Saturday, February 22, 2020


Before Doug Henwood announced yesterday that his venerable mailing list described as a "forum for the discussion of economics, politics, and culture from a broad left perspective" was shutting down, I admit that I was unsure whether lbo-talk was still going, with so few messages hitting my inbox that I was genuinely unsure whether or not it had quietly vanished. (The website for the Left Business Observer it was named after tersely notes that periodical ceasing its increasingly erratic publication seven years ago, and the actual content hasn't been updated since Barack Obama's candidacy.)  Yet while he insists that "lbo-talk has said enough" and is enough of a Marxist to quote Karl that "Last words are for fools who haven't said enough" I am enough of a foolish Bakuninist to note that, as moribund as it was in its later years, its extensive archives offer a lively chronicle of the early-Internet left through the Battle of Seattle, 9/11 and beyond.

Both the content and the style offer many lessons for younger comrades who only know a slicker but inhibited Internet dominated by corporate social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. And that includes comrades far outside the realm of stereotypical hard leftists and their fellow travelers, given that the old threads even contain some kind words for Reason magazine's Nick Gillespie and Jesse Walker, Ayn Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, or Lew Rockwell of The Mises Institute (who was even on Henwood's radio show back in the days when George W. Bush provided a common enemy).  To quote another sort-of-Marxist leftist's famous last words, "Don't waste any time mourning," but some time spent in lbo-talk's archives may lay ground for its successors (well, besides the one it already has).

Thursday, January 16, 2020

another day, another pair of letters to the editor

The Russians were going to have come in 2010!
"U.S. and Russia in space" in the Queens Chronicle looks back at the little-discussed sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and how it envisioned less tense relations between the US and the then-assumed-to-still-be-Soviet-in-the-2010s Russia.  (I should also clarify that I am not now, nor have I aver been a member of the Russian conspiracy, though I technically can't truthfully deny association with "H.U.A.C." since the "House of Un-American Activities" was the unofficial nickname for the home of some college friends back in the day.)

This image is a rerun, but so is the content it's illustrating.

"Reducing costs"
 in the Queens Examiner (and the other outlets in the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star Newspaper Group) asks free-market advocates to stop brushing aside concerns about "materialism, social inequality and economic instability" and instead start pointing out how economic freedom can address them.  If you've wondered why your local paper doesn't have quotes from 19th century left-populist free market economists, it may be because you aren't writing them in!  (And yes, this letter is basically an abridgment of one of my old C4SS pieces, but since they haven't bothered to try to get newspapers to run their stuff since 2016, I may as well follow the wisdom of Abbott and Costello: "If there's anything else I want you to do, I'll do it myself!")

Thursday, January 02, 2020


"THE YEAR IS 2019. America's finest men don't run for President."

... my troubles definitely weren't far away, but it was a day of several significant milestones:

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

letters to the editor roundup

I've been quiet here, but I can't let the decade end without noting my presence on the letters to the editors pages in the last weeks of the 2010s:

"Whose school rules?" in the Queens Chronicle

"Hitchcock's genius" in the Queens Chronicle

"Vendor cap vs. progress" in the Queens Chronicle

"Who Knew Debs Supported Gun Rights for Individuals?" in the Wall Street Journal

"Chanukah Songs Beyond Sandler" in The Jewish Week (week of December 7, not online yet)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Memeo Trasho

Wouldn't you know it, today is National Grouch Day on a week in which is running a contest to make memes based around Sesame Street pals Ernie and Bert. So I'll make up for not yet linking to their past contests which yielded a trash bin of Oscar the Grouch memes and, a bit farther down the street, a cookie jar of Cookie Monster memes. Both compilations of humorous image-caption combinations include submissions by this very blogger, who may not have found his way to Sesame Street (or won the contests) but was able to indulge in dated references to everything from Atari 2600 games to Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners to the Lazy Sunday SNL skit.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

2 QR R 0 2 QR

The current issue of the Queens Chronicle newspaper has a letter to the editor by yours truly about the latest of the MTA's bad decisions endured by NYC transit riders.  I kept it as concise as possible for print, but on my own blog I can try to expand a bit on why the removal of QR codes was so particularly annoying:

  • It takes a bit of technical know-how to explain what exactly QR codes actually are — they're sort of like an Internet-connected update of bar codes for the wireless age — but their removal eliminated the benefit they had for riders who knew how to use them, without any countervailing gain for those who don't.
  • The QR codes linked to significantly more useful and accurate schedule information than could be conveyed in the static schedules that were phased out for supposedly being too costly to maintain, and can keep access to up-to-date info without needing the physical printout to be replaced: each code is tied to a webpage link which not only can theoretically updated periodically, but is in real time.
  • Actually using a QR code requires a working, charged smartphone that may be fiscally out of reach for some passengers -- but so do the newer printed guidelines on the bus stops, which only provide directions on how to call up bus schedule information rather than the info itself.
  • The webpages the QR codes used to provide links to are still up and running on the MTA Bus Time website, so it's still possible for savvy users to personally access the links via bookmarks or search -- but it takes more time do so so (and more than enough time that a bus can be missed while looking to see if the bus is going to arrive!), and runs the risk of pulling up the info for the wrong bus stop (often, bus stops in opposite directions on the same line have identical names), whereas the codes would always be for their own specific stop.
It's just a baffling case of fixing what ain't broke, reminiscent of the early Internet copypasta about how "Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet" ... except that features are only being removed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Noisy Words for Silent Movies

When I read a quote by the founder of a Queens film festival asserting that its movies weren't "low-quality – like avant-garde, silent film, black and white – something that mass audience wouldn’t care to see" I just had to write in to explain just how many audiences such "low-quality" films were attracting in NYC,  and my reply made it to the pages of the July 25 issue of the Queens Courier: