Currently viewing the category: "Libertarian"
  • The Rebel Alliance had lady pilots after all! 
  • Rapper Big Boi doesn’t like Obama, or government in general.
  • But let me go ahead and ruin Louis C.K. for my fellow libertarians.
  • Fuck you, too, science. 
  • I love you, Conor Friedersdorf: “he embarks on a theoretical exploration of whether it is defensible in theory to kill Al Qaeda terrorists with unmanned aerial vehicles, ignoring real-world events and unintended consequences as obliviously as a 1970s liberal extolling the wisdom of rent control.”
  • Talking to aggrandizing screen-writers is one thing, but talking to journalists is forbidden.
  • “if feminism can be put through by pestering, despite the will of the people, so can socialism, pacifism, and other isms.”
  • North Korea is doing space stuff and people are nervous.
  • Oliver Sacks would like to tell you about hallucinations.
  • Amelia Earhart’s thoughts on marriage.
  • Time‘s photos of the year include some good stuff.
  • This is a gross reason to fire someone.

Two Cheers for Anarchism by James C. Scott: a great point about the true meaning of anarchism buried under economic wrongness and political timidity. Still somehow net quality, and see my Reason review for more details there. Maybe I was just excited to have a lefty-dude I can still recommend.

The Art of Being Free by Wendy McElroy: the woman who bridges the gap — hell, bothers mentioning the gap — between the Henry David Thoreau who sat in jail on principle and the one who said “the state was nowhere to be found” while picking berries; who also manages to be optimistic about the future while dubbing the U.S. a police state, break out the lesser-known libertarian heroes like R. C. Hoiles, and basically be a way better libertarian than most of us.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy: holy 2004 panics, Batman! A slight book borrowed from friend’s bookshelf and read one insomniac night. Some fine points, truths, observations  buried under a screamingly anecdotal, panicky, judgmental  lefty-worried mess of writing. Levy is particularly judgmental towards sex workers, falling into the “nobody chooses that” trope. Indeed, anything where sex and money are remotely connected seems to worry her greatly. Meanwhile, the points that ring the most true for me were, say, comparisons between Jay Leno (who is let’s face it, very odd looking) and the gams-showing, cleavage-baring Katie Couric monster who filled in on for Leno on The Tonight Show. IE  am not as worried about people selling sex, period, as I am frustrated by the same jobs requiring different things from a man and a woman, namely the latter always needs to sexy while doing [it]. Bonus: felt slightly more guilty than usual for wanting to go on Red Eye so much after reading.

[Halfway through] Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint: Urban outrage never used to interest me, dad’s railing notwithstanding, until I realized just how God damned nasty people like Robert Moses were towards the poor, etc. No wonder dad was such a big fan of Jacobs’, and indeed interviewed her for Reason in 2001! (Dad also did an epic piece on Pittsburgh eminent domain in 2000.) Nevertheless, the writing quality of Flint is only so-so, and though I care, like economics, I have to read semi-slowly in order to get the proper details to care the proper way. Somehow, as much as I want to be Dad or Jim Epstein in my outrage for the downtrodden urban man, it does not come as easily as I wish. Mainly because they’re great at that sort of piece, and I am God damned lazy.

[Skimmed] Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins: Another one from the bookshelf of the aforementioned friend. Flipped through and read bits here and there tonight/today. Not nearly interesting a subject to be interesting, not trashy enough to be really worth savoring. Especially not after the numerous episodes of Degrassi this household has watched in the last few weeks. It felt tame, but angsty, but not relatable angsty. Bonus: need to shame friend further for having read this instead of Hitch-22 when she received both for last year’s Christmas. Other thought: Alexandra Robbins, sure, you count as an “investigative reporter” for doing this, but something about this is so rom-com that I cannot take it seriously. You just cannot be not played by Kate Hudson in the movie in my head. Ugh.

[Begun] A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the 20th Century by Ben Shepard: It’s from 2003, I have read 20 pages, and I already feel like it’s judging me for having a “fashionable” interest in the subject of shell-shock thanks to the amazing ’90s novel Regeneration by Pat Barker. And holy hell, I need to read more fiction, eh? Nevertheless, fascinating subject. I feel like a horrible person when I say this, but it’s a relief in some ways that so many people respond so poorly to warfare. Because if that doesn’t fuck you up, what should? And indeed, if humans react so badly to being put in that situation, doesn’t that bode well for us as a species, just a bit?

  • Infowars titling this “Shock Video: Cop Protects First Amendment” cracks me up in super depressing fashion. Looooow standards! However, over here, when the cop says the words “he doesn’t have to show you his identification” — well, when I wear my minarchist hat I love that so much.
  • Speaking of things that shouldn’t be celebratory but are: Patricia Spottedcrow spent almost two years in prison for selling 31 dollars worth of weed, but now she is free. Two years caged would be horrifying except that Spottedcrow was facing 12 years.
  • Once again, libertarians, privatizing prisons does not fix the problem of prisons. Don’t be that guy, you know, like the libertarian whose biggest problem with war is how expensive it is.
  • Jon Ronson on the artist who did those 50 self-portraits while on drugs which you may have seen on Buzzfeed or some other internet locale. 
  • Sometimes Bill Maher proves that he almost knows better and maybe doesn’t have to be such a hack.
  • Oh, the things on facebook that could help prove I am a scary radical. Ugh.
  • Islamic theocracies are not funny, but this is still sort of an amazing headline.
  • Go follow my friend Andrew Blake for Bradley Manning hearing tweets and reporting. Bradley Manning is important, pay attention.

Every trivia-savvy individual who doesn’t know much about psychology probably at least knows Stanley Milgram’s 1961 obedience experiment and Phillip Zimbardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison experiment. We also know that the conclusions of said experiments reflect very poorly on human nature; we follow orders from authoritative-sounding people, even if someone is screaming in agony, we fall easily into positions of sadistic power-tripping or cowed submission, even after a few measly days of playing at prison and guard; we’re pretty bad. Obviously these experiments seem to confirm in retrospect the bloodbath that was the 20th century and the millions of people who didn’t protest, and even helped, when dictators brutalized their fellow human beings with the excuse that they were inferior in race, or politics, or purity.

A few days ago The Telegraph had a brief report on new experiments that imply that human nature may be worse still than Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments suggest. Not only do humans tend to follow the orders of officials in lab coats or death’s heads or what have you, but they also enjoy it, they feel like they are doing right. Even more unsettling is the detail that if orders are given too often, that undermines the feeling that the atrocities are “for the greater good” and therefore are a righteous act the person has chosen to participate in. The best jackboot is the true believer, not the person cowed into submission by an authority figure.

Maybe this isn’t terribly surprising, but at the same time, the article’s connection to Nazism seems somewhat forced. At the start, Nazis depended on converting people freely to their ideology  but after a few years it’s not like there wasn’t an implied, but very real, threat of deadly force hanging over every single German. People seem to jump all too often at the idea that the Germans were very keen on slaughtering all the Jews, and I am sure that’s truer than we all wish it were  but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Yes, certainly the higher-ups in the Nazi regime, like Eichmann, were true believers, would it be any better if they weren’t? Propaganda doesn’t excuse the little guy participating in atrocities or ignoring them, but it makes it so much harder to say no.

But back to Milgram. A 45 minute video of the experiment can be viewed here, and it’s excruciating to watch, but well worth it. In brief, the unknowing subjects are told that they are “the teacher” in a task that will help ” the student” (who is in on the experiment) learn and retain word combinations. The experiment would demonstrate whether electric shocks would help the other man learn the words. Of course, the real experiment was gauging whether the subjects/”teachers” would stop “shocking” and if so, how long it would take them, based on the lab tech building up the pressure on them to continue, culminating — if they hesitated enough — in the command that “the teacher” had no choice but keep on.

Many of the “teachers” took to their task like good citizens, assuming that the guys in labcoats know what’s best, even if they exhibited signs of emotional distress. More painful than the good little drones, though, is the fellow near the very end of this video who keeps protesting and hesitating the louder the fake screams become. He asks questions, he confirms that the lab techs are responsible for whatever may happen; he is so stricken, but he just keeps going anyway. You can see in his face that he knows better, but he cannot bring himself to just say no. I wonder if he is the face of the little guy, who would have been completely average, who ends up helping with mass murders.

But before that, there are two men who diminish the misanthropy-fodder that is the video: first, there’s the man about 18 minutes in. He’s soft spoken, he wears black glasses and a suit. He starts the experiment as he’s supposed to, but as the screams grow more intense, and finally, ominously cease altogether he looks worried, and then he stops. He’s not like the poor bastard later who wants to stop so badly, but keeps waiting for permission that won’t come. “I think 345 is as far as I am willing to go under this condition,” Glasses says, pointing to the dial on the machine that says where the “shocks” become dangerous.

Now the lab tech must build up his pressure; it is essential to continue, the experiment requires it, and finally, Glasses  “has no choice.” He responds “I have a choice — I’m not going to go ahead with it.”

More interesting still is the other man who stops completely — and he  does so at at the (comparably low) level of 150 (pretend) volts of  electricity. The man also has glasses, and he wears a checkered shirt. He seems more confident than the other man. He laughs, somewhat nervously, at the start (this was apparently a strangely common reaction), when the “student” first yells “ouch!”. He chews on his hand a bit, even though he doesn’t seem to be nearly as upset as most of the other subjects.  But as soon as the voice in the other room yells that he wants the experiment stopped and that he has a heart condition, Checkered Shirt ends it. No debate, no waffling. Nobody else, not even Glasses is that self-assured in their decision to end the thing.

Once again the pressure starts, the experiment mandates that you continue, etc., culminating in “you have no choice” but to continue.  “Yes I have a choice,” says Checkered Shirt. ‘Take the check back, I’m not going to hurt the guy…I refuse.” And in the post-experiment interview, when a very relieved Checkered Shirt learns that it was a sham, he coolly take out a cigarette and offers one to the interviewer.

Why did he refuse to keep shocking the “student”?  “The hell with him, who the hell was he?” He asks breezily, in respect to a Mr. Williams, the lab-coated overlord who had been ordering him to push the button. “In my mind I was hurting that guy…To continue to hurt another human being, I don’t believe in it.”

Maybe humans aren’t that great as whole, perhaps the majority are scared, cowed rabbits who turn into wolves when ordered or pressured to tear other humans apart. But no matter how dystopian things get, there are always — always  — going to be more Sophie Scholls and more Oskar Schindlers and more Corrie Ten Booms and more World War Christmas Truces, even if there are never going to be enough of them either.

If I have a religion, it’s this; if the human race is Sodom and Gomorrah then we are saved every day by righteous people like Scholl, and Schindler, and, in a small way, even by Milgram’s exceptions; the soft-spoken guy in glasses who finally said “I have a choice ” and the brash guy in the checkered shirt who so quickly said, “I refuse.”

  •  My RT friend Andrew Blake is covering the Bradley Manning pre-trial. Check out his report.
  • Semi-good news in the Manning case — at least, the possibility of him actually getting out of jail at some point seems to have heightened. 
  • Wendy McElroy has a good piece, a few months old, on the what about the children question when you only believe in negative liberties. Sometimes anarchists are conflicted and confused, too. Even the super-kind like McElroy.
  • Heroic Tracy Oppenheimer-produced Reason TV piece on the National Registry of Exonerations, as well as a mother’s years-long fight to prove that her son wasn’t a robber. Scary.
  • Rand Paul threatens to filibuster the NDAA. Liking a senator feels so deviant, but let’s do this, Rand.
  • I get claustrophobia just looking at this. Is the Trunchbull the one who sends kids in there?
  • Cops as an institution are not good, but this guy is good. It’s a hell of a contrast between him and the officers who killed Kelly Thomas. But, also, this.
  • More women in libertarianism would be great, but I am not sure about this piece.

A few months ago, the internet was briefly entranced by the hilarious Amazon.com user reviews that appeared on the product page for Bic Pens “For Her.” Because Jesus Christ, people, this is why vaguely feminism blogs like Jezebel should exist, to counter this kind of absurdity and to mock it to death. If pens are not gender neutral, nothing shall ever be.

Today my cousin (in seriousness)  shared a facebook photo of a book called The Night Dad Went to Jail. The cover has a sad anthropomorphic bunny writing a letter to their jailed father rabbit.It is a troublingly cute, troublingly human-looking rabbit which is why it’s sort of funny at first glance. Except when you click on the author’s name, Melissa Higgins, you see that she has also written a book to help children get through their parents getting divorced.  The book, it seems, is meant to be taken very seriously. The subtitle in the other edition I found is What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail.

And why not? This situation has arisen many more times than I can stand to consider. But this reality didn’t stop three quarters of the Amazon.com reviewers from posting fake reviews that joke about soap dropping and soliciting “trannies,” selling drugs and being a super villain as reasons for buying this book for your kids.

It’s a small thing for me to be peeved at, but then again it’s not, if only because of all the propaganda in the air that says if you’re in jail, you’re not like the rest of us, you deserve this, and you are certainly not ever innocent.

I just find it strange that a country with two million people in jail can still so brilliantly get across that jail is what happens to other, bad people. This, and every other sitcom or bro-movie that makes prison rape jokes, is just another reason the state will always win. We should, at least, stop believing this idea and start looking into just who is being caged in our name and with our money.

  • io9 on whether end of the world fiction is just a trend that has reached its saturation point. Still, always loved it way more than, say, vampires (the obligatory trend example in most such pieces).
  • Hiroshima, USA.
  • The top 15 nuclear war movies, according to someone. I am very behind.
  • I am currently watching the disappointingly terrible Panic in Year Zero! over here. On the plus side, the helpful youtube user seems to have uploaded a stunning collection of truther, anti-Semitic, and JFK videos, plus other nuclear war movies like Threads (which I gotta finish one of these days), plus a bunch of…Little Rascals episodes. I love the internet.
  • Also, this youtuber has uploaded a bunch of Cold War songs, which I will be bookmarking.
  • This slideshow suggests the best ’80s songs about nuclear war. I don’t know most of them, but the exclusion of “99 Luft Balloons” is not acceptable.
  •  Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov wins the Dresden Award for not nuking the shit out of America in 1986, even when an error made things look like five nuclear missiles were heading for the USSR.
  • This is terrible, particularly the headline — “War with Iran: Real, horrific costs, but what benefits?”
  • Wendy McElroy rhetorically asks in a non-Alex Jones kind of way, “Should You Be Hoarding?”
  • College professor thinks Stalin didn’t commit any crimes, the worst thing might be that half the students clap after his lunacy. Paging: Michael Moynihan, Michael Moynihan.