Thursday, September 30, 2004

Political labels & me

On earlier this week, Robert Klassen expressed his discomfort with personally using the libertarian label. Klassen complained that too many people who support electoral politics, the State’s legitimization of its use of force, erroneously call themselves libertarians.

My comrade B.K. Marcus promptly posted a reply to Klassen on his own blog. In brief, Marcus argued that freedom-lovers had already surrendered the word liberal, a label for free-market anti-statists since the 17th century, to authoritarian socialists more than 100 years ago; we shouldn’t do the same with libertarian, despite its association with the disingenuous Libertarian Party. We should instead fight for the label, Marcus wrote, acknowledging that philosophical differences do unfortunately fall under the libertarian umbrella.

When I first joined the libertarian movement more than 30 years ago (just a teen, I was), there was no LP, and being a libertarian implied you were anti-politics (thanks in part to Karl Hess’s seminal 1969 Playboy essay, “The Death of Politics”). Once the party reared its hideous head in 1971, the movement split into two factions -- minarchist (the late Samuel Edward Konkin III’s term for believers in “limited government”) and anarchist (advocates of no government at all). Naturally, the libertarian-anarchist position fell “outside the box” for Big Media, so its spotlight shined almost exclusively on the LP’s libertarian-minarchists. And we free-market anarchists appeared to go underground.

I fall comfortably into the anarchist camp, but I’ve never fully shrugged off the libertarian label. Granted, it’s been corrupted by political hacks -- for chrissakes, even Bill-friggin-Clinton called himself a libertarian -- but I think the label still applies. And I agree with B.K. Marcus that we should fight for it. We should embrace it as a piece of our movement’s history. In fact, we should take back the term liberal, too. As Marcus writes: “The language bandits deserve our resistance!”

Do nonvoters support rape?

Matt Drudge reports this morning on Oprah's "Voting Party" show Wednesday, which featured P. Diddy (Vote or Die!), Drew Barrymore, Christina Aguilera, and Cameron Diaz.

I am a very big Diaz fan. I think she's one of the best comedic actresses around right now. But she is, as are most Hollywood types, it seems, a political nitwit. Reports Drudge: "After a discussion with Oprah on lynching and the vote, Diaz spoke of the dire consequences for women if they sit out this election." He then quotes Diaz directly:
"We have a voice now, and we're not using it, and women have so much to lose. I mean, we could lose the right to our bodies. We could lo--if you think that rape should be legal, then don't vote. But if you think that you have a right to your body, and you have a right to say what happens to you and fight off that danger of losing that, then you should vote..."
A week or so ago, I posted on this blog conservative Ann Coulter's outrageous prediction of national disaster if Kerry wins on November 2. Now, here's an equally crazed bit of nonsense from the liberal end of the spectrum.

And people wonder why I refuse to cast a ballot at all...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Afternoons with Ralph Raico

Until Ralph Raico completes his definitive book on classical liberalism, his ten-lecture Mises Institute course from Summer 2003, History: The Struggle for Liberty, will stand as his greatest tribute to freedom. He traces the roots of liberalism and its first volleys against the State to the "Dark Ages" (which he explains weren't quite as "dark" as we've long been taught). Raico deconstructs the villainous Rousseau. He argues that John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, always considered a "classic" statement of liberalism, helped destroy true liberalism and usher in socialism. Then he follows the struggle for freedom into 20th century America. His material on Woodrow Wilson and the beginnings of American Empire is terrific. The last lecture centers on the future of classical liberalism and liberty, touching on the ideas of Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

I've spent many afternoons since April sitting on my patio with a box of Honduran cigars and working through the 15-hour audiotape series three times. I think I've totally unwound my so-called college "education."

The audiotapes are still available from the Mises Institute at But now, History: The Struggle for Liberty can also be downloaded in its entirety -- and for FREE -- as ten MP3 files. Any student of liberty must listen to this lecture series. Get it here.

Saturday, September 25, 2004 a galaxy far, far away...

Sure, it's Harvest Festival time here in Big Ditch, California. But I've still spent the better part of the past two days basking in the Star Wars Trilogy, the original three George Lucas movies now finally available on DVD. Whew. Six and a half hours of movies are in this four-disc package, plus oodles of extras and a 150-minute documentary about the making and marketing of these masterpieces.

Now, there's been a lot of online and offline bitching and moaning that these are not the films as we first saw them in 1977, 1980, and 1983. That's true. These are the "Special Editions" that Lucas issued about seven years ago, with both major and minor alterations, including a few new scenes, reimagined scenes, new music, and new CGI effects. Actually, these are MORE than those late-'90s editions. Not only have the films been digitally restored and remastered, Lucas has made even further refinements and alterations, sometimes to keep these originals in sync with his three prequels.

To those who argue that Lucas has no right to fiddle with these movies -- bah! As the creator of the series, he has every right to do whatever he wants with them. That's what property rights are all about, friends. As for whether Lucas's changes have lessened the Star Wars experience, they haven't. These three movies -- Star Wars (aka A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi -- are as exhilerating as ever. The characters are the same, the stories are unchanged, and the series' warnings against unchecked power remain unaltered. (Oddly, the only thing I truly miss is the Ewoks' cornball "Yub Yub" song that closed the saga in Jedi. It's been replaced by music similar to something from Lord of the Rings. But I can live with that. And I still have the old laserdisc of that film, after all.)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A high time with "Sky Captain"

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was first planned for theaters last June. The studio held it until this weekend, not wanting to compete with big summer releases, and the timing is perfect. This is just the kind of movie fun we need right now, when the new TV season sucks and the next wave of movie “biggies” doesn’t arrive until Thanksgiving.

Sky Captain is Doc Savage, Metropolis, the old Fleischer Superman cartoons, Rocketeer, and Indiana Jones rolled into a glorious CGI retro-future. Everything except the actors (Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie) and a few props is computer generated. Amazing. (Even the late Sir Laurence Olivier stars in this film, courtesy of computer geeks.)

This is the first movie by writer-director Kerry Conran. Next up for Conran: A Princess of Mars. I think Edgar Rice Burroughs buffs can breathe easier now, knowing Conran’s at the reins of that project.

Oh, and Sky Captain features the best movie punch line I’ve heard in ages. Great fun.

"Serenity" is on the way!

Shooting is finished on Serenity, the Universal movie spin-off from Fox's short-lived sci-fi TV series Firefly (14 episodes shot, 10 aired), broadcast two years ago. The movie is now being readied for an April 22, 2005 theatrical release.

Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly was about a ragtag band of freedom-loving spacebound smugglers who spend most of their time dodging Alliance authorities. The acting was superb. The dialogue was always clever. The stories were riviting. The effects were terrific. And it was all over much too quickly. But thanks to an enthusiastic fanbase, Joss Whedon's dogged determination, and high sales numbers for the Firefly DVD package, we now have a movie to look forward to, written and directed by Whedon and starring the original cast.

On the official Serenity webpage last Friday, Whedon posted a delightful note to fans. In part, he wrote:
"...come April 22nd I think we'll be bringing you an exciting film that's a powerful statement about the right to be free. Which is not as cool as my original statement about the right to tasty garlic mussels in a cilantro broth, but the freedom thing's okay too. The editing started this week, and after just a first cut I can safely say this will be the greatest film since whatever film comes out right before it. And I'm not backing down from that."

The Wacky World of Ann Coulter

How important is Election 2004? decided to ask right-wing author, pundit, and glamour queen Ann Coulter. And Ann says: “Insofar as the survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry, I’d say 2004 is as big as it gets.”

Survival of the Republic?

Coulter says the closest parallel from American history to this year’s race is “1864. Bush is Lincoln and Kerry is General McClellan — who, I note, was a great military leader.”

“What would a Kerry administration mean?” asks

“Quite possibly the destruction of the Republic,” responds Ann.

Ann is asked what five books she’d recommend to become an informed voter. She lists The Bible, followed by four others, all written by, why, by Ann Coulter!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Fighting terrorist bibliophiles

Lew Rockwell posted the following news item on the blog yesterday:
TAMPA, Fla. -- A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport. It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She faced a possible criminal trial and a $10,000 fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration said it probably won't impose a fine.

Harrington said she'll never again carry her bookmark into an airport.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Rooting Down Under

The most amusing email I've received so far about my essay "But Whom Will You Root For?" comes from Greg Fisher. He writes:
"In Australia, 'rooting' is colloquial slang (oops, tautology alert!) for, err, well, bonking, you know, doin' the do! So when a bloke is said to be a bit of a wombat (small dog-sized vegitarian marsupial), it means he 'eats, roots & leaves.' Regards."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Is Michael Badnarik an option?

I’ve received a lot of email about my essay “But Who Will You Root For?,” featured yesterday on One reader asked:

Why will you not root for Badnarik?

I really cannot understand the slew of Lew Rockwell articles that are endorsing NOT VOTING at all. And not even offering Badnarik as the Libertarian candidate whose views most closely match all you “small l" libertarians. He IS a viable option!

I’m going to vote for Badnarik...AND I'm going to root for him, too.

Two things.

First, this is a reader who has either not read enough libertarian arguments against voting to understand the anti-politics position or is simply not paying attention. The argument against voting has been made pretty clear again and again. And the most fundamental is that it’s fraudulent for anarchists -- which hardcore libertarians are -- to elect politicians to abolish politics and govern to abolish government.

Second, Badnarik is NOT a “viable option” to even root for. He has absolutely no chance of winning in this election. You may vote for him if that makes you feel better. But rooting for a candidate is strictly about a few fleeting emotional rewards. And emotional rewards come only if the candidate you’re rooting for can realistically win the election. Does anyone really think Badnarik can pull off this election? Come on...

OK, there's a third thing, after all. Badnarik, “whose views most closely match all you ‘small l’ libertarians,” is a strict Constitutionalist. To a radical libertarian like myself, who’d abandon the U.S. Constitution for the good ol' Articles of Confederation in a heartbeat, Badnarik is one more example of the Libertarian Party’s empty-headed willingness to compromise with government rather than smash it, to hold power rather than crush it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"But Whom Will You Root For?"

Just because I'm a longtime nonvoter doesn't mean I don't root for someone to win in most presidential elections. On the other hand, this election year...

My latest essay, "But Whom Will You Root For?" (an expansion of one of my posts from last weekend), can now be found on

Monday, September 13, 2004

Kids' WB launches "The Batman"

I love Spider-Man. I’m crazy about Daredevil. But in the pantheon of comic book heroes, Batman’s always been numero uno. He’s got no super powers, just his wits, extraordinary physical training, oodles of money, and some really bitchin’ gadgets.

For many years, I’ve considered Frank Miller’s version (The Dark Knight Returns; Batman: Year One; The Dark Knight Strikes Again) the definitive Batman, with Bruce Timm’s animated cartoon series of the 1990's a close second.

Last Saturday morning, Kids’ WB unveiled the hero’s latest animated incarnation, The Batman. Friends, this half-hour show kicks serious butt, and it stands proudly alongside the Timm series. It’s as dark, if not darker, than Timm’s — which is a BIG plus when you’re still fighting the old Adam West image — and although it may be too early to judge, this show seems to me every bit as good. Jeff Matsuda produces the series and serves as its art director, so the animation is top-notch. Set just three years into The Batman’s career, the program depicts a younger Dark Knight than we’re used to. The new Batmobile rocks. Characters have been intriguingly redesigned. The most radical makeover so far is the Joker, with his shocking green dreadlocks, yellow-toothed smile, and a truly chilling, high-pitched cackle. I’m looking forward to seeing Matsuda’s takes on Penguin, Two-Face, Catwoman, and others.

This Batman is a keeper.

North Korea checks in

As an update to yesterday's news, North Korean officials say that last Thursday's explosion was not nuclear. Rather, they say, it was part of a construction project to build a hydro-electric dam in the remote mountainous region of Ryanggang, on the Chinese border.

The BBC asked North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun why North Korea hadn't explained earlier about the blast. He said it was because all foreign journalists were liars.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

An Xmas Gift Idea for Wally

I know a LOT of you must be wondering, even in September, just what to buy me for Christmas this year...

Tell you what. I'd LOVE a Hatori Hanzo samurai sword, like those used in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill! There are several selections to be found at Empire Swords. They range in price anywhere from $70 on up.

And don't worry that someone ELSE might also get me one. I can always use a few of 'em.

North Korea Blast: Don't Worry, Be Happy!

CNN reports today that a “huge explosion” that shook North Korea’s Yanggang province three days ago and produced a “mushroom cloud over 4 kilometers (two miles) wide” was NOT, according to an unnamed U.S. official, the result of a nuclear explosion.

Yanggang is the site of Yongjori Missile Base, a large facility with an underground missile firing range. And The New York Times reported yesterday that President Bush and top advisors recently received intelligence reports that indicate North Korea might be preparing its first nuclear test. But CNN’s “U.S. official” says that last Thursday’s mushroom cloud, spotted in satellite images, “could be the result of a forest fire.”

Perhaps U.S. officials should consult Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie to refresh their memories of what a nuclear blast looks like. That 1999 film contains the most remarkable and terrifying U.S. nuclear test footage I've ever seen.

"Oh, just one more thing..."

I was a high school senior when NBC launched a new "Mystery Movie" cycle of three rotating series in September 1971. One show was called "McMillan & Wife" and starred Rock Hudson. Another featured Dennis Weaver as "McCloud." But the first episode to air in the rotation starred the great Peter Falk as a cigar-smoking, trenchcoated homicide detective named Columbo. I was hooked on "Columbo" for the next seven years (some 43 episodes total).

Last night, I watched that first 90-minute show for only the second or third time in 33 years. It's titled "Murder by the Book" and starred the late Jack Cassady, a perfect snooty Columbo adversary. What a treat! It still holds up as both a clever mystery and as great entertainment. That episode (directed by a young punk named Steven Spielberg), plus six others from the series' first "season" and two pilot movies from 1968 and 1971, have been released by Universal on DVD as Columbo: The Complete First Season.

There are no extras in this DVD package -- just the barebones shows themselves -- but it's a gem anyway. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the release of further "Columbo" episodes.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Rooting for lesser evils

We nonvoters may not cast ballots, but that usually doesn’t stop us from rooting for one candidate over another. In 1992, the late Murray Rothbard remarked on this in the pages of the sorely missed Rothbard-Rockwell Report. In part, he wrote:

"...whom should we cheer for on Election Day? Whom should we hope wins the election? Voting is a matter of personal conscience, and can be for one of many minor candidates or for no one at all; rooting on who should win is a different problem, because regardless of who you or I vote for, or whether we vote at all, one of the two major candidates is sure to win in November. Whom should we hope wins, or are all the considerations so equally weighted that we should be indifferent?"

In 32 years of persistent nonvoting, I must admit that I’ve usually rooted for one side over another, seeing one potential Master as slightly less odious than the other. So...

In 1972, I rooted for McGovern over Nixon, for obvious reasons.

In 1976, I rooted for Carter over Ford, because Ford had to be punished for the pardons.

In 1980, I rooted for Reagan over Carter, because Carter had to be punished on general principle.

In 1984, I rooted for Mondale over Reagan, because I hated the neoconservative hawks surrounding Reagan.

In 1988, I rooted for Bush over Dukakis, because Dukakis was, well, Dukakis.

In 1992, I rooted for Bush over Clinton, because Hillary was, well, Hillary.

In 1996, I rooted for Dole over Clinton, because, gee, isn’t it obvious?

In 2000, I rooted for Bush over Gore, because Bush seemed more likeable than Gore, and Gore carried a Clintonian stench.

As usual, I will cast no ballot November 2. But what is unusual this election year is that for the first time ever, I will be rooting for no one. Finally, as Rothbard indicated might someday happen, I find that all the considerations are so equally weighted that I’m absolutely indifferent to the outcome.

Monday, September 06, 2004

The futile campaign of Brian K. Vaughan

On last month, fellow nonvoter Gene Callahan filed this from a recent Dead concert:

“... I was perturbed by the brief lecture Bob Weir and Phil Lesh delivered on voting, just before performing their encore. Weir told the audience to make sure to register and get to the polls this fall. ‘It couldn’t be more important,’ he proclaimed. There were, he noted, tables at which one could register right there at the show. (Isn’t there some law against asking 18-year-olds who are under the influence of several hits of acid what their party affiliation is?)”

Actually, ineffective “Rock the Vote” campaigns have become pretty commonplace. But this summer, it seems, there was a very uncommon effort to fire up comic book readers to get out and register to vote.

Yesterday, while web-surfing, I found a six-month-old interview with Brian K. Vaughan, perhaps best known as one of Marvel’s current stable of X-Men writers. Vaughan has launched a new series for Wildstorm called Ex Machina; it’s about a superhero who hangs up his tights to become mayor of New York. Copies of the debut issue, Vaughan revealed in the interview, would be in short supply. “So to make sure that only the most deserving people get a copy of our first issue,” he said, “it will only be sold to readers who are registered to vote. Our protagonist is independent, but...I don't care which party you choose to affiliate yourself with, if any, as long as you're registered. ... And yes, this is open to residents of all democratic, socialist, U.S.-occupied, whatever, countries, just as long as you're registered.”

I couldn’t resist. I called my local comics retailer this morning.

“Did you sell many copies of Ex Machina #1?” I asked.

“Some,” he said, adding that sales of the book had been good but not spectacular when it was released in June.

“How exactly did you enforce Brian Vaughan’s sales restriction against comic collectors who aren’t registered to vote? Did you ask buyers for proof of voter registration?”

My retailer had never heard of such a “silly” policy. Nor would he have enforced it if he had. “I sell comics,” he told me, “not lessons in civic responsibility.”

Note to Mr. Vaughan: Stick to writing comics and quit trying to dick with the marketplace.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A tainted HERO

Zhang Yimou’s Hero languished on a shelf at Miramax for a couple of years before it finally reached American theaters last week. It may be the most visually stunning martial-arts movie I’ve ever seen — and that includes the generally overrated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Hero is set in the Third Century, when China was fractured into warring kingdoms. The king of the Qin empire is trying to unite them all under one flag in the name of “peace.” Of course, this entails conquest and millions of gallons of spilled blood. For that reason, assassins have been harassing the king for many years. This film is the story of three of them, and the story of the nameless Hero who “does the right thing.” Unfortunately, the Right Thing is based on an appalling bit of Marxist/Vulcan claptrap (“The few must sacrifice for the many”) and nationalistic gibberish (“Above all, the Land”). It sounds like the current Bush Doctrine.

Regardless, you probably won’t see a more beautifully choreographed and filmed movie this year. The scenery is breathtaking. The fights are fierce but balletic. One clash in the rain between Nameless (played by Jet Li) and Long Sky (Donnie Yen) is a pulse-pounding killer that I’ll return to again and again on DVD for years to come; its power is underscored by a brilliant, unforgettable musical accompaniment. In another scene, Falling Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Moon (Zhang Ziyi) battle it out in a forest filled with windswept autumn leaves that gradually turn from gold to blood red as the fight climaxes. And the BIG battles, which include literal clouds of arrows descending on hapless victims, are spectacular and exciting.

But alas, bad politics taints an otherwise wonderful movie. So...TWO cheers for Hero, at least from this anarchist.