“The Space Traders”

For those following the faux-controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s relationship with Derrick Bell, here’s a copy of Bell’s infamous short story, “The Space Traders.” As far as science fiction goes, it’s a pretty crummy read, but it does reveal the depths of Bell’s pessimism (perhaps understandable given his biography) about everything from race relations to economic…

Reading Gingrich in D.C.

Andrew Ferguson reads New Gingrich’s 21 books so you don’t have to. Gingrich’s overblown reputation as an intellectual is well-trodden ground, but what I found interesting is what the books reveal about his weird ideological mix of populist conservatism and wild-eyed utopian futurism. For a more favorable view of Gingrich’s literary inclinations, check out this…

LeBron James and the creative class

Does the LeBron-Cleveland saga reflect the anxieties of modern American life?* Bear with me for a moment: A monumentally talented product from the old industrial heartland flees his hometown and a band of hardworking** but less gifted teammates for a coastal metropolis, intent on mastering his profession by joining up with other monumentally-talented guys. Sound…

X-Men: First Class

I thought X-Men: First Class was loads of fun, largely because of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. Here’s Jonathan Last with a pretty interesting post on mutant assimilation. On a more serious note, I was a little uncomfortable with the film’s repeated invocations of the Holocaust (an exchange between Magneto and Professor Xavier towards the…

Raptured

From a friend’s Facebook update: “The most valuable lesson from the Camping Rapture incident? If you make apocalyptic predictions, make them secular. Paul Erhlich is a tenured professor at Stanford.”

Tits! Swords! Edginess!

(Editor’s note: Erik’s praise for “Game of Thrones” drew me out of semi-retirement. Bear with me) One of the problems with easing constraints on a creative medium is that creators are inevitably tempted to prove their boundary-pushing bona fides. Cable television has been widely hailed as this decade’s dominant cultural force, but I can think…

Our man in Fukushima

Christopher Carr, a commenter and occasional guest contributor here at the League, was in Fukushima when the Tsunami hit. I don’t know Chris personally, but he was one of our regulars – a sharp, even-keeled observer who basically exemplifies what this site is supposed to be about. We sure hope he’s OK. UPDATE: Spoke too soon…

The weird ideological inversion of the school reform debate

At one of our excellent sub-blogs, Alex Knapp makes this commonsensical point: We live in a country where Creationists can run for President without being laughed out of the room, homeopathy is seen as real medicine, millions of people buy into “The Secret” that wishing for something hard enough makes it real, and the cast…

Why don’t we treat free trade like global warming?

Belief in anthropogenic global warming is a sort of political signifier for American liberals – if you don’t think human activity is changing the Earth’s climate, they’re probably not going to take you very seriously. This is not because every leftist has independently verified the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings and concluded that people…

Quote of the Day

“In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I saw this movie after smoking three-quarters of a joint, but as soon as I saw the first psychotic, burning car chase – in 3D! – I realized that medication was entirely unnecessary.” – Annalee Newitz, in a very funny review of Nick Cage’s “Drive…

The Glorious Cause

Below, J. L. Wall suggests that Rooster Cogburn’s character arc in True Grit is basically redemptive. I’m interested in an alternative hypothesis: What if Cogburn’s heroism is entirely consistent with his history as a Confederate guerrilla? Rooster shows no sign of being ashamed of his past; indeed, it’s not much of a stretch to say…

Do Democracies Fight?

Jason says that democratic peace theory is one of the better explanations for the decline of large-scale conflict around the globe. I remain unconvinced – here’s why: 1) This ain’t the Theory of Gravity we’re talking about. Until recently, democracies were remarkably rare. The third and fourth waves of liberalization still qualify as recent events.…

Super Bowl Open Thread

I don’t have a real rooting interest, but I am anticipating a great game. My tentative pick: Steelers over Packers, 28-24. Feel free to throw out any predictions, gambling tips, or jokes at Ben Roethlisberger’s expense in the comments. We may finagle a prize for anyone who guesses the final score before kickoff (Unlimited guest…