Monday, May 29, 2006

Book Review: SPIN

Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, nominated this year for a Hugo, is massive. And I mean massive in two ways: first, it’s a huge, apocalyptic novel, where Really Big Things happen; and second, it tries to do a lot of things, and it does them all extremely well.

Spin begins in our near-future, and then covers almost four decades in the lives of three friends caught up in mammoth galactic change. When unknown forces segregate Earth from the rest of the universe with a protective membrane, a time discontinuity results. In other words, while 40 years pass on Earth, 300 billion years pass outside the shield. And that means the sun will go nova in just a handful of Earth years, instead of in a few billion years, taking us and everything else in our system with it. The questions are: what are these mysterious forces that created the shield, what is the purpose of it all, and how do we cope with our inevitable destruction?

Wilson’s novel is part end-of-the-world adventure, part political thriller, part spiritual reflection, and a whole lot of human warmth. I really enjoyed Spin, and I’ll probably go back and read a few earlier Wilson novels.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Stop the madness this Memorial Day

There’s news this weekend that as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians — including women and six children — were slaughtered by a unit of Marines last November, some of them shot “execution style.” The killings have prompted two investigations — one of the incident itself and one into its cover-up by officials. My friend Butler Shaffer has a more immediate suggestion, posted today at the blog:

“On this Memorial Day weekend, it would be worthwhile for Americans — whose government is running this abattoir — to recognize the immorality of their support for such madness. Those who wave their flags, or emblazon their cars with ‘support the troops’ messages, are as much to blame for this so-called ‘breakdown in morality’ as anyone else. Out of a sense of moral decency, this weekend might be an appropriate occasion to remove such symbols from their cars, homes, and — better yet — their minds!”

Minarchists: close but no cigar

Stefen Molyneux strikes again! If you feel you must reach out to your friends in the Libertarian Party and coax them to join us on the anarchist, agorist, Libertarian Left, go ahead. But you really ought to first listen to Stef's suggestions for debating advocates of the minarchist "watchman State."

Saturday, May 27, 2006


There are some very pissed-off fanboys out there dissin’ this third movie in the X franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand. You’re a comics geek and longtime reader of the X-Men books. So what’d you think?

Well, I’ve read X-Men comics off and on since 1966, back in the old Jack Kirby days. And I was delighted with Bryan Singer’s two films. I think Brett Ratner’s new movie is a brilliant follow-up to those, and it successfully closes the first trilogy in the franchise.

But a few fans are bitching that this adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga, the ultimate X-Men comic book story, is a watered down mess.

OK, we don’t see Jean Grey destroy entire planetary systems. We don’t see her go nova. But did any of us really expect to? Nah. Believe me, though — in this film, Jean Grey as Phoenix kicks ass big time. She’s unstoppable, for the most part. And she’s responsible for the deaths of two major players in the franchise. There’s nothing wishy-washy about Ratner’s Phoenix.

Major characters die?

Oh yeah. And just because someone still lives in the Marvel Comics continuity doesn’t mean they’re not expendable in the X-Men movie universe. I haven’t been this surprised and saddened since Josh Whedon killed off Wash. On top of that, the feds introduce a “cure” for mutants in The Last Stand. You may be shocked by who goes “human,” both voluntarily and involuntarily, in the movie.

Low points?

Not much comes to mind, actually. I was disappointed that the death of one character pretty much takes place off screen, and we’re given almost no time to grieve.

High points?

Halle Berry’s Storm plays a bigger role this time, kind of leading the charge against the “cure.” That’s very cool for us Halle fans. Hugh Jackman remains the perfect Logan, and I’m glad to see he’s still smoking cigars, since Wolverine dropped them in the comics. Kelsey Grammer may have at first seemed oddball casting for the Beast, but he’s spot on. Angel, one of the original classic Kirby X-Men, finally debuts, and he’s handled well. It’s nice to see Bobby finally move beyond the icy finger-pointing and really get Iceman’d up. The Danger Room is here and doesn’t disappoint. Even Sentinals are (kinda) in the movie. The mutant-on-mutant action is spectacular and clever, as usual. Big scale stuff. This is epic X-Men.

Any last comments?

Yeah. I saw The Last Stand in a sold-out, packed theater last night. Eighty percent of the crowd left during the credits. Twenty percent of us saw a brief scene after the credits that launches us into the second X-Men trilogy. Fer crissakes, don’t abandon your seat too early!

Memorial Day reading

Hands down, the greatest anti-war novel ever written.

"We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. ... You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun."

Read Johnny Got His Gun. Then give it to your children. And your children's children.

Monday, May 22, 2006

"The State is rape"

Stefan Molyneux offers still more valuable advice on how to effectively communicate the freedom message in this recent podcast about the greatest argument against the State. Controversial and not to be missed.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Insta-review: THE DA VINCI CODE

Thanks, Motivator!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New AT&T logo debuts?

It's about time, Mr. Moto!

Peter Lorre was the quintessential slimebag, whether playing the hideous child murderer in M (his first movie role) or Sidney Greenstreet’s highly perfumed partner in The Maltese Falcon. But I’ve always loved him just the same. So I’m delighted that his Mr. Moto movies from the late 1930s are finally coming to DVD. Only Mr. Moto’s Last Warning, late in the series of eight films, has ever been offered as any kind of video release until now. But come August 1, four others will be available in a boxed DVD set: Mr. Moto Takes a Chance; Mysterious Mr. Moto; Thank You, Mr. Moto; and Think Fast, Mr. Moto.

Believe it or not, Lorre’s Mr. Moto, based of a character created by John P. Marquand, was a good guy, but a very strange one. He was a charming but shadowy and ruthless spy, a master of disguise and a violent cold-blooded killer. Each film was set in an exotic location, and the movies make up, in my opinion, the most surreal, oddball “detective” series ever made. None of the Mr. Moto movies get much play on TV these days, but that won’t matter come August. It’ll be great to add this set to my DVD shelf.

Monday, May 15, 2006

MLL pamphlet: "Revisionist History"

A fifth classic Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL) pamphlet by the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, edited and lightly updated by me, is now available for free download: Libertarian Revisionist History. It’s a handy PDF, easily opened with Adobe Reader. Print double-sided as many copies as you like, fold them into tri-fold brochures, and distribute them widely to spread the word about This Movement of Ours.

This brochure is great for political outreach, especially on campus to those students who question the “official” party line of State-sponsored Court Historians and establishment academics. The pamphlet is black and white to keep your printing and photocopying costs low, but it looks terrific when printed on a colored paper stock. On the back panel, there’s space for your rubberstamp or a sticky label so those interested in further info on the MLL can find you.

Of course, you can still find free PDF files of four prior SEK3 pamphlets — Introducing the Movement of the Libertarian Left, Counter-Economics, War or Liberty: The Real Choice, and Tax is Theft! — at and

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Neil Young vs. Empire

No one who checks in here regularly will be surprised to hear I’ve spent the past week listening almost exclusively to Neil Young’s new album, Living with War. It’s really more a broadside than an album, and it succeeds powerfully on that level; as an album, not as much.

Inevitably, the songs getting the most media attention — “Let’s Impeach the President,” “Shock and Awe,” and the politically naïve “Lookin’ for a Leader” — are specific attacks on this president and this administration. Most of them stir the emotions, just as Young’s “Ohio” did in 1970. But the tunes we’ll still be linking arms and marching to years from now — in protest against future wars and future presidents — are the album’s more broad anti-war anthems: “After the Garden,” “Flags of Freedom,” and the title track.

Give the finger to Empire. Buy Living with War.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Remember, remember...on DVD August 1

Surviving the coming Gas War

I just spent more than $45 filling up my Honda Accord. Which got me thinking: Will I be able to survive a Mad Max scenario where everybody's fighting for each precious drop of gasoline? I’ve probably got enough handguns. I’ve got a couple of shotguns. I’ve got lots of ammo and a big, tough-looking dawg (really a sweetie). But should I get hold of a compact hybrid car, or a supercharged muscle machine? How many grappling hooks will I need to effectively hijack a tanker truck? And most I have enough pairs of cargo pants?

Fortunately, the survivalist dudes on the darkly humorous Destructomundo podcast have already thought out a lot of this shit. Listen to their podcast now or download it here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Complete Libertarian Forum

Last summer, the Mises Institute was kind enough to offer us absolutely free access to a complete, 1969-1984, downloadable PDF archive of Murray Rothbard’s The Libertarian Forum, representing the glorious early years of the modern libertarian movement. Well, now they’ve collected all those wonderful newsletters into a two-volume, softcover set titled The Complete Libertarian Forum. I haven’t seen this edition yet (I just this minute ordered it myself), but even so, I’ll scamper out on the proverbial limb and say that this collection belongs in the reference library of every radical Rothbardian. Here’s what I wrote about the newsletter last summer:

Murray’s Forum reported in ‘real time’ the libertarian break with the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) in 1969. It presented month-by-month Murray’s flirtation with the New Left and his efforts (and eventual failure), between 1969 and 1971, to build a Left-Right anti-state/anti-war coalition. Shortly after his break with Goldwater Republicans and his union with the New Left, the great Karl Hess wrote some wonderful and highly radical columns for LF in its first two years of publication; Karl’s gradual split with Murray over style and strategy is quietly documented in these early issues. Many philosophical and tactical arguments were fought and documented in the pages of The Libertarian Forum. For example, early battles about launching a ‘Libertarian Party’ vs. non-political libertarian action took place in the Forum. Besides Rothbard and Hess, other celebrated contributors to LF included Leonard Liggio, Jerome Tuccille, Roy Childs, Butler Shaffer, and Walter Block.”

Tons of long out-of-print Rothbard writings are now available for easy reference. If you haven’t yet visited the online archive of The Libertarian Forum, do so. Better yet, do so and buy this indispensable bound collection. You won’t find a better method for studying the history of This Movement of Ours.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Am I in a mood or what?

“More than at any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we will have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

— Woody Allen

Monday, May 08, 2006

Reaching out & building alliances

Since I’ve been talking a lot about podcasts the last couple of days, I really must mention Stefan Molyneux’s highly entertaining Freedomain Radio. On his podcasts, Molyneux talks about everything from history, to economics, to art, to politics, to philosophy — all from an anti-state, anarchistic point of view. You’ll like all of his stuff, but I’ve found that his most valuable podcasts are a handful on the subject of outreach, particularly in building alliances with socialists and Marxists on the Left. I urge you to check them out:

Advice to the Young at Heart

Dealing with Non-Libertarians, Part 1

Dealing with Non-Libertarians, Part 2

Loving the Left

The bomb's ticking...

I've been remiss in not plugging The Imaginary Bomb until now. First of all, this new podcast novel, which is set to launch on May 15, is written by B.W. Richardson, radical near-anarchist and new comrade. Second of all, the damn thing is narrated by Warren Bluhm, radical near-anarchist and comrade for...sheesh...almost 40 friggin' years. Warren has posted two "trailers" so far, and it sounds to me like The Imaginary Bomb is gonna rock big time. Give the trailers a listen at the above link.


The annual Nebula Awards were presented this past Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona, by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. And guess what? Joss Whedon's script for Serenity won a much-deserved Nebula. Congratulations to Whedon, whose film has been running regularly on my DVD player since December (and I saw the movie four times in the theaters!).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I'm infected...and it ain't the bird flu!

I love serialized podcast novels. But I’ve always waited until all the weekly segments were available and the novels complete before beginning to listen. Until now. I just couldn’t wait to jump into Scott Sigler’s Infection, the gross-out follow-up to his two previous sci-fi horror thrillers Earthcore and Ancestor. So now I’m eight weeks into this goddamn thing, it’s Saturday, and Scott won’t have Part 9 available for download until sometime tomorrow night. I’m going batshit, friends. I need my Sigler fix! (I think I’m going back to my old “collect ’em all ’til it’s finished” routine after this...) Get on the bandwagon and listen to Infection. It’s free, fer chrissakes! (At least for the time being.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

How I celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Downloadable agitprop

Download the PDF of this poster.

Dubya in a nutshell

You won't find anything in the Cato Institute's new white paper, Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush, that you didn't already know. But it's a good summary of abuses this administration has heaped on us. It's worth a look and even a download.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Giving good graffiti

Thanks, Karen De Coster.

Remembering John Kenneth Galbraith

Via the History News Network "Power & Liberty" group blog, Sheldon Richman acknowledges the death of John Kenneth Galbraith last weekend this way:

John Kenneth Galbraith died at age 97 over the weekend. The nicest thing I can say about him is that he spent his long career trying to subjugate the individual to an all-powerful state administered by him and people like him. His answer to concentrated corporate power was concentrated political power, which is the source of corporate power in the first place.

I think, just to be on the safe side, we should pound a wooden stake through Galbraith’s autocratic heart.

Monday, May 01, 2006

One way to deal with "illegal immigration"

“Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are.”

— Edward Abbey, “Immigration and Liberal Taboos”

What's "Left"?

From Introducing the Movement of the Libertarian Left, by Samuel Edward Konkin III:

"Left," from earliest political times, has meant "anti-establishment." Consistent libertarians wish to abolish the State and its parasitic class of bureaucrats, politicians, subsidized businessmen, privileged labor leaders, and military mass murderers. This puts us, in most political lexicons, on the Left; since it is anarchist, it places us on the Far Left.

Book Review: OLD MAN'S WAR

Ever since the eighth grade, I’ve adored Robert A. Heinlein’s not-so-juvenile “juveniles.” So it’s not surprising that I’ve fallen absolutely in love with John Scalzi and his debut science fiction novel Old Man's War. The book is like a Heinlein juvenile written for more mature adult readers — perhaps more Starship Troopers than, say, Between Planets. But if you can recall the exhilaration of reading your very first sci-fi book as a kid, whether Heinlein or Bradbury or Asimov, you’ll have a kick-ass time with Old Man’s War.

From the back cover of Scalzi’s novel: “John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.” The Colonial Defense Forces (CDF), you see, don’t want young people for the fight against alien races in the ongoing struggle to homestead other planets. They want folks with skills and life experiences. So CDF offers old-timers new bods, complete with SmartBlood and intrusive “owners’ manuals.” Old Man’s War is told first-person by Perry, and we hear about his three lives and his adjustments to new bodies, new friends, dying friends, shitty officers, bureaucrats, and war. There isn’t a slow moment in the entire book, but it’s not all space battles. The story deals with identity, who we are, what makes us human — and every character, whether he or she exists for just a half-dozen pages or the length of the novel, is memorable and made of real skin and bone (or maybe not).

Since publication of this novel, nominated this year for a Hugo Award, Scalzi has already written two more stories set in the Old Man’s War universe — a short story chapbook, detailing a further tale of John Perry, and a second novel titled The Ghost Brigades, centered on the CDF’s Special Forces. I’ll be diving into both of them very soon, you can be sure.