Looking Upward!

Last time, in reaction to Frank Miller’s horrendous slur at kids trying to rediscover activism, I dissected Miller’s travesty book and film “300” showing that its outright lies about Greek history reflected a deeply anti-freedom and anti-American agenda.

That stirred  a lot of reaction! But not as much as I’ll get from my next couple of postings about popular culture. Soon I plan to do a critical dissection of the film version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Then I promise to get to that long-awaited piece about James Cameron’s beautiful but misguided movie, Avatar.

At which point I’ll have aimed barbs in all three directions! Right, left and libertarian. Contrary Brin indeed!

This time? Let’s clean the palate with something lighter.  A little potpourri.

First, an announcement: Watch the Prophets of Science Fiction! An episode about Philip K. Dick airs this Wednesday, 10pm on the Discovery Science Channel. Along with other interviewees, I offer a few insights about this great writer. Future episodes will cover greats like Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Heinlein and so on. 

And see my recommended reading list of sci fi for young adults, reinterpreted visually by Worlds Without End. More generally, Worlds Without End has extensive coverage of science fiction, fantasy and horror novels, with links to authors, as well as complete listings of major awards, including Hugo, Nebula, Locus, John W. Campbell, Philip K. Dick and World Fantasy Awards. Also forums to discuss your favorite novels and authors.

== Worrisome … ==

A new copyright bill, Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, intends to shut down rogue websites suspected of intellectual property violations. But it may go too far toward censorship, infringing upon free speech–it is opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. On Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow writes that this new law “would give government and corporations the power to block sites like BoingBoing over infringing links on at least one webpage posted by their users….The only thing that is going to stop Hollywood from owning the Internet and everything we do, is if there is a big surprise Internet backlash starting right now.” Have a look and learn about SOPA. And consider joining the resistance.

Fellow writer Charlie Stross has very cogent points to make about “evil social networks.” Pointing out that basic human psychological, social and commercial forces will make them drift toward a core business model:

“So the ideal social network (from an investor’s point of view) is one that presents itself as being free-to-use, is highly addictive, uses you as bait to trap your friends, tracks you everywhere you go on the internet, sells your personal information to the highest bidder, and is impossible to opt out of. Sounds like a cross between your friendly neighborhood heroin pusher, Amway, and a really creepy stalker, doesn’t it?”

His focus is on Klout… but the warning applies to all.

== Strangeness! ==

New photos have appeared in Google Maps showing unidentified titanic structures in the middle of the Chinese desert. Bizarre, science-fictional (or nightmare) constructions… some of them featuring the blasted remains of planes and other vehicles.  Some sort of targeting array for space weaponry?  Gee!

Less disturbing and far more inspiring HD images from space!

Starship Sofa’s latest anthology is way cool. Look it up! (The last story is one of my quirkier self indulgences.)

This is simply wonderfully beautiful… a murmuration of starlings

== Some political grist – with a sci fi twist ==

To a Keynsian (or anyone sensible) the economic stimulus wasn’t enough to get out of a nosedive economic downturn caused by Wall Street and gross negligence. How to bootstrap out of it? Inspired by the economic boom-example of World War II, Nobel Prize winner (and huge Asimov fan) Paul Krugman suggests that we might fake an alien invasion

Moving from science fictional riffs on economics to our current, threatened enlightenment…. More evidence that class war is being waged top-down.  The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the article said. And there’s tons more. Gee Whiz, read this thing.

Millionaires are receiving billions in taxpayer-funded support every year that helps them pay for everything from child care to bad debts to boats and vacation homes, according to a report by Sen. Tom Coburn. People who individually earned more than a million dollars in 2009 even managed to collect a total of nearly $21 million in unemployment insurance. “From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous,” wrote Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican.  Always thought he was one of the smarter-saner ones.

Some of it is unfair to remove completely, like $9 billion in retirement checks. Look, a deal is a deal. On the other hand. dig these two: $21 billion in gambling losses and $28 billion in mortgage breaks for mansions, vacation homes and yachts.  Choke, gurrgle groan…

Professor Max Boykoff has a very interesting new book out entitled Who Speaks for the Climate? Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change.

Heard from a person who lectures on deception for the NSA notes, “illusion, misdirection, ridicule” these three – the legs of the stool of deception. But the greatest of these is ridicule.”

== Finally… lefties… grow up! ==

As one who despises the left-right axis and who believes that certain variants of conservatism and libertarianism have real value, I have spent most of the last political decade trying to get “ostriches” in those realms to wake up to how those potentially respectable movements have been hijacked by monsters.  If enough ostriches lift their heads… if we can regain a conservatism that is about intellect and curiosity and joyful argument, in the spirit of Goldwater and Buckley, and a libertarianism in the pragmatic tradition of Heinlein and Adam Smith…

…then all moderate Americans could gather at a table and negotiate mixed solutions to problems, yet again.  That would end Phase Three of the American Civil War.

But I do aim barbs leftward!  You folks know I have no truck for the rare but noisome flakes on that side.  Above all, we should only have contempt for those who might feel tempted by a self-righteous insurrection against their somewhat limp, but generally well-meaning president.

Oh, sure, he’s got the wrong personality for these times. But to see what’s at stake (you liberals out there) please read this New York Times article about the U.S. Supreme Court: The Court and the Next President.

11 Comments

Filed under economy, media

11 responses to “Looking Upward!

  1. Heya David–

    Dovetailing with your last post, you might appreciate my analysis of OWS and the Tea Party as groups with largely overlapping agendas that are both blinded by their categories, so to speak. There’s enough of a critical mass of people with matching values and goals out there to accomplish some real reforms, if they can manage to look beyond their normal boxes. http://t.co/36AECPEK

    -Dan

  2. I’ll be talking about OWS in detail, soon.

  3. I am disappointed that I missed the episode on Philip K. Dick. I like how the book you mentioned references Carl Sagan.

  4. Alan G. Humphrey

    The road to the French Revolution was paved by the generally well-meaning…

  5. I spent the first 18 years of my life living in Utah — arguably one of the most conservative, most “red” parts of the United States. I spent the succeeding 14 years living and working in the Puget Sound — arguably one of the most liberal, most “blue” parts of the United States. I have since returned to Utah, largely for economic reasons. It’s far easier to own a home and support a family in fly-over country than it is in the Puget Sound, which is a shame because both my wife and I liked the I-5 corridor between Bellingham and Olympia. Lived all up and down in, in fact.

    Here’s the thing. When I lived in Utah the first time, I wound up going “liberal” in a lot of ways: community radio volunteer, interracial marriage, voted independent and Democrat in my first couple of elections, etc. This carried through to — and was reinforced by — living in Seattle. And might have remained, except for 9/11/2001. An event that shattered certain ‘liberal’ precepts and started me down a much more conservative path. Such that I quickly found myself the odd man out.

    Well, being back in Utah, I am again the odd man out. Not as much as before, but there are aspects of the culture here which make me say to myself, “Oh yes, now I remember why this state drove me crazy!” But then, Seattle drove me crazy too. Am I simply incapable of “going with the flow” in either location? The conventional wisdom of both the Puget Sound and Deseret leave me feeling very much out of place. I don’t fit in. My beliefs and politics are not all to one side, not all to the other. Yet this is often what’s demanded of me — has been demanded of me, in order to “get along” with the zeitgeist.

    Is it even possible for an American to be an “issuetarian” anymore? Can I think that both the Republicrats and the Demoplicans are out to lunch? Are merely “teams” playing “sport” to the detriment of the national as a whole? Why, if I speak a ‘conservative’ view on an issue, am I accused of being a Fox News lackey? Why, if I speak a ‘liberal’ view on an issue, am I accused of being a Kos-head, or a Michael Moore devotee?

    By percentage I am probably 60% conservative, 40 percent liberal. But this does not allow for nuance or fine-grain detailed exmination of my views, and it’s frustrating living in a climate where various media and political and economic engines herd — get along, h’yah! — all Americans in one direction or the other. The ‘middle ground’ is despised. Sad.

  6. TCH

    It seems like politics is becoming more like the prisoner’s dilemma then the art of compromise.

  7. Hey David,

    Love your articles. I also am worn out by the right/left paradigm of today’s political climate. It’s a false paradigm. Not everyone is totally liberal or conservative on issues.

    I’m curious though, you mentioned that lefties need to grow up. Specifically, what do you mean? I consider myself to be left of center, progressive on many issues, but conservative on others.

    I think real political reform could return to America if we can find a forum for We the People to voice our opinions without reciting bumper sticker talking points. It’s beyond frustrating to try and have a discussion with a Tea Partier/Fox News true believer.

    Whatever middle ground existed, is nearly non-existent today. I have no problem with someone questioning my views as long as they are willing to engage in a discussion about them and they are also willing to listen to my issues with their views. That is totally missing in our society today, and I put the blame squarely on our major media. Our MM is so concerned with getting ratings and earning money, they fail to serve as a valid source of information for us to make informed decisions.

    I’ve encountered a lot of true believer syndrome, fatalism, indifferent apathy, to outright ignorance. What’s missing in our society is leadership; the kind that inspires us and creates new opportunities. We’re certainly not getting that from our politicians, business barons, or from the media. We get lies, deception, marketing, bumper sticker slogans, name-calling, and (poor) reality tv entertainment.

    It’s going to take people who are tired of the right/left paradigm who want our country back to get beyond this. I suspect the majority of Americans are in that camp. What passes today as liberal or conservative is truly not liberal or conservative.

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