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What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
Can you grok it?

Can you grok it?

When I was a high-school kid, back in Honolulu in the early sixties, the book we were all reading was Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which had come out just a couple of years earlier and already had given modern English a new word, “to grok.” All of us rebellious adolescents loved that book and put it on our shelves right alongside Joseph Heller’s Catch -22. Later I devoured much of the rest of the Heinlein ouevre, including of course Starship Troopers and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. It never occurred to me in those days to read science-fiction politically, but if Stranger was anything at the time, it was a proto-hippie novel — a celebration of free love and counter-cultural rebellion on the part of a main character who was, literally, raised on Mars. (I believe the novel was also a strong influence on The Who’s celebrated rock opera, Tommy, which followed it by a few years.)

Now comes the new New Republic, further left than in its previous incarnation, with an attack on Heinlein via a review of a new biography of the author by William Patterson:

The science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches. Rare among the many intellectual gurus whose fame mushroomed in the 1960s, Heinlein was a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time. While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism.

Heinlein’s most famous novel, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), was a counter-culture Bible, its message of free love inspiring not just secular polygamous communes but also the Church of All Worlds, a still-flourishing New Age sect incorporated in 1968. Heinlein was equally beloved in military circles, especially for his book Starship Troopers (1959), a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence as the key to human survival. A thoroughly authoritarian book, it included an ode to flogging (a practice the American Navy banned in 1861) and the execution of mentally disturbed criminals, yet Heinlein became a hero to libertarians: Milton Friedman praised Heinlein’s 1966 novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, which chronicled an anti-statist rebellion on a lunar colony, as a “wonderful” book and commended Heinlein for popularizing the slogan TANSTAAFL (“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”).

Heinlein, who died in 1988 at age 80, lived a large, complex, and contradictory life. His friend and fellow science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once noted that Heinlein was “very protean. Heinlein was everything—like Walt Whitman.” The publication of the second volume of a mammoth Heinlein biography by the late William Patterson is, alas, only partially helpful in getting a grip on this complicated writer. Authorized by the Heinlein estate and fannishly worshipful, Patterson lacked sufficient distance from his subject to tackle the central puzzles of Heinlein’s life.

And what are those central puzzles? According to reviewer Jeet Heer, they are mostly his political evolution rightward. It’s a ridiculous assertion on its face, since the celebration of military life, Starship Troopers, comes before Stranger, not after. Here’s his argument:

Take, for example, the crucial issue of Heinlein’s political evolution. Heinlein went from being a left-wing New Dealer in the 1930s and 1940s to flirting with the John Birch Society in the late 1950s and supporting Barry Goldwater in the 1960s—and yet, he insisted that his politics were unwaveringly consistent. “From my point of view what has happed is not that I have moved to the right; it seems to me that both parties have moved steadily to the left,” Heinlein wrote his brother in 1964. Patterson, as was his wont on all major issues, sides with his subject and maintains that Heinlein’s politics remained fundamentally unchanged through his life. Heinlein was no “rightist,” Patterson assures us, but a lifelong “radical liberal” with a “democratic soul.” Patterson never explains how that “democratic soul” came to believe that the right to vote should be severely restricted, a position Heinlein advocated not just in Starship Troopers but also in nonfiction works.

First off, a lot of people moved from the New Deal to more conservative positions as they got older and smarter — Ronald Reagan, for example. Second, Heinlein was absolutely right — both parties had moved to the left by 1964 — the Democrats were led by Lyndon Johnson, while the Nixon-Rockefeller Republicans were caught napping that year by Barry Goldwater, who was attempting to pull the GOP back to the right. Finally, there’s nothing at all contradictory between being a “radical liberal” (in the true sense of the word, not its contemporary meaning as a “progressive”) and having a “democratic soul.” In fact, they’re entirely complementary. Democracy is not simply about universal suffrage (in fact, it’s not about that at all), although the Left would certainly like you to think that; Leftists need to go back to Greek democracy to see what Heinlein means.

The rest of the hatchet job essentially roasts Heinlein for the only cardinal sin in the Leftist canon: hypocrisy. How could he be an apostle of free love and a conservative at the same time? (Wrong question: how could he be a famous creative artist and not be motivated by sex?)

Taken together, Heinlein’s books in his right-wing phase hardly add up to a logical worldview. How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress? On a more practical plain, how could Heinlein have called for both limited government and a NASA committed to colonizing space (surely a big government program if there ever was one)? TANSTAAFL went out the window when a space or military program caught Heinlein’s fancy.

But all these books share one trait: They ignore the consequences of people’s actions. Starship Troopers gives us war without PTSD and guilt over slaughter (the aliens are Bugs, so can be exterminated without remorse) just as Stranger in a Strange Land is a vision of sex without strings (“grokking” means never having to say sorry). In other books, Heinlein gave us incest without trauma.

Such are the perils of trying to attack an author via a biography, but not understanding your own prejudices and expressing your tired world-view in cant and jargon. If you can’t fight a war without whining about PTSD and you can’t exterminate the Bugs of Starship Troopers without the slightest bit of remorse, then there is no hope for either democracy or humanity. Heinlein’s view was try everything, live hard, die harder — something as alien as the Bugs to today’s pansy Left, for whom there is nothing worth dying for and therefore nothing worth living for. They just can’t grok it. No wonder they hate him.

*****

Join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the sixth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.

Volume II

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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Chicago White Sox Baseball Great Minnie Minoso Dead at 89

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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It was just 5 weeks ago that “Rm. Cub,” Ernie Banks passed away. And yesterday, Banks’ counterpart on the South Side, Minnie Minoso died of apparent heart failure.

Minoso’s age is a matter of dispute, but his visa application gives his birth year as 1925, making him 89 when he died. It was something of a joke among White Sox fans. He told various reporters different stories of his age, so that he could have been as young as 87 or as old as 93 depending on what story you want to believe.

No matter his age, Minoso was a pioneer. Coming to the US from Cuba in 1945, he played semi-pro for a few years before performing in the Negro leagues. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1949, but didn’t get much playing time. He was the first black player in Chicago, having been traded to the White Sox from Cleveland in a three team deal with the Philadelphia Athletics. Minoso made an immediate impact, hitting a 2-run home run in his very first at bat with the team.

For parts of 10 seasons, Minnie Minoso played left field for the White Sox. He had tremendous speed and could hit for power, as well as for average. His peculiar batting stance — crouching low and standing close to the plate — resulted in him being hit by the ball an astonishing 192 times in his career.

But it was his infectious personality and determined effort on the field that endeared him immediately to fans. As a fan, you can tell when a ballplayer is having fun on the field and Minoso used the baseball stadium as his own, private amusement park. He was one of baseball’s best “free swingers” — swinging hard and making contact with balls not necessarily in the strike zone. It is a trait of most Latin players even today and Minoso could hit a high fastball around his neck as far as any man ever to play the game.

A quirk about Minoso’s career — he played in 5 different decades. The New York Times explains how that happened:

Minoso seemed to have retired after the 1964 season, but he later played in Mexico. Veeck, in his second stint as owner of the White Sox after his years with the Indians, brought back Minoso in 1976. Minoso had a single in eight at-bats as a designated hitter, making him a four-decade player. Minoso was a White Sox coach in 1980 but was activated by Veeck for the last three games of that season and was 0 for 2 at the plate.

Nick Altrock, a pitcher who began his major league career in 1898, was the only other five-decade player; he appeared in a few games in the 1920s and 1930s.

Under the ownership of Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox considered getting Minoso into uniform again in 1990, their last year at the original Comiskey Park. Minoso turned aside suggestions that he would be making a travesty of the game.

“I have a professional respect for baseball players,” he said at the time. “I’m going for a record. Everyone asks and calls, ‘We want to see Minnie.’ It’s like a pitcher trying to pitch to make 300 wins. I have ambition.”

But Commissioner Fay Vincent did not allow Minoso to play.

Minoso played for the Sox seven seasons before being traded back to Cleveland prior to the 1958 campaign. Traded back to the White Sox in 1960, he appeared in his 9th and last All-Star Game while winning his 3rd Gold Glove. Traded away again in 1962 to the St. Louis Cardinals, he returned to the Sox once again in 1964 for his final full year in the majors.

Minoso, like Ernie Banks, was a fixture at both old Comiskey Park and US Cellular Field, mixing with delighted fans — most of whom had only heard of his exploits. President Obama mourned his passing, releasing a statement from the White House:

“Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.”

In truth, Minoso’s career stats are borderline for the Hall of Fame. There are many players with worse numbers who are in and some with better numbers who have also been snubbed. His .298 career batting average, 186 home runs, 1963 hits, and 1023 runs batted in should have been good enough considering the era he played in was rich with talent. But I’m with President Obama on this one. His American story adds up to so much more than a plaque in Cooperstown ever could.

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Art for Art’s Sake: Artist Paints Clinton Portrait with ‘Shadow of Blue Dress’

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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One can imagine the rage of Bill Clinton when he found this out.

Politico:

An artist who painted a portrait of former President Bill Clinton says there’s more to the piece than one might see at first blush.

Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a shadow of a blue dress in the 2006 portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an apparent reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with Shanks adding that the 42nd president is “probably the most famous liar of all time.”

“If you look at the left-hand side of it, there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” the painter said.

“It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”

Shanks claimed that the Clintons have been lobbying the National Portrait Gallery to remove it, but a gallery spokeswoman denied that to the Daily News. Clinton reportedly chose Shanks to paint the portrait back in 2001.

A spokeswoman for the gallery confirmed to POLITICO that the Clintons have not contacted the museum about the painting, nor has the artist made any other statements to the museum regarding its content.

The portrait caused a bit of a stir when it was first unveiled nine years ago, as Clinton’s wedding ring was absent from his likeness.

The man who made a career out of playing vicious “gotcha” games has been gotten. Even if the artist is pulling our leg (the shadow didn’t appear to be a dress until he mentioned it), the fact that we’re all now looking at that portrait in a different light must be driving the ego maniac wild.

For someone as obsessed with his legacy as Clinton, this is an embarrassing blow to him. And what about Hillary? Any reminder of the blue dress dredges up memories in the public that I’m sure she’d rather keep buried.

Watch how quickly the National Portrait Gallery pulls it now that Clinton is on the warpath. I mean, it’s only a museum. He intimidated a gigantic corporation, Walt Disney Company, preventing them from releasing the 9/11 mini-series “The Path to 9/11.” Browbeating a portrait gallery is going to be child’s play.

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Hippie Dreams Come True: Pot Now Legal in D.C.

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Back in the 1960s, it was believed by a lot of people — admittedly, people high on drugs — that all the world needed to solve all its problems was to smoke grass, drop acid, or eat mushrooms. The hippies actually believed that if all politicians got high, there wouldn’t be any more war or poverty.

On Thursday of last week, a voter-sponsored law went into effect in Washington that made it legal to smoke marijuana in private. You can also grow your own — up to six plants are legal.

A voter-approved initiative legalizing limited recreational use of marijuana took effect Thursday. But with some Republicans on Capitol Hill threatening legal action against the District of Columbia, the future of pot in the federal city remains a bit hazy.

“It’s legalization without commercialization,” Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign, told “Power Players.”

While adults can now legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana — about a large sandwich bag’s worth – it’s still against the law to buy or sell it and smoke in public, according to city officials.

“There are no store fronts where people who are 21 and older can just walk in and buy a bag of marijuana, unless you’re a medical marijuana patient,” said Eidinger, who’s has spent the last 15 years campaigning for legal pot in his hometown.

For now, the only legal way to get weed is to grow it. Under the law, District residents are allowed up to six plants.

“And they just can’t sell it,” Eidinger said. “As soon as you start deriving income, you’re violating the initiative.”

But some Republicans in Congress, which provides a check on District governance under the Constitution, say steps to legalize weed in the District amount to dangerous defiance of federal law.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has even threated prison time for Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The budget bill passed by Congress in December and signed by President Obama explicitly bans D.C. from enacting the marijuana legalization initiative — despite the fact that it was approved in November by voters at a 2-to-1 margin.

Eidinger says the interference by lawmakers is “undemocratic and offensive.”

“When these out of state, mostly Republican congressman, try to interfere with local democracy here … they make their party look bad,” he said. “They’re supposed to be the party of home rule, of local democracy, of states’ rights, of business entrepreneurship, of freedom, and when they go against marijuana, they contradict every one of those things.”

Yeah, those Republicans are party poopers. Legalizing a substance that is illegal in 47 states has nothing to do with “freedom,” or “states’ rights” (DC isn’t a state), or “business entrepreneurship,” and everything to do with congressional authority to regulate the affairs of the District of Columbia.

I love Chaffetz’s threat to throw Bowser in the clink. Given the history of corruption by Washington mayors, it might be a good idea to give her a head start in serving her inevitable prison term.

In the privacy of congressional offices across Capitol Hill, one wonders if hippie dreams of a stoned Congress are beginning to take shape. Will they install a snack machine in the cloak room to deal with the congressional munchies? Will congressmen work to a Grateful Dead soundtrack? Female staffers, already on their guard against these leches, better be extra careful given what pot can do to a man’s libido.

Will we hear a soft chorus of “Don’t Bogart that Joint, My Friend” and the pungent odor of grass coming from congressional office buildings?

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Long live Congress.

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6 Ways ISIS Is More Humane than the Prophet

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by David Forsmark

Not long ago, Bill O’Reilly took justifiable flack for his 1950s all-religions-are-nice-and-deserve-respect attitude when he stated:

“I don’t believe the prophet Muhammad wanted a world war to impose Islam on everybody. I don’t believe that.”

What Bill was trying to do in his own way was to slam ISIS for the bloodthirsty death-loving fanatics that they are. But in doing so, he came close to what he criticizes Barack Obama for when the President says the Islamic State is “not Islamic.”

My colleague Andrew Bostom thoroughly debunked O’Reilly’s bowdlerized rose colored glasses outlook here, but recent events have got me to thinking: Is it possible that ISIS is not only a logical outgrowth of historical Islam, but that they are actually more humane and modernistic in outlook and methods than the Prophet would condone?

Consider with me a few examples…

1. The Prophet Burned People Slowly

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Sure, burning people in cages is horrific, but at least ISIS uses accelerant.  The prophet burned infidels using wood and tinder which takes far longer.  ISIS at least is humane—or lazy– enough to use rocket fuel, which means the victim is tortured to death in minutes.

Even if these bastards just think the woosh makes for better video, it’s still quicker.

2. The Prophet’s Beheaded Bodies Went to Waste

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When ISIS lines up 21 praying Christians and beheads them—or as Obama would say, 21 Egyptian citizens who randomly ended up in the wrong place and met up with generic really mean criminals—dozens of other lives are possibly spared as a result.

Why?  ISIS sells organs on the black market to raise cash for their jihad.  But who cares about their motives?  As liberals love to say—“If only one life is saved…”

3. The Prophet Only Converted by the Sword

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This one is not just a matter of degree.  The Prophet warred and pillaged his way across the Arab world, saying convert or die.

Sure, ISIS does that too, but at least SOME of their converts are voluntary.

ISIS uses videos, magazines and evangelism to spread their word, giving deluded, evil loners a purpose in their lives.

And frankly, I’d just as soon let them all go join them—don’t stop them, track them

4. The Prophet Didn’t Have a Female Outreach Program

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When the Prophet’s soldiers needed wives (or temporary wives as he allowed in the Koran) his army just grabbed them up at the next village or city on the conquest list.

ISIS at least takes time to woo them from afar.

ISIS had produced videos calling for Muslim women to come and join the Caliphate.  They show them cooking and cleaning together for their virile warrior husbands.  True, the reality is even harsher than that, but every pick up line is a bit of a sales job, right?

And oh, yeah, their propaganda doesn’t seem to be aimed at attracting 9 year olds.

5. The Prophet Didn’t Care about Your Abs

Now here is progress.  This Egyptian ISIS recruit has produced a workout video for all the world to see.

Now, in the Prophet’s defense, when you are leading an army across arid, barren landscapes and you have to loot and pillage for your supper, you don’t have to worry that much about jumbo jihadis waddling though the wadis.

But ISIS didn’t selflessly keep this fitness fanatic to themselves; they shared him with the world.   Now even infidels can go on a jihad against jiggle and become lean mean fighting machines.

Try to find even one example of this kind of generous spirit in the Prophet’s outreach.

6. The Prophet Waged a World War to Establish a Caliphate and Convert People

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Oops, that’s right, Bill O’Reilly, this is one way they are exactly the same.

So while the White House slanders ISIS as violent extremists with no connection to Islam, the fact is that they are well within the tradition of their founder, and have even moderated some of their methods to the modern world.

It’s more of a modification than a Reformation, but hey, potato potahto.

Baby steps.

******

image illustrations via here, here, here, herehere

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The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

I turned 36 this week, with thoughts that Netflix and Kevin Spacey conspired to give me a present: House of Cards, Season 3, went live on Friday.

I just happened to give myself that day off from work. I assure you, it was just pure coincidence. It also had nothing to do with the fact that my fiancé never got into the show, so it was best to binge as much as possible before torturing her.

Unfortunately, it seems that with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his equally manipulative wife Claire (Robin Wright) at the pinnacle of success, they don’t know what to do. Indeed, that feeling permeates the entire third season, as if its directors and producers were lost even as their show has become a major success.

Again, the season started with promise when we finally got to see Underwood. How can you go wrong when the Machiavellian main character starts off urinating on his father’s grave?

After communing with his dearly departed dad, the show lets us know that Underwood has terrible approval ratings and is fighting both houses in Congress after proposing the elimination of entitlements to pay for America Works (AmWorks), a massive jobs program. Amusingly, no one points out that it’s just a new entitlement program.

Indeed, that reality exposes a great cognitive dissonance on the part of President Underwood when he famously tells the American people that they “are entitled to nothing!” It was rousing rhetoric. It’s the sort of thing we would love to hear from Republican leaders. Hearing it from a fictional Democrat was even more interesting.

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But this domestic policy debate offered a great backdrop to see how the ruthless president would fight some of his old adversaries. Mix that in with the addition of a global adversary, Putin clone Victor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), and you have the makings for some great conflicts.

However, the execution was weak. Indeed, one can say that weakness is the theme of this season and it makes absolutely no sense.

Here you have Francis Underwood, a man who schemed his way into the White House by manipulating the sitting president to appoint him as Vice-President and then forcing that Chief Executive to step down by engineering a battle between the President, an American billionaire and a Chinese princeling. However, in Season 3, he is the constant beggar, coming hat in hand to men he handily manipulated in Congress and getting dismissed.

Perhaps, in dealing with Russian President Petrov, a different power dynamic could be understood. After all, it’s not like Underwood can murder a Russian strong man like a drunken congressman or meddlesome reporter. But again, here is the opportunity for the sort of Great Powers gamesmanship this role was designed for.

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My Family, My Tribe

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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Hi, this is Sarah and has been a week to remember who my family is.  No, I don’t mean I suffered sudden amnesia and stopped remembering my parents and brother.  I mean, my other family.  My spiritual family, you could say.  Or perhaps, in a Portuguese expression “my family by affinity.”

My first moment of recognition came when Rose Eveleth – Vagina Vigilante, she who makes scientists cry – went on twitter to praise one of the google plugins for changing words containing man, so that manned was now “crewed” and unmanned was “robotic.” (Don’t shout at the stupidity of the later.  I know robotic is not the same as remote controlled.  She doesn’t, though.)

I’m always more or less upset when people play stupid games with the language.  I know it will surprise you from the excitable Latina™ but I’ve been known to stop under signs in bookstores saying “Herstory, really, do you even know how ignorant it is?”  I also once picked a fight in the grocery store that had navel oranges marked as “naval oranges.”  And we will not talk about the incident of the Lady’s Department at a store.  They never could understand why I was asking them who the lady was. (Sigh.)

So as a language snob, I was offended by stupid games with the language. But normally this would have warranted an eye roll, because I know these people existed and there’s nothing you can do about her.

But instead I spent quite a while composing a sneering post for facebook.  And then I realized why.  Because Rose Eveleth – Vagina Vigilante! – is on my sh*t list for what she did.  Not just because she made a man cry.  No.  She’s on my sh*t list because she made one of my tribe cry.

Rocket scientists, science fiction geeks, writers and nerds – they’re my people.  I understand their body language, their look.  I understand their inanities, and the fact that say sartorial subtlety is beyond them.

And anyone who attacks one of us for those characteristics that are uniquely ours is the enemy.  They attack my tribe, and I bleed.

It is probably the closest to belonging that someone of my odd disposition can come.

Which is why today was a sad day. When Leonard Nimoy passed away, the ongoing, rolling fight between science fiction writers was silenced. Instead, there were tributes, remembrance, silence. For a moment we looked at the burial scene from Wrath of Kahn and we listened to “Amazing Grace,” and we mourned.

Because he was of us, our brother, our tribe.

Even I who came to Star Trek late, having been inducted into science fiction via books much earlier, felt a pang at his passing. Star Trek, the original series, will be forever mixed in my mind with my first year of marriage.  You see, my husband was media, I was literature. I gave him Heinlein, he gave me Star Trek.

I read Nimoy’s book, I Am Not Spock, and his other book, I Am Spock.

It must have been hard for him to be so totally defined by a role and a role that so many sneered at. (I’m sure we all remember the days when Star Trek fans weren’t considered “real fans” don’t we?) It must have been hard to find himself at the crest of a wave of fandom. And though I’m fairly sure he was aware of the slash websites, let’s do hope he never gave them too much thought.

And yet, he came through with grace and aplomb. Instead of running from fandom, he embraced it. His very last tweet ended with “LLAP.”

You prosper too, Leonard, beyond our reach in the undiscovered country.

In our hearts, you’ll live forever.

Amazing Grace indeed!


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Asylum (Loralynn Kennakris #3)
By Asylum (Loralynn Kennakris #3) 

First, they called her a hero. Then they called her a medical problem. Now they’re calling her a criminal. It’s been an exciting first year of active duty for Lieutenant Loralynn Kennakris.

She started by proving herself to be the League’s most promising young fighter pilot, earning decorations and gaining both admirers and enemies. But those rumors wouldn’t go away: dangerous mental instability, hostile tendencies, latent psychosis. Pushed too far, she did the unforgivable, and now her enemies have the excuse they wanted.

They’re right about one thing, though: Kris is dangerous, and now she has nothing left to lose.


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The Case Against Synagogue: 4 Reasons My Jewish Family Doesn’t Go

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A few years ago my husband learned that the cantor who had supervised his Bar Mitzvah was forced into retirement. More than one member was floored that the now elderly man who survived the comings and goings of countless rabbis would be sent out to pasture because he didn’t fit the board’s “youthful” marketing strategy. Over five years later that same “out with the old” synagogue is struggling for membership. Every once in a while we’ll see signs in yards throughout our area offering an inclusive experience for Jews (“especially intermarrieds!”, often code for desperation) who want to find a “synagogue home.”

For us, the irony of the cantor’s story is one of the many elements that arise during the yearly “should we join a synagogue” discussion. Inevitably, we reach a series of conclusions common among Gen-X/millennial crossovers like ourselves. However, contrary to the popular opinion that money is the bottom line, our reality is that we don’t need to affiliate with a synagogue in order to live Jewish lives. And apparently we aren’t alone.

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4 Astounding Archaeological Discoveries In the Holy Land

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

Editor’s Note: See the previous installments in P. David Hornik’s fascinating series on the Hebrew language: “4 Ways That the Hebrew Language Redeemed the Jewish People in Our Time,” “4 Ways the World Changed for Me When I Learned Hebrew,” “4 Biblical Sayings That Spice Up Today’s Hebrew,” “5 Ways Hebrew Is (Very) Different from English,” and “10 English Words That Are—at Heart—Hebrew Words.

Hebrew goes back very far in the Holy Land. The earliest inscription believed to be in Hebrew, discovered in 2008 at the Khirbet Qeiyafa archeological site, dates from the 10th century BCE.

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa is convinced that it’s a Hebrew inscription and says it

indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.

Other scholars, though, believe the inscription is written, at least partly, in other ancient languages like Phoenician, Moabite, or Canaanite.

Other finds, however—including, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves—are indisputably in Hebrew. What follows are some of the more notable examples out of many.

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Atheists Can Be Moral, Too

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?

Can There Be Objective Morality without God?

Believers commonly assert that, without God, there can be no “objective right and wrong.” Yet, such an assertion ignores what it means to be objective. When we identify something as objective rather than subjective, we’re saying it can be observed in the real world. We’re saying it can be perceived, or conceived through reason applied to our perception. Even the most fervent believer must confess that God transcends our human perception, and therefore cannot be cited as a source of objective morality.

The appeal to God as a source of morality proceeds from our recognition that some standard must be applied to our decision-making process. Otherwise, anything goes. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, author Craig Biddle addresses this problem:

The problem is not: “If there is no God, anything goes.” The problem is: If there is no objective standard of value, anything goes. If there is no rationally provable standard of value, there is no way to defend with moral certainty what is right or to condemn with moral certainty what is wrong. The alternative is not religion versus subjectivism, but reason versus subjectivism – and the secular subjectivists know it.

The secular subjectivists Biddle references are those within the culture who reject religion as a source of morality, but make no effort to replace it with anything concrete. They suffice to say that morality emerges from social convention or rests in the eye of the beholder. What is right, they claim, is what makes you feel good, or what results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or what serves the “common good.”

How Do We Respond to Secular Subjectivism and Moral Relativism?

Believers offer our appeal to God as the source of “objective morality” in answer to such blatant subjectivism or moral relativism. Right and wrong can’t be left to whim, we argue. But our appeal to God doesn’t solve the problem.

Subjectivism – whether personal, social, or “supernatural” – wreaks havoc on human life and happiness. Until we can answer it with (genuine) moral certainty – that is, until we can show that morality is based on facts – it will continue to do so. From muggings and rapes, to school shootings and truck bombings, to concentration camps and gulags, to religious “inquisitions” and divinely inspired acts of terrorism – all such mayhem is caused by subjectivism. And the is-ought dichotomy is what makes subjectivism seem plausible.

The “Is-Ought” Dichotomy

This “is-ought dichotomy” is the philosophical dead end in which believers spar with secular subjectivists. Our culture has given up on the task of discovering a truly objective morality, because we have largely bought into the notion that values cannot be derived from facts, that we cannot discern an “ought” from an “is.”

The Moral Abyss of David Hume’s Philosophy

Biddle points to the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume as the originator of the is-ought dichotomy. Hume taught that it is logically impossible to transition from observable facts about the natural world to a code of conduct or set of values. The problem with Hume’s conclusion is that it leaves us with nowhere to go, with no moral anchor nor any means to discover one.

The is-ought gap represents a moral abyss. If we care about human life and happiness, we need to bridge it. We need to ground morality in reality; we need to discover a rationally provable ultimate end – a standard of value derived from observation and logic.

Christian believers should not feel discouraged or threatened by this. Indeed, scripture exhorts us to look to creation for general revelation regarding the character and nature of God. Paul says in Romans 1:20:

For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The Natural World Provides Guideposts for Appropriate Human Action

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The primary such guidepost is a standard of value from which to judge the appropriateness of all other conceived values, an end unto itself which all other ends support.

An end is a goal toward which one acts; a means is the action one takes toward a goal. For instance, if a student studies in order to get an education, the education is an end toward which his studying is the means. Likewise, if a person works in order to earn a paycheck, the paycheck is an end toward which his work is the means. But notice that such goals are not ends in themselves. A student gets an education so that he can pursue a career – which he pursues in order to support himself and earn a paycheck – which he earns in order to buy things – which he buys in order to use for various other purposes – which he pursues in order to accomplish still other goals – and so on. Each end presupposes another. So where does it all end?

If we are to establish an objective, fact-based morality, we need to discover a final end – one toward which all of our other goals and values are properly aimed. Such an end is by that fact our standard of moral value – the standard against which we can objectively assess the value of all our choices and actions. So the question becomes: What is our ultimate goal?

When we identify this ultimate goal, the question of what we ought to do becomes objectively answerable. That, and only that, is how we discern an objective morality.

As this series continues, we will present and evaluate this objective standard of value. Biddle offers it as an alternative to religion. But one need not be an atheist to accept it. Indeed, the discovery of an objective standard for moral action should embolden the believer and deepen our appreciation of God.

As a father, I may answer any challenge from my son with the proverbial “because I told you so.” In doing so, I don’t offer an actual reason. I merely assert my authority. While that authority proves legitimate, my ultimate desire for my son is that he one day understand why my instruction and rules serve his interest.

Similarly, the appeal to God as a moral authority may prove correct, but says nothing of why his prescriptions are good for us. A consideration of objective morality works to bridge that gap.

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How The Western Intelligentsia Denies Islam’s History of War and Crime

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

The Western intelligentsia is very, very anxious to make sure that you have a positive view of Islam. Thus we see a steady stream of articles in the mainstream media assuring you that the Qur’an is benign, the U.S. Constitution is Sharia-compliant, and the Islamic State is not Islamic. These articles come in a steady stream, and they have to, because they are asking non-Muslims to disregard what they see every day — Muslims committing violence against non-Muslims and justifying it by referring to Islamic texts — and instead embrace a fictional construct: Islam the religion of peace and tolerance.

This takes a relentless barrage of propaganda, because with every new jihad atrocity, reality threatens to break through. It wasn’t accidental that Hitler’s Reich had an entire Ministry of Propaganda: lying to the public is a full-time job, as the cleverest of propaganda constructs is always threatened by the simple facts. This propaganda not just from the Left (the Huffington Post, Salon, etc.), but also from the Right, or at least the Right-leaning media (Forbes); it seems as if whatever divides Americans politically, they’re all united on one point: Islam is just great, and only bigoted, racist “Islamophobes” think otherwise.

Yet the pains that must be taken to establish this betray the futility of the enterprise. A sampling: establishment academic Juan Cole, a Board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which has been established in court as a front group lobbying for the Islamic regime in Iran, pointed out last Tuesday in The Nation that Rudy Giuliani and Paul Wolfowitz had taken issue with Barack Obama over whether Islamic terrorism was really Islamic, and asserted that this question was “actually about what philosophers call ‘essentialism,’ and, as Giuliani’s and Wolfowitz’s own interventions make clear, it is about absolving the United States for its own role in producing the violent so-called ‘Caliphate’ of Ibrahim al-Baghdadi.”

Oh, really? Yet I readily agree with Cole that Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein and naive trust that a stable Western-style republic would take its place was ill-considered, as I argued back in March 2003. And the Islamic State filled the vacuum thus created. But this is an entirely separate question from that of whether the Islamic State has anything to do with Islam or not. Whatever Paul Wolfowitz or Rudy Giuliani said or did is simply irrelevant to the question Cole claims to be investigating: if Giuliani and Wolfowitz are right that Islamic jihadis have something to do with Islam, that does nothing whatsoever to absolve the U.S. “for its own role in producing the violent so-called ‘Caliphate’ of Ibrahim al-Baghdadi.”

As for “essentialism,” Cole added:

“Essentialism when applied to human groups is always an error and always a form of bigotry. Zionists bombed the King David Hotel in British Mandate Palestine in 1948, killing dozens of civilians and some British intelligence officials. If a British official had responded then by arguing that ‘everyone knows that Judaism has something to do with what we’re fighting,’ it would be fairly clear what that official thought about Jews in general.”

“Essentialism when applied to human groups” may be “always an error and always a form of bigotry,” but when applied to belief systems it is not. Cole is, perhaps deliberately, conflating Islam and Muslims, and claiming that to speak of what Islam is and is not, which is established by reference to Islamic texts and teachings, is to make a bigoted judgment against all Muslims. Islam in all its forms teaches certain things. Its teachings are knowable. To speak about Muslims acting upon them, when they themselves explain and justify their actions by referring to those actions, is not bigotry, despite the endless charges to the contrary from leftists and Islamic supremacists. It is simply to notice reality.

Cole then embarks upon a labored argument to establish that the Salafi jihadis are a “sect” and a “destructive cult,” charging anyone who disagrees with him with the cardinal sin of “Orientalism,” claiming that “it is now typically forgotten that in the early twentieth century the Ku Klux Klan was a Protestant religious organization or that it came to power in the state of Indiana in the 1920s and comprised 30 percent of native-born white men there. It was a large social movement, with elements of the destructive cult, in the heart of North America. More recent groups such as Jim Jones’s People’s Temple and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians may have begun as high-tension sects, but at a certain point they became destructive cults. The refusal to see ISIL in these terms is just a form of Orientalism, a way of othering the Middle East and marking its culture as inherently threatening.”

Cole here ignores, of course, the fact that the KKK, the People’s Temple and the Branch Davidians represented obvious deviations from Protestant Christianity, and were condemned as such. The Islamic State and jihadists have likewise been condemned by Muslim authorities, but these condemnations have all too often rung hollow: Tahir ul-Qadri’s vaunted 300-page fatwa against terrorism doesn’t even mention the passages of the Qur’an that exhort believers to violence against unbelievers; and the recent “Letter to Baghdadi” from Muslim scholars to the self-styled caliph of the Islamic State endorsed central concepts of jihad doctrine that Western analysts usually think are limited only to “extremists.” Cole likewise ignores the fact that all the traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madhahib) teach that the umma has the responsibility to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. It is not “othering the Middle East” to point this out — it is simply noting the severe limitations of Cole’s analogy.

Ultimately Cole’s argument rests on “essentialism” — that is, the idea that anything really is anything, as opposed to anything else. That this is nonsense, and that Cole knows it’s nonsense, is shown by this very article: Cole assumes that he and his readers both know what the KKK is and the People’s Temple and the Branch Davidians are, but Islam? — a mystery, and you’re a bigoted Orientalist Islamophobe if you think otherwise. In any case, even if one grants that Islam has no essence, nonetheless the Islamic State jihadis claim to be acting in accord with Islam, and make their case based upon an interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah that is well established in Islamic history and theology. The fact that other Muslims have a different understanding of Islam doesn’t negate this.

Even worse, Cole claims that the Islamic State “is put under the sign of religion, but it is in fact a form of nationalism appealing to medieval religious symbols.”

To claim that the Islamic State is a form of nationalism leads inevitably to the question: which nation? And that’s where Cole’s analysis is most absurd: the Islamic State is not nationalistic in any sense. It is neither Iraqi nor Syrian, for it has erased the border between the two. It is, in fact, the most internationalist of movements, with over 20,000 Muslims from all over the world traveling to Iraq and Syria to join it. The only nation that the Islamic State could conceivably be said to be fighting for is the international Muslim nation, the worldwide umma — but Cole can’t acknowledge that, as it would be granting the point he is trying clumsily to rule out.

Even clumsier, however, was Cole’s counterpart on the (relative) Right, Loren Thompson of Forbes. Thompson began his case that the Islamic State is not Islamic by noting that “when you do the math, it appears that the ‘addressable market’ for ISIS ideas is 5% of the global Muslim community, and as of today most of that market isn’t buying.” Yes, and the Bolsheviks were never a majority in Russia, and the National Socialists never won an absolute majority in a German election. But where is the Muslim pushback against this organized, energized vanguard? We have recently seen hundreds of thousands of Muslims demonstrate against cartoons of Muhammad; there have not been any Muslim demonstrations, however, against the Islamic State — much less efforts to teach against its understanding of Islam in Muslim communities.

Thompson’s case went downhill from there. His second point against the Islamic character of the Islamic State was that “non-Muslims have committed similar atrocities.” But of course, the fact that there is “nothing uniquely Islamic” about what the Islamic State does in no way establishes that its behavior isn’t sanctioned and justified by Islamic texts and teachings.

Still digging, Thompson added that

“for many ISIS members, Islam is a pretext. ISIS isn’t the first militant organization that has attracted young men to its cause by claiming to represent a higher calling. Hitler’s early appeal to alienated young males in the beer halls of Munich — the notion of a thousand-year Reich, the need for lebensraum, the scapegoating of Jews, the rejection of cosmopolitan values – was similar to the appeals that ISIS issues today. It appears that every culture produces large numbers of young males who can be mobilized in the pursuit of millenarian philosophies, not because of the specific content of the vision, but because young men yearn for power and status and resources (not to mention mates).”

To follow this logic, one would have to hold that Nazi Germany wasn’t Nazi because some of its followers were disaffected young males who had been mobilized in pursuit of millenarian philosophies. In other words, Forbes, like The Nation, is so intent on establishing that the Islamic State isn’t Islamic that it is straying into absurdity.

Thompson agreed with Cole that the debate over whether the Islamic State is Islamic is “highly partisan,” but this also is inaccurate: most establishment Republicans follow the Obama line that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam, which, after all, is just a variation on the Bush line that the Islamic jihadists had twisted and hijacked the Religion of Peace. This is unquestioned dogma in Washington, enforced by iron fist. There are a few blades of grass poking through the concrete here and there: the truth will inevitably defeat all attempts to stifle it. However, expect the media cement mixers to churn out a great deal more cement before the truth finally prevails outright against all this disinformation.

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Cold Temps, Warm Metal and Buttery Flesh: How To Do Winter BBQ

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Audie Cockings

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Your grill called. He’s cold and hungry. Fire up that alloy ally because gelid air temps offer noteworthy benefits in curing major bovine muscle groups. Low and slow heat delivers smoldered exteriors with pinked interior rings and buttery flesh by way of the sympathetic smoke.

Those of you who routinely scorch steaks on the grill can’t possibly get smoking wrong. If you can read a thermometer, you can smoke meat. It’s infinitely more palatable than a scorned Porterhouse at the hands of a meat arsonist, and a heck of a lot cheaper. Meat prices are higher than ever and it’s time you get better acquainted with humble Chuck.

Many traditional cuts once smoked for their economy are now nearly as expensive per pound as their provender contingents. Not to say that a twenty dollar prime rib “hamburger” or an ten-dollar haute dog aren’t worth a try.  It’s just that the American BBQ isn’t a solitary kind of event, it’s a party.  And having friends over to break bread shouldn’t break bank.

This week, beefretail.org, who establishes national averages for beef prices, quotes wholesale price for flat cut brisket at just over six dollars per pound. That’s nearly two dollars more per pound than this time last year not including retail markup which averages 26%, even higher in metro areas.

As such, I suggest we scrap traditional cuts that routinely inhabit the smoker and venture out into roasts previously confined to the Crock Pot or Dutch Oven (as in roasting pan, not captive undercover outbursts).  Enter “Chuck”, the shoulder area of the cow. This portion of the carcass generates nearly 25% of the edible rations, bearing a great deal more meat than bougie steak or rib portions. And like my spouse, Chuck is tough but loveable given the right conditions.

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Wholesale prices for Chuck hover around $3 per pound. But even with retail markup you can secure a great three pound chuck roast, enough to feed a family of four, for about twelve bucks—The price of one bone-in ribeye.  Three pounds may sound excessive for four diners, but one must consider shrinkage– Fat and water melted away, leaving a dense beautifully hued protein (because dense and beautiful are the perfect combo in the meat kingdom).

Prep and cooking time is lengthy so consider buying bulk Chuck. Slice into three-to-four pound sections before marinating. Leftover smoked Chuck can be shredded for stellar tacos, sandwiches or enchiladas.

My own fore into smoked chuck was entirely by accident. I’d have never thought to throw such a girthy, oleaginous cut into the drum. But one morning when the husband was prepping the smoker for some whole chickens, I remembered thawing a roast that wouldn’t be prudent to eat if left another day in the fridge.  A dull fleshed, less than spritely three pound chuck that I just couldn’t bear to toss.

You see, I went to an angus farm and ordered half a bull. I saw the damn thing galloping about a field of butterflies and named it “Fred” before solidifying his slaughter with my signature (death warrant) and credit card number.

I purposefully made eye contact with death row Fred a week prior to his poor throat being slit by a rabbi, wanting to better appreciate where my food comes from and be less inclined to waste former living things.  As such, my near-ripe chuck (Fred) was messaged with salt and spices then nestled into a quad of chickens on the smoker vice being ravaged by raptors at the landfill.

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Smoking meat does not require a Texas-style steel Trojan of a grill favoring a sawed off MK-16 torpedo. These offset smoker boxes are great if you have one, but a standard charcoal grill with a tight-fitting lid will suffice.

The easiest method involves soaking wood chips (six cups) or small branches overnight in clean water then tossing them right atop your hot charcoal when ready to smoke. Apple, cherry, mesquite and hickory are all good.

Don’t buy wood chips if there’s an orchard nearby or a neighbor with a few fruit trees. Ask to be present when they prune (you could of course, offer to help). There’s no reason to spend seven bucks on a tidy bag of ethically-harvested smoking wood at Williams-Sonoma. Only a liberal would do that. Pruning is very ethical and free is always better.

While your grill is getting hot, marinate Chuck in any style bath you’d normally offer beef.  If you don’t have a go-to, see my blog for a basic marinade recipe. Use a gallon-sized zipper bag for each three-to-four pound chuck roast. Leave at room temp for an hour or up to twelve hours in the refrigerator.

Smoke chuck at between 225 and 250 degrees for five to six hours, or 200 degrees for seven hours, generously enveloping chuck in foil at the halfway mark (wrap your meat snuggly—leaks could prove problematic later). Chuck is ready to rest when his internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. The more you peek, the longer the process will take, so please refrain. Juices will be redistributed to the finished meat while resting for several hours in a cool, dry place. The longer it has to rest, the more tender and tasty it is.

Are you a chronic overachiever? Then tackle the entire process a day ahead placing the finished foil-wrapped meat straight into the refrigerator to eat the next day. To serve, thinly slice and gently heat in the microwave or oven and finish with BBQ sauce — Lefty’s is my personal fav. Finished foil-wrapped smoked Chuck can also be put straight into a freezer bag and into the freezer for a later date (or a hot date?). Serve with slaw or my five cheese sweet potato gratin (recipe on my blog here).

Wintery weather offers ideal conditions for curing meat through smoking. And the humble Chuck, once predestined for pot roast proves a worthy alternative to traditionally smoked cuts… he’s tasty, easy to find, and economical. Even our Dallas blood brethren love my smoked Chuck. And that’s a good thing because they eat a lot and visit often.

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Net Neutrality: 3 Reasons It’s Time for the Ron Swanson Internet Warriors to Fight Back

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Nathan Lichtman

“I enjoy government functions like I enjoy getting kicked in the nuggets by a steel toed boot.” So sayeth the mustachioed libertarian prophet of Parks and Recreation.

It cannot be a coincidence that net neutrality passed the FCC and that Ron Swanson’s character was aired for the last time, within a week. I mean, the universe plays some funny jokes on us from time to time… but this is too much!

Ron Swanson instilled a healthy distrust of government in everyone who watched NBC’s sitcom. He liked doing nothing to advance the government bureaucracy (that he worked for), because he recognized that government, more often than not, gets in the way.

But the very week the final episode of this wildly successful show was on the tube, already people across the nation are assuming that “net neutrality” is a thing to be celebrated. The Daily Dot even ran a story with the subtitle “Victory.”

So let me explain why I’m bashing the “net neutrality” thing that just passed the FCC in a landmark vote:

First, the FCC is the same group that will let you call someone a “bitch” or an “asshole” on the air, but God forbid you say the word “s**t.”

Aside from the stupidity of what constitutes a George Carlin “bad word,” let’s just register the fact that the FCC already regulates speech. Unless you have a HAM radio license (like I do), the only time you’ve ever heard of the FCC before is when they’ve fined a television network or radio station for saying a “bad word.” So my first objection is that, inevitably, the FCC will decide what the bad things to say on the internet are, and regulate them. Censorship—it’s what they do.

Secondly, I want people to embrace their Ron Swanson-ness (a term which he would probably dislike).

The articles I’ve read that are pro-”neutrality” claim that the greedy internet companies need regulation. That otherwise they will place heavy rates on the consumer, or charge companies for faster service. So shady. But, what is the largest and greediest company in the world? That’s right, Ron Swanson Jr., it’s the U.S. government. They have a monopoly on everything they do, and they inherently do things with the goal of taking more power and tax money for themselves — especially for an unelected body like the FCC. So why would we trust the government to oversee corporations?

And finally, the idea behind this new regulation is to make the internet into a public utility.

Public utilities are the worst. At least in internet and cable, I have had competition when choosing my plans. I could get my television from DirecTV or Time Warner, and I could get my internet from several entities as well. I made my choice because of the speeds to price ratio. And I chose to pay a little more to get higher internet speeds. I do not have the same choice with water and power. In my community, it’s a public utility — the same public utility that fines me if I take a “too-long” shower, that charges me extra to use a dryer at 9pm, that posts billboards all around telling people to not wash their cars or water their lawns. So what’s next? Well, “We have a drought of internet speeds because too many people are watching Netflix, so we are going to have to ask you to only use the streaming services you’ve paid for between the hours of 6am to 8am”?

Under the label “neutral,” the FCC board has created anything but. Please, everyone, embrace you inner Swanson-ality (a term he’d like even less) and stop posting this #NetNeutrality thing like it’s good. It will spell the end of freedom of speech as we know it, and I’m not hyperbolizing.

Sorry, Leslie Knope.

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Game of Thrones: Looks Like it’s Going to be a Very Long Winter Beyond the Wall

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Which beloved (or hated) Game of Thrones character will be the first to be capped in Season 5? No use to hazard a guess because anyone in the series is likely to die at any time.

That, of course, is one of the attractions of the series. The Game of Thrones universe is a brutal place and death lurks behind every rock and tree — and even in great banquet halls celebrating a wedding.

HBO released a couple of new clips today that don’t tell us much, but suggest a darker, more foreboding atmosphere to the show. The first clip features Podrick Payne and Brienne of Tarth, apparently following some horrific battle that the Amazonian goddess won:

The next clip features Jon Snow offering a question to the former King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, played by Ciarán Hinds.

I am replacing my Chicago Bulls wallpaper with the poster released today:

000000With the dragon flying free, you have to wonder if Dani’s babies are going to get out of the dungeon they’re confined in. Let’s hope so. There are probably a couple of armies they could barbecue.

All in good fun, of course.

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Leonard Nimoy Dead at 83

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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Actor, poet, author, songwriter Leonard Nimoy, who played one of the most iconic characters in the history of series television, died at his home in Los Angeles today. He was 83.

Nimoy’s portrayal of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock made him an international star and celebrity. For more than 40 years he played the half-human, half-alien character on Star Trek TV shows and movies.

The New York Times described Spock as “a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: ‘Live long and prosper’ (from the Vulcan ‘Dif-tor heh smusma’).” Mind melding, 3-dimensional chess, and that marvelous knock-out pinch made Spock a singular character — one to be admired and parodied over the years.

The Times recalls an episode that expressed Spock’s dual nature:

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

We all have our favorite Spock episodes or movies. Mine is The Wrath of Khan * which shows him making the ultimate sacrifice for his friends and the ship. The scene of his death with Kirk on the other side of a glass wall is full of pathos and a surprising tenderness. He also directed the film and was given a writing credit. Unforgettable.

The Times lists some of his other credits:

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1995 to 2003, Mr. Nimoy narrated the “Ancient Mysteries” series on the History Channel. He also appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.

Nimoy won an Emmy for his portrayal of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s husband. He also played Paris for three seasons on the original Mission: Impossible. He has numerous credits for TV movies and episodes.

There is little doubt that the character of Mr. Spock will live long after the Star Trek franchise remains viable. He has taken on a life of his own and it wouldn’t surprise me if, 50 years from now, kids were still trying to knock out their friends by pinching them on their shoulders.

Live long and prosper.

* An earlier version of this article featured a major league brain cramp on my part, when I combined The Wrath of Khan death scene with The Voyage Home plot. Not the most embarrassing error I’ve made, but it’s in the top 5 for sure.

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Confessions of a Former High School Teacher: 10 Tips for Parents

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Joni Nichols

In high schools across America, from small country farm towns to bustling cities, I have seen quite a bit of the high school landscape. In the turmoil of Common Core ideological wars and stories like this award-winning teacher jumping ship earlier this month, it can seem daunting to send our kids to public school. It’s daunting to work there, too. Teachers are riding out big swings in educational reform while moms and dads just want a happy well-adjusted student.  During my ten years in, I did not have children of my own. I do now. And here are the notes I would want from the other side if I were a parent of a public high schooler today:

1. You are still in charge.

As a parent, you’ve chosen the vehicle to get your child to 12th grade, so you oversee the process along the way. And with free k-12 public school online and university model part-time high schools, you are not locked into any standard. (Here’s what I do.) No, Common Core has not taken over everything everywhere. Don’t let anyone boss you into a picture of what your kid’s education has to look like. You still have those keys.  (And this OHS “Online High School” attender will certainly broaden your definitions of high school through a few confessions of her own.)

2. Don’t be afraid of “paying extra” to customize what isn’t working.

Remember, teachers must aim at the middle, which means they are going too fast for the slower processors, and too slow for the fast processors. There’s nothing the teacher can do about that. But you can do a lot about that. And you should. The teacher will not have the time or emotional investment to initiate, but she is capable of tailoring more than she will ever admit. Yes, it is a little bit of legwork and back-and-forth communication, but this is not barbed wire you are getting through; it’s an email. You’re opening conversations that can lead to compromise.

3. Don’t misinterpret the pushback.

If a blank stare or a little resistance can get someone to solve their own problems and save them from more headache and heartache, then wow, what a skill to develop! Graciously bypass this defense mechanism (rudeness) and set up a meeting or ask for someone else to speak to you about it. They don’t know how serious you are, if you are just venting, or indeed impossible;  just as you don’t know what they are made of. Frankly, these adults are overrun with unique situations, and their brain and heart spaces are limited, so a little pushback of your own may be in order. (A little.)

4. Be the helicopter parent when needed.

By high school age, a hands-off approach may suit most of the time, so you may feel like you are poking through a mysterious membrane to dig through files and floorboards and defenses, but you are not invading your child’s space, embarrassing him, or being too overbearing. You are entering his very real world which is in need of very real adult supervision. Not because you have the power to force him to do something, but because you have the power to see things that he cannot see and give wisdom that he does not have. And when that teacher sees you humbly doing the unthinkable, she may pretend not to notice, but she will know you are literally saving your child in a system that cannot afford to customize swimming lessons for those still treading water in the deep.

5. Your words are more powerful than you know.

While leaning on standard phrases about department policies and school policies, teachers are closing the door, tweaking the details of assignments as they see fit. With no outside voices coming in, these dictatorships that can get quite overgrown. Maybe you are the first to raise the flag on an issue, and maybe you won’t win the argument, but something will change. And at the very least, she’ll be on her toes when it comes to you.

A photo posted by @xoxo_msheidy on

6. Go face to face.

Your very presence injects the human element. She is dealing with a sterile name and grade on a list. And that’s the way she wants it. She may “call the shots” and be difficult to disarm, but she (like you) can’t see all sides of an issue. And she has to listen to you. (She can probably give insight about your child that you may not see for yourself.) And if you both want the same thing–to teach skills with responsibility for working toward mastery–then the discussion of how to go about it will be an interpretative dance that can’t be done via email. She’ll meet you with a compromise…. though she will have trouble admitting it. Unless it makes for a compelling selfie.

7. Know the laws (and your guidance counselor).

Extra days, extra time, you name it, somebody has an Individualized Education Plan for it. The rest of life will be lived by new laws, but while you’re there, there are plenty that protect the child and his needs for accommodation. How about that student who needed to come 30 minutes late every day due to morning anxiety? Just enough time for her Starbucks run which she proudly brought into class. IEP certified. Frankly, no one knows what’s going inside your child’s life and your house, and it’s no one’s right to know or judge. But a parent must lead the intervention if your details won’t fit on the EZ form.

8. Put your child over your reputation.

Yes, you will become known as the parent who complains. Yes, your child may become known as the one with problem parents. Yes, they will talk about you and the situation during lunch with their coworkers. But while they are on the battlefield trying to stamp out ignorance, you are on your child’s side, trying to stamp out unjust treatment. I have had many an awkward discussion with many an embarrassed parent, but teachers put their reputation on the line daily as they give what they can to a broken system they can’t fix.  So in coming to the table, a high five is more in order. Welcome to the club.

9. Don’t let the teacher fool you.

With as many learning styles as teaching styles as curriculum styles, who is to say why Junior is failing?  That teacher just isn’t 100% sure. In that pressured world of details and deadlines, some stacks and essays get thrown away. (Gasp!)  Meaning, sometimes peace trumps justice. So be sure of what you are asking for. It’s looking good already.

10. Don’t forget the wildcard.

Remember, in this deck, there are always surprises. Brace yourself for the moment you learn that teacher is privately going through a divorce. Or chemotherapy. Or hasn’t cared for yeaaaaaars. Or that the history teacher might have a crush on your daughter. And, similarly, don’t forget that sometimes the wildcard is you.

So get in the game and represent your family well, never apologizing for your CEO role in the education of your child. Though the communication burden is on you (no matter their promises) it’ll be worth any mess it may create. Our children are always going to be worth the strain of questioning and reinventing the path as we know it.

To read more on where I ended up, you can visit my education blog here.

*****

image illustrations via shutterstock / 

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NASCAR Driver’s Car Stolen From Hotel Parking Lot

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Travis Kvapil, a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, woke up this morning to a nasty surprise: his race car had been stolen from the hotel parking lot.

Kvapil drives for Team XTREME Racing, a relative newcomer to the circuit. Ultimately, it’s the team’s responsibility to secure the car, but one wonders how a thief could just waltz in and steal a trailer in a hotel parking lot.

The driver sent a series of tweets this morning reflecting his bemusement:

 

 

The team’s owner, John Cohen, says they will have to withdraw from the race.

ESPN:

Cohen said he used to own a truck company and was worried about ice in Atlanta on Wednesday night, so he sent the hauler to the track early without the race car. The team didn’t have the car ready after the team had wrecked a car in Daytona 500 qualifying Feb. 15 and had to spend time a week ago getting a new one prepared for the Daytona 500.

The car for Atlanta went down Thursday night in an enclosed hauler towed by a dually.

“With everything that happened at Daytona, it set us a week back,” Cohen told ESPN.com in a phone interview Friday morning. “I’ve got a decent staff, [but] not a big staff. … It’s getting frustrating. I’ve got four cars at the shop now.”

Oglesby said there is video surveillance of the alleged robbery.

“We’re going to say [it is a] stolen vehicle at this point in time,” Oglesby said. “That’s as much as we know. We have no idea where it is. … (The video) shows one male walking up to the vehicle between 5:30 and 5:32 [a.m.], you see him get out of the vehicle and then you see him walk up to that vehicle about 5:34 and the vehicle is driving out of the location.”

Kvapil, who said many of the parts and pieces needed for next week at Las Vegas were on the Atlanta car, got a call at 8 a.m. Friday. At first, Kvapil said he was told about trouble with the car and he thought maybe there was a problem in tech.

“Come to find out, we had big problems with the car,” Kvapil said. “It’s really a crazy story. I feel bad for the guys, John Cohen and the team … they worked so hard the last couple of days and a lot of hours to get us here, and to have it kind of just pulled out right from under us …”

Oglesby asked for help in locating the vehicles — a black 2004 Ford F-350 pulling a white trailer. Both had New Jersey tags. He estimated the overall value of all vehicles — including the $250,000 race car, engine, parts, etc. — was between $350,000 and $400,000.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m sure that whoever stole it had no idea they were getting a Cup car and a spare engine,” Kvapil said. “There’s a lot of money inside that little trailer right now. For the team’s sake and John Cohen’s sake, hopefully the parts and pieces can be recovered or it will be a really huge setback for the team.”

Cohen is hoping that because it’s a race car — which can’t really be sold without someone knowing where it came from — that authorities can recover the car.

Kvapil has one top 10 finish to his credit and is a newcomer to Team EXTREME. He previously drove for BK Racing.

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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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Are You Kidding Me? Llamas on the Loose? In Phoenix?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Clickbait warning. But in this case, I have a good excuse.

Watch and be amazed as we present all 18 glorious minutes of the cops chasing 2 llamas that got loose in Phoenix, AZ:

Here’s a 26 minute version for those who wish a deep analysis of the incident.

If you just want the highlights, here’s the version for those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder:

Llamas, by the way, make excellent pets. Their milk is reportedly delicious. They are used as a pack animal by mountain folk in the Andes as well as a source of meat.

I’ll pass on that last part.

You just never know what will cause the social universe on the internet to explode.

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Scientists Stumped by Bright Lights on Dwarf Planet

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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Two bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres have scientists scrambling for an explanation. The spots were seen by an imager on the space probe Dawn, which settled into orbit around  Ceres on March 6.

Some scientists are speculating that the bright spots may be volcanoes. If true, it would mark Ceres as the smallest body in the solar system with active geology.

Fox News reports:

The planet, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, has an average diameter of 590 miles and is the largest body in the main asteroid belt and is believed to contain a large amount of ice.

“Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin,” Chris Russell, a principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said in a news release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This maybe pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” Russell said.

Scientists hope to get a better view of Ceres in the next week as Dawn is scheduled to enter the planet’s orbit March 6. The bright spots that have captivated the world might soon come into sharper focus.

“The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres,” Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planch Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, said in the release.

The Dawn spacecraft has already delivered more than 30,000 images of Vesta – the second largest body in the main asteroid belt – during an orbit in 2011 and 2012.

The volcanic activity on Ceres could be ice geysers, a phenomenon common on other icy bodies in the solar system. But the ice geysers on Jupiter’s moon Europa are thought to be connected with the constant pulling and pushing of Jupiter’s gravity on Europa’s core, which causes heat and pressure to build, melting the ice, and sending the geysers skyward through cracks in the crust. If there are ice geysers on Ceres, it must be through a previously unknown process.

This is an exciting year for space enthusiasts. In addition to Dawn, the spacecraft New Horizons will have its close encounter with Pluto on July 14. When the spacecraft launched from earth in 2006, Pluto was still considered a planet. Now, it is one of several hundred dwarf planets, having been downgraded when other bodies of similar size were found in the Kuiper Belt.

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What is the Future of Assassination? Meet Rico, A Genetically-Enhanced Hitman

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Liberty Island

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Killing is ugly. A living body is designed to survive; killing opposes its entire purpose. Nothing dies in an artful manner — a body is just damaged until it fails to sustain itself anymore. Put enough holes in something, and it will eventually stop moving, stop functioning. And often a living creature’s last moments are spent in a pointless struggle, twisting and writhing in a vain attempt to continue its existence. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve known it myself.

But that’s just an aesthetic quibble. The ugliness of death aside, I always enjoyed the challenge of being a hitman.

The receptionist was ignoring me. She (I wasn’t familiar with the species — purplish with tentacley things on her head — but she appeared to be the childbearing variety) was talking on the phone in a clearly non-work-related manner while I waited. We were in a spacious lobby with walls and floors of glass and ivory. Everything was curved, not many hard angles where surfaces met. Several bunches of flowers and other potted plants decorated the walls and otherwise empty floor space. I noted one exit to my right and a hallway leading further into the building to my left — so I only had two directions to be wary of.

I knocked on the hard white top of her desk. She finished her call and looked at me with gray eyes. “I’m sorry for the wait, but I don’t think this resort is able to accommodate your species.”

“That’s okay. I’m actually here on business. My name is Rico, and I am here to see Chal Naus.”

“He didn’t say he was expecting anyone, and he doesn’t see anyone without an appointment. And business hours ended half an hour ago.”

“No, he is not expecting me, but I do need to see him personally. And I specifically came after business hours because I wanted to be polite and not interrupt whatever it is he does here.”

Her face tensed. I had no idea what that meant — and didn’t care. “I can’t help you. I think you need to leave.” Her tenor had changed — I think she was threatening me. She wasn’t very good at it. Perhaps I could teach her something.

The job of a hitman is always changing, always invigorating, and it often requires that I perform at my best. Plus, it makes me get out and interact with people — which is good, since I’m basically anti-social. I have trouble seeing that as my fault, though; I rarely encounter an individual worth talking to. Everyone seems so pointless, coasting through drab, rote lives. They have nothing useful to say, nothing useful to do. They just are.

I partly blame civilization for that. It allows people to get through life with so little effort. Take this receptionist. Most animals exist in a daily life-and-death struggle, and if they don’t give it everything they’ve got, they end up with that messy death I just described. The receptionist, on other hand, just had to sit at a desk and smile… and she couldn’t even be bothered to put much effort into that. I can’t imagine why someone would waste her life going to a job she doesn’t care to do. I can’t imagine such a person would have anything to say that might be worth listening to. So I’m anti-social.

But I’m working on it.

Sure, I find pretty much all sentients boring in their normal lives, but that doesn’t mean they lack the potential to be interesting. It’s just a matter of focus. No matter how lazy or unmotivated a person is, if he feels his life is on the line, he will devote every available resource to not being killed. Civilization goes out the door, and pure survival kicks in. When people are that awake and that focused, they intrigue me. So you can say I have a job that brings out the best in people.

“Are you familiar with the Nystrom syndicate? I am here on their behalf, so one way or another I will speak to your boss. In person.”

Her eyes grew wider. I could have guessed at the meaning of that but, again, I didn’t care. “Is he aware you are coming?”

I thought I’d covered that. Sometimes — due to my lack of social skills — I’m not as clear as I think I am. So I tried again. “I’ll make this simple: You tell Chal Naus that I am going to speak to him personally and that I will kill anyone who stands in my way, starting with you.” I didn’t think she was actually going to get in my way, but as I said, people can be quite focused when they feel their lives are on the line. “I’m going to go sit down while I wait for a response.” I smiled politely, wondering what color her species bled; you can never tell by skin color.

I sat down in one of the odd circular chairs across from the desk. The purple, tentacle-headed receptionist was back on the phone, talking much more frantically than she had before. Soon six other creatures entered the lobby: larger tentacle-headed things I assumed were male. I think they were supposed to intimidate me, and the tense faces they wore were probably their angry expressions.

I remained seated and relaxed, arms folded. There is little in body language that is universal between species, but ignoring someone is a good way to assert dominance; it communicates that I do not find an individual or group to be threatening or even worth my time.

A screen appeared on one of the walls. On the screen was the image of another creature of the same species, and admittedly able to judge by only a small sample, he seemed obese. That wasn’t necessarily a weakness — it could be a cultural thing.

“That is Chal Naus,” Dip, my “partner,” chimed in my ear.

*****

Join us again next week for another excerpt from SuperEgo and more provocative essays from Frank J. Fleming and the Liberty Island team.

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What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by David S. Bernstein

Many conservatives are upset that American Sniper and director Clint Eastwood were (predictably) snubbed at the Oscars; but they shouldn’t be. The fact that a film with an overtly conservative message, directed by an openly conservative pop-culture icon, has grossed more than $400 million is a sign that conservative messages hold a powerful resonance with the American public.

American Sniper is hardly an aberration.

When high-quality entertainment that reflects conservative and/or libertarian ideals is presented to the public, it finds a broad and enthusiastic audience. From the various Marvel Films superhero barn-burners to novels by authors such as James Patterson, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn; from graphic novels like Frank Miller’s 300 to TV shows like Downton Abbey, great stories with conservative sensibilities have proven to be commercial winners.

Note what all of these examples have in common, though: none of them are political polemics. Rather, they are well-crafted pieces of middle-brow entertainment, aimed first and foremost at telling a compelling story that (as any great story does) reveal truths about the human condition. Any specific political or ideological message is, thankfully, secondary.

It’s exciting (and rare) when a surge of creativity jibes with consumer preferences. In fact, I believe we are witnessing the start of a great renaissance in conservative creative culture. As the Publisher of Liberty Island, I’m continually impressed at the quality of the short fiction and novels that come across my desk from self-described conservatives and libertarians. These are not folks who can get their scripts produced in Hollywood or on Broadway, nor can they expect mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on their novels. However, they are the farm team, the next generation of conservative creators who will replace the Eastwoods and the Flynns.

Like any renaissance, this one requires nurturing and encouragement of nascent creators and that is a job we take very seriously. All of this has come with a surprising finding: we’ve found that the greatest enemy of creative conservatives isn’t the liberal cultural establishment; after all, it’s easy to bypass gatekeepers in the age of digital distribution.

Rather, the real enemy is a DC-based conservative establishment that is indifferent or outright hostile to cultural pursuits. They argue that building a conservative counterculture is a waste of time, and will make no difference. Some even go so far as to argue that middlebrow culture is inherently liberal or corrupting.

It’s as if the right side of the conservative brain has atrophied to such a degree that the people who claim to speak for us can’t see beyond the next election cycle or next Sunday’s news shows.

The very people who claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan denigrate the medium that made his career, and made him the extraordinary leader that he was. Reagan understood the power of the narrative; and he further understood that the story of the average man doing extraordinary deeds defined both conservatism and American exceptionalism.

That, more than any policy choices, is the legacy Reagan left to conservatives. And I firmly believe that the next Reagan will be found not among politicians and lawyers and investment bankers but among writers and directors and actors.

****

Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to David’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

The essay above is the fourth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.

Volume II

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See the previous installments in Mark Ellis’s exploration of Adam Carolla. From January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?. And from February 6: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism.

Submitted again for consideration, Adam Carolla, born as his very cohort, Generation X, was beginning in 1964.

Joining him in this chapter is writer Chuck Palahniuk, born in 1962, another prominent Gen X cultural figure.

Consider now, as the swath of humanity that followed the boomers reaches full majority, in fullest possession of its powers, how variant Carolla/Palahniuk countercultures confront what we see on the horizon. How will the legacy of Generation X be written from this point forward?

How will a generation’s power-players and cultural icons impact, for example, policymaking on healthcare, strategies for dealing with the radical Islamist threat, and the social landscape that the millennials following them will inherit?

In September 2013, PJ Lifestyle editor David Swindle, riffing on Strauss and Howe’s Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, laid out his self-described “oddball” take on generational theory. Swindle argues for more detailed time-frame specifications in generations, recommending five year break-downs in place of the usual twenty — “boomer-leaning Gen-X-ers,” “Millennial-Gen-X blends,” “Gen-X-leaning Boomers,” “Millennial-leaning Gen-Xers” and so forth.

However you want to slice and dice the decades — for the sake of this discussion, Carolla and Palahniuk are instructive examples of the reactions, rebellions, and disillusionments of a generation shaded by oblique pathos.

On the earliest cusp of X, Carolla is part of the generation that inherited a choice between three ideological frameworks: progressivism, reactionary traditionalism, and unaffiliated rebelliousness.

Palahniuk predates the official kick-off of X, but is arguably too young for the boom. He served as a transitory figure, a harbinger of Gen X‘s devastatingly critical, tribal quest for definition.

Adam Carolla and Chuck Palahniuk, an unlikely duo but for their Gen-X lineage, hold claim to tributary subcultures that were natural responses to the boomer counterculture that rejected button-down corporatism and neo-Victorian social mores.

Where Palahniuk twists culture to his visionary fictional ends, Carolla goes hammer and tong to make sense of it.

My first adult experience with Gen X came primarily from two sources. First, when I met younger parents from across the socieo-economic spectrum in my children’s schools. Second, when I hired or began to compete with young guys coming up in the paint-contracting trade.

Something I noticed about both cohorts right off: Gen-X cynicism on the subject of national pride, a rejection of the reflexive patriotism that I had been inculcated with since birth.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance, with God and without irony, every morning at Hillview Crest Elementary School in Hayward, California. This ritual recitation was not yet under assault when Carolla and Palahniuk were schoolchildren in the late sixties and early seventies, but criticism of the Pledge on grounds of church/state separation was coming.

Another noticeable difference I discerned between my fellow boomer kids and many in the generation supplanting mine was a devolved sense of the wisdom and integrity of the elders. Though we’d rebelled against parental and societal units, they were intact units for most of us, and thus recipient of residual respect.

X was rebelling against the failure of the units. Who can blame them for skepticism about narratives handed down in the midst of social transformation?

Another striking thing about the Gen-X parents with millennial children: they were having fewer kids. At least in my neck of the woods—white suburbia around Portland, OR. Gone were the large families I remembered from the grade schools of my youth, with three, four, and even five children. There were lots of single moms in the mix, many with only one child.

Even as Gen-X emerged from the flatlands of generational history, predecessors found the crop coming up to be at a vague, not-immediately-readable disadvantage. There was the sense that despite the boomer legacy of conformity as fifties children and upheaval as sixties teens, somehow the squarely situated boomer-kids had it better than their children.

Palahniuk summed things up in Fight Club, when antagonist (if the term even applies here) Tyler Durden says,

Our Generation has had no Great war, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.

Though Palahniuk’s theme of alienation and purposelessness can be extrapolated universally, Durden’s morose dictum is understood to most apply to the generation stuck between the boomers’ long fade and the heel-snapping millennials.

The Greatest Generation had Pearl, the boomers had JFK. September 11, 2001, belongs to all of us, but history bequeaths it to the millennials.

Applied mythos for Gen X doesn’t focus on any history-making date.

Their crisis moment is like Palahniuk’s depression, which moves from functioning to acute. They came from broken homes, the first, true Children of Divorce.

Tyler Durden again, “a generation raised by women.”

Divorce and the ascendancy of feminist theory combined toxically in the era’s primordial soup; norms which boomers only dipped their toes into, Gen-Xers became immersed.

As we move towards a near future as threatening as any that contemporary observers have seen, what is the result of the experiment?

Irony in Carolla’s generation has always aspired to an intellectual gravitas out of proportion to its value as an assessment mode for the human condition. Humor, in the hands of either Carolla or Palahniuk, is internally targeted, at an irremediable state of disenchantment, a diaspora of disillusionment bred by failing social institutions into their very bones.

Though boomers were concurrent in history with social upheaval and the erosion of traditionalism, such counter-ideology had not yet become ingrained into the culture. Boomer kids with positive associations to traditionalist America benefitted from a durable connection, which proved decisive for many with the Reagan Renewal.

But too many Gen X progeny approaching adolescence and young adulthood in 1980 missed the Gipper’s wave. Raised by culturally progressive parents and academic liberals, they flocked underneath the nanny state’s skirts.

Palahniuk’s associations to visceral fear–violence versus ennui, terminal support groupiedom, soap-rendering from fat, corporatism as the ultimate evil–are different from what boomer kids feared in their gut.

Nobody at Hillview Crest Elementary School got divorced. Parents stayed together, for the kids, and we liked it.  Crawling under elementary school desks and lore about Khrushchev’s hammering shoe sat heavily in our stomachs. Boomer kids inherited the potential for being incinerated thirty minutes after war broke out.

Carolla and Palahniuk were born into that, but the possibility of death from above peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Threats from within domestic body-politic were coming home to roost. Gen X could still be atomized by the Russians, but were more imperatively left with the fallout created by existential threats to the pillars of society: marriage, faith, the social contract, industry, and national sovereignty.

There is no generational exactitude. Generations flow; there are overlaps, demographic choke points, trail scouts, and cave fighters. The decimations of disease and war skew the transitions. But there comes a point in life when a person realizes that generational culture has overtaken them.

Songs that boomers lauded as visionary Gen-X anthems are now twenty years old.

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Adrian Peterson’s Suspension Overturned by Federal Judge

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s suspension from the NFL has been overturned by a federal judge. The suspension was challenged by the NFL Players Union on the grounds that it violated Peterson’s due process rights and that the arbitrator acted improperly in applying the penalty.

Star Tribune:

U.S. District Court Judge David Doty’s 16-page order found arbitrator Harold Henderson, a former league official, to have issued a ruling “inconsistent” with the players’ collective bargaining agreement.

“It is undisputed that under the previous policy, first-time offenders faced a likely maximum suspension of two games,” Doty wrote.

The NFL issued a single-sentence statement saying, “We will review the decision.” The league’s options appear to be an appeal, another arbitration or reinstatement of Peterson. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said Thursday afternoon that the league plans to appeal.

Peterson’s suspension would have ended on April 15.

Messages left for Peterson were not immediately returned.

He was sidelined because of a Sept. 12 indictment in Texas for whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch and placed on the commissioner’s exempt list Sept. 17. The league’s 2012 Most Valuable Player was on the field for only one game with the Vikings last season.

While Doty’s ruling is a clear victory for Peterson, what it means for his future is unclear. The judge sent the case back to the arbitrator for further proceedings “consistent” with the union’s collective bargaining agreement.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith hailed the ruling as “a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness.”

Doty sided entirely with the NFLPA in his order, focusing mostly on how Peterson’s suspension ignored the established law of the shop, “namely that the new policy may not be retroactively applied.”

The NFL suspended Peterson on Nov. 18 after his no-contest plea in Montgomery County, Texas, to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of his young son. His suspension was to last until at least April 15, if he fulfilled requirements set by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, such as counseling and therapy with an NFL-selected doctor. The NFLPA and Peterson went to arbitration, but Henderson ruled against the running back.

The court made a point of saying that Peterson was caught up in the “firestorm” over Goodell’s two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, whose knockout punch to his then-fiancee was captured on a hotel security camera.

Meanwhile, Peterson lost a year of his career unnecessarily. Where does he go to get that year back?

At the time of the indictment, Peterson made it clear that he was only punishing his kid the same way his own father punished him. He never seemed to grasp the fact that it was, indeed, child abuse to whip and strike your son. There are lines in parenting that shouldn’t be crossed, and Peterson went far beyond the notion of applying discipline in punishing his child.

In today’s culture, any physical punishment of children can be construed as child abuse. That’s taking things too far. But punishing Peterson for what he did — using a switch to beat his child — has nothing to do with political correctness.

Since he apologized and has completed court ordered treatment, Peterson should be allowed back on the team. But there are other issues unresolved, including a formal punishment from the league. Suffice it to say that Peterson may be a long way from returning as the most feared runner in the game.

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