Sunday, March 16, 2014

10 Notes for Open Borders Day

Today has been declared a day to celebrate open borders, unrestricted immigration, and free trade.  Ultimately, I’m in favor of not merely opening borders but eliminating the very concept -- as well as the governments that currently enforce that concept. 

In the meantime, faced with various admittedly tricky situations such as, say, Russians flooding into Ukraine or for that matter Chinese into Tibet, I recognize that sometimes the best compromise between opening borders and respecting them as-is is redrawing them. 

1. Regardless of where one stands on Ukraine, it was generally a step forward for freedom when the USSR transformed into fifteen or so republics – and some leftists like Katrina vanden Heuvel never fully accepted the change (or admitted its underlying economic reasons). 

I’m not all that crazy about Jonathan Chait, but his overview of oddly pro-Russia intellectuals is fairly accurate.

2. Of course, if secession was good in the early 90s, even more of it may be for the best now.  It’s not that I want Crimea dominated by Russia, but Ukraine’s further devolution into separate states may be preferable to civil (or even world) war, right?  I recently argued the general merits of secession (not slavery!) in defending some of the Lincoln-skeptics like my ex-boss Judge Napolitano, and I would hardly turn around and urge bloodshed in Europe a few days later. 

And awful as the Russian government is, there is some truth to its sense that it is harried by the U.S. and its allies on all sides (and we don’t want to drive it into a more-communistic alliance with China or even North Korea if it can instead grow increasingly tied to the West). 

Even the Syria situation has been something of a proxy war between a Russian-allied government and embarrassingly jihadist American allies, who are not so unlike the other crazies we’ve shoved at Russia over the past three decades, periodically being shocked when they turn on us as well.

3. Russia may be bad, but encourage neo-fascists or jihadists as an alternative and you might even be increasing the odds of more incidents like the disappearance of that Malaysia airliner (though we don’t yet know for sure whether the politically-active pilot was in on its disappearance). 

Then, like Blondie in this swell clip, we’ll all be performing “Bermuda Triangle Blues” (h/t Shizu Homma via Daniel Radosh -- and I think the tune owes a bit to Brian Eno).

And I hope it’s obvious that I mean no disrespect to the passengers in saying that, though I was booted from an extremely small, snooty, uptight libertarian Facebook page yesterday merely for jokingly defending people who I think had in turn made a joke of their own about the Malaysian plane vanishing.  That level of hyper-sensitivity is not helpful anywhere, not even quiet, polite, conservative places like New Hampshire. 

4. Speaking of tolerating the intolerable: Wayne Knight, who played Newman on Seinfeld, was rumored to be dead but is not, but by contrast, there are now reports that the controversial Fred Phelps is dying -- and has been excommunicated from his own anti-gay church. 

Soon perhaps he will learn that across the border in the undiscovered country that is death, only Thanos rules.

5. And speaking of Marvel Comics villains: the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse will be set in the 80s, says director Bryan Singer, and will depict the modern return of the evil, godlike, ancient-Egyptian mutant named Apocalypse. 

TODD PREDICTION: One character amidst the “later than First Class, earlier than Rogue” mixed cast will be: Storm as a child thief in Africa.  Sounds cool already. 

TODD HOPE: Disco Dazzler.  The time is right. 

In the meantime, Halle Berry, who is gorgeous but doesn't quite, uh, electrify as Storm, has reportedly been almost entirely cut from this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (as has Anna Paquin as Rogue).

6. Future Marvel movies may toy not only with the boundaries between geographic locales and imaginary human subspecies but between different levels of reality, since it sounds like a Doctor Strange movie is inevitable, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is keen to make it as trippy, he says, as a cross between 2001, Miyazaki anime, and The Matrix.  Sounds good to me.

And please note, ladies everywhere, that Johnny Depp, who was rumored at one point to be under consideration for the role of Strange, is marrying a young, bisexual, atheist Ayn Rand fan, which makes sense to me (if he does happen to play Strange, she’d make a lovely Clea).  So to get the best men, become bisexual, atheist Ayn Rand fans, ladies. 

7. While we’re pondering how neighbors and even separate species can best co-exist, we should ask: should there be cats and dogs living together?  Sometimes it works and sometimes it leads to a montage of cats slapping dogs.

8. Speaking of boundaries, can this dog be trusted to stay off the bed the way he's supposed to?  Nope (h/t Emily Richards).  (But here's a very cute puppy rolling down a hill for fun, unimpeded by any barriers.)

9. Since immigration enriches our culture, I would also like to award the first ever Devitt Award for Cultural Tone-Deafness to my friend Saul Devitt, who in spite of our occasional picayune disagreements has added a useful second opinion time and again not only in online conversations I’ve participated in but at a Debate at Lolita Bar years ago, in which he ably fended off arguments in favor of 9/11 conspiracy theories (one of my favorite of his very common-sensical, skeptical points: if this were all some plot to invade Iraq, why not put some Iraqis among the hijackers?). 

Like a Canadian musician or a lesbian stand-up comedian, this import from Australia provides the orthogonal perspective needed to keep people’s minds limber. 

10. If California redraws its own borders, I’m pleased one state would reportedly actually be called “Silicon Valley.”  Take that, Google-bashing Frisco-hippies!! 

Of course, I said way back in the 90s that returning Texas and California to Mexico might solve a lot of problems.  That line about how “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” is actually true, so hardcore traditionalists should be the last ones complaining about Mexican influence in the Southwest.

The serious end goal, though, should always be a world with no borders at all -- and no governments to draw them.

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