Saturday, October 30, 2004

Democracy: The God That Failed

From his new location in London, Gene Callahan this week reminds us on his blog:

"If you're sick of having an elitist, Ivy League alumnus, multi-millionaire, Skull-and-Bones member, warmonger as president, then be thankful you live in a country where you have the opportunity to replace him with a man who is an elitist, Ivy League alumnus, multi-millionaire, Skull-and-Bones member, and warmonger."
Reminds me of something I heard the great Ray Bradbury say during a college lecture many years ago. I'm paraphrasing: "The great thing about democracy is that every few years, you get a chance to throw out the bastards and bring in the sons of bitches!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Who's Getting Your Vote?

Reason magazine has posted “Who’s Getting Your Vote?” on their website. It’s a poll of “a variety of policy wonks, journalists, thinkers, and other public figures” about for whom they’re voting in November, whom they voted for in 2000, their most embarrassing presidential vote ever, and their favorite president of all time. A few so-called “libertarians” list Lincoln as their favorite president, “because he saved the Union.” I guess that’s indicative of the direction the libertarian movement is running these days...toward statism and interventionism. But there are some revealing and fun answers sprinkled throughout the answers. And there are even a few principled non-voters represented.

Comedian and sitcom star Drew Carey says his favorite president is “Andrew Jackson, because he’s what a lap dance costs (and because, ironically, he opposed having a National Bank).” As for casting his vote this year, Carey says: “Quit pretending that it matters, would you? Can you vote for all the nefarious cabals that really run the world? No. Fuck it.”

Glenn Garvin, Reason contributing editor and a columnist for The Miami Herald, names William Henry Harrison as his favorite prez. Harrison, he reminds us, “caught pneumonia while delivering his inaugural address, lay in bed barely conscious for six weeks, and then died, his presidency having done hardly any damage to the country.”

Bob Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan and the more recent Against Leviathan, explains tersely what he’ll do on November 2: “I never vote. I don’t want to soil my hands.”

P.J. O’Rourke, political humorist, and occasional TV pundit, says: “I always vote Republican because Republicans have fewer ideas. Although, in the case of George W., not fewer enough.”

Other participants in the poll include Camille Paglia, Penn Jillette, Wendy McElroy, and a dozen or more others. It’s worth a look.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

When voting becomes addictive...

This story from Associated Press today:

DEFIANCE, Ohio (AP) -- Elections officials knew something was wrong when they got voter registration cards for Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, Michael Jordan and George Foreman.

They notified the Defiance County sheriff, who arrested Chad Staton on Monday on a felony charge of submitting phony voter registration forms. Investigators also were looking into allegations that he was paid with cocaine in exchange for his efforts.

Staton, 22, had fraudulently filled out more than 100 voter registration forms, Sheriff David Westrick said.

"Staton was to be paid for each registration form that he could get citizens to fill out," the sheriff said. "However, Staton himself filled out the registrations and returned them to the woman who hired him from Toledo."

... According to Westrick, the NAACP's National Voter Fund had submitted the false registrations to the elections board in Cleveland. George Forbes, Cleveland chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Monday that the voter fund operates independently from his chapter.

Officers said they interviewed a Toledo woman who claimed that she had paid Staton with cocaine for the registrations. Officers said they obtained a search warrant and took voter registrations and drug paraphernalia from her home.

The woman claimed she had been recruited by a Cleveland man to obtain voter registrations, Westrick said.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Election 2000 Replay?

John Broder of The New York Times writes this morning:

"America could very well wake up on Wednesday, Nov. 3, not knowing who won the presidential election. Judging by the latest polls, the race is close enough in a number of key states that human error, technical foul-ups and the inevitable legal challenges could delay the results for days or weeks, in an unwelcome replay of 2000.

"...The two major parties have brigades of lawyers ready to file legal actions at the first signs of irregularity at the polls. Already, lawsuits are challenging voter registration procedures in several states, and more litigation is sure to come anywhere that it might affect the outcome."

As the two major parties become -- outside of their rhetoric -- more and more alike (i.e., statist), this trend of tight national races and democracy-by-lawyers is bound to continue. And by even wider margins, non-voters will continue to be, as they've always been, the majority in political elections in this country.

Rock the non-vote!

"Team America! F--k Yeah!"

Poor Sean Penn. The satire cast his way by Matt Stone and Trey Parker via Team America: World Police has upset him. He charged in a memo dated October 6, and reported by Matt Drudge, that their movie “encourage(s) irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world.”

Interestingly, most of the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death portrayed in the very, very funny Team America is committed against marionette versions of the Hollywood Left community: Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Helen Hunt, Janeane Garofalo, Danny Glover, Matt Damon, George Clooney, and even Penn himself. All of them are killed brutally (in puppet fashion) during an ill-advised world peace conference sponsored jointly by the Film Actors Guild (FAG) and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il. At one point, Michael Moore, a hotdog gripped in each hand and explosives strapped to his bloated puppet body, sacrifices his own life to destroy Team America headquarters, which is hidden inside Mount Rushmore.

The jingoistic Right doesn’t come out of this film unscathed. After all, the heart of it is a devastating spoof of U.S. world police action. (In their fight for freedom, Team America offhandedly destroys the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and other landmarks.) But at a time when the antiwar movement would be best served if liberal celebrities quit blathering nonsense and shut up, Team America’s lampoon of the Baldwin and Sarandon crowd is on target and refreshing.

I loved Team America. However, it is not for the weak hearted. There is extreme puppet violence, including decapitations (Hans Blix is eaten by a shark, for example). There is a disturbing depiction of puppet vomiting. There is graphic puppet sex, including fellatio (but without genitalia; they’re puppets, for crissakes). And I haven’t heard this much bad language in a movie since Al Pacino starred in Scarface two decades ago (none of the movie’s great songs should be sung out in public). So be warned.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

When "Good Samaritans" go bad

A shadow today was cast over our otherwise pleasant afternoon in Santa Barbara by the theft of Deb's purse. Credit cards, $80 cash, car keys, house keys, Starbucks debit card...gone. I won't go into details, but after quickly cancelling all her cards (which, naturally, were linked to mine, meaning no credit card use by this family until replacements arrive sometime after Tuesday), Deb received a call on her cell. Her purse was found. Hooray! We retrieve the purse. Of course, the cash is missing. A couple of incidental items are gone. Everything else, including the now-cancelled credit cards, seems to be there. But Deb's car and house keys remain in the pocket of one of our three Good Samaritans. They expect a reward. Ahah! A scam. "All the cash I had was in the purse and it's now gone," Deb explains. We offer them $60 that I managed to dig out of my account at a nearby ATM. The Samaritans, obviously disappointed but resigned to the fact that 60 bucks is all they'll be able to squeeze out of us (on top of the $80 already removed from the purse), surrender the keys. We part amicably.

Lessons learned: Even "Good Samaritans" are not always what they at first appear to be. And always keep a real good eye on your stuff.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected

From yesterday's edition of the hilarious The Onion:
GREENSBORO, NC -- In an announcement that has alarmed voters across the nation, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he will personally attack the U.S. if Sen. John Kerry wins the next election.

"If the wrong man is elected in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other than myself," Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro, NC. "When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat." ...

In a televised address from the White House, President Bush promised "to serve and protect the nation" by being re-elected.

"A war against Dick Cheney would be a long, hard struggle," Bush said. "It would be a difficult battle against a shadowy nemesis who is able to hide among us, loves only death and destruction, and hates our freedom. I have the experience, the leadership, and the Republican nomination required to protect us all -- myself and my family included -- from Dick Cheney."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Keep your life private -- don't vote!

One more reason not to vote, brought to my attention by Wendy McElroy. According to Kirsten Anderberg in Portland Indymedia, if you're registered to vote, your private info is up for grabs:
"Give me your name, city, and state, and I can probably get your home address in less than an hour if you vote. Any information you include on your voter registration form can be had by any member of the public, for free, at your local courthouse in most states. ... Voter registration forms, in some states, require your social security number, birth date, and driver's license number, as well as your home address and phone number."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Of racketeers & politicians

Turner Classic Movies presented not one but two versions of Carol Reed’s 1949 classic The Third Man last night — the American and significantly (for fans) different British version. TCM also presented a new documentary about the film — quite good, by the way. I consider The Third Man one of the ten greatest movies ever. In fact, I adore it so much that when Deb and I visited Vienna a few years back, we not only took a walking tour of sites used in the movie, accompanied by zither music, but I spent one afternoon watching it on a “big screen” in a local theater that still shows it several times a week.

I’ve probably seen The Third Man a couple dozen times, but watching it again last night, it seemed to speak darkly of politics and Election 2004.

For those who haven’t seen the film (shame on you), its villain is Harry Lime, played magnificently, if briefly, by the great Orson Welles. Harry is always charming. Actually, he’s downright seductive. He’s also, as one character remarks, “about the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living in this city.” Confronting his abused friend Holly Martins (the wonderful Joseph Cotton) aboard Vienna’s famous Ferris wheel, in just one of the movie’s unforgettable scenes, Harry compares his criminal career to government:

“They talk about ‘the people’ and ‘the proletariat.’ I talk about the suckers and the mugs. It’s the same thing. They have their five-year plans, and I have mine.”
The calculation and seductive power of a Harry Lime isn’t much different from the calculation and seductive power of politics and the State. The polls, with which media flog us each day, are evidence that the American electorate brims with “suckers and mugs” who want to believe the rhetoric, even if they don’t really.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

You can't increase freedom politically

Julie Watner wrote a wonderful little essay exactly ten years ago called "A Definition of Freedom," which defined freedom brilliantly and suggested a fine way to implement it in our time. In part, Julie wrote:
"...I believe the most effective way to spread the freedom idea is to educate ourselves and raise our children to be honest, knowledgeable, confident, responsible lovers of freedom -- to light a single candle. If each one of us lights another candle, and each of those follows suit, the freedom ideas will grow from a quiet bonfine to a WILDFIRE engulfing everything in its path."
I recommend this essay to anyone interested in furthering freedom.

Surf's Up!

I can’t help but wonder how different my life might have been had Smile been a part of it for the past 37 years. Many albums have played background to my last four decades — music that still leaps into my mind or onto the CD-changer spontaneously: the Beatles’ Revolver, The Velvet Underground & Nico, the Stones’ Let It Bleed, Phil Ochs’ Rehearsals for Retirement, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model. And the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

As a lot of us knew way back when and as most people know by now, Brian Wilson had planned that Smile follow up the groundbreaking Pet Sounds. But the unfinished tapes were shelved in 1967, and Smile became a pop music legend. Pieces of it appeared on Beach Boys LPs and box sets during the next decade — “Heroes and Villains,” of course, and “Cabinessence,” “Wonderful,” and “Surf’s Up.” And there was “Good Vibrations,” recorded after Pet Sounds and meant for Smile, released as a single in fall 1966. But the context was missing. Wilson had written Smile as a series of “suites,” full-blown songs linked together by stray melodic bits. But we Beach Boys enthusiasts were denied the Big Picture. And for 37 years, diehards have speculated about what exactly would have made up Smile, as well as Brian’s intended track sequence.

Last fall, Brian and lyricist Van Dyke Parks finally gathered up all the pieces and finished Smile. Then Wilson and his touring band performed the completed album at London’s Royal Festival Hall last February before marching into a studio to record it. And last week, Smile arrived in stores, 37 years late, not as a Beach Boys CD but as a freshly recorded project of Brian Wilson’s. Does it live up to its hype? Yes. If it had been released as a Beach Boys album in 1967, would it have rivaled Sgt. Peppers? I think so.

Smile is gorgeous. It’s filled with all the strings, horns, and oddball sound effects that Brian orchestrated back in the ’60s. The famous Beach Boys harmonies, even without Carl, Dennis, Mike, and Al, are all there. The great “Heroes and Villains,” the first genuine song on the album, includes the “in the cantina” break missing from the oh-so-familiar version, and for the first time, we understand that it was meant to be Smile’s centerpiece; its melodies are threaded throughout the album.

In a ReasonOnline essay last Tuesday, Brian Doherty confessed, “Newly completed tracks like ‘Barnyard’ and ‘Song for Children’ brought this old fan to tears, and I believe it could do so even to those for whom the phrase ‘George Fell into his French Horn’ is meaningless, not argument-starting.” I’m nodding in agreement even as I type Doherty’s words.

You know, if it had been released in 1967, Smile might very well have been lost in the shuffle of Sgt. Peppers, Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s, and The Doors. But I still would have had 37 extra years to bask in it joyfully. Ah well...

Brian Wilson’s Smile is, hands down, the musical event of 2004. Maybe of the decade.