Sunday, September 28, 2008

Buy a piece of Left Libertarian history

OK, the first 2008 presidential debate is behind us, and Election Day is just a few weeks away. So it’s time to officially launch CounterCampaign ’08. And what better way to do so than to get your mitts on one of these few remaining original “Vote for Nobody” buttons? Longtime comrade Vic Koman has just a few buttons remaining from the original CounterCampiagn ’76 stock, manufactured when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were trading punches for the throne. Vic says these buttons are “in very fine condition, though some have lost a portion of the sheen on their metal backings.” Heck, they’re only $3.20 apiece. I’ve proudly worn my “Vote for Nobody” button every election season for more than 25 years. And you can buy a piece of this wearable and oh-so-relevant Libertarian Leftist history for yourself right here.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tired ideas for would-be radicals

Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries follows up last year’s The End of America, her belated warning of a “fascist shift” in the U.S. For radical libertarians, The End of America was pretty pedestrian, revelatory only to readers who never graze much beyond the bestseller list.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist grabbing Wolf’s new political handbook, since I’m always on the lookout for a modern how-to to rival Saul Alinsky’s 1971 classic Rules for Radicals. But unlike the late Alinsky, Wolf is neither an out-of-the-box thinker nor particularly radical. So Give Me Liberty is a mixed and largely uninspired bag of left-centrist polemic against the usual suspects (Bush, Cheney, et al.), battle cry rhetoric, and sketchy advice on writing press releases, arranging town hall meetings, launching blogs, petitioning our masters and, of course, getting out the vote (especially after we dump that pesky ol’ Electoral College). Early on in the book, Wolf writes that she was recently startled to discover that the Declaration of Independence is a radical document that exhorts the right to revolution. Egad! Too bad her definition of revolution is limited to working the system and playing electoral politics. “There are concrete laws we must pass to restore liberty,” Wolf writes. When she discusses the Bill of Rights, her only comment on the Second Amendment is that it “protects the right to own guns, at least in certain circumstances.” Now that’s revolutionary thinking. Not.

In the book’s “user’s guide,” Wolf is joined by other activists — what she calls her “citizens’ council” — including Trevor “Oyate” and Raymond D. Powell from Ron Paul’s camp, neither of whom have much to say. In her introduction to this section, Wolf explains, “We compiled a wish list at the end for laws, entities, and practices that we need to brainstorm about, create, enact, or build.” All of the items on that wish list, not surprisingly, are about making political elections fairer, more inclusive, and even making election fraud a “major felony.” One of Wolf’s cohorts, broadcaster-activist Curtis Ellis, suggests “making voting mandatory, with fines for not voting. When you renew your auto registration or file your taxes, you should have to show that you voted in elections.” Thanks, Curtis. You’ve just offered us one more good reason to avoid vehicle registration and evade taxes.

Give Me Liberty is of little use to Libertarian Leftists. There’s still a valuable activists’ how-to that needs to be written. Maybe one of these days, I’ll write the damn thing myself.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Organizing the disorganized

Sometimes, “preaching to the choir,” as so many of us lefties do on these blogs, isn’t a bad thing. As historian-activist Howard Zinn said in a 2004 interview:

“There is value in people speaking to people who already agree with them but who don’t act on the principles that they believe in. And one of the reasons you have rallies and demonstrations — and you know that the people who are going to come to those rallies and demonstrations are people that already agree with the thrust of those demonstrations — is the idea of bringing the choir together to encourage people, inspire people, activate, motivate people. So it’s not a terrible thing to preach to the choir.”

But whether we’re preaching to the choir or focusing on outreach, recruitment, or direct action, we Libertarian Leftists definitely need to pull our shit together. And the Alliance of the Libertarian Left’s ad hoc global organizing committee offers the info and resources you need to galvanize radicals in your area to action. “Are you looking for other like-minded people in your neck of the woods to start an ALL local? Do you already have a core group to start a local, but need help getting things off the ground? Need web space for your new group? Want advice on organizing or actions that you can take in your community? Just ask…”

And by the way, this committee has one of the niftiest logos I’ve ever seen.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

WilsonFest 2008

It’s been WilsonFest 2008 around here this past week. Brian Wilson’s new collection, That Lucky Old Sun, has played endlessly, and now I’ve added Smile and even Pet Sounds to the mix.

The new CD, like 2004’s long long long delayed (what, 38 years?) Smile, is really a suite of tunes hard to separate. You’re tempted to skip to track eight and listen right now to “Mexican Girl,” but it just wouldn’t be right. These songs work best listened to in context, not individually. For example, this bit from “Midnight’s Another Day” really nails my life of just two years ago:

When there’s no morning without “u”
There’s only darkness the whole day through
Took the diamond from my soul
And turned it back into coal

But it doesn’t work fully for me without this stanza from “Going Home,” two cuts and a few minutes later:

I heard my sound and found my smile
Living in love, yeah yeah yeah, it’s been a while

That Lucky Old Sun isn’t as ambitious or even as addictive as Smile. But it’s still joyous, a terrific follow-up, and a much-appreciated report from Brian on where his life is at the moment. It’s like oxygen to the brain.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The ruins of Empire

While everybody else is posting photos of the Hurricane Ike devastation on the Texas coast, the folks at Environmental Graffiti are offering up creepy shots of this railway station in Abkhazia, northwestern Georgia, abandoned almost two decades since the collapse of the USSR. This railway was, in its prime, a busy passenger line between Abkhazia and Russia. I find these pictures both eerie and fascinating.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

To preserve and protect...

Hat tip to Wendy.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gregory Mcdonald RIP

Author Gregory Mcdonald died from cancer last Sunday. He was 71.

Besides writing for newspapers, Mcdonald wrote the Fletch series of crime thrillers. If your only experiences with Fletch are the horrible two movies starring Chevy Chase, do yourself a very big favor and get hold of Mcdonald’s first three books, all published in the ’70s — Fletch; Confess, Fletch (which introduced another series character, Flynn); and Fletch’s Fortune. Over the past thirty years, I’ve read each of those novels at least five times. They are all massively entertaining, and they taught me a lot about writing.

Mcdonald wrote eight other novels in the Fletch series, two of them about Fletch’s son. Unfortunately, none of them are as good as the original three.

I’ll miss Gregory Mcdonald.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beyond Galt's Gulch, there's Macrolife

Macrolife, by George Zebrowski, is utterly mind-boggling science fiction. Its scope is certainly epic, spanning one hundred billion years, so I suppose it qualifies as space opera. Maybe Space Opera Plus. And I think it offers exciting ideas for radical libertarians, freedom-seeking secessionists, and anarcho-transhumanists to mull over.

First published thirty years ago, the book is a heady mix. It’s a novel, yes, but it’s also a future history, a polemic, and a call to action. More than anything else, it’s a far-reaching meditation on the ultimate survival of humankind. You don’t dash through this book and then toss it aside. After I finished reading Macrolife, I didn’t slip it back on a shelf. It sits bedside, where I plan to take a sip from time to time.

The novel’s premise is compelling. Its author contends that our species must reach out to the stars in order to endure. Zebrowski writes in an afterword to this latest edition (2006):

“[E]ven in the near term, across the next millennium, our failure to become a space-faring world may well be suicidal when we consider what we can do for our world from the high ground of the solar system: energy and resources, planetary management, and most important the ability to prevent the world-ending catastrophe of an asteroid strike. This last threat will happen; it is not a question of if but when. Today we are utterly helpless before such a danger and would know of it only when it was already happening.”

But Zebrowski argues that merely vacating Earth and populating other planets — or “dirtworlds” — is only a short-term solution. Limited resources, he says, assure the consistent failure of planet-based civilizations. Likewise, the proposed “space cylinder” habitats of Gerard O’Neill, which assume construction from scratch, lack long-term vision. With a nod to futurist Dandridge M. Cole, Zebrowski suggests that hollowed-out asteroids serve us as nomadic “societal containers,” or macrolife, “a mobile … organism comprised of human and human-derived intelligences. It’s an organism because it reproduces, with its human and other elements, moves and reacts on the scale of the Galaxy.” These “mobile utopias” will be larger inside “than the surface of a planet. And larger still within its minds.” In the Big Picture, macrolife is an open-ended, expanding union of organic, cybernetic, and machine intelligences, spreading itself through the galaxies.

Macrolife suggests futures beyond this planet, beyond Old World cultures, beyond governments, beyond authoritarian institutions. It’s utopian but acknowledges the dangers of utopianism. It’s worth reading, worth study, and worth serious discussion.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Your Tuesday night moment of noir

Some novels’ opening sentences are so goddamn fantastic, you just gotta share ’em. Hat tip to Duane, who’s written some brilliant opening sentences himself.

“When his girlfriend greeted him at the door dressed only in a T-shirt and thong, then kissed him hard on the mouth without a word before pulling him into her ground-floor bedroom, she was so worked up she didn’t even notice that he was wearing gloves.”

by Simon Kernick
(Corgi, 2008)

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy birthday, Edgar Rice Burroughs!

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