Sunday, March 31, 2013

Time of Renewal

I attended a very nice, non-threatening, quasi-Easter, Unitarian service with a very lovely Unitarian (the symbol behind the altar is almost a cross; the detailed sermon tale about literally-underground Jews in Ukraine hiding from the Nazis was almost a Passover story; and the tale of the empty tomb – much like Jesus Christ Superstaralmost ended with a resurrection).

I feel almost like I'm back in my native mellow New England (birthplace of transcendentalism, whatever exactly that is) instead of here on the Upper East Side.

But now, at this traditional time of renewal, I very rapidly do the apartment's long-overdue spring cleaning to prepare for the arrival of one of the multiple(?!) converts to Catholicism I know. And tomorrow, the day that to many trolls really best symbolizes changed perspectives and the embrace of new truths, April Fool's Day, I swear I kick the Blogger/Facebook/Twitter/e-mail addiction and get a bunch of other long-overdue work done, hoping you forgive my delays as I forgive yours.

P.S. Also, two nights ago I saw an Upper East Side yuppie couple taking a photograph of their dog's poop on the sidewalk. Yea, and so we are reminded that there is beauty in even the lowest parts of our universe, due to the bounty provided by Nature or whatever or Whoever or the dog or such or what have you.

Friday, March 29, 2013


TRIGGER WARNING, but I mean literally in this case: Phil Spector killed a woman with a gun, and this past Sunday there was an HBO movie about it written by (notoriously manly) David Mamet, with Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, and Jeffrey Tambor in it.  The case was sufficiently disturbing that we should not allow Spector’s historic musical achievements to cause us to forget (he waved a gun around the Ramones as well, apparently, and even punk has its limits). 

While it’s true that we should not imagine that everyone who commits violence against women will be as eccentric and easy to spot as Spector, I think (as an individualist might) that there’s also a real danger in the suddenly-popular approach of condemning most of society as “rape culture” – not because the issue is unimportant (and certainly not because any decent person condones rape) but because, much as it pains egalitarians to do this, you have to make clear distinctions between those who commit violence and those who do not (this goes for the recent guns debate as well). 

When you tell every male who likes high heels or whistles at strippers that he’s part of “rape culture,” you’re also telling the handful of actual rapists: Hey, you’re just like everybody else (except a handful of feminists, of course). 

That’s dangerous in much the same way as those creepy instances of (no doubt warmhearted) folk saying, Both the assailant and the person he shot were victims here.  Well, sort of, maybe, in some complicated Hegelian sense, but in a far more important way: no, not if you’re trying to maintain some semblance of a moral order and legal system.  With that in mind, maybe we can safely indulge in a...

SEXIST SIDENOTE: Twenty years ago, I was privileged to be present (until I quietly drifted away because I’m polite and unobtrusive like that) at a somewhat flirty conversation between writer David Lodge and the aforementioned Helen Mirren, who I contend is still hot, was even hotter then, and was a freaking curvaceous bombshell back when she was **walking around completely naked at age twenty-seven in the 1972 film Savage Messiah.**

...if perchance that sounds like something you might want to rent.  Y’know, I mean, like, for Easter.  I mean because it has “Messiah” in the title and all.  (She played Ayn Rand once, too, you know, allowing her to vent about as passionately as the real Ayn does here.  And the recent RED movies are based on comic books.  And she uses machine guns in them.)

BUT ADMITTEDLY BOOBIES AND RELIGION/CULTURE OFTEN CLASH, as in the case of threats against Tunisian activist Amina Tyler.

On the bright side, though, back here in the benighted U.S., National Victimization Survey stats suggest that just in the past three decades alone rape rates in the U.S. have fallen by 85%(!) – even as crude jokes on TV and porn everywhere have increased (with high-profile spats over such forms of crudeness causing people like vlogger AmazingAtheist to spring to their defense). 

Yet rage at purportedly omnipresent, conspiracy-like “rape culture” seems to be growing exponentially, to the extent that one isn’t quite sure any of us, no matter how innocent, can hope to escape the boiling fury now.  We are all still guilty, guilty, guilty participants in patriarchy no matter how peaceful things get and how spotless our own criminal records are. 

(And, in a comparatively trivial footnote, I suspect all that mounting rage, no pun intended, is somehow going to be channeled, in a massive non sequitur, into zealous support for a 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign – just you watch.  Several of the angriest feminist bloggers are of course also ardent socialist Democrats, a few right here in NYC.  They are always fighting what they perceive as the “War Against Women” on two fronts, hating Wall Street as much as they hate rapists – and somehow seeing the two as related.  And at some point in 2016 they may find themselves compelled to revisit the night of Rand Paul’s infamous “Aqua Buddha” college prank.  Don’t think it can’t happen... I’m warning you... People should listen to me...)

BUT WHAT DID LOUIS C.K. DO in between Lucky Louie on HBO and Louie on FX, you ask?  Apparently, he got his own lesson in how economic and sexual exploitation can intermingle.

AND CONTINUING THE HBO AND NUDITY THEMES: Game of Thrones season 3 starts on HBO this coming Sunday (though I’ll be watching it one week from tonight) and should be nicely Machiavellian.  (In addition to breasts and political intrigue, the show sometimes depicts the promise and peril of mixed-faith marriages, as does Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book at an apt time.)

Breasts and violence notwithstanding, though, I think the two things the series does right that set it apart from other fantasy and sci-fi are using the supernatural elements vary sparingly at first and using morality almost not at all.  I’m not knocking morality, of course, but the usual practice in fantasy of having clans of aristocrats line up neatly into good and evil camps is, well, not convincing given actual human history. 

BUT FIRST, I'll be seeing G.I. Joe: Retaliation, no doubt far more morally-dualistic.  And I know it'll be goofy.  And I have no intention of seeing the first film.  But (to return to this blog’s “Conspiracy Week” and “Month of Geopolitics” themes), those people who fear reptilian shape-shifters have secretly taken over the government will surely rush to see a film about a Cobra operative disguising himself as the President in order to conquer America.  It’s like this movie was made for them.  They probably think it’s part of the conspiracy. 

IF ONLY real-world politics were that simple.  Instead, it involves subtler evils, like the quiet death of contrarianism over at once-eclectic, sometimes-hawkish New Republic and its replacement by a new, authoritarian, Progressive sycophancy from the likes of young Ezra Klein. 

(My only tiny complaint about that great Matt Welch piece is that the second-to-last paragraph notes liberals bringing the charge of “epistemic closure” against closed-minded conservatives three years ago – but Matt might’ve mentioned that, for good or ill, it was Reason’s own Julian Sanchez who started that lament.  And so the snake consumes its tail, and the ritual is completed.)

ON THAT NOTE, we conclude this “Month of Geopolitics” – and after Easter/April Fool’s, I'll really, truly take that break from cyberspace I’ve threatened for least on this site.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I’m not only seeing Nick Cave in concert tonight, yesterday at 11am I saw the performance art piece involving fake horses that he’s got going a couple times a day at Grand Central.

The crowd loved it.  They probably would have been much more sad if the fake horses re-enacted the song “The Carny” (“And the dwarves were given the task of digging the ditch and laying the nag’s carcass in the ground... we can’t afford to carry dead weight,” etc.).  They might have been somewhat happier, though, if the horses were “prancing in the field” as in “Till the End of the World” – without the bomb that blows up the narrator’s ex-girlfriend at the beginning of the song.  That’s no way to cope with relationship issues.  (Ah: two different Nick Caves.)

Speaking of relationship issues, there’s a gay couple out there (probably watching this week’s Supreme Court news with great interest) who are married and whose child was facilitated by an egg donation from the woman with whom I’m seeing Cave tonight.  But it’s not the gays or the fetuses or the alternative rock fans I’m worried about today – it’s the immigrants. 

While Australian Nick Cave seems to be able to make it in and out of the U.S. without too much hassle, the same is not true for hapless Australian video artist Pogo, as he politely explains here, suffering like many people the world over whose plans have been wrecked by the U.S.’s byzantine travel and immigration rules (h/t proud comso-tarian Tom Palmer).  But we have met the enemy, and, no, they are not the Australians.  We wish the Australians well.

Not only is libertarian-ish Rand Paul lately realizing how crazy the rules resulting from our visitor-phobia are, he seems to have persuaded the often-bullheaded Sean Hannity on the issue, enough to get the latter calling Ann Coulter “annoying” for her intransigence on the topic.  This is important progress.

In the meantime, though, even as I typed this blog entry, I received a mass-e-mail from La MaMa theatre and the Irish Arts Center apologizing to their customers because “visa issues” have forced the cancelation of an intended performance called ponydance (perhaps involving fake ponies much like Cave #2’s fake horses, but certainly involving real Irish people).

If you tend either (A) to dislike big government or (B) to like the free blending of cultures (and I bet you agree with at least one of those things), imagine the possibilities of a world literally without borders.  I’m confident humanity would find an infinitude of things to do with the opportunity besides plotting terrorism and going on welfare.  If territorial governments as we know them dissolved in the process, so be it.

P.S. Meanwhile, the American Spectator tells us what Tom Lehrer’s been up to for fifty years (h/t Rick Sincere).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Congrats to Monsanto on the legislation signed today preventing them being barred from engaging in productive trade every time some yahoo files another lawsuit calling for further regulatory review of (vital, harmless) biotech. The foes are Luddites, the endless lawsuits and calls for unscientific guilty-until-proven-innocent reviews nonsense.

The fact that some libertarians have jumped on the anti-Monsanto bandwagon is a sad reminder that some libertarians more closely resemble the "paranoid" stereotype than the "rationalist" stereotype. I'll happily take the latter caricature if I must pick one.

And it is troubling indeed that some libertarians, in behavior that would be unbecoming even in an enviro-lefty, will pick and choose which industries' libertarian impurity to freak out about on grounds having nothing to do with their degree of deviation from market ideals – selectively complaining about biotech being subsidized or engaging in lobbying, as if the same couldn't be said about everything from sofa manufacturing to vacuum cleaners.

There'd be no need for socialists to destroy capitalism if free-marketeers eliminated every industry currently entangled with government. We'd have destroyed industrial civilization all by ourselves.

By all means get rid of government, but stop quaking in fear of wretched hippie.

Conspiracy Week: CIA (per Robert Gates) plus: guns and gold!

That bastard Richard Nixon did many, many things wrong -- including simultaneously taking the U.S. off the gold standard, freezing wages and prices, and increasing tariffs 10% to boot. 

On the bright side, in a world full of unintended consequences, big government reaped a few immediate punishments for these actions, including (A) the creation of the Libertarian Party in part by disgusted anti-Nixon Republicans and (B) a new wave of “gold bug” metal-buying enthusiasts as fervent as the survivalists who were rapidly multiplying in the years after Viet Nam.  Ron Paul first rose to political prominence in that milieu.

Forty-two years later, (A) there’s talk of Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul being the new thought leader of the Republican Party and (B) today at 10am a young libertarian (from a family of libertarians) with the Ayn Rand-inspired name Anthem Blanchard launched his company Anthem Vault, the first U.S. storage space specifically for privately-traded gold.  The company is fairly conservative/mainstream – financial/investment-minded rather than apocalyptic – in its thinking.  But still: when the whole damn system collapses and you have nothing but your gold and your Bitcoin, you may be grateful for their existence. 

But not everything Nixon did was a disaster.  Oh, sure, he made the economy worse, expanded government bureaucracy in several rather left-wing-seeming ways (including environmental and affirmative-action enforcement), and even appears to have secretly sabotaged Viet Nam peace talks before he became president in order to ensure his initial election.  He was a monster.  However, some of his foreign policy maneuvering against the Soviet Union was actually quite savvy. 


Or so contends former CIA, NSA, and DoD (but not S.H.I.E.L.D.) man Robert Gates in his revealing 1996 book From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War.  Now, I know what certain of you are already thinking, which is roughly: “Why on Earth would I believe anything the former CIA director and former Secretary of Defense has to say – you realize CIA’s about to drag us deeper into Syria and was obviously co-running those embassies in Libya, don’t you?”  Fair enough.  And, yes, I was given this book by the smoking-hot granddaughter of an OSS operative (true story). 

And then some of you are more specifically thinking, “I wouldn’t believe anything a Bush defense secretary says,” followed by, “Wait – he was also Obama’s defense secretary?” and then you’re all like, “Oh my God, now he’s on the board of Starbucks?  Wait, does that mean he’s in favor of gay marriage?  Does he believe in ‘fair trade’?”  Look, hippie, it’s a complex world and I don’t have time to answer all of your questions, so let’s just get back to the Cold War for now. 

Long before the so-called Star Wars anti-missile defense system (a technologically nigh-impossible project Reagan announced thirty years ago this past Saturday, in 1983) and even before the culture-altering 1977 film that gave that project its name (in a year which may also have seen the Dodgers invent the high five, according to Gersh Kuntzman), Nixon subtly changed the world in August 1969 (perhaps in retrospect one of the most pivotal months in history) by shifting U.S. resources toward early anti-missile research – and thereby convincing the panicked Soviets to devote the next two decades to pouring their dwindling funds into efforts to counter our largely-imaginary potential technology. 

Not bad (sadly, we’re now in the process of undoing what Gates considers Nixon’s greatest accomplishment, though, which was driving a wedge between Russia and China).

Gates doesn’t just heap the expected praise on later-Cold War, Republican presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush, though.  He makes a fairly convincing case that Jimmy Carter – dubbed “history’s greatest monster” by one Simpsons character – was

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Conspiracy Week: BIGFOOT

Speaking of conspiracies and such: I see that the creators of the page very publicly vowed to take the page down and exit Bigfoot research if the dead Bigfoot that one Rick Dyer claims to have stored in Las Vegas turns out to be fake. 

Well, already, the related camping/Bigfoot video he claims to have shot in September turns out to use images he’d already used in another video months earlier.  Oh, yeah, and regardless of that he admits to being the same guy who already faked a dead Bigfoot in a freezer a few years before that.  So will the FindBigfoot guys give up soon and all of humanity move on to saner quests? 

The full-length Dyer documentary about it all will be shown the night of April 30 at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.  One way or another, history may record that it was the night Bigfoot died.

There’s also been zero action over at Spike TV’s $10 Million Bigfoot Bounty blog since it was launched last year, incidentally.  Again: TEN MILLION DOLLARS but no Bigfoot yet.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?  (Then again, Westerners, unlike Africans, only found solid evidence of gorillas circa 1860.  And I’m pretty sure gorillas are real.)

BONUS ITEM: Here is a real photo, though, of a twenty-five year-old Martha Stewart, who did not look like a monster.

AND IN OTHER FOOT-ORIENTED SUPERHUMAN NEWS: It's looking like the geopolitical scorecard for next year's Capt. America sequel will be: one American superbeing (Cap) and two American/Russian superbeings (Black Widow and Winter Soldier) vs. one neo-Nazi (Crossbones) and – yes – a Frenchman doing kickboxing and (I have long predicted!) parkour: oui, Batroc the Leaper will be played by a UFC fighter, Georges St-Pierre.

So much has changed in the realm of international relations since WWII (and tomorrow: the CIA!). 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Conspiracy Week: MOON LANDING

I admit that as I age, I find the dividing line between the crazies and the sane more ambiguous than I did in my youth.  And (as Robert Anton Wilson tried to teach us) the imaginary conspiracies sometimes overlap with the real ones in odd ways.

For instance, there is a moment (49 min. 25 sec. in) in the documentary Apollo Zero by Bart Sibrel – who thinks the moon landings never happened – when astronaut Edgar Mitchell muses aloud about shooting the documentarian and Mitchell’s son Adam is heard (not realizing he’s miked) to ask (perhaps jokingly), “Y’wanna call the CIA, have ’em whacked?”  I swear.  (More about the CIA later in this “Conspiracy Week” of blog entries, within my larger “Month of Geopolitics.”)

On top of that, there’s a certain justice in Mitchell suffering this annoying conspiracy theorist, since Mitchell himself believes in a government cover-up of extraterrestrials.

Mitchell kicked Sibrel during the confrontation seen in the documentary, and Buzz Aldrin once famously punched Sibrel in the face (another astronaut confronted by Sibrel refused to swear on a Bible that he’d been to the moon and offered the oddly-weak explanation that he doubted it was a real Bible – and of course I don’t think there’s a real God, just to add another odd layer to the conflict). 

You can’t blame astronauts for wanting to beat Sibrel, really.  But it’s interesting one of them should also have a son who reflexively thinks of the CIA as hitmen.  Does he get it from Hollywood?  A crazy dad?  Experience?

Astronauts don’t normally inspire conspiracy-theory documentaries, though – they inspire things like this, and rightly so.

And the layers of weirdness don’t end there (don’t blame me, I’m just a messenger): There are also conspiracy theorists who think Sibrel was in league with Aldrin all along and – irony of ironies! – think the video of Aldrin punching Sibrel was faked (that their brief conversation in the video was hastily dubbed and the punch a mere “stage” punch).

So to summarize (to take the most-mainstream view of these events, mind you), we have conspiracy theorists…distrusting a conspiracy theorist…who himself confronted astronauts who include a conspiracy theorist…whose son invokes CIA assassins. 

So we don’t even need any actual aliens or conspiracies to achieve weirdness, not in America.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Left Denounces Other Leftists as White Male “Bro-gressives”

Our world is an increasingly complex and stupid one: Salon and some other pro-Obama operations have decided to smear those among their fellow leftists who support Rand Paul's anti-drones position by falsely implying that the supporters do so because they are white and male.

They've even coined the term "bro-gressives" to describe those Paul supporters (which I guess is supposed to work a bit like "Oreo" -- authentic progressives presumably knowing enough to avoid being male). Who would have foreseen (say, thirty years ago) that the day would come when being a leftist who is opposed to an aspect of militarism gets you marginalized for being a white male?

Freddie DeBoer points out a blog that retorts by compiling comments from many non-white and/or non-male supporters of the Rand Paul filibuster (including Rachel Maddow, who is still terrible in my book but for reasons having nothing to do with her being white and male).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

10 Comics Notes

1. I described a book about Germany in my prior blog entry, but there’s less Germany in this entry – because DC Comics’ oldest generation of superheroes (having been revamped and reintroduced along with the rest of the universe a couple years ago) is no longer tied to World War II (surely a development that warrants mention in this blog’s current “Month of Geopolitics”). 

In the interests of making the heroes of Earth 2 (sometimes called the Justice Society) hip and up-to-date, the foe depicted sparking their creation is now the demonic Darkseid (and he did so quite recently), not that long-dead Hitler person.  Check out the anthology Earth 2 Vol. 1: The Gathering if you don’t believe me.

Of course, the studio folks at parent company Warner Brothers just ditched the Justice League movie script that had Darkseid as the villain, so whether the frantic editorial offices at DC still care about Darkseid is a mystery.  DC Comics has been home to abrupt changes in plot-plans and creative teams in recent months, to the enragement of many comics professionals.  A much-ballyhooed new writer reportedly just walked off Green Lantern over DC’s insistence, contrary to promises made when he was hired, that he immediately kill off Green Lantern John Stewart (a.k.a. that black guy from the animated shows).  The new Action (starring Superman) writer left almost before he began, too.

On the bright side, I think (to take one revamp example) fusing the character Fury (daughter of the Earth 2 Wonder Woman) with Darkseid’s minion Lashina, the Female Fury – and even giving her a combo truth-lasso/domination-whip – was a stroke of genius.  Kudos to writer James Robinson (who often worked with first-generation DC characters including Starman back in the 90s).  So good things can still happen in the new age. 

2. Still, for those who’d like their favorite superheroes to retain their established fictional histories, this Earth 2 anthology is arguably the greatest tragedy ever to befall comics: DC has revised its fictional history several times, but by restarting the Earth 2 heroes as youngsters and ditching all their accumulated baggage and adventures, DC threw out literally seventy-six years of backstory (erasing marriages, children, grandchildren, deaths, resurrections, and more, all the way back to Doctor Occult’s first appearance in 1935). 

Never has the preservation/reinvigoration tension that’s ever-present in comics (and in franchises like Star Trek) felt more drastic.

And despite the name Earth 2, this isn’t just some mirror-mirror alternate reality – this is (various complicated reboots notwithstanding) the original DC Comics Earth.  And now it’s a blank slate, albeit one in good hands with Robinson.  But let us never speak of that lost past again.  Excelsior.

3. Admittedly, it’s the quality of the new stories that matters most, not the obsessive retention of old details (and I’ve always said – even way back when I was a continuity-obsessive teenager – that the important thing is not retaining every bit of the past, just being consistent going forward).  So the most exciting thing James Robinson did last year may not have been Earth 2 but rather his Shade maxiseries, featuring another WWII-era character who happens to be immortal – and witty and rather goth. 

Whether this miniseries technically took place in the old pre-reboot DC continuity or on DC’s new main Earth is unclear – but it sure didn’t take place on the new Earth 2 because there is a mention of the former Starman named Mikaal and of his home, Opal City, whereas Robinson says over in Earth 2 that Opal City was blown up years ago in the war against Darkseid. 

My suggestion is to read the Shade’s story and ignore the rest of the DC Universe.

4. If, like me, you can’t resist noticing how the rest of that universe works, though (and I now must plead newfound professional interest for this recurring fixation, as I’ll explain below), you may have noticed how – driven largely by writers Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison but to some extent by James Robinson and Dan Didio as well – the underlying

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BOOK NOTE: “Twelve Years” by Joel Agee

•Given all the “liberal-tarian” moaning over at the BleedingHeartLibertarians site about how the rest of us benighted libertarians need to think more about “white privilege” and the like, presumably they think programs like one suggesting white students be made to wear wristbands that mark them (by race) as beneficiaries of “privilege” are something we should encourage. 

One would like to think that even kids can see through political indoctrination to some extent. 

•So it’s useful to have things like Joel Agee’s Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany to show us (in this case) the extent to which even in a totalitarian country, political indoctrination ends up having less impact on teenagers’ lives than their nervous interest in the opposite sex, their pursuit of music and cheap thrills, competitiveness, and bullying.  (The book was recommended to me by Katherine Taylor, herself the author of the memoir-like novel Rules for Saying Goodbye.)

As I tweeted recently, my own schooldays exposure to East Germany came about one year before that country ceased to exist, as two visiting East German students assured an audience of dutifully attentive, left-leaning Brown students that the U.S. was inferior to their own country due to our lack of socialized medicine and omnipresent security surveillance.  Now their country’s gone and ours looks just a bit more like theirs did, but I’m not sure who the winners and losers are in that shuffle. 

On the bright side, east-Germans (now in the regional rather than national sense) provide a semi-outsider perspective within the larger German nation – a bit like Hispanic comedians in the U.S. – so that we get installation and performance artists like Sindy Butz doing shows in Europe and the U.S., promoting wearable ceramic devices of use to people of all political persuasions, and meeting me on the subway from Williamsburg a couple years ago. 

(See her, support her, read about her – and if you need still more intellectual stimulation, join me tonight at 7pm at Public Assembly in Williamsburg to see Lefty Leibowitz and others lecture about “Diseases” as part of his ongoing series of Empiricist League lectures.)

•Speaking of failed utopias, it’s probably just as well for my political purposes that plans for a BioShock movie are dead.  It’s nice the game creators cared enough about libertarianism to satirize it, but the world is probably slightly better off without a movie that would have suggested, in effect, that Ayn Rand and seasteading lead to dystopian monster-fighting.

•In 1948, though, East Germany was still very much a going concern, and Joel Agee, eight year-old biological son of Pulitzer-winning American author James Agee, went with his mother to live with his stepfather, prize-winning East German author Bodo Uhse.

It wasn’t all secret police and fear, either, in part because

Monday, March 18, 2013

Milgram, Shatner, and Travolta

You've likely heard of the infamous Milgram experiments suggesting that many people are willing to inflict pain on others so long as they are told to do so by authority figures. 

What you may not know is that popular awareness of the experiments derives in part from a 1975 TV-movie called The Tenth Level starring William Shatner as Dr. Milgram and John Travolta (uncredited) as a Yale student.

Ultimately, YOU must decide what films to rent, though. I cannot absolve you of that responsibility.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Black 47 for St. Patrick's Day, Starvation for India

"Big Fellah" by Black 47 (Black 47!!) from 1994, in honor of St. Patrick’s.

Y'know, one Black 47 member is a former member of Dexy's Midnight Runners -- but then, who isn't?

Meanwhile, in India (another country of interest to me): a ninety-second news story with a couple jarring transitions

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

10 Geopolitics Thoughts, with Carl Sagan, Killer Dolphins, and Calvin Coolidge

1. During this blog’s “Month of Geopolitics,” I should thank Deroy Murdock among others for keeping me informed about the activities of the Atlas Foundation, which has helped tell people about the ideas of liberty and free markets even in seemingly-inhospitable spots like Iran and some of the more-authoritarian corners of Latin America.

2. But it was the humble Dionysium that this week happened to have both an anarcho-capitalist and an actual politician from India in the audience at the same time (but no fistfight).

3. I also manage to have associates ranging from radical atheists to a writer for Cardinal Dolan, one of the people who’s been talked about this week during the conclave in the Vatican as a possible new Pope.  The writer’s also an alternative rock fan, to whom I dedicate this apt link (to an eighteen year-old song hovering somewhere between Dinosaur Jr. and Sinatra).

4. Killer dolphins once controlled by Ukraine are on the loose, trained to attack with knives and guns (h/t Lankford Jackson) [UPDATE: a hoax, it turns out].  Scary as a Sharktopus.

5. Far more relaxing is this meditative footage of a cat at the beach, possibly in Japan.  (By contrast, the tenacity of this small orange cat in attacking a much larger cat is both inspiring and stupid.)

6. If you were calmed by that, you’re ready to face (at most 3 minutes, I’d suggest, of) this oddly Hitchhiker’s-like video that disturbs me not so much because it lumps together every insane conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard – including one about gold from the Middle East being essential to creating superbeings and powering flying saucers – but because (if nothing else) it proves even the crazy people have great video production and graphics packages these days.  

(Similar forms of paranoia were briefly touched upon at the Dionysium, but this will be my last dip into this form of insanity for now as I turn my attention to more mainstream issues, like comic books.)

7. Those Russians can be gloomy at times, but they can also be so optimistic and unrealistic about the future it’s wacky (h/t Virginia Postrel).

8. So many of our earthly conflicts seem small when we contemplate this segment from the inspiring 1980 science series Cosmos, though you may not recall hearing about “The Meat Planet” (or laughing really, really hard) the first time you watched the show. 

9. That comedy remix may be further proof that, much as it pains me to deliver this news, “Trolls Are Bad for Science” (h/t Scarlett_156), and that could be bad for the whole human race.

10. But many looming problems fade away without us even having to take action.  It’s not popular to say that these days, but level-headed, reasonable Calvin Coolidge understood, and maybe you will too if you read Charles C. Johnson’s new book on the greatest president – yes, greatest – of the twentieth century.  If the Rand Era that we entered with Rand Paul’s epochal Senate filibuster last week climaxes with him becoming president of the United States, we may find ourselves looking to past laissez-faire presidents as models to help us understand. 

In honor of Presidents of the United States of America, let’s watch a video (directed by Roman Coppola, of all people) by that band, who formed twenty years ago.  (And in the days after that, in the second half of my “Month of Geopolitics,” let’s take a look at books on East Germany, the CIA, and Earth 2.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cats and Dogs, Attacking Together

In another grim reminder of the moral unreliability of our furry pals: 

•On TV, Wendy and Marvin were loyal pals of the Super-Friends, aided by their dog Wonder Dog.  But did you know...

•In the comics, Wonder Dog was eventually revealed to be a demonic entity and mauled Marvin to death while leaving Wendy permanently paralyzed from the waist down, leading her supervillain father, the Calculator, to vow revenge against the heroes who allowed this to happen to her.

But since they rebooted the DC Comics universe in 2011, we'll never know if that all worked out OK.

And that's one to grow on.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adjusting Your Host’s Right/Left Balance, plus UFOs

Tonight’s the big 8pm discussion about the drones controversy, featuring Mary Madigan and Pamela Stubbart and hosted by me at Muchmore’s (c’mon, Manhattanites, it’s just one L stop into Williamsburg, at 2 Havemeyer St., three blocks east of Bedford Ave.).

(And remember, there’s a Dionysium down in Austin, TX, too, where they, somewhat like us, had a discussion about the 80s last time – and may discuss the ethics of drones among other things next time.  That’s also the home state of Rand Paul’s new Senate pal Ted Cruz, who co-filibustered about drones a bit last week.)

I’ve been trying to reassure people on Facebook that I can be a balanced moderator in spite of my fellow libertarian Rand Paul last week emphasizing opposition to recent drone policy.  It occurs to me, though, that some might instead need reassurance I’m not a completely warmongering right-winger, since I certainly haven’t embraced all antiwar arguments in the past.

Please, allow me to oversimplify:

•As with the unspoken (and perhaps unspeakable) feminist sympathies I described in my blog entry before last, I’ve at least had reservations about militarism since childhood – even before being a libertarian.  You just might not have noticed them, since I had even bigger reservations about, for example, Naziism and Communism.

But despite recognizing that there are some menaces that must be faced militarily, I’ve never liked the triumphalist, parade-throwing form of militarism – hewing more to what might be called the grim necessity mode captured in some action films and in (the more serious) superheroics.  I’m not ashamed to say (in a reversal of conventional wisdom) that I find that mindset healthy but always found gung-ho military recruitment ads and, even more so, soulless and disingenuous-sounding defense industry ads a bit creepy – not necessarily wrong, just embarrassingly upbeat about something that should be a tragic last resort. 

And without being one of those leftist conspiracy theorist types who thinks the CIA secretly runs the whole world, I have to admit I’ve wondered – even before Rand Paul’s dad was in the Republican presidential primaries – whether a politician who openly opposed the CIA (or, say, their drones) might risk an untimely accident.  Don’t put such things past the government. 

Looking back on it, I don’t think I understood, as a young moderate-conservative, how left/anarchist/libertarian those thoughts were (and I use those political labels rather than “liberal” for good reason, since that term has more complacent, pro-establishment connotations – and perhaps should, given the sudden celebration of drones by some knee-jerk Obamaphiles over the past couple days).

Furthermore, lest I sound too marginal, we conservatives don’t entirely like McCain or David Frum anyway – so let ’em fume at Rand Paul; they’ll just confirm that they were destined all along to be seen as tangential to the main current of conservatism.  May the paradigmatic conservative henceforth be Rand Paul, regardless of drone policy (which, again, will be decided tonight at Muchmore’s).

Comparably ambiguous, I suppose, is the issue of what we can do by way of watching the government if they’re going to insist on watching us with drones and such.  Doesn’t the public need WikiLeaks as much as it needs a free press?  And if it needs WikiLeaks, doesn’t it need whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning?  And yet an army can’t just leak info like a sieve.  And having groups like WikiLeaks and Anonymous become influential on foreign policy is almost as unsettling as letting governments decide foreign policy – but I’ll still take the Rand Paul Era over WWII any day.

•But what about the space aliens, you ask?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Yes Future: Cyberpunk and Monarchy

This much is certain as we head into tomorrow’s drone debate (Mon. 8pm at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg): there’s no stoppin’ technology. 

A site linked on Drudge yesterday featured an article with this great headline: “Pet Parrot Uses Beak to Drive Around in His Robot” (it’s true: watch him drive! hee hee!).

But Drudge itself, the official barometer of reality, had several headlines simultaneously yesterday seemingly designed to confirm that we now live in the cyberpunk future (not to mention a picture of Justin Bieber wearing a gas mask), including:

•Seattle Bar Becomes 1st to Ban GOOGLE Glass...


•SPACEX Founder: ‘I’d like to die on Mars’...

•Cubans evade censorship by ‘exchanging computer memory sticks’

That last one will confuse some aged leftists who didn’t know there was an authoritarian government in Cuba, but it’s a time for bridge-building and new alliances, so let’s not dwell on that. 

Nor on the possible confusion among some conservatives over another of the linked articles about the Queen of England declaring that the monarchy is “implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted  in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds [taken to mean sexual orientation].”

But more interesting than that familiar boilerplate, which now sounds almost as ancient and calcified as any church incantation, is her reported support for changing the monarchy’s rules of succession so that older females come before younger males – and note that it’s green-lefty-anti-materialist Charles who’s reportedly against the idea. 

If it were up to me, they’d just abolish the monarchy and democracy at the same time and no one would have to worry about what the Queen thinks, but in the meantime: if Kate and William have a girl, I suggest everyone celebrate her hypothetical ascension by buying a copy of Bryan Talbot’s fantastic monarchist/anarchist graphic novel Heart of Empire: The Legacy of Luther Arkwright.  It's sort of like Game of Thrones except with a hot psychic Princess Victoria. 

The rules of succession in the U.S., of course, will be explained in a future Rand Paul filibuster speech and episodes of the American version of House of Cards.