Action, overreaction and counterreaction

James Wigderson wrote this on the first day of school:

Unfortunately I don’t have any “first day of school” photos from my days in school. We didn’t have phones back then that could take the photo and Matthew Brady was unavailable. I just have cherished memories of walking a mile uphill each way in frigid temperatures that made my daily peregrination resemble the Shackleton expedition.

The destination of these daily walks may surprise some of you. I’m a graduate of Milwaukee Vincent High School. We won’t mention the year, but we’ll point out the school still had that new school smell (as well as urine in the stairwells, etc.). The school is evidence, if anyone needs it, that money and a new building do not add up to academic performance.

Yes, it was possible for me to get a good education there, in part because I sought it out against the odds. I spent my lunch hour my senior year hanging out in the Social Studies study lounge and my other free time in the math department office. I rewrote my school schedule to eliminate gym class starting my sophomore year so I could take extra academic classes and managed to find a guidance counselor to sign the new schedule.

Somebody had to look out for my education.

The school has only gotten worse since my days there. The school “fails to meet expectations” according to the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction and it’s not even close. Yet nothing will be done about Vincent and 999 kids will be trapped in a failing school this year. Some students will succeed but the odds are horribly against them. But at least it’s a union school, right?

So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the Facebook page for an upcoming high school reunion, I learned the school is getting a new $5.7 million stadium. The stadium will have artificial grass and a new track for WIAA events. The report I saw didn’t mention metal detectors, but it would be a good idea.

The new stadium is part of an $11 million improvement in athletic facilities for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.

So the next time someone tells you that MPS needs more money, remind them that more money does not mean a better academic performance. And if they ask for evidence, ask them if $5.7 million could be better spent than on a new stadium for a failing school. And then ask them if the students would be better off with a new track instead of shutting the school down entirely.

At least the artificial turf matches the artificial concern of Wisconsin’s Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, for the well-being of MPS students. Perhaps the new scoreboard can flash the number of kids being pushed through the system without learning anything – not that any of the students will be able to read it.

That prompted this reaction reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A conservative blogger who disparaged Milwaukee Public Schools students as “little convicts” has drawn stinging rebukes from MPS and state lawmakers, who have criticized his remarks as hurtful, racist and dishonest.

The backlash comes in response to a recent column by Right Wisconsin Editor James Wigderson, who made the remark in an essay referencing $11 million in planned upgrades for MPS’ athletic fields, including a new $5.7 million stadium at his alma mater, Vincent High School.

The upgrades were being made, he said, “presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.”

“The next time someone tells you that MPS needs more money, remind them that more money does not mean a better academic performance,” Wigderson wrote. “And if they ask for evidence, ask them if $5.7 million could be better spent than on a new stadium for a failing school.”

MPS issued a statement Tuesday, touting its students’ achievements and saying it is proud to “provide the same access to state-of-the-art facilities for our students as districts in surrounding areas have for theirs” and accusing Wigderson of cyberbullying.

“MPS is outraged — as every parent in the City of Milwaukee should be — that an adult would feel free to make such a derogatory, hurtful, and dishonest statement about more than 75,000 children,” the statement said.

“We have far too many students who work hard every day and who accomplish great things to let an ill-informed and hateful statement stand without comment,” it went on to say.

Current and former state lawmakers also weighed in.

“This is beyond offensive, pure ignorance and complete ‘BS,'” wrote state Sen. LaTonya Johnson, a Milwaukee Democrat. “MPS is home to 77,000 children. These children, and their families, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

State Rep. David Crowley, another Milwaukee Democrat, said he must have been one of the “little convicts” for whom tax dollars should not be spent. 

“This kind of racist undertone is how the right communicates,” Crowley tweeted. “This rhetoric is how Trump and the Republican Party continue to rally their white supremacist and base and cannot be met with silence.”

Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and a former state lawmaker, attempted to connect the Wigderson comments to allies of Gov.  Scott Walker.

“They expect their casual racism to be excused,” Barnes tweeted. “The governor’s allies have gone full southern strategy.”

Barnes issued a statement saying, “We have long been ranked the worst state for black Americans, and the governor’s allies continue to drive a wedge and make things even worse with their rhetoric.”

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley declined to comment on the remarks during a visit to Reagan High School where U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Frank Brogan was meeting with students to discuss their anti-bullying efforts.

District spokeswoman Denise Callaway said MPS is not seeking an apology but said the district will use the opportunity to help people understand what it is doing to educate students.

And Callaway made it clear that she deemed Wigderson’s piece “unacceptable.”

Asked if she considered it racist, Callaway said: “That is for other people to judge. It certainly perpetuates stereotypes, which are by definition untrue.”

“How small is it to be a cyberbully against children?” Callaway said.

Wigderson did not return an email from the Journal Sentinel asking to discuss the column but criticized Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice, who first raised the issue on social media.

Wigderson tweeted that he was referring specifically to Deontay Long, a standout Milwaukee basketball player who was recently sentenced to five years of probation for his role in an armed robbery last year.

“So the only smear being done here is by @DanielBice because if he was a serious journalist he would know how to click a link and actually share the context of my statement,” Wigderson tweeted.

Wigderson then wrote:

Now, unlike a lot of other MPS graduates, I have actually paid attention to what has happened to my high school since I left. In fact, it’s largely the result of my experience in MPS and what has happened since I graduated that I have remained concerned about education. I have written about school choice and alternative education since I was a blogger, and then as a columnist for the Waukesha Freeman, then as an education reporter for Watchdog.org, and now as editor of RightWisconsin.

Here’s the bad news about my old school: it’s failing. It’s failing big time. It wasn’t a great school when I graduated (as I described in the editorial) and now it’s worse. There are 999 students trapped in that failing school, according to the Department of Public Instruction. Instead of doing something about it, MPS is building them a new stadium for sports. Instead of getting the kids out of that failing school, or doing something to improve the schools, MPS is putting in artificial turf.

As I wrote in the editorial in a line not being re-posted on Twitter, “At least the artificial turf matches the artificial concern of Wisconsin’s Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, for the well-being of MPS students.”

But what has them really upset is that I wrote:

“The new stadium is part of an $11 million improvement in athletic facilities for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.”

The line, with the link to a Fox 6 story that my critics neglect to mention, is clearly referring to the Deontay Long case. Long, for those of you that have forgotten, was a Milwaukee Washington basketball star convicted of armed robbery – a felony – but was still allowed to play by MPS in the state basketball tournament while he awaited sentencing. It’s a clear example of MPS’ screwed up priorities that they still haven’t addressed.

If MPS and my critics are upset with me for referencing that as an example of the screwed-up priorities of the school district, they need to be upset with every other media outlet that bothered to report the story, too.

I obviously did not intend the line to reference all students in MPS. I explained earlier in the editorial how I was an MPS graduate and I included the link to the story about Deontay Long. If I intended to “smear” (as a Journal Sentinel reporter wrote without ever contacting me) all MPS students, I wouldn’t have included the link, nor would I have mentioned my own educational background.

What’s been most disappointing about the reaction to my editorial is how my critics, willing to seize on a fake “gotcha” moment for their purposes, are willing to ignore the fact that nearly 25,000 students are trapped in failing MPS schools. When are they going to show real concern for those students, as I have for the last 18 years of writing about public policy, instead of just drumming up fake outrage to try to silence any voice that calls for real educational reform in Milwaukee?

The tragedy here is that this shouldn’t be about me. It’s the MPS to prison pipeline that won’t be rectified by building new football stadiums. As an MPS graduate I find the embrace of the status quo disgusting. The soft bigotry of low expectations is more vile and more insidious than anything my critics have accused me of being.

Real students, mostly minorities, are being held captive in failing schools, including Milwaukee Vincent. Instead of prettifying the Potemkin buildings, we need to do more to improve the lives of the students in those schools. I stand by what I wrote: the African American, Hispanic and other minority children of MPS would be better off if failing schools were shut down rather than upgrading the athletic facilities.

Wigderson isn’t going to accept being called racist any more than I would. And it’s really revealing that all the reaction to what Wigderson originally wrote fails to address the fact that MPS is the worst school district in the state of Wisconsin, and dragging down Milwaukee and the entire state.

That doesn’t mean Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers doesn’t have an answer, though it is as predictable as the sun rising in the east tomorrow, reported by the Journal Sentinel:

State Superintendent Tony Evers is proposing sending millions of dollars more to the state’s largest school districts to help reduce the massive gaps in academic achievement between the districts’ students of color and their white counterparts.

First: The Journal Sentinel writer committed an error. Evers is the superintendent of public instruction, not the “state superintendent,” despite the DPI propaganda the reporter must have read.

Democrat Evers is challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bid for a third term in a race that has been focused on the two state officials’ records on educational issues — including whether either have done enough to improve the state’s poor rate at which black students keep pace in the classroom.

One target of Evers’ plan is Milwaukee Public Schools, where about 80 percent of the 76,000 students are black and Hispanic and live in low-income households. Few districts in Wisconsin report worse academic performance than Milwaukee, where more than half the district’s schools are rated as meeting few or no expectations on the state report card.

Walker previously said he would by late summer or fall be making recommendations for Milwaukee schools, but on Tuesday his campaign could not say if Walker still planned to do so.

Under a plan released this week, Evers’ Department of Public Instruction would in the next state budget devote $13 million to programs designed to address struggling students’ performance in the classrooms of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine, including:

  • $5 million in grants to expand summer school offerings.
  • $1.5 million set aside to provide $15,000 for each National Board Certified teacher who teaches in the five school districts.
  • $500,000 to expand principal training in urban settings for each of the five districts.
  • $5 million in new funding to provide kindergarten for 3-year-olds in the five-school district.
  • $1 million for a two-year project in each school district community to work with health care providers around childhood trauma and with housing agencies to stabilize living situations for children, while improving staff-to-child ratios in child care and educational settings.

DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said the recommendations were developed with input from the five districts and will be submitted as a budget request for the 2019-’21 state budget. He said the department hasn’t proposed the measures before because Walker had previously rejected other similar proposals.

Think the rural school districts that have complained about money going to private schools are going to complain about this money that could be going to other schools but instead will be sucked up by these five giant school districts?

 

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Liberal patriotism (the oxymoron of the day)

This from Jonah Goldberg about this …

… seems appropriate on Patriot Day:

The film First Man debuted at the Venice Film Festival. The movie chronicles the life of Neil Armstrong, the first human to land on the moon. A social-media-fueled firestorm ensued when it was revealed that the movie doesn’t show the moment where the American astronauts planted the U.S. flag in what, I hope, will one day be considered American soil on the lunar surface.

Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, told reporters that filmmakers decided to keep that moment out of the film because the moon landing “transcended countries and borders” and was “widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it.”

Conservatives had a field day, and understandably so. The idea that America went to the moon, at the height of the Cold War, in a “space race” against the Soviet Union primarily as part of a global vision of universal human solidarity is silly.

But in fairness to the filmmakers, the idea that this wasn’t a giant leap for all mankind — as Armstrong famously said and as the plaque on the moon declares — is silly, too. Landing on the moon was widely regarded as a human achievement around the world. But that shouldn’t detract from the national pride Americans feel for it. It should complement it.

And while I side with my conservative friends that this all sounds way too Kumbaya and ahistorical — Armstrong was a great American patriot and decorated naval aviator — what I think everyone is missing is the dog that didn’t bark. Specifically, liberals should be aghast.

I spend a lot of time arguing that conservatives should not imbibe too deeply from the bottle of nationalism. But it should be noted that one of the reasons many conservatives have decided to get drunk on nationalism is that so many liberals have cut patriotism from their diets.

Pride in American accomplishments should not be a partisan affair. And yet, from flag pins to the Pledge of Allegiance, so many of our dumbest and nastiest political fights over the last few decades have been purely symbolic fights over national pride.

But just because these fights are symbolic doesn’t mean more practical politics aren’t affected. Just ask Barack Obama. When he was president, Obama routinely appealed to precisely the patriotic fervor that made the moon landing possible.

For instance, in 2010, Obama gave a speech at Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina. It was one of countless calls for a new “Sputnik moment.” “In 1957, just before this college opened, the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik,” he explained. “And that was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education — particularly in math and science. And as a result, once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets, we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs.”

“So 50 years later,” he continued, “our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment.”

Presty the DJ for Sept. 9

Today in 1926, Radio Corporation of America created the National Broadcasting Co. …

… which later returned to RCA’s parent, General Electric Co. (from whose name came the famous NBC chimes), and now is part of what used to be Universal Studios …

… and is part of Comcast cable TV.

The number one single in Britain today in 1965:

Today in 1971, five years to the day after John Lennon met Yoko Ono, Lennon released his “Imagine” album:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 9”

Off to that great car chase in the sky

Hollywood Reporter on news about an actor I’ve written about here and here:

Burt Reynolds, the charismatic star of such films as Deliverance, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit who set out to have as much fun as possible on and off the screen — and wildly succeeded — has died. He was 82.

Reynolds, who received an Oscar nomination when he portrayed porn director Jack Horner in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and was the No. 1 box-office attraction for a five-year stretch starting in the late 1970s, died Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida, his manager, Erik Kritzer, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Always with a wink, Reynolds shined in many action films (often doing his own stunts) and in such romantic comedies as Starting Over (1979) opposite Jill Clayburgh and Candice Bergen; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) with Dolly Parton; Best Friends (1982) with Goldie Hawn; and, quite aptly, The Man Who Loved Women (1983) with Julie Andrews.

Though beloved by audiences for his brand of frivolous, good-ol’-boy fare, the playful Reynolds rarely was embraced by the critics. The first time he saw himself in Boogie Nights, he was so unhappy he fired his agent. (He went on to win a Golden Globe but lost out in the Oscar supporting actor race to Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting, a bitter disappointment for him.)

“I didn’t open myself to new writers or risky parts because I wasn’t interested in challenging myself as an actor. I was interested in having a good time,” Reynolds recalled in his 2015 memoir, But Enough About Me. “As a result, I missed a lot of opportunities to show I could play serious roles. By the time I finally woke up and tried to get it right, nobody would give me a chance.”

Still, Reynolds had nothing to apologize for. He was Hollywood’s top-grossing star every year from 1978 through 1982, equaling the longest stretch the business had seen since the days of Bing Crosby in the 1940s. In 1978, he had four movies playing in theaters at the same time.

Reynolds’ career also is marked by the movies he didn’t make. Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis surely were grateful after he turned down the roles of Han Solo, retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove and cop John McClane in Star Wars, Terms of Endearment and Die Hard, respectively. He often said that passing on James L. Brooks’ Endearment was one of his worst career mistakes. (Nicholson won an Oscar for playing Breedlove.)

Reynolds also indicated he was Milos Forman’s first choice to play R.P. McMurphy (another Nicholson Oscar-winning turn) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “backed away” from playing Batman on TV in the 1960s and declined the part made famous by Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.

In John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972), based on a book by James Dickey, Reynolds starred as macho survivalist Lewis Medlock, one of four guys from Atlanta who head to the wilderness for the weekend. Filmed by Vilmos Zsigmond along the Chattooga River near the Georgia-South Carolina border, it was an arduous production that Boorman shot in sequence.

“When I asked John why, he said, ‘In case one of you drowns,'” Reynolds wrote.

He had good reason. When Reynolds saw test footage of a dummy in a canoe going over the falls in one scene, he told Boorman the scene looked fake. He climbed into the canoe, was sent crashing into the rocks and ended up in the hospital. “I asked [Boorman] how [the new footage] looked, and he said, ‘Like a dummy going over the falls,'” Reynolds wrote.

Deliverance, infamous for its uncut 10-minute hillbilly male rape scene (“squeal like a pig”), was nominated for three Academy Awards but came away empty. It lost out to The Godfather in the best picture battle.

“If I had to put only one of my movies in a time capsule, it would be Deliverance,” Reynolds wrote. “I don’t know if it’s the best acting I’ve done, but it’s the best movie I’ve ever been in. It proved I could act, not only to the public but me.”

Three months before the movie opened, Reynolds — once described by journalist Scott Tobias as the “standard of hirsute masculinity” — showed off his mustache and other assets when he posed nude on a bearskin rug for a Cosmopolitan centerfold in April 1972. (Seven years later, he would become the rare man to grace the cover of Playboy.)

The Cosmo issue sold an outlandish 1.5 million copies. “It’s been called one of the greatest publicity stunts of all time, but it was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made,” he wrote, “and I’m convinced it cost Deliverance the recognition it deserved.”

A running back in high school and college who talked with legendary coach Bear Bryant about attending Alabama, Reynolds put his gridiron skills to use in Robert Aldrich’s The Longest Yard (1974), playing Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, who leads his rag-tag team of prison inmates in a game against the guards. He later starred in Semi-Tough (1977), another football film.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977), written and directed by his pal, the legendary stuntman Hal Needham, grossed $126 million (that’s $508 million today, and only Star Wars took in more that year). Reynolds, who stars as Bo “Bandit” Darville, hired to transport 400 cases of Coors from Texas to Atlanta in 28 hours, noted that, unbelievable as it sounds, Smokey was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite movie.

Reynolds drives a sleek Pontiac Trans-Am in the film, and after the picture opened, sales of the model soared. (His black car is mentioned in Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch,” and the Tampa Bay Bandits, a U.S. Football League team in which he had an ownership stake, were named for the movie.)

Smokey spawned two sequels, and Reynolds went on to work again with Needham in The Cannonball Run (1981), another fun-filled action film that spawned another franchise. His other high-octane films included Sharky’s Machine (1981) and two movies as ex-con Gator McClusky.

In Smokey, Reynolds starred alongside Sally Field, and the two were an item for some time. He also had relationships with the likes of Dinah Shore (20 years his senior), Inger Stevens and Chris Evert, and he talked about dating Hawn and Farrah Fawcett in his book.

Reynolds was married to British actress Judy Carne (famous for NBC’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) from 1963-66 and then to Loni Anderson, the voluptuous blonde best known for the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, from 1988-93. Both marriages were tempestuous, and his divorce with Anderson was particularly messy.

After a string of big-screen failures and the cancellation of his ABC private detective series B.L. Stryker, Reynolds rejuvenated his career by starring in the 1990-94 CBS sitcom Evening Shade, created by Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.

He won an Emmy Award in 1991 for best actor in a comedy series for playing Woodrow “Wood” Newton, a former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who returns to his small-town home in Arkansas to coach a woeful high school team.

Burton Milo Reynolds Jr. was born on Feb. 11, 1936, in Waycross, Georgia, and raised in Florida’s Palm Beach County. His father was an Army veteran who became the police chief in Riviera Beach, Florida, not too far from the Everglades.

“My dad was my hero, but he never acknowledged any of my achievements,” he wrote in his memoir. “I always felt that no amount of success would make me a man in his eyes.”

Then known as Buddy Reynolds, he played halfback at Palm Beach High School, where his teammate was future New York Yankees manager Dick Howser, then suited up at Florida State, where Lee Corso, later a college coach and ESPN analyst, played on both sides of the ball. But he suffered a knee injury as a sophomore, and that was it for football and Florida State.

Reynolds enrolled at Palm Beach Junior College and appeared in a production of Outward Bound, playing the part handled by John Garfield in the 1944 film adaptation, Between Two Worlds. That led to a scholarship and a summer-stock stint at the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York. He roomed with another aspiring actor, Rip Torn, and they studied at the Actors Studio.

After a few appearances on Broadway and on television, Reynolds was off to Hollywood, where he signed with Universal and manned the wheel as Ben Frazer on Riverboat, an NBC Western that starred Darren McGavin.

He met Needham on that show, and the stuntman would double for him on projects through the years. Reynolds is referenced in “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme song from the 1980s ABC series The Fall Guy, and he played an aging stuntman in Needham’s second film, Hooper (1978).

Reynolds joined Gunsmoke for its eighth season in 1962 as Quint Asper, a half-Comanche who becomes the Dodge City blacksmith. He played the title warrior in the 1966 spaghetti Western Navajo Joe, was an Iroquois who worked as a New York City detective in the short-lived ABC series Hawk and portrayed a Mexican revolutionary in 100 Rifles (1969).

Reynolds got another shot at toplining his own ABC show, playing homicide detective Dan August in a 1970-71 Quinn Martin production, but the series was axed after a season.

Reynolds appeared often on NBC’s The Tonight Show, and in 1972 he became the first non-comedian to sit in for Johnny Carson as guest host (Reynolds’ first guest that night was his ex-wife, Carne; they hadn’t spoken in six years, and she made a crack about his older girlfriend Shore). He and Carson once engaged in a wild and improvised whipped-cream fight during a taping, and he got to show a side of him the public never knew.

“Before I met Johnny, I’d played a bunch of angry guys in a series of forgettable action movies, and people didn’t know I had a sense of humor,” he wrote. “My appearances on The Tonight Show changed that. My public image went from a constipated actor who never took a chance to a cocky, wisecracking character.”

Reynolds showed that lighter side when he played a sperm in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972), and he lampooned his lavish Hollywood lifestyle in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie (1976). He was not above making fun of himself and his toupee.

In 1979, he opened the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter and in the 1980s, he developed the syndicated game show Win, Lose or Draw with host Bert Convy. The set was modeled after his living room.

With his divorce from Anderson and bad restaurant investments contributing to more than $10 million in debts, Reynolds filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1996 and came out of it two years later. In recent years, he sold properties in Florida, including his fabled 160-acre ranch — The Allman Brothers recorded an album there in the 1990s — and auctioned off personal belongings.

Survivors include his son, Quinton; he and Anderson adopted him when he was 3 days old.

Despite the ups and downs of a Hollywood life, Reynolds seemed to have no regrets.

“I always wanted to experience everything and go down swinging,” he wrote in the final paragraph of his memoir. “Well, so far, so good. I know I’m old, but I feel young. And there’s one thing they can never take away: Nobody had more fun than I did.”

Who is Deep Trump?

After the New York Times committed a flagrant act of … something by publishing this anonymity by a claimed member of the Trump administration, everyone wants to know, and is now speculating upon, the identity of the writer.

Jim Geraghty says:

We can draw a few conclusions about the anonymous senior official in the Trump administration who wrote the New York Times op-ed about the “stable state” “resistance” within the executive branch.

The writer is a traditional Republican, referring to “ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.”

The writer is particularly informed about, and concerned about, the president’s views on Russia:

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

The writer looked up to John McCain: “Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.” The writer may well have been compelled to write this op-ed after McCain’s passing and the eulogies and reaction at his memorial service.

The writer did not work on the campaign — obviously, he holds Trump in low regard — but he’s probably been around the administration a while: “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”

The writer must understand that being uncovered would end his career in GOP politics and torpedo any hopes of running for the Republican nomination someday. This is probably the last stop of his career. He probably considers himself to be part of a knowledgeable bipartisan consensus policy establishment and is worried about how his current work for Trump is perceived and will be remembered. This person is probably worried about his reputation and whether or not working for Trump will tarnish his legacy.

Traditional Republican, focused on Russia, inspired by McCain, been around a while, no future ambitions, part of the establishment. There is more than one figure in the administration who fits these criteria, but not many.

But I notice the recent article, “Aside from his father, Huntsman Jr. had ‘no greater mentor’ than McCain,” August 27, in the Desert News:

“Aside from my own dad, there’s been no one more impactful in my life,” [U.S. Ambassador to Russia] Jon Huntsman told the Deseret News from Moscow after initially declining to comment on his relationship with the Arizona senator, who died Saturday after battling brain cancer.

“It was the highest honor to associate with him. He was a mentor in many ways. Country first and bipartisanship were deeply ingrained due to his influence,” Huntsman said of his longtime friend.

Huntsman attended John McCain’s memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral. And Huntsman has already addressed calls for him to resign after Trump’s summit with Putin.

Huntsman responded:

Representatives of our foreign service, civil service, military and intelligence services have neither the time nor inclination to obsess over politics, though the issues of the day are felt by all. Their focus is on the work that needs to be done to stabilize the most dangerous relationship in the world, one that encompasses nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism, stopping bloodshed in Ukraine, and seeking a settlement of the seemingly intractable Syrian crisis. Their dedication to service to their country is above politics, and it inspires me to the core. It is my standard. (Emphasis added.)

I have taken an unscientific survey among my colleagues, whom you reference, about whether I should resign. The laughter told me everything I needed to know. It also underscores the fragile nature of this moment.

The unnamed official who wrote the New York Times op-ed concludes, “There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.”

Just a theory.

Ben Shapiro:

The mystery writer of The New York Times op-ed that claims to be a member of the “Trump Resistance” while serving as a “senior official” in the administration has sparked a lot of speculation as to who it might be. One popular theory: Vice President Mike Pence.

The theory, which Pence’s office has adamantly denied, stems from the presence of one word in the piece that Mike Pence frequently uses, a word not in common use. Step aside “Rosebud,” the mystery word of today is “lodestar.”

According to Merriam-Webster, lodestar refers to “a star that leads or guides” or a person who “serves as an inspiration, model, or guide.” The mystery writer uses the word at one point in reference to the late Sen. John McCain, calling him “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.”

Vice President Mike Pence, apparently, has a penchant for the word. …

Another explanation for the use of the word “lodestar” could be that the mystery writer wanted to throw off people’s scents and make Mike Pence a suspect, a pretty low thing to do in a narcissistic stunt.

In a statement on Thursday, the Vice President’s office denied the charge and agreed with Trump that the mystery writer is “gutless.”

I wrote yesterday wondering about the Times’ motivation given that the Times has opposed every Trump policy since he was elected, when the writer does not oppose Trump policy, but believes Trump is too unstable to be president. If you were Deep Trump, and you believed Trump shouldn’t be president but Trump’s policies should continue, would you do the seemingly principled thing and loudly resign, or would you stay in, hope Trump left the White House, but seek to continue working with President Peice?  Of course Shapiro’s theory makes that unlikely if Deep Trump did throw out “lodestar” to cast suspicion on the writer’s potential future boss.

The New York Post reports:

Vice President Mike Pence – and “the field” – lead offshore bookmaking picks as the White House mole behind the anonymous bombshell New York Times op-ed blasting President Trump.

Pence was listed at 2-to-3 odds on the site MyBookie as the fifth column official who claims to be working behind the scenes to stop some of Trump’s policies that they find wrongheaded.

The biggest favorite, at 1-3 odds, is “the field,” someone not listed among the 18 administration officials listed by the Costa Rica-based operation.

At 2-to-3 odds, a winning bettor investing $1 would profit 66 cents. At 1-to-3, a gambler wagering $1 would net 33 cents with a win.

“What tipped us off was ‘lodestar,’ “ MyBookie head oddsmaker David Strauss said of Pence. “When you search members of the administration (who have used that word) only one name comes up – and that name is Mike Pence. He’s used in multiple speeches this year.”

The other 17 named potential moles, listed by MyBookie, are: Education Secretary Betsy Devos (2-to-1), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (4-to-1), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (4-to-1), chief of staff John F. Kelly (4-to-1), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (5-to-1), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (5-to-1), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (6-to-1), Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (6-to-1), Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (7-to-1) Labor Secretary Alex Acosta (7-to-1), HHS Secretary Alex Azar (8-to-1), HUD Secretary Ben Carson (8-to-1), VA Secretary Robert Wilkie (8-to-1), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (10-to-1), Ivanka Trump (12-to-1) and Jared Kushner (12-to-1).

Hours after MyBookie posted numbers, Canada-based Bovada issued its own Trump-leak odds and listed embatted AG Sessions as its favorite at 5-to-2.

He was followed by Pence (3-to-1), Kelly (4-to-1), Mattis (4-to-1), UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (10-to-1), “Javanka” (15-to-1), Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (15-to-1), White House counsel Don McGahn (15-to-1), Melania Trump (50-to-1) and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (50-to-1).

Bovada listed President Trump, himself, as the potential mole and Times writer at 25-to-1.

As for the last sentence: Readers my age or thereabouts might remember the original TV series “Dallas” and the worldwide speculation over who shot J.R. Ewing in a season-ending cliffhanger episode.

After the next-season opener revealed J.R.’s shooter, another show revealed that the producers had filmed several characters shooting J.R. so the cast wouldn’t know who actually shot J.R. until the next season, including actual shooter Kristin Shepherd, brother-in-law and archrival Cliff Barnes, J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen, and even J.R.’s father Jock and mother Miss Ellie.

And one more:

Causes and Effects, Safety in the Media Workplace Edition

First, USA Today last Thursday:

A California man was arrested and charged Thursday with making violent threats to Boston Globe employees, calling the newspaper the “enemy of the people,” the U.S. Attorney’s office for Massachusetts said.

Robert D. Chain, 68, of Encino, California, was charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Thursday and be transferred to Boston at a future time.

Court documents say Chain made about 14 threatening calls between Aug. 10-22, in reaction to the Globe’s efforts to organize a coordinated response from newspapers across the country to President Trump’s repeated attacks on the media.

In those calls, Chain allegedly referred to the Globe as “the enemy of the people’’ and threatened to kill its employees. Trump has often used that phrase in lambasting the news media.

According to the criminal complaint, the caller said, “As long as you keep attacking the President, the duly elected President of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threats, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, the other fake news.”

Deep Trump

For readers unfamiliar with Watergate: The headline is a reference to the anonymous source who fed the Washington Post information about the 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. (From which came every reference to a scandal as ______gate, and every anonymous source tied to said _____gate as Deep _____.)

Now, the New York Times:

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

Trump: Truth and/or fiction

James Freeman:

Bob Woodward is preparing to release the latest book describing a chaotic Trump White House led by an unhinged ignoramus. Also in the news today, the manufacturing revival promised by the alleged ignoramus is in full swing.

As is his custom, Mr. Woodward includes in his new book a great deal of material from anonymous sources. The result, according to his colleagues at the Washington Post, is a “a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency.” The Post reports:

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

According to the book, the most senior of the President’s aides thinks the President is out of his mind:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

This afternoon, the White House released a statement from General Kelly that referenced a similar report from NBC in May:

The idea I ever called the President an idiot is not true. As I stated back in May and still firmly stand behind: “I spend more time with the President than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS. I’m committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders addressed the book more generally today as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad. While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, President Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people. Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results.”

The results are not always positive, but she does have a point. Today the Journal reports on what’s been happening outside of Washington:

American factory activity in August expanded at the strongest pace in more than 14 years, despite rising tensions with some of the U.S.’s largest trade partners.

The Institute for Supply Management on Tuesday said its manufacturing index rose to 61.3 in August, the highest level since May 2004, from 58.1 in July. Sales of factory-made products, or new orders, output and employment all grew at a faster pace in August.

Based on this bullish manufacturing report and another pleasant surprise today in the Census Bureau’s report on construction spending, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta raised its estimate of economic growth in the third quarter to a sizzling 4.7%.

One might conclude that allowing the economy to grow by reducing the burden of taxes and regulation is so simple that even an unhinged ignoramus can do it. Yet many seemingly sane and knowledgable politicians have proven unable to grasp the concept.

Therefore we must search for other explanations. Could it be that Donald Trump is not as crazy and ignorant as Mr. Woodward and his media brethren would have us believe?

The media vs. Trump

Michael Goodwin:

This month marks the two-year anniversary of one of the most important articles ever written on journalism. On Aug. 7, 2016, after Donald Trump formally secured the Republican nomination and the general election was underway, New York Times media columnist James Rutenberg began with a question:

“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?”

Under the Times’ traditional standards, the right answer is that you wouldn’t be allowed to cover any candidate you were so biased against. But that’s not the answer Rutenberg gave.

Instead, quoting an editor who called Hillary Clinton “normal” and Trump “abnormal,” Rutenberg suggested “normal standards” didn’t apply. He admitted that “balance has been on vacation” since Trump began to campaign and ended by declaring that it is “journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.”

I wrote then that the article was a failed attempt to justify the lopsided anti-Trump coverage in the Times and other news organizations. It was indeed that — and more, for it also served as a dog whistle for anti-Trump journalists, telling them it was acceptable to reveal their biases. After all, history would judge them.

Weeks later, Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor, told an interviewer the Rutenberg article “nailed” his thinking and convinced him that the struggle for fairness was over.

“I think that Trump has ended that struggle,” Baquet boasted. “I think we now say stuff. We fact-check him. We write it more powerfully that it’s false.”

Because the Times is the liberal media’s bell cow, the floodgates were flung open to routinely call Trump a liar, a racist and a traitor. Standards of fairness were trashed as nearly every prominent news organization demonized Trump and effectively endorsed Clinton. This open partisanship was a disgraceful chapter in the history of American journalism.

Yet the shocking failure of that effort produced no change in behavior. After the briefest of mea culpas for failing to see even the possibility of a Trump victory, the warped coverage continued and became the media wing of the resistance movement.

Which is how we arrived at the latest low moment in journalism. This one involved the more than 300 newspapers (including The Post) that followed The Boston Globe and, especially his accusation that they are “the ­enemy of the people.”

The high-minded among the media mob insisted they were joining together to protect the First Amendment and freedom of the press. In fact, the effort looked, smelled and felt like self-interest and rank partisanship masquerading as principle.

True to their habit, most of the papers expressed contempt for the president and some extended that contempt to his supporters.

Nancy Ancrum, the editorial-page editor of The Miami Herald, told Fox News her paper joined the effort without any hope of changing the minds of Trump supporters because “they are just too far gone.”

Imagine that — 63 million Americans are written off because they disagree with the media elite’s politics. Echoes of Clinton’s “deplorables” comment ring loud and clear.

I agree that Trump is wrong to call the media the “enemy of the people” and wish he would stick to less inflammatory words. His ­favorite charge of “fake news” makes his point well enough without any hint that he favors retribution on individual journalists.

But I am also concerned that media leaders refuse to see their destructive role in the war with the president. Few show any remorse over how the relentlessly hostile coverage of Trump is damaging the nation and changing journalism for the worse.

One obvious consequence is increased political polarization, with many media outlets making it their mission to denounce Trump from first page to last, day in and day out. Studies show 90 percent of TV news coverage is negative and the Times, Washington Post and CNN, among others, appear addicted to Trump ­hatred as if it is a narcotic.

This lack of balance permits little or no coverage of any of his achievements. How many people, for example, know about the employment records shattered by the jobs boom unleashed by Trump’s policies?

Black unemployment stands at 5.9 percent, the lowest rate on record. For Latinos, it is 4.5 percent, also the lowest on record. For women, it’s the lowest rate in 65 years and for young people, it’s the lowest since 1966.

Those statistics mean millions of people are getting their shot at the American dream. How can that not be newsworthy?

Rest assured that if Barack Obama had achieved those milestones, they and he would have been celebrated to the high heavens.

Yet when it comes to Trump, nothing is ever good. Having decided he is unfit to be president, most news groups act as propagandists, ignoring or distorting facts that contradict their view of him.

While media manipulation hurts Trump’s popularity, there is a second, ironic impact: The skewed coverage is doing even more damage to public trust in the media itself.

A Gallup/Knight Foundation survey of 1,440 panelists earlier this year found adults estimating that “62 percent of the news they read in newspapers, see on television or hear on the radio is biased” and that 44 percent of “news” is inaccurate.

Separately, Axios and SurveyMonkey polled nearly 4,000 adults in June and found that 70 percent believe mainline news organizations report as news things “they know to be fake, false or purposely misleading.”

Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, an astonishing 92 percent harbor that distrust, as do 53 percent of Democrats.

And get this: Two-thirds of those who believe there is rampant false news say it usually happens because journalists “have an agenda.” Clearly, the distrust is not limited to Trump supporters.

These numbers reflect an urgent crisis of confidence in the press. And it’s getting worse.

A Gallup survey three years ago found that 40 percent trusted the media; two years ago, the trust meter declined by 8 points, to 32 percent. Now even that low bar looks like the good old days.

Yet instead of soberly examining their conduct, most in the media ratchet up the vitriol, apparently believing that screaming louder and longer will lead the public to hate Trump as much as they do.

But as the surveys show, their bias is a boomerang. With media behavior undermining public trust more than anything Trump says or does, a return to traditional standards of fairness and a separation of news from opinion are essential.

Jeff Jacoby adds:

Last week more than 400 newspapers nationwide responded to a call by The Boston Globe to publish editorials in defense of freedom of the press, and to explain why the news media, far from being, in President Trump’s malicious phrase, the “enemy of the people,” is one of the foremost guarantors of the people’s liberty.

I’ve written about Trump and the press before, both to caution against an anti-Trump feeding frenzy and to warn of the danger in a presidential war against the press . Here I want to focus on something else — the notion, especially widespread on the right these days, that freedom of the press is for “unbiased” news coverage, not for journalism that is unfair or hostile to the president.

An Ipsos poll taken earlier this month found that 26% of Americans — and 43% of Republicans — believe that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” In a Quinnipiac poll , also released this month, 26% of voters agreed that “the news media is the enemy of the people.” Among Republicans, an actual majority, 51%, agreed with that statement.

It is hard to overstate how radically un-American such views are. Public disenchantment with the press, and complaints by officials that the press treats them unfairly, are as old as the press itself. But whatever people think of the media, the question of their right to publish what they please was settled when the First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1791: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .”

Nothing in the language of the Amendment makes freedom of the press contingent on objectivity, or popularity, or public approval. Such a condition would never have occurred to the Constitution’s framers, because the press in their day was anything but (to coin a phrase) fair and balanced. Newspapers made no pretense of detachment — quite the opposite.

In 1800, for example, Samuel Morse of Danbury, Conn., publisher of the Sun of Liberty newspaper, readily flaunted his support for Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. He was opposed to the Federalists led by John Adams, and saw no need to hide the fact. “A despicable impartiality I disclaim,” he wrote. “I have a heart and I have a country — to the last I shall ever dedicate the first.”

By that point, the tradition of a freewheeling, no-holds-barred, decidedly partisan press was well-established. On my way to the Globe’s office each day, I pass the spot on Court Street in downtown Boston where James Franklin, the publisher of the New England Courant (and the older brother of Benjamin Franklin), had his printing presses. Franklin’s Courant got into a famous battle in 1721 with the Massachusetts Puritan leader Cotton Mather over the best way to treat smallpox, which was then ravaging the colony.

As Matthew Price wrote in a Globe essay in 2006, “Franklin made hell for Mather with a potent combination of slander and innuendo. Mather shot back that the Courant was a ‘Flagitious and Wicked Paper.’” (That was Puritan-speak for “fake news.”)

My point isn’t that the openly, even brutally, partisan press culture of the 18th and 19th centuries is better or worse than the ideal of journalistic impartiality that began to take hold during the Progressive Era early in the 20th century. It is that when the First Congress and the states enshrined in the First Amendment an adamantine prohibition on “abridging the freedom of . . . the press,” they were protecting the raucous, argumentative, ideological, often vicious journalism of their day. Freedom of the press, like freedom of speech, is meaningless if it only protects decorous messages and inoffensive expression that ruffle nobody’s feathers.

News organizations — and their customers — don’t need the Constitution to shield anodyne, noncontroversial journalism. If newspapers restricted themselves to printing stories that the president liked, what would be the point of newspapers? If Fox News or MSNBC broadcast commentary that challenged no one’s partisan preferences, what would be the point of watching?

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1929. “Not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Only people profoundly and alarmingly ignorant of Americans’ constitutional liberties could believe that presidents should have the right to shut down publications “engaged in bad behavior.” The proper term for such “bad behavior” is a free press, and it is among the shining glories of America’s constitutional democracy.

Science fiction and today’s reality

Science fiction novelist Travis Corcoran won the Libertarian Futurist Society‘s Corcoran Award for his novel The Powers of the Earth. His acceptance speech included:

Eric S Raymond said it best: “Hard SF is the vital heart of the field”. The core of hard science fiction is libertarianism: “ornery and insistent individualism, veneration of the competent man, instinctive distrust of coercive social engineering”.

I agree; science fiction is best when it tells stories about free people using intelligence, skills and hard work to overcome challenges.

This vision of science fiction is under attack by collectivists, and hard SF and libertarian SF are being pushed out of publisher lineups and off of bookstore shelves.

Very well. We have intelligence, we have skills and we’re not afraid of hard work. Let’s rise to this challenge!

The Powers of the Earth is a novel about many things.

It’s a war story about ancaps, uplifted dogs, and AI fighting against government using combat robots, large guns, and kinetic energy weapons.

It’s an engineering story about space travel, open source software, tunnel boring machines, and fintech.

It’s a cyberpunk story about prediction markets, CNC guns, and illegal ROMs.

It’s a story about competent men who build machines, competent women who pilot spaceships, and competent dogs who write code.

It’s a novel that pays homage to Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which in turn pays homage to the American Revolution.

. . . But the historical inspiration for the novel was not, actually, the American Revolution. It’s the founding of the Icelandic Free State almost a thousand years earlier. The difference is subtle, but important.

The American Revolution was an act of secession: one part of a government declaring itself independent and co-equal, and continuing to act as a government. The establishment of the Icelandic Free State is different in two important particulars. First, it did not consist of people challenging an existing government, but of people physically leaving a region governed by a tyrant. And second, the men and women who expatriated themselves from the reign of Harald Fairhair did not create a government – they wanted to flee authoritarianism, not establish their own branch of it!

Thus we get to one of the most important themes of The Powers of the Earth and its sequel, Causes of Separation: the concepts of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. The tri-chotomy was first codified in an essay—titled “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States”—by economist Albert Hirschman in 1970.

An aside: I love that this essay was penned while Americans walked on the moon.

Hirschman argued that when a vendor or government fails to deliver, people can either remain loyal, can speak out within the system, or can exit the system.

The problem we Americans have in 2018 is that there is no more frontier. Like the engineers in Christopher Priest’s “The Inverted World”, we moved west until we hit an ocean, and that has been our doom.

When there is a frontier, it is impossible to deny that the pie is growing. Want a farm? Go hack one out of the forest. Want a house? Go build one.

Once the frontier is gone, value can still be created ab initio. The pie is not fixed. For the price of a cheap computer you can create a novel or a software package. With a $100 video camera you can be a garage Kubrick. With a free Craigslist ad you can be a dog-walking entrepreneur.

. . . But the closing of the frontier made it easier for the collectivists to argue that the pie is fixed. And—worse yet—it made it impossible for the rest of us to get away.

We’d all love to live in David Friedman’s polycentric legal system, Robert Nozick’s meta-utopia, Moldbug’s patchwork, or Scott Alexander’s archipelago – a place where each of us could live by rules we choose, and people who preferred another set could live by those… but we can’t, and that’s for one reason and one reason alone: the collectivists who can’t bear to let anyone, anywhere, be ungoverned.

Totalitarian ideologies – Nazism, Communism, Islamofascism, Progressivism – all subscribe to the Mussolini quote “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

The Nazi sees any area not under Nazi control as a threat.

The communist sees any area not under communist control as a threat.

The Islamofascist sees any area outside of Dar al Islam as Dar al-Harb—a populace to be subjugated.

Collectivists sees anything not under collectivist control as a threat—and as an opportunity.

A threat, because areas not under collectivist control always work better. It is no accident that just as the Soviets jammed broadcasts from the west, Nazis outlawed American music, Chinese built a Great Firewall, so too do progressives shadow-ban free voices on Twitter and Facebook and expel people from conventions.

An opportunity, because of what totalitarians do when they see a patch of freedom: they try to take it over. “All within, nothing outside”.

When the patch of freedom is a state, we get the long march through the institutions, as outlined by communist Antonio Gramsci and refined by communist Rudi Dutschke. First they become teachers, then they influence the students, then they take over the courts . . . and then it’s not too long until some O’Brien is holding up four fingers to some Winston Smith, crushing out the last of the wrongthink.

When the patch of freedom is a subculture the mechanism is different—it’s discussed in the brilliant essay “Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution” by David Chapman.

One core attribute of totalitarians is that they don’t create, they steal. And because they steal, they are both confused by and hate those who do create. As Barrack Obama said “You didn’t build that.” As the internet meme says: “You made this? <pause> I made this.”

Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art.

The bad news for us libertarians is that the cities we built have fallen. The publishers? Gone. The bookstore shelves? Gone.

But what of it? We have Amazon, we have print on demand, we have Kickstarter.

And, most importantly of all, we have the vital heart, the radiant core of science fiction: we can tell great stories about ornery individualism, about competent men and women using skills and hard work to overcome challenges. This is the one thing the collectivists can never steal from us, because it is antithetical to their nature.

There is not an ocean in front of us, dooming us to captivity—there is only sky. The frontier is still open.

Onward!