Sunday, February 29, 2004

Anarcho-Capitalism In The UK! 

Drunk and angry one night, I fired off an email to this site, which I discovered somehow or other and was immediately depressed by. I wasn't going to bother to respond, because I am neither a conservative nor a punk (as currently defined -- my nostalgia for the punk of yesteryear is unparallelled) and there was no reason for me to criticize them for their goofy, destructive, misguided beliefs (specifically, the belief that The Misfits are worth listening to).

Then I made the mistake of reading their column, "Indicting The Punk Establishment." It was typical "conservative as victim" bullshit (because, after all, many of the people who work in the media for huge monopolistic conservative companies are moderately liberal in their personal beliefs, and the only things those conservative suckers control are the three branches of government) combined with that horrible "cool conservatives!" meme that gets trotted out every so often. But what got me was the claim that "The roots of punk rock are founded as much in conservatism as it is in liberalism."

That is simply not true. Even if you believe Johnny Ramone to be the intellectual backbone of The Ramones (and it was obviously a DeeDee/Joey balance of power, as anyone can tell), you cannot tell me that Punk as a movement was the sort of thing that would have shared an ideology with Bill O'Reilly (though his verbal tics are often very punk -- if he redirected his "shut ups!" at, say, The Queen, he might have something).

So, because it's been a while and still no response from those dangerous, newsmax-linking rebels, I might as well post the damn thing here, or else it'll never see the light of LED-simulated day:

From: Alex
To: Nicholas Rizzuto of Conservativepunk.com
Subject: Your Essay
"I wanna steal from the rich and give to the poor."
-Joey Ramone

"Till half and half is equalized, put down the tools"
-Joe Strummer

"Conservatism, we can say, is part of our punk heritage."

I have absolutely no problem with a site called "Conservative Punk" because punk is, and has been for some time, a complete joke. It is conservative now, certainly, in the sense that it is an establishment with a "heritage." Its wheezing, pathetic survival into the 21st century gives it the ability to become conservative -- but it is ridiculous to claim it has any original connection to conservatism as you define it. Random punks were or became "conservatives," yes, but they were tangential supporting characters in the history of what was an anarchic and anti-establishment revolution (a failed revolution, obviously, but like Castro's Cuba, it has become a laughable "never-ending revolution").

Punk was anti-establishment -- conservativism, by definition, wants to stick with the establishment. Your site is advocating the re-election of the incumbent president. That is, in fact, the opposite of punk. The idea of punk as originally realized having anything to do with modern American conservative politics does not pass the laugh test. Though I guess you could be talking about punk's flirtation with facism, but I hope very much that you aren't a skinhead.

For reference while composing your vitriolic response, I'll tell you now that I'm not a hippie, I'm not a punk as defined by your site or by www.punkvoter.com, I'm not a Democrat (in the sense that I generally don't have much use for the Democratic party platform). You would probably define me as a pinko-radical-anti-American-socialist-commie-anarchist, though I would be perfectly happy if we just bled the rich dry and gave everyone handouts.

I point out, also, that your side is the most passionate soldier in the drug war, and that's simply the least punk thing ever.

You don't need to feel obligated to publish this on your site, though at least one dissenting opinion (with response from you, of course) might be nice in a venue that advocates dissent so strongly.


This very old Salon piece makes a number of good points on the topic much better than I did.

The Gospel According to Murray Rothbard  

It won't convince any believers of the error of their ways, but this article from The Baffler elegantly (and snarkily) points out a few flaws in the Gospel According to The Free Market.

You know, like that whole ridiculous disparity between the wealthy and the wealthless?

The Libertarians have a dogmatic belief in their ideology that would put Marxists to shame, but they differ from their left-wing enemies in the fact that they don't differ from each other. To see the bloodiest fight this side of unlicensed boxing, put two socialists in the same room and tell them to debate the finer points of Lenin's State and Revolution. An Objectivist and an Anarcho-Capitalist in that same room would probably start a corporation, buy it, and evict you.

The basis of their religion is the handy axiom: "Taxation is theft." Well, sure, that sounds reasonable. But Marx said "All Property is Theft" and they don't buy that. At least Marx could say that his axiom was borne out by the fact that there is no natural basis for the law of property, no animals or early human societies or even many current human societies have any concept of "owning" something, and not letting anyone else use it, because you've decided arbitrarily that it's "yours."

There's no natural law of taxation either, but it rests on the idea of Property as a natural construct, which it isn't.

Of course, unfettered capiltalism and deregulation leads, paridoxically, to a government that shrinks only in its diversity of opinions. Capitalism is anti-democratic, and the situations described in Thomas Frank's essay -- Thomas "Some People Are About To Get FREE!" Freidman's "golden straitjacket", for example -- sound like the hallmarks of the worst kind of "Socialism," with the added dark irony of the illusion of choice.

Singapore's shopping malls - heavenly landscapes of chrome and polished granite, of flashing jumbotrons and free floor shows for the kids - trump those of our own land. But politically the country is a dull monotone. Here there is little danger that opposition parties will come to power or that crusading journalists will violate the rules of what Singaporeans call "self-censorship."

You get entertainment that leaves you bored, stimulation without content, 10,000 breakfast cereals, and for-profit health care, education, and utilities that don't provide health care, education, and utilities (unless you know who to pay off).

Somewhere, Ayn Rand and Joe Stalin are having a big laugh at our expense.

Wouldn't they make a cute couple?

(I Want To Marry An) Anglepoise Lamp 

I hate to say it, cause it's all anti-democratic sounding and stuff, but when it comes to the dreaded Gay Marriage Question, public opinion should not be a factor.

This is a civil rights issue, and if we brought majority-rules politics into civil rights issues, well, there'd be no need for the Supreme Court and we certainly wouldn't have so many Amendments to the Constitution to remember when taking the AP US History Test (which I got a 5 on, by the way, so my opinion matters very, very much).

It's a simple question of whether we can allow the laws to once again become Seperate But Equal, whether we can live with creating another group of second-class citizens, and it only gets tricky when we bring religion into it.

We shouldn't bring religion into it, but we have to, because they started it. The fundamental misunderstanding here is that the Government is meddling in a religious institution. And it is, because marriage is a religious construct originally, but in governmental terms it's a social contract between two people, with certain rights and benefits granted to those who sign on. The government has been meddling in marriage ever since it put itself in charge of handing out the licenses, and some hard-line Church/State Seperators don't care for that in itself, but the benefits (thanks Atrios) make it a situation where civil rights are being offered to one group and not to another based on an arbitrary distinction (giving these rights to homosexuals via "Civil Unions" is, first of all, a clear-cut seperate-but-equal situation, and secondly, ridiculous. If it looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, then let Rosie O'Donnell get hitched fer chrissakes).

So letting Adam and Steve get married in the governmental sense will have no effect on marriage in the religious sense, much like a divorce from Uncle Sam certainly won't satisfy Uncle John Paul II.

Hell, if it's an In Name Only disctinction, we can go ahead and call them Civil Unions, but if it doesn't delegitimize all straight, Christian marriages, I'm not interested.

Actually, I just want to see this guy get his way:

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Where Are My Hand-Outs? 

I'd like to see a lot more of this kind of behavior from all the over-priced status-heavy universities in the country. You know, like mine.

The price of higher education is ridiculous, as everyone knows, blah blah blah, but I think ideas like Harvard's will become more popular in the next few years as the middle class completely disappears while its values -- higher education chief among them -- persist, with the rich and the rest given joint custody. Kucinich is the only candidate advocating free education at public universities (what a novel idea!) but even Kerry has some sort of over-complicated plan to institute a Community Service Army that would entitle its participants to cheap schooling (as long as it doesn't have the stench of SOCIALISM, America will support the social programs it claims it despises). What this will lead to, of course, is a situation where the un-subsidized private Universities become finishing schools for the rich and the public ones technical schools for the masses.

Which is an extension of the current system, so I don't know what all the complaining's about.

Last night, I went uptown and saw the Columbia campus for the first time (I know, I know -- but honestly, I've yet to have any reason at all to go higher than 96th St.). Walking around the gated, isolated grounds, with the big columns and stone palaces, I was appalled at the disconnectedness and insulation of it all. It was then pointed out that my school charges $26,000 more in yearly tuition. They may have the artifice, but we've got the put-on Bohemia.

Friday, February 27, 2004

See We Gotta Be Exploited, By Somebody 

Do you think this kinda thing ever got Harold Von Braunhut into trouble?

Well, probably not. He got into trouble for things like this.

A quick google search finds that people are selling technologically updated versions of these things, only instead of to children, they're going after the lucrative pervert market. Dig that our researchers are hard at work in our scientific laboratory picture on the main page:

Totally legitimate looking!

But we've been sidetracked. From the article:

Timothy Telymonde, of Keyport, the former president and chief executive of the company, pleaded guilty on Feb. 17 to the criminal charge of unlawful exposure of unnecessary radiation and unlawful X-raying without a license in State Superior Court.
The Telymondes were the first people charged under the state's recently enacted radiation protection laws.

Now, fer starters, when yer t'rown in the clink, and the beloved character actor next to you asks "what are you in for?", it would be totally awesome to answer "X-Raying without a license."

Secondly, "recently enacteed radiation protection laws"? Doesn't that imply that a) there were no laws protecting people from radiation until now and b) they've recently had a number of people going about X-raying people without certification and had to put a stop to it?

Fuckin' Jersey.

I Promise You It's True 

This is my submission (the first item).

I'm not proud. Well, a little bit proud. Regardless, here's hoping this leads to some sort of huge reputation-tarneshing scandal. That will punish those Whores of Babylon appropriately!

I don't know really how I should feel, principle-wise, about Gawker. It's entertaining, it's deflating of massive egos, but it's also wealth and celebrity-obsessed in a way that's sometimes very depressing.

But -- entertainment trumps principles every time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Everybody At Your Party, They All Look Depressed 

Honestly, shouldn't we be "liberating" these people by now?

The action surprised Bush administration officials, who had drafted the power-sharing plan and seemed confident of their ability to deliver opposition support.

They continue to be confident despite embarrassing defeat after defeat. I love those plucky bastards. It's so cute how they act all "surprised" when they fail at things. Like Didi and Gogo finding out anew, each night, that Godot isn't coming.

The incompetence of the Bush administration is almost poignant.

As for Haiti, I think it's interesting that the shit hit the fan when it did -- Carnival (this site is sort of grotesquely cheerful, but I think it dates back to a few years ago, when the military was under the command of the increasingly thuggish state as opposed to the former members of the increasingly thuggish state).

As the Kansas City Star puts it in a headline with a remarkable insight into the priorities of the copy-editor, "Violence mars protest in Haiti; carnival joy dampened". This seems a bit like the headline of the February 1, 1968 Herald-Tribune reading "Major NVA Offensive May Make For Less Fun Tet Celebrations."

Now any intellectual-leftist type worth his/her salt will tell you about the important of the Carnival as a tool of subversion, or even rebellion-through-mockery, and it's nice and pleasant because it allows us pansy lib'ruhl types to imagine that states can be overthrown without having to hurt anyone or ask for the help of the military, which is sort of ethically questionable and throws the door open for all sorts of nasty human rights abuses and will probably help re-create the autocratic state under a new flag once the current mustachioed despot is publicly executed. But in Haiti, well, the Carnival wasn't cutting it.

So -- open up your hearts, Miami, because here come the refugees. But don't worry, we got plenty of jobs for 'em.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Today In the Senate 

Special Dispatch to The New York Times:
Mr. Vickers, of Maryland, opened the debate to-day, arguing against the admission, on the ground that Revels had not been a citizen for nine years, and therefore was not eligible. Mr. Wilson followed on the other side, and was succeeded by Mr. Casserly, who took a new departure and arraigned the entire reconstruction policy, charging that all the Southern Senators were put in their seats by the force of the bayonets of the regular army. This aroused Mr. Drake to a white heat, and provoked him to utter remarks and to make personal allusions to Mr. Casserly which were certainly in bad taste, and in no way pertinent to the subject before the body. Mr. Sumner made the closing speech for the Republican side of the question. It was brief, pithy and eloquent. Then came Mr. Stockton in deference of his party. He was boisterous and commonplace, and his speech was much better suited to the stump than to the Senate.

Go Back to Rockville 

Via Atrios, we find the honorable Representative Dingell of Michigan upping the snark lever considerably in a pithy letter to Gregory "Unnatural Vowel/Consonant Combination" Mankiw, High Elder of the Council of Economic Advisers. This is but a small dent in that huge glacial feeling that everyone is crazy but you, but as we've seen recently, glaciers are so the last 600-800 million years.

Here's a hint, everyone -- snark will win the war.

The new populism is based on having a big collective laugh at the other guy, not that "Two Americas" crap. Everyone says they love the "positive" campaigning, but everyone says they attend church regularly and church parking lots do not bear that out.

I'm not calling for attack ads, I'm not even calling for distorting or misrepresenting the Other Side. Their real-life positions and missteps are already ridiculous enough, as Dingell's letter shows. I'm saying we exploit this through savage mockery.

Now I said ol-fashioned populism wouldn't work, but that's not entirely true. I think some "soak the rich"-style Huey P. Long rhetoric would go over great, at least in the short run. And the Kingfish brings me to my next point:

Why did Eisenhower beat Stevenson? Because Adlai was mocked as an "egghead" and Ike had an Irving Berlin song. Now, Bush is not an egghead. That's one of his strong points. But he doesn't have an Irving Berlin song either. Sure, they've adopted God Bless America, but I defy you to find someone outside of the Republican-wing of the Democratic Party who actually knows all the words to God Bless America, or who can sing it without accidentally starting into America the Beautiful half-way through.

But the thing is, we don't need to write a catchy Kerry jingle. Not only would it be hard to rhyme Kerry with anything that reflected well on him, but any serious "Every Man A King"-style campaign song would come off, at best, as a novelty amusement, and at worst, like the stupid and wrongheaded attempt at pandering it would be.

No, the secret was discovered by the NIke corporation some years ago, and more recently by the good volks at Volkswagon. You remember when it was a big deal that "Revolution" was in a shoe commerical? Good. Now remember when it was totally awesome that VW put Nick Drake in a car ad? Get it?

Advertising has this great ability to co-opt any and all aspects of culture and use them to sell things. When a subversive subculture is beaten down and stripped of its ability to subvert (let's say graffiti culture in NY, and what happened when the MTA started spraying all the trains with hazardous chemicals, effectively stealing back the canvas and burning it), the usable (non-revolutionary) bits are appropriated by advertising, where they are rendered fit for mass consumption.

Some people do this in a spectacularly inept fashion. Remember Lee Jeans and Fortunate Son? The ads had flags, all-American iconography, and the classic-rock of Creedence, but, well... they couldn't play any of the song besides the first line. You know, because that song is clearly and obviously subversive by the second line.

And boy, don't these lines:
Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another striptease
Hey man where'd you get
That lotion? Your skin starts
Itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh love love love
That's like hypnotizing chickens
Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before

really make you want to take a Carnival Cruise? As soon as the invisible bugs escape through my fingernails, I'm calling my travel agent!

In other words, these companies used songs with messages contrary to their own. So did Nike and VW, in a sense, but they were subtle about it, and left room for claims of intentional irony. But the thing about the Democrats and left-wing causes in general is mainstream pop artists are largely in favor of their messages already. This simplifies things.

Now, I'm treading on dangerous ground here, laden with culture-war landmines. I'm not saying enlist Springsteen to write protest music (oh, horror of horrors). I'm saying take the existing, well-known and popular product, and associate yourself with it. This is much like Reagan quoting Born In the USA, only with this revolutionary new concept: Understanding what the song is about.

Here's the point: Very few of our elected officials have as good a command of mockery as Rep. Dingell. But Randy Newman does. Remember Mr. President (Have Pity On the Working Man)? That would work just fine as a campaign song right now. Can't you see the ad? You barely need more than the song.

But what would be, I think, the most effective campaign move since A-Bomb/Flower Girl would be accomplished with a song from Newman's most recent original album: "Big Hat, No Cattle."

The song isn't political at all, it's simply a character-study of a "self-made" man with no standards of decency, no principles, and no redeeming qualities. He lies pathologically, he's all bluster, he's reminiscent of that guy Gary Trudeau signifies with a Big Hat (and no Cattle).

Imagine the song blanketing the airwaves -- all over talk radio of course -- and a tv campaign featuring only the song and information about the President's upbringing, his questionable relationship to Texas, the fact that his "ranch" was purchased shortly before the 2000 campaign, his blue-blood lineage, and his lack of any sort of authenticity.

The song is catchy, upbeat, sounds more authentically "Country" than Clint Black, and has a message unsubtle enough for Mom, Pop, and the Kids to enjoy and understand.

And it's snarky.

Paltripolitan Diary 

Overheard on an NYU Dorm Elevator:
I don't know what I'm going to do next year. I really want to study abroad.

Yeah, I'm going to this gallery in Queens next week.

Stick To Tony Knowles Like A Car Interior On A Hot Day 

Atrios has a post shilling for two Democrats who, while both having a fairly good chance of picking up seats in Congress, are also attractive. The merits of this approach aside (though this is the sort of thing leading people to support Edwards over Kerry or vice versa [height before beauty, or something]), Atrios has picked the wrong picture of Alaskan Senate Candidate Tony Knowles.
Here's my suggestion, taken from his campaign web site:

Now, I'm certainly not going to fuck with this guy. I'll vote for you if you promise not to drill into my skull with your steely glare or blind me your impressive jaw!

On an unrelated note, I think the man was photoshopped into his own family portrait.

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Sweet Smell of Mediocrity 

If there is a better example of Grade Inflation run rampant than the NYU Student (any of 'em -- pick one at random. Sure, even me), I haven't seen it. If you ever want to know what it's like to have a conversation with someone with a 3.5 GPA who went to the school of his choice because he was rich enough to choose it and has never happened to read a book, I suggest you walk around the Tisch Film School with a "Hello, My Name Is __" sticker and shake a few hands.

This review helps explain things. The disappearance of a "comfortable middle" class combined with the invasion of Celebrity Culture into every other aspect of society, and the astoundingly aggravating feeling of entitlement felt by the filthy rich kids from the coasts -- they all combine to create some sort of socioeconomic explanation for why my peers annoy me so goddam much.

This entitlement isn't a hereditary trait common to rich people, of course. It's instilled in the little pricks by indulgent parents who've heard sung the benefits of self-esteem. So, because of some unhappy childhood/liberal guilt thing, a generation of self-obsessed and insufferable boomers has begotten an even more self-obsessed and much less sufferable brood of egomaniac young adults who are convinced that they are serious filmmakers because they have a couple of inherited opinions and have heard of Bergman, or who go to business school and become Libertarians because they truly believe in things like "the ends justify the means" or that, because they never saw any poor people, the problem can't possibly be as bad as all that. Besides, Adam Smith's invisible hand will throw them a quarter for a cup of coffee as it passes on its way to Punk Rock Karaoke in LES, which is completely over now that the New York Times ruined it for everyone.

These are the people who become Young Republicans and think that's oh so rebellious. Or declare themselves hipper than politics and embrace reactionary views, while hiding it behind the catch-all criticism shield of "irony." You know, like espousing Lester Maddox-style racialist beliefs while acting as the creative force behind the hippest magazine of the dumbest (and richest) subculture in New York history. And aping the working class because, as rich upper-middle class white boys, their standard of living doesn't allow for the right sort of romantic decadence.

Oh, that's enough. I don't think I made a single coherent point about anything.


Beverages and Other Interests 

This article is notable primarily for its use of the phrase "beverage interests."

Environmental advocates say the bottle bill complements curbside pickup. They noted that revenue raised from unclaimed nickels could help support such programs, like in New York City where, due to budget constraints, curbside service was suspended for the past year and a half but will begin again in April.

When you're literally scraping for nickels to run a city populated by the richest people in the world, something has gone wrong with the system. Look, this whole "giving people an incentive to recycle while relying on their being too lazy to recycle to fund recycling programs" bit is nice and all, in a roundabout sort of way, it's also pretty useless and half-assed. Why don't we, I don't know, levy a tax on billionaire mayors, or something?

Oh wait, I forgot -- we're busy increasing cigarette taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and all those other flat taxes that disproportionately affect the poor.

Besides, recycling's a joke. We all know where "curbside pickup" ends up.

Guest Blogger: Eugene Ionesco 

I think the posting pattern will be sporadic-to-nil during the day, with longer, more involved rodomontade at night, typically with lots of impotent rage and bluster. And links 'n stuff.

But I'm not promising anything.

This is absurd. I'm literally speaking to no one as if I had an audience.

The Great Op-Ed By-Line Mix-Up of Aught-Four 

The Times today features two op-eds by guest writers -- The New Yorker's Calvin Trillin and MIT's Noam Chomsky. To my mind, it's a great pairing -- they're the original odd couple.

So I got to thinking... what if Op-Ed editor David Shipley had been busy excising all the bureaucratic jargon from an Open Letter to the President and accidentally printed these columns under the wrong by-lines? Wouldn't that be sort of funny for a minute or two? Think about it!

Hmm. Maybe Safire and Dowd would be better. That kooky former Nixon speechwriter's off on one of his patented pop-culture riffs again! Isn't it charming how he can help explain the political situation through witty allusions to the end of Sex and the City?

A Desperately Stupid Summer 

The Good Doctor is shocked, just shocked, to find Football connected with "tainted money and naked women"

This is the part where I add my commentary and analysis, right?

HST writes more coherently about National Politics (and with better innate understanding) than Josh Marshall.

I think he should replace Thomas "Some People Are About To Get Free!" Friedman

A Lot of Hope For the New Men 


I've gone and started a blog, so if I ever criticize anyone or anything again, feel free to remind me that I haven't a leg to stand on. I continue to become everything I hate, while fooling myself that acknowledging it will make it excusable. Self-awareness is no excuse for bandwagon-joining, but I find some small comfort in the fact that I abandoned IRC, Usenet, web-based message board communities, and online diaries all shortly before they became popular. I do have a Friendster account, as well as a Fakester, but neither have been updated in some time, so I'm ethically off the hook.

I have a few posts, my links are up, my taste is on display, my irony is reflexive, you may commence feeling superior to me.

I'd Rather Be Right Than Be Henry Clay 

Failed Minnesotan Presidential Candidates:

Harold Stassen

Walter Mondale

Hubert H. Humphrey

Eugene McCarthy

Minnesota has a thing for the noble loser.

Even Riff Randell Was More of a Rebel 

If you don't find this article depressing, you're probably not the type who'd enjoy my list of links and snark. In other words, I can't describe precisely what is wrong here, especially because this sort of thing has been going on for a while.

Perhaps I'm sad because it makes concrete the huge disappointment Manhattan is becoming. The mayor describes life here as "a luxury good," and everyone on the isle seems to agree. I've got nothing against rich people in New York -- they've always run things here -- but I am strongly against the fact that there are no neighberhoods left in the borough that yuppies are afraid to walk through at night. I'm not asking for violence, for street crime, for poverty -- just some of that miracle cure authenticity... so I suppose I am for poverty. Or at least realistic standards of wealth.

Look -- it was a commonly accepted division for many years. The rich uptown and the poor downtown. Midtown was for those minor literary celebrites who lived rich but didn't actually have the bank account to back it up. I hoped, in my naive adolescent fantasy, to start out a romantic downtown punk, then to build my way up to comfortable midtown and write Talk of the Town pieces about eccentric old New Yorkers and how things aren't as New York as they used to be.

What am I supposed to do now? Move to Williamsburg and write for Vice?

Ugh. I'll have to switch to fantasy Plan B and become a Minneapolitan recluse. Don't look for Paul in ol' St. Paul and all that.


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