Saturday, June 30, 2007

Decentralization is a damn good thing

Yesterday, we saw Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in the John McClane series and the first in 12 years. It’s a lot of fun. Bruce Willis, no surprise, is terrific. Maggie Q plays a kick-ass baddie-henchperson — and should probably have been the lead villain. The special effects and action sequences are exceptional. And the movie’s core message is a good one: centralized systems are inefficient, bureaucratic, dangerous, and almost always bad; decentralization is a damn good thing. That message was probably missed by most of last night’s audience. But I think Willis’ McClane got the point.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

If nukes don't kill us, these guys will

Hat tip to Lew Rockwell.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I had quite a few good things to say about Paul Dini’s work on Detective Comics recently. So I thought I’d grab a copy of the debut issue of his new Madame Mirage book for Top Cow. Of course, the first thing that drew my attention was Kenneth Rocafort’s visual take on Madame Mirage herself. Rocafort has made her the most gorgeous comic book dame to grace news racks since Power Girl. But Mirage exists in a unique class all her own. As far as we know from this first issue, she has no super powers, although she very effectively wages a guerrilla war on a corporate cabal of Armani-suited “super villains.” Her “costume,” when she’s not in disguise, is a very noirish black hat, white dress, and gloves. And, unlike most comic book heroes, she’s got no code against offing the badguys in terribly brutal ways with everything from semi-automatic handguns to detonation devices.

While reading Madame Mirage, I thought, “Hey, this character’s kinda like a female version of The Shadow!” And sure enough, I find out from a little research that The Shadow was in fact one of Paul Dini’s inspirations — as was Dini’s own wife Misty, who happens to be a magician and also possesses Madame Mirage’s snappy fashion sense.

As premiere issues go, Madame Mirage #1 is a keeper. It does a good job of introducing the Mirage Universe and the continuing cast of characters. And at the same time, it manages to present a satisfying standalone story. I’ll definitely give this comic another look.

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Republicans hate taxes -- NOT!

Next time one of your conservative pals tells you that, quite unlike Democrats, Republicans loathe taxes, tell ’em about Virginia legislator David B. Albo (R-Springfield). Albo slipped a “driver responsibility tax” into a larger transportation funding bill signed into law by Governor Tim Kaine. Beginning next Sunday, Virginia residents can now expect to pay a new traffic ticket tax that can boost penalties beyond $3,550. And here’s the corker: Republican Albo is a senior partner in the Albo & Oblon, LLP traffic law firm, which expects to see big jumps in business from clients fighting these costly new traffic fines. Read the whole ugly story here. Hat tip to Karen De Coster.

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Thanks to an entertaining Behind the Black Mask podcast interview with first-time author Paul Malmont last summer, his Chinatown Death Cloud Peril lurked in the darkest corners of my mind until the trade paper caught my attention at Borders two weeks ago. It’s a dandy book. Not perfect, but much greater than you’d expect from a first novel.

Here’s what makes Death Cloud Peril so much fun: its set in New York, 1937, and its characters are all real-life people, folks unfamiliar to most but whose names have drifted through my life for some 40 years. You meet Lester Dent (aka Kenneth Robeson), creator of Doc Savage. Walter Gibson (aka Maxwell Grant), father of The Shadow, is one of the leads. H.P. Lovecraft makes an absolutely shocking but oh-so-perfect appearance in the novel. L. Ron Hubbard is a major player. Doc Smith is here. The whole “pulp” world populates the book, and even the comic book realm pokes its head up a few times. But as gimmicky as that may sound, Malmont pulls it off terribly well.

Readers unacquainted with the old pulps will probably find The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril slow going at first. And that’s fair. It does dawdle a bit before building up to full speed. But fans of The Shadow and Doc Savage should be thoroughly engrossed from the first page. And at its midpoint, the story becomes a rip-roaring, page-turning adventure, as exotic as anything ever written by Gibson and as apocalyptic as anything penned by Dent. My summer reading has started with a bang.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Tammy and "Snuffy" Bruce

A few years ago, I spoke here of my affection for author and radio talk show host Tammy Bruce. A “lifelong Democrat” and former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, she campaigned in the early 1990s for Bill Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer. But as Tammy herself writes, she's now “an openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush authentic feminist.” I was a Tammy Bruce radio listener when she started moving rightward and away from contemporary liberalism during the late 1990s. She calls herself a “classical liberal” and says she believes in individualism, free markets, and "minimal government," so hooray for that. But 9/11 turned her hawkish; she supports the so-called War on Terror, closed borders, and other neoconservative agenda items.

Ah well... Tammy’s still a blast to listen to, and she’s oh so politically incorrect that I’ve just gotta love her. (And she’s cute, too.) The accompanying photo of Tammy with trusty “Snuffy Bruce” just made its debut on her official website. She writes: “A Chick with a Gun and a Microphone. Yes, the two things that make the establishment the most upset. Well, three things if you include the chick. ... There has been some controversy over the fact that I have my finger on Snuffy’s trigger. Yes, I know that is politically incorrect firearm etiquette, but this is a photo and I wanted it this way for the dramatic impact. It’s that simple. It’s a portrait, not an instructional photograph.”

Love it! I’m just hoping that soon, Tammy will fully understand what it really means to be a classical liberal and turn her back on the powers of darkness.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Indy's not lookin' too shabby...for an old coot

Harrison Ford was 39 when he first donned the fedora and khakis for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. The still-untitled fourth movie in the Indiana Jones series, scheduled for release on May 22, 2008, began shooting last Thursday. And judging by this snapshot taken last week of the now 65-year-old Ford, he's still looking awfully good in the Jones role. Despite the on again, off again scripting troubles that have plagued this movie for many years, I will be one of the first in line next May to see Indiana Jones and the Whatever. I can hardly wait.


Spangler's advice: "keep pushing harder"

The question arises, should radical libertarians (i.e., anarchists) throw their time, money, and effort into Ron Paul’s presidential campaign? After all, by traditional political standards, Paul’s pretty “far out there,” at least on foreign policy and on issues of civil liberties. He may be the best we’ll ever get, at least until politics itself is finally dissolved.

Not surprisingly, the question came up last Thursday during the Spangler-Long-Conger appearance on Angela Keaton’s “The Liberated Space.” And Brad Spangler answered —and closed the show — with a wonderful explanation of both the role radical libertarian leftists play in the political arena and where their efforts right now should proceed:

“Radicals define the moderate position. By having the courage to talk about anarchism, by being out there and saying every day as much as you can, wherever you can, ‘We need to abolish government, we need to abolish it for reasons X, Y, Z and 1, 2, 3,’ you’re going to change what the boundaries of permissible debate are. And as a consequence, progressive developments like Ron Paul become more possible in the sense of you’re shifting where the center of gravity is.

“Centrists don’t have principles per se. They are simply at, literally, the political center of gravity in the political discourse of the nation. Radicals change what centrism is in the long run, and that’s why Ron Paul’s star has ascended right now, because we have shifted the level of political discourse in this country to a much more libertarian direction. Now is not the time for people who know better, who know we can get rid of the State, who know that that would be a more ethical system, who know that would be a more efficient system, to leave off what they’re doing and support Ron Paul. Now is the time to keep pushing harder and harder in a more radical direction.”

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Last days of the American Republic

Chalmers Johnson, Ph.D., author of Blowback and the brand new Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, was interviewed recently by the people at Black Op Radio. And a very fine interview it is. You can listen to it or download it right here.

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"I Feel Fantastic"

I love Jonathan Coulton. And thanks to a tip from my bestest pal Warren, I can share this great Coulton music video with all of you. Enjoy!


Critical masses

Karen De Coster offers an interesting post this morning about citizen tyrants and the danger of placing too much faith in “the masses”:

“I am extremely suspicious of (and therefore immediately distrust) any person who wants laws against anything that is behavior-oriented. ... They rubber-stamp the state’s agenda with delight. Again and again, these parsimonious sycophants voluntarily choose to become cheerleaders for the state and its agenda, in spite of the fact that, at some point, that agenda will clash with their own. But I guess, in their usual one-day-at-a-time custom, they’ll ‘cross that bridge’ when they get to it. Scrutinizing the inconsistencies of these schnooks is about as difficult as scratching one’s ass.”


The Ultimate Bride, aka Ultimate Black Mamba

For three years, I’ve heard that Quentin Tarantino is re-editing and restoring his two magnificent Kill Bill movies into the single, massive, 247-minute ultimate revenge saga it was always intended to be. First, I heard the new cut might release to theaters, then be issued on DVD. Then I learned it was scheduled to go straight to DVD. But wait, no, maybe, just maybe, it’d show up at Cannes first! Well, folks, nothing ever happened — until now. Keeping in mind that I may again be disappointed and that all of this could go bye-bye in the next few months, now lists a 4-disc definitive Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair DVD package for street release on November 6, just in time for the holidays. It’s not yet available for pre-order, so anything can happen between now and November. But I’m keeping my Hatori Hanzo samurai swords crossed.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Left Libertarian gabfest is a wrap!

Well, Brad, Roderick, and I did what we could with a too-short 30 minutes this evening on Angela Keaton’s “The Liberated Space” online program. (Shawn Wilbur was also “there,” listening, but couldn’t be heard due to some technical snafu.) I would have liked for us to have had more of a chance to discuss why a broad, diverse Libertarian Left exists and how it can radicalize an increasingly conservative libertarian movement, but alas... Brad managed to touch on that briefly, but just as we were winding up, the show was winding down. Anyway, it was a good program. Well done, comrades! The archived show can be listened to or downloaded right here.


Again, Lenny Bruce

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gabfest of the Libertarian Left

Roderick Long, Brad Spangler, Shawn Wilbur, and I will chat LIVE with Angela Keaton on "The Liberated Space" program this coming Thursday, June 21, from 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm Pacific Time, courtesy of BlogTalkRadio. We'll talk about the Alliance of the Libertarian Left and other matters of interest to all left-leaning anarcho-whatevers. Should you miss the show, I'm sure it will be conveniently archived somewhere, and I'll pass along the appropriate link when it becomes available.


Strossian goodness at StarShipSofa

Hate to mention that Sunni interview again, but in the course of it, I did mention Charles Stross as one of my go-to science fiction authors. Stross wrote a couple of leftist space operas that I absolutely adore (Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise), and he’s been nominated for the Prometheus Award at least twice. And it just so happens that he’s the subject this week at the StarShipSofa podcast, where madcap Tony and Ciaran manage to add even more to my Strossian enjoyment. Check out the podcast here.


OK, so for once, I was wrong

I learn something new every day. F’rinstance, as I revealed last week in my interview with Sunni Maravillosa, for years I understood that Samuel Edward Konkin III’s An Agorist Primer and his magnum opus Counter-Economics were left unfinished at the time of his death in 2004. Well, that interview stirred comrade Brad Spangler enough to do a little research, which resulted in news that Victor Koman possesses both (presumably complete) manuscripts and plans to publish Counter-Economics and An Agorist Primer under the KoPubCo imprint sometime in the near future. Fantastic news! Libertarian Leftism marches forward!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Coming of Galactus!

There’s been a lot of bitching from fanboys that the Very Big Disappointment in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which opened this weekend, is the portrayal of planet-destroying Galactus as a kind of giant, purplish, cosmic tornado. Personally, I found it effective, and I shudder to think what might have resulted if director Tim Story had tried to present literally Jack Kirby’s Enormous Purple Helmeted Man in the Sky. The audience laughter could have been ear-shattering. Anyway, was I the only one to notice something, maybe something big and mechanical, lurking behind Story’s cosmic clouds?

Rise of the Surfer manages to be every bit as good, if not a wee bit better, than its Fantastic Four predecessor. Of all comic book superhero groups, the Fantastic Four as created 46 years ago by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was the only one that was truly a family — a sitting-around-the-kitchen family. And the movies have done a spectacular job of presenting that uniqueness. I love that. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer gets a solid thumbs-up from me.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007


I read a lot of comics. A lot of comics. And for some 40 years, I’ve become used to the serialized comic book story. Marvel may have been the first to regularly utilize the form when they started producing epics in the mid-’60s like the tale of the Master Planner (Amazing Spider-Man #31-33) or the original Galactus saga (Fantastic Four #48-50). Big stories needed more than a single issue. And pretty soon, every comics story was a Big Story. Anyway, my point is that for a very long time, standalone stories told in a single issue of a comic have been few and far between. So in this age of graphic novels, when I come across one — and a damn fine one at that — there’s reason to celebrate.

Thanks to a recent recommendation by Dr. Hook at the SciFiDig podcast, I finally caught up yesterday with Detective Comics #826, released last December. If you’ve forgotten how a terrific comics story can be told in just 22 pages, you’ve gotta pick up this issue, which may still be readily available at your local comics retailer (thankfully, it was at mine). The story is called “Slayride,” and it’s really a Robin yarn; Batman doesn’t make an appearance until, well, the last page. Featuring the Joker at his most terrifying, the tale is by turns amusing, nail-biting, and shockingly violent. And it’s a wonderfully satisfying bit of graphic storytelling. “Slayride” is written by Paul Dini, creator of Harley Quinn and a producer and writer for most of the great Warner Bros./DC Comics animated series. Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher provide the artwork. Being such a short piece, I won’t spoil it for you by revealing any of the plot. But I will say that it’s a holiday story you won’t soon forget.

Comic book fans, take note.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Some emails are just plain scary

In August 2002, to mark the tenth anniversary of the federal government’s siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, I wrote a piece for titled “Remembering Randy Weaver.” Within 48 hours of its appearance, I received more than 200 emails about the article, almost all of them positive. Dozens of web sites linked to the piece. I was interviewed by a Christian radio station in Portland, Oregon.

Over the past five years, I’ve continued to receive no fewer than four or five emails each month from people who’ve just stumbled across the piece. The notes range from huzzahs, to questions about Weaver’s health (I don’t know Randy Weaver, so please stop asking), to long diatribes against government power. And not too often, but on occasion, I get something scary (and anonymous, of course) like I did this afternoon:


“One thing you failed to mention in your piece on Randy Weaver was the fact that he received over 3 million dollars for the death of his slut wife and bastard child. It’s just too bad you can’t raise the dead, so we can kill them again.”


Thursday, June 14, 2007

MADtv does "Heroes"

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sunni and Wally solve all the world's problems

You know, I really hate to toot my own horn (OK, I’m lying), but I’m the featured interview in the latest edition of Sunni Maravillosa’s online magazine Sunni’s Salon. And I think it’s fantastic. Sunni and I discuss my definitions of Left and Right, my particular brand of Libertarian Leftism, how to build a vision for revolutionary victory, how California’s gone wrong, antipolitics, TV, science fiction, Edgar Rice Burroughs, WalMart, Ayn Rand, Edward Abbey, and many, many other things that are probably of more interest to me than anybody else, but what the hey. At least I got Sunni thinking she just might fall in the Libertarian Left camp. Can’t ask for much more than that from an hour or so of good conversation. You’ll find the interview right here.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Fighting the sickness that cripples us

The charge was made again this week, by one of my more “realistic” libertarian buddies: “Shit, Conger, we all believe in freedom and markets, but fer crissakes, be practical.” I’d been arguing antipolitics again. He’d been arguing traditional politics — i.e., electoral politics, the Democratic Process, gradualism.

Which brought to mind a post last month on the old LeftLibertarian e-list. Wrote “Pete McAlpine,” in part:

“I am really no longer a libertarian in a fundamental sense. The idea that individualist libertarianism can create its own social organism and eventually its own civilization minus the State is an erroneous, groundless faith. Some years ago, I came to the conclusion that collectivism is the natural order of human existence. Collectives are real, not imaginary as many individualists would like to think. Collectives, from tribes to nations to civilizations, are real, held together by force, threat of force, memes and/or maybe even morphic resonance. Collectives are macro biological organisms. Individualism plays little or no role in the primal bloody processes which give rise to them.

“I see now that libertarian individualism is a luxury of ‘high culture’ that can be approached only after a powerful civilization has established itself by Centuries of ‘blood and iron’ and then reformed itself in a libertarian direction with Ethics, Constitutionalism, Law, etc. as a refuge for individual life. Thus, I am still a libertarian, but only in the sense that America and Western Civilization should be encouraged to develop in a libertarian individualist direction, but must maintain sufficient collectivism to defend itself and destroy, if necessary, alien civilizations, especially the BORG-like Islam. ...

“... I am a supporter of America/Western Civilization, not because of its bloody history, but because of its potential for evolution, already proven to a large extent, toward individualist libertarianism, not the imaginary libertarianism of Rothbard and SEKIII, but the actual liberty possible within an advanced civilization with inevitable Statist remnants, the only liberty actually possible.”

In other words, “evolution, not revolution.” Or “libertarian pragmatism.” This is the “levelheaded” sickness that now so thoroughly permeates the Libertarian Party and puts at risk a vibrant, activist libertarian movement.

I can think of no better argument against this “pragmatic,” gradualist approach to freedom than this, written by Murray Rothbard two decades ago (New Libertarian 13, April 1985):

“[It’s] no accident that never in history has pragmatism inspired any sort of radical or revolutionary movement for social change. For who in hell would join a radical minority movement, and commit him- or herself for life to social obloquy and a marginal existence, for the sake of 20% more bathtubs, or 15% more candy bars? Who will man the barricades, either physically or spiritually, for more peanuts or Pepsi? Look at all radical or revolutionary movements of the 20th century, whether they be Communist or fascist or Khomeiniite. Did they struggle and move mountains for a few more goods and services, for what we used to call ‘bathtub economics’? Hell no, they moved mountains and made history out of a deep moral passion that would not be denied. What moves men and women and changes history is ideology, moral values, deep beliefs and principles.

“It is no coincidence, then, that even in the libertarian movement, the people who have stuck to it over the years have been almost exclusively the believers in rights and possessors of moral passion. The libertarian pragmatists, what the Marxists call ‘economists,’ have generally hived off to good jobs and have forgotten any movement concerns. And, by their lights, why not? Why not let the crazy ideologues worry about the movement and about liberty? The pragmatists, as usual, will just take what comes.

“Anarcho-Pragmatism, then, simply doesn’t work. It cannot push radicalism among the public, and it cannot build a radical movement. All it can do is subvert, weaken, and, if unchecked, even destroy the libertarian movement which the anarcho-pragmatists claim they are striving to strengthen and promote. Objectively, anarcho-pragmatists can only function as wreckers of libertarianism. And since moral passion and ideology work and pragmatism doesn’t, the anarcho-pragmatists have a pragmatic obligation either to convert to natural rights, or, at the very least, to pretend to convert and then use natural rights and ideology as a weapon with which to build an anarchist movement. Objectively, then, and on their own terms, the anarcho-pragmatists have a solemn duty to surrender, to shut up about their doctrines and abandon the field.”

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Billboard of the Week

Thanks, Tom Novak!


Bumper-sticker of the Week

I really don't have a problem with Rosie on foreign policy issues right now, but on most every other hot topic, like gun control, she consistently comes down on the authoritarian side. Which makes this bumper-sticker, pointed out to me by friends last weekend, so poignant:


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Thursday, June 07, 2007


Once in a while — and by that I mean not all that often — a “special edition” DVD re-issue shows up that really is special. Sure, this new two-disc extended cut of 2005’s Fantastic Four was released to cash in on and promote the release next week of its sequel. But damn it all, this thing rocks! If you enjoyed this film and purchased the original DVD, this new version with extras is worth buying. If you love the comic book series but didn’t like the movie, this new DVD is still worth buying for the extras alone. The package includes both the theatrical cut and the extended (by 20 minutes) cut; the original version features the cast commentary from the 2005 DVD and the new version includes all-new commentary from the director, producers, and screenwriters. The extras on Disc 2 are dynamite. They include an excellent hour-long documentary about the 47-year history of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, featuring interviews with almost everybody who ever touched the book, and a wonderful 65-minute feature on the great Jack Kirby that really belongs in the library of anyone who ever bought a Marvel comic in the 1960s.

Get psyched for next week’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Pick this baby up.

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On the road to Yosemite

Part of last weekend’s getaway to Yosemite, which stretched into Tuesday, included a stop in Fresno to speak to the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization that offers networking, advice, and support to women writing in the mystery field. I talked about self-promotion and marketing, and it was a great time. Despite most of the membership being comprised of mystery readers, not serious working writers, there were plenty of good questions, and the give-and-take was terrific. My thanks to Carrie Padgett, former president and present events chair, for inviting me. And thanks to the club for the movie-themed gift basket, which included a DVD copy of City Slickers and an assortment of that “horrible” candy so popular among theater-goers: Dots, Hot Tamales, Junior Mints, etc. Yum. (By the time we got the Junior Mints out of the 100-degree temps in Fresno and into the cooler mountain air, the candies had melted and re-hardened into a square, minty loaf. But hey, Junior Mints are good whether eaten in their natural disk shape or sliced into bars.)

Since I’m the founder of the Blind German Mechanics, the San Luis Obispo County scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, and everyone seemed to enjoy my curmudgeonly style, it was suggested I return to Fresno next year to talk about Sherlock Holmes. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"And I learned the truth from Lenny Bruce..."

More than 50 years ago, on the old Steve Allen Show

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Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm off to Yosemite for three days

Thanks, Ansel Adams, for the snapshot.

When sci-fi writers go bad

USA Today reported this week that science fiction authors Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Arlan Andrews, and Sage Walker met in May with the Homeland Security Department in Washington “to help with the government’s latest top mission of combating terrorism.”

The five writers make up a group called Sigma, created by Andrews 15 years ago to advise federal officials. Writes USA Today reporter Mimi Hall:

Why offer their ideas to the government instead of private companies that pay big bucks?

“To save civilization,” Ringworld author Larry Niven says. “We do it in fiction. Why wouldn’t we want to do it in fact?”

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