary Johnson is president, though.

4. One of the many offensive-but-meaningless items in the GOP platform is an affirmation of the importance of NASA, explicitly assumed to be a government program – with the platform explicitly calling for rethinking the agency instead of “merely” downsizing government, reports the Space Frontier Foundation.

5. Pretty much anything the right does, statist or anti-statist, drives the left totally bonkers lately, though, as this embarrassing wish-fulfillment scene from ham-fisted propagandist Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom reminds us.  Presumably, this is what the left thinks all news broadcasts should sound like, since MSNBC isn’t wish-fulfilling enough.

You know, I have a notorious ex who tried to convince me I needed to learn from Sorkin how to be witty.  I haven’t put that on the schedule just yet.  Nor the DVR. 

6. The left isn’t far removed from sounding like that Sorkin scene already, of course.  Driven into one of her routine hate-frenzies of colorful, shallow language by Paul Ryan, the unfunny Maureen Dowd recently wrote:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Todd and Rand and a Chihuahua on TV

Tonight (as if Rand Paul addressing the GOP convention circa 8 Eastern weren't enough), on the rock band-filled online TV show Rew and Who?, Todd Seavey is behind CoCo -- who's doing the show doggie-style!  

Yes, CoCo the chihuahua is on at 5:15pm Eastern, with me following in classy fashion circa 5:30pm -- viewable LIVE right here, broadcast from Otto's Shrunken Head in NYC.  (You can also donate to keep this odd, unique show alive, right here.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

After Ron Paul: Ten Political Thoughts for Convention Week

1. Roxy Music’s cover of “Like a Hurricane” was not one of the fine folk songs performed by Matt Brandenburgh at last night’s Dionysium, but this seems like a good week to dedicate it to everyone headed to New Orleans for the American Political Science Association convention. 

3. I’ll be interviewed tomorrow night on the online TV show Rew and Who? – which also seeks your donations – and which you can watch live right here tomorrow night (Wed.) if you want to catch me in the circa-5:30pm Eastern block.

4. I’ll still be done in time for everyone to switch over to, say, CNN to see the video about Ron Paul and a speech by his son, Sen. Rand Paul, circa 8pm Eastern.  As (A) a more or less libertarian, (B) the most obvious inheritor of his father’s political mantle, (C) a member of the Senate with a bit more nuance in dealing with mainstream Republicans than his dad cared to display, and (D) recognized leader of the Tea Party movement, Rand Paul is important and, depending on how things go this year, I’d like to see him run for president himself in 2016.  He might be able to broaden his father’s coalition while actually winning the White House and still being radical enough to rescue the nation. 

But not all Ron Paul supporters will see the son as the obvious replacement for the father (Rand Paul says nicer things about the military, endorsed Romney, and is willing to vote for things like sanctions on Iran).  I count four likely recipients of the (divided and to some degree mutually-exclusive) loyalties of the Ron Paul voters, four “heirs,” if you will:

Gary Johnson (the Libertarian Party candidate – close enough for me)
Paul Ryan (there are at least some less-radical libertarians who will suck it up once again this year and vote Republican in November – and if they do, it will likely be more because of the quasi-Ayn Rand fan in the v.p. slot than because of Romney, business-friendly though both men are)
•waiting until 2016 and voting for Rand Paul
•simply never voting again – which may be just as popular an option – unless some of those non-voting, near-anarchist libertarians are lured back into electoral politics by the occasional rising young libertarian candidate such as Justin Amash.

These four options, abstracted, really represent (respectively): go third party; accept a major party; transform a major party; and give up on the system altogether (but not on liberty, which can be pursued in countless private ways, both subversively and hermitically).

5. All that’s a reminder that real-world politics is messier than political theory.  Indeed, if political science professor Jacob Levy survives the aforementioned hurricane down at the APSA convention [UPDATE: I don't think he's going after all], maybe in a few months I’ll owe him due to the bet we made about whether Obama would grow government more than Bush (looks like Obama’s on track last I knew by about 22% vs. 18%, first term vs. first term, but I admit it’s close, a reminder how much contingent factors matter and how little purported philosophy counts in DC).

Jacob’s pessimistic assessment of the right, at least as he stated it once years ago, puts U.S. conservatism in international perspective, in a disturbing way.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I will not weary you with details, but the death of Neil Armstrong has, as noted by Gawker, brought forth yet another insane subculture -- not just the longstanding bunch who think the moon landing was fake but (because crazy always gotta get more crazy) the booming subculture of people who believe the moon is a hologram. (Like every other subculture, they have YouTube videos, some clearly created by schizophrenics.) 

There is some overlap with the smaller sect that believes the entire sky is a hologram -- and that jets leaving "chemtrails" behind them all over the place are somehow facilitating the sky-illusion (either by making the sky or addling our minds). 

I am reminded that the line in ads for the movie The Ninth Configuration, about an asylum, that most disturbed me as a child was an astronaut character shouting "There's nothing up there!" It was meant to be alarming because he was referring to God. Budding atheist that I was, though, I found it far, far more disturbing that he seemed to be suggesting that despite appearances there is nothing in outer space. 

In adulthood, what disturbs me is that nearly everyone except me is insane.  (I will find solace in tonight's brainy Dionysium crowd.)

Commie Folk Pussy Convention Eagles Thoughts

Folk music, like Communism, is complicated – both with elements of innovation and so much burdensome history.  So many factions, so many different styles.  And believers in Williamsburg to this day. 

Remember, we’ll discuss both phenomena at tonight’s (Mon., Aug. 27, 8pm) DIONYSIUM (near the first L subway stop into Williamsburg – just walk three blocks east of the Bedford Ave. stop to 2 Havemeyer St. at the corner of N. 9th St.).  Join us – and befriend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, tell me your e-address, and read this blog if you want to hear about what we’re doing next. 

Maybe tonight we’ll also discuss how two of the three Pussy Riot members sentenced to jail reportedly fled – but, tragically, not the super-hot one [CORRECTION: Two fled aside from the three sentenced].  (I wish them all well.) 

One thing we won’t do tonight is watch Rand Paul’s speech to the GOP convention in Florida, since the hurricane has caused the cancelation of the first day’s activities – except, that is, for some nominating and rule-changing chicanery designed to prevent another Paul revolution within the party.  We’ll just have to hope the next Paul family member to run for president is so freaking popular no party chicanery in the world can stop him (and that he speaks at some point, possibly in the 7-8pm Eastern hour on Wednesday, according to the changing schedule noted yesterday by Wall Street Journal). 

Serious question: might the GOP even now be considering trying to pick up a few extra voters this year by duping them with signs that say just “MITT/PAUL 2012”?  (Don’t tell the party bigwigs I said that.)

P.S. On a far less hip, far more 1970s musical note, I hurt my brain a bit recently by trying to recall the lyrics to ”Rock ’n Me” by Steve Miller and “Life in the Fast Lane” at the same time.  (Winslow?  Phoenix?  Wheels?  Ford?  Tacoma...?  Nnnnh.) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DIONYSIUM: Folk music and Communism! (plus Top 10 music notes of the week)

PUSSY RIOT (see the nearby photo I took at the protest outside the Russian embassy last week) was not the first time music was entangled with MOSCOW politics!  NOR THE LAST!

Monday, Aug. 27 (8pm) in the MUCHMORE’s performance space at 2 Havemeyer St. at N. 9th St. (just three blocks east of the Bedford Ave. L stop in Williamsburg):

“The Communist Menace in Folk Music: The Story of Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers”

Come hear MATT BRANDENBURGH, a filmmaker and folk music enthusiast from Brooklyn, describe the history of one of America’s most beloved folk musicians – PETE SEEGER – and the complex love-hate relationship Seeger and his fellow ALMANAC SINGERS had with one of history’s greatest butchers: JOSEPH STALIN!

Brandenburgh will also perform selections from the Almanac Singers’ impressive repertoire (tell all the folk fans and disheveled bearded men you know). 

I, Todd Seavey, will also lead a brief discussion (and viewing) of SEN. RAND PAUL’s speech at that night’s Republican National Convention, for political contrast and as a nod to the “Bluegrass” State [UPDATE: Rand Paul speech reportedly delayed to Wednesday night; Monday Dionysium unstoppable].  And there are craft beers.

And now on to ten strange music items of interest:

1. As we would not want to create the impression that all folk music is communist, here is Carson Robison’s fantastic 1950s song “I’m No Communist”  (h/t Kyle Kidwell).

2. The Dionysium notes a bittersweet turning point, inevitable in the natural life cycle of the hipster: The Muchmore’s manager and band-booker, Bonnie Wong, is moving from Williamsburg to Montreal to study music production.  It is natural as bearded men migrating to Austin, TX in winter, and we wish her luck. 

3. Speaking of people who’ve moved from Williamsburg to Montreal, I’ll be seeing Metric perform (here) in one month and one day.  In the meantime, perhaps we should use this coming Monday’s Dionysium in part to discuss the politics of today’s indie hipster music.  The antifolk people still seem an odd mix of commie and traditionalist – but what of the New Wave-like bands?  We must get to the bottom of this.

4. One sign that Chick-Fil-A was not exactly going to be driven out of business by outrage over its CEO’s stance on gay marriage was the very very gay and black rapper who did “Bed Intruder” recording a video saying that while people say all kinds of dumb things he disagrees with, he’s not going to let that stop him from eating at Chick-Fil-A.  Advantage: commerce.

5. On a less political hiphop note, Connor Thurston notes this truly lovely (and subtle!) performance that may represent a genuine quantum leap in breakdancing, and that’s not exactly something you hear me say often. 

6. My own tastes lean more to the New Wave, indie, and punk-influenced, plainly, but I may be at risk of writing a memoir like the one in the joke photo above pointed out by Jeffrey Wendt. 

7. It may not be quite a music note, but the protests over Pussy Riot being sentenced to two years by Russia remind me of Julian Assange being trapped

Monday, August 20, 2012

Frum Hell, with Wild Palms

He wrote this anti-Ryan piece a week ago, but it's still worth noting: David Frum is an increasingly annoying, traitorous jerk who seems to be, well, the new David Brooks. 

It was bad enough when he was just attacking libertarians and Tea Party activists in favor of moderate Republicans, but now Romney and Ryan are too radical for him (I have no problem with people criticizing Ryan for being insufficiently radical).  Announce you’re a Democrat or just move back to Canada, David.  You won’t be missed (at least not until after this blog’s “Month of Partisanship” ends). 

I read Frum’s book Comeback a few years ago – his vision, such as it was, of a resurgent Republican Party.  There was almost nothing to it but focus group results...which I imagine is about what his soul looks like.  What a hollow, useless man. 


On a more revolutionary note, the TV miniseries Wild Palms (from Oliver Stone of all people) turns twenty next year (as does the somewhat libertarian series Bablyon 5, incidentally). 

Here, the leader of the libertarian movement called the Friends (played by David Warner) risks all (amid media-induced hallucinations) to rescue his son (played by Brad Dourif, who has famously played weirdoes ranging from the Mentat in Dune to Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings, not to mention Chucky) from the clutches of the right-wing religious group that runs the country in 2007, the Fathers (all to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun”).

I remember talking to Andrew Corsello – who among other things wrote this article about Ayn Rand that quotes me – about Wild Palms back when it was first on.  I also recall him writing about trying then-novel “smart drugs” back in the crazy 90s, and I remember there was a whole counter where they had them on sale at the famous danceclub-in-a-former-church, Limelight.  We were all prepared for the strange world of 2007 as depicted by Wild Palms.  And basically we live there now.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BOOK NOTE: “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy (and Catholics in general)

Instead of Ten Commandments, I give you these ten religion-related items (including a look at the fine novel The Moviegoer), fitting for today’s Feast of the Assumption (humanity’s most dubious assumption, of course, being that there is a God).

I. For starters, above, in a picture I took outside NYC’s St. John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral recently, is my favorite deranged sculpture, which looks like a schizophrenic eight year-old concocted it but is instead a depiction of life itself battling evil – life in the form of a giant crab, sitting atop a DNA helix made of ocean water, holding the severed head of Satan in its claw while giraffes walk on its shell. 

Call me a secularist, but I think the Lego safari at the Bronx Zoo, now in its final days on display, makes more sense.  

Speaking of animals, I didn’t see flying squirrels in the shrubs on my recent visit to the parents in Connecticut, by the way, but I got to hear about my parents’ Scottie, Mac, showing the uncanny ability to sense the movement of a mole underground from several yards away – and dig fast enough to catch the mole.  My parents stopped Mac from killing the mole and let it get away, but they let him briefly catch it first because, they said, it was his birthday. 

II. Paul Ryan has only himself to blame if he gets criticized for being both an Objectivist and a Catholic, but I’m looking forward to the press trying to do both those things at the same time.  I mean, if they really want to force America to choose between the two, I suppose we can, or maybe alternate. 

III. But what about the tougher choice between Jesus and Batman? (h/t Jesse Gilchrist Forgione, who attended the last Dionysium, a debate on the relative strengths of Batman and Spider-Man – not to be confused with this month’s, August 27 at Muchmore’s, on Pete Seeger and Communism)

IV. Religion is relatively harmless when it has no power to wield physical force – then it’s just a stupid idea you can ignore – but with the Russian Orthodox Church helping to prop up the gangster Putin in Russia, they might at least tolerate literally one minute of spontaneous protest punk-singing on church premises, like that which has put the Russian band Pussy Riot on trial for “hooliganism.” 

Since they cannot, I will join crowds protesting at both the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian consulate on Friday (at 9am and 10am, respectively, both in the East 90s).  Those gatherings will be followed by a 1pm Times Square rally (46th and Broadway).  Before all that, there will be a Thursday 7:30pm reading of court testimony at Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel.

V. Even though it was almost two years ago that I sparred with an ex on C-SPAN2, I’ve recently gotten calls from both ABC and CBS about

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Post-Partisan Vision for the "Month of Partisanship"

My prediction – and I will only say "I told you so" after biotech or cybernetic enhancements enable us to live another 400 years or so: people in the future will not put much effort into keeping track of the differences between Nazis, Communists, Islamists, socialists, social democrats, New Dealers, liberal welfare-statists, and supply-siders who wanted more military spending. 

They'll say: the twentieth century was dominated by unsustainable big government in numerous forms, and it took a few decades thereafter to collapse. The specific factions will largely fade from memory, like so many Trotskyite splinter factions, Enlightenment-era philosophe cliques, and monarchical family lines – forgotten because virtually no one would dream of revisiting those idiotic approaches, once people are no longer habituated and inured to them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Petraeus, Hedges, and the libertarians who stand with neither

The buzz about Petraeus yesterday was a reminder of how deep the divide is between mainstream Republicans and what seems to be the fastest-growing wing of the libertarian movement, the Ron Paul-style anti-imperialists (who have also done much to spread the once-obscure cause of opposition to the Federal Reserve, which now even results in things like the nearby bit of art, on display during a recent karaoke excursion to Bar 82).  Romney wouldn’t win any of the Paulite libertarians over by literally putting Obama’s CIA director on the GOP ticket (best to vote for Gary Johnson in November, I’d say, even with Rand Paul getting a speaker’s slot at the GOP convention in three weeks). 

Indeed, anti-imperial, anti-Fed, anti-establishment issues have played such a big role in the Paulite boom that I won’t be at all surprised if the Republicans, in their tone-deafness, manage to drive many of those people away not just to the Libertarian Party but clear over to the left (and the impulse of neocon readers to say “Good riddens!” at this point is why the neocons will not prevail – am I the only diplomat left in this culture?). 

I notice a few libertarians online even quoting the leftist writer Chris Hedges with approval, simply because his assessment of the state of the U.S. is so dour and distrusting.  That’s not a good sign for anyone, especially since Hedges is about as anti-capitalist as they get, and if libertarianism does not have the net effect of making this world more market-friendly, it likely accomplishes nothing at all. 

Here’s the grimly anti-capitalist official description of what is unfortunately a best-selling current book by Hedges – augmented by talented cartoonist Joe Sacco.  I’m glad I already had Hedges pegged as a hysterical, free-associative ranter, as he may be a recurring problem:

Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit...The book starts in the western plains, where Native Americans were sacrificed in the giddy race for land and empire. It moves to the old manufacturing centers and coal fields that fueled the industrial revolution, but now lie depleted and in decay. It follows the steady downward spiral of American labor into the nation's produce fields and ends in Zuccotti Park where a new generation revolts against a corporate state that has handed to the young an economic, political, cultural and environmental catastrophe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My fiction on Liberty Island. Jesse Jackson’s fiction on Daily Caller.

I have a birthday this summer, despite International Youth Day coming up – and taking a page from the Obama re-election campaign, I’m going to suggest that you show your enthusiasm not by mailing me lavish gifts but by donating to a nascent libertarian/conservative-friendly literary website, Liberty Island.

Even though this site is scheduled to run a fiction piece by me about time travel, this donation idea is far more ethical than the Jesse Jackson financial shenanigans I wrote about yesterday on TheDailyCaller.

But the next two paragraphs are how the editors of Liberty Island describe it (and how to donate):

Liberty Island is a new fiction magazine, launching soon, that will identify and publish the best of a new generation of politically independent and culturally contrarian writers. These talented storytellers are at work in a wide range of genres, including thriller, crime, fantasy, mystery, adventure, science fiction, historical and political fiction – even western and romance. Independent in all senses of the word, they are cultural insurgents who are using the tools of digital technology to circumvent and challenge the mainstream publishing establishment.

Liberty Island exists to identify, promote, and introduce these new writers to a likeminded audience that shares their tastes and values – specifically the values of liberty, individualism, and American exceptionalism. If you want to help us build our site and start commissioning new work, please consider making a small donation through Start.AC:

Monday, August 6, 2012

“Call Me Ishmael” by Todd Seavey (after “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen)

Last night, I (really) saw Zombies and tomorrow night I plan to see the band Jezzy and the Belles (after the SASS talk on “Ancient Badasses” such as Genghis Khan).  Since pop music and a dash of history work well together, maybe the culture would benefit from this – maybe:

“Call Me Ishmael”
By Carl Rae Melville (and Todd Seavey)

I threw a spear at a whale
Heed, I must tell my tale
Of how Captain Ahab left this pale
And I floated for a night and a day

He'd trade his soul for some fish
Pennies and dimes, lots of risk
I wasn't looking for this
Set out from Nantucket Bay
Ocean water was cold an'
That hated whale was showin'
Hole of Moby Dick was blowin'
Ahab said that whale is goin' away

Hey, the Captain's crazy, and we will fail
This story's a bummer, so call me Ishmael
Not that the crew is lazy, or afraid of whales
But this story's a bummer, so call me Ishmael

I guess that thing's a mammal, and he's awful pale
I think our number's up, so call me Ishmael
And all the other boats, are on its trail
But our number's up, so call me Ishmael

Queequeg has a tattooed bod
Coolest guy on the Pequod
But the Captain's obsession is odd, and we're all gonna pay
Glimpse a shape beyond the keel
Have first sight and it's real
Don't quite get the Captain's zeal, but that whale is headed our way

Queequeg got sick 
Likelihood of death was growing
Cold night, wind was blowing
Where you think you're going, buddy?

Hey, the Captain's crazy, wish I could bail
I think our number's up, so call me Ishmael
Queequeg's dead, we were oddly close for males
I think our number's up, so call me Ishmael

Hey, the Captain's crazy, that's a major fail
I'm the sole survivor, so call me Ishmael
Other boats out there if I had to chase whales
But Ahab captained this one, so call me Ishmael

Ahab threw a harpoon and his aim's not so bad
Missed the eyeball but not so bad...missed the blowhole but not so bad
Injured whale's gonna take Ahab's life, but his aim wasn't so bad
And you should know that...his aim wasn't so bad

Hard to look at the damage done by that whale
He smashed up the Pequod, so call me Ishmael

Sinking boat made a whirlpool, like a full-force gale
Sucked the crew to their deaths, so call me Ishmael
Months of bad food and watching whale tail,
Just to get smashed by sealife, now call me Ishmael

And that whale is an innocent mammal, so he isn't so bad
He won't miss Ahab...but the whale isn't really so bad
Before he came into my life he wasn't really so bad
And if I got to know him
I'd call him Moby

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ownership of the Media

I just overheard a young woman in Starbucks talking to what may have been her boyfriend, asking him if NBC is paid by the Democratic Party and Fox paid by the Republican Party.  He said neither is the case, so she asked, well then, which networks does the government own?  He responded that aside from PBS, they're just private and can give whatever opinions they like, so Fox can say Obamacare is socialist and NBC can say it's great.  She said "that's annoying."  She also added, "I hate Fox News."

This exchange is no big surprise, though.  One study showed, for example, that 80% of the public -- 80% -- don't know the number of U.S. Senators (even though it's a nice even number), and the ownership of the media is a comparatively complex question, really.

And the social-democratic left wants all of these people to vote collectively, or via their favorite politicians, on how to do everything, including things with your money.  And they think you're a fiend if you want to remove people from our public education system.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

BOOK NOTE: “Pegler: Angry Man of the Press” by Oliver Pilat

You know, I gather from some comments on this blog and a big spike in readership about a week ago that HuffingtonPost and Reddit must have briefly featured more prominently their old links to my comments on C-SPAN2 about Helen Rittelmeyer.  I’ll just refer anyone inquiring in the future to this entry. 

Long story short: she had a disturbingly dark philosophy and m.o.; I criticized it; it was nearly two years ago now; she’s reportedly striving to be a bit more mature and moderate; she moved out of the country last I knew; and – this is the part that really benefits you, the reader – we buried the hatchet just deeply enough before she did so for me to inherit about eight old books from her continually-expanding personal library.

Indeed, this blog’s current “Month of Partisanship” and impending “Month of Reform” are mostly the result of me finally getting around to the reading material thereby acquired, and lumping the books into those two categories is not only a good way to sort the books but, as a bonus, not a bad way to sum up the unusual poles that sort-of substituted for good and evil in her cosmology, for anyone desperate to understand (and stymied by the closing down of her blog and my desire not to go on about it further): fighting good, Kumbayah harmony bad/lame, nearly the opposite of how most people see these things. 

And, yes, in retrospect, it therefore all had to end in some sort of big bout – should have, even.  But enough about that, obviously.  On to the books, about one per week (and since – I swear – I prefer harmony to combat, the “Month of Reform” will peak with the Sept. 17, 8pm, Occupy/Tea summit I’m hosting at Muchmore’s, to resolve the dialectic once and for all and create peace in our time).


Westbrook Pegler, who would have been 118 today (and no doubt very world-weary), was a pugnacious mid-century columnist best known for being anti-communist – and most recently rescued from complete obscurity by critics shocked at Sarah Palin for quoting him.  Given all the stand-up-comedy/Tourette’s-level invective he hurled against everyone from Stalin to Frank Sinatra to Jews, it’s dangerous to give him anything like a full endorsement, but, like H.L. Mencken, he’s at times so brilliant we have to give him some sort of pass or at least enjoy all the anecdotes he caused. 

And like Mencken, he’s usually right, as made clear by Oliver Pilat’s highly entertaining 1963 biography, Pegler: Angry Man of the Press.  You have to suspect that much of mid-century politics and letters is best explained by the existence of ornery drinkers. 

But Pegler’s journalistic career really began earlier – at the 1912 Republican convention, one hundred years ago this summer, as it happens.  As I’ve noted before, that convention was in some sense the opposite of this month’s impending 2012 GOP event in Florida, where the one likely chance for excitement is the prospect of the disappointed Ron Paul fans doing something disruptive (though at this point, I think they should all be working on the Gary Johnson campaign, unless Romney’s making Rand Paul his v.p. or something). 

By contrast, it was the Progressives who bolted, disgruntled, in 1912, with Teddy Roosevelt’s forces marching into the big-government future and leaving behind a hapless (but more libertarian) President Taft and the Republican Party.  It was a time, Pilat says, when “One per cent of the population had more money than the remaining 99 per cent.”

Pegler enjoyed political in-fighting and indeed in-fighting amongst journalists themselves. 


He got it from his dad, Arthur Pegler, a journalist who was so aggressive in pursuit of good stories that once when he arrived too late to cover a riot, he reportedly set off a pile of firecrackers under the window of the mayor of Rock Island, Illinois so that he could fake a story about an assassination attempt.  We rightly criticize today’s press, but, well, by comparison... 

Arthur would delight his son Westbrook and the rest of the family with strange, sometimes exaggerated tales from his adventures as a reporter.  He recounted going to look at a body in a coffin only to have the man wake up and lament that his wife had repeatedly jumped the gun and attempted to bury him for dead.  The non-corpse and Arthur shared a drink.  After Arthur recounted that story to his children later, his face grew grim and, according to Pilat, he warned them, “In the name of God, boys, do anything else but don’t be a newspaperman!”

In one case, Arthur may have inadvertently framed a woman for murder, since he lamented to his photographer that there was no clinching evidence

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

“Month of Partisanship” starts off a bit less partisan without Gore Vidal

Two clips (the first brought to my attention by Danny Hellman) of the late Gore Vidal pissing people off, no doubt posted by half the people on the Internet but still worthwhile:

Ironically, Buckley and Vidal had rather similar demeanors.  I saw Vidal interviewed onstage by Maureen Dowd in Austin, TX several years ago, and, well, I’ll just say the show was not entitled Humility.

People forget, I think (since he was on the left) that his strange and radical mix of views included the conviction that the white race should unite across the divides of political and economic systems in order to combat the menace of the Asian horde (maybe I’ll do my part to thwart his brand of nationalism by buying the final issue of Justice League International today and going to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel bar tonight).

At the same time, his opposition to American empire and to Lincoln’s militarism has earned him some paleoconservative admirers, I gather – and I would guess he was an influence on leftist-yet-racist anti-imperialist George Lucas.  So in a sense Gore Vidal also gave us Phantom Menace.  Truly he has been influential.