Saturday, April 30, 2005

It was 30 years ago today...

...and some 57,000 dead American soldiers later, that the U.S. was finally defeated in Vietnam. As Lew Rockwell reminds us, "But there is no memorial with the names of the three million Vietnamese dead. Few Americans know or care about them, except perhaps those who still think the whole place should have been bombed back into the Stone Age, in the words of the mass-murdering conservative Curtis LeMay, and want to do the same to the Arab world. But as we work to hinder that, we should remember all the dead, including the Vietnamese farmers and their wives and children who are still blown up every day by some of the millions of U.S. landmines. Like the crop-poison Agent Orange, they represent a continued U.S. presence."

Justin Raimondo has written a powerful piece marking today's anniversary. You can find it here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Hate talk" strikes again?

During the Clinton years, that administration, "liberal" media pundits, and Democrats in general accused right-wing talk radio's so-called "hate speech" of being responsible for everything from physical attacks on gays and blacks to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. They even threatened that talk radio might have to be monitored for its sometimes fiery rhetoric.

But now the Left has its own Air America talk radio network. And the tables have turned.

Matt Drudge reports today that the Secret Service is investigating Air America after the network's "Randi Rhodes Show" aired a skit Monday night that featured a "gunshot warning" to President Bush.

Here's the skit:
Announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp." (Audio sound of four gunshots.) "Just try it, you little bastard." (Audio sound of a gun being cocked.)
Says a government source: "Even joking about shooting the president is a crime, let alone doing it on national radio... We are taking this very seriously."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the skit "very inappropriate and over the line."

"Hate speech," it seems, is no longer exclusive to the Right.

And when did the Left start approving of the use of firearms?

Reclaiming our radicalism

Christians search scripture routinely for wisdom on moral and ethical issues. We freedom-lovers should likewise spend more time searching the writings of our heroic predecessors for insight on challenges that now plague us.

While the so-called Libertarian Party descends further into cowardice and “big tent” Neolibertarians raise their hawkish heads, Lew Rockwell’s unearthed and reprinted a timely and indispensable essay by Murray Rothbard titled “Do You Hate the State?” First published three decades ago, Rothbard’s piece identifies the “crucial dividing line” that split libertarianism in 1977 and still does so today. That division, Murray wrote, isn’t anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, or war vs. peace. The “nub of the issue,” as he called it, is radical vs. conservative. And there’s no question which side of that line Murray fell on.

The conservative libertarian, Murray explained, is convinced intellectually that among the entire spectrum of political alternatives, free markets and smaller government are superior. But he lacks “any passionate hatred of the State” or “any sense that the State is a plundering and bestial enemy.”

On the other hand, the radical libertarian, whether anarchist or limited-government classical liberal, “hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers.” He is radical “in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and anti-statism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul.”

Added Murray:

“...the radical libertarian ... refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical — whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire — cannot think in such terms as, e.g.: Well, the first year, we’ll cut the income tax by 2%, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we’ll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2%, and reduce welfare payments by 3%, etc. The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or — for minarchists — dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.”
So here’s where I see the line drawn in today’s libertarian movement:

Conservatives — the Libertarian Party, the recent Neolibertarian splinter (it hasn’t yet distinguished itself as a movement), Reason and Liberty magazines, Laissez-Faire Books (to a large degree), and “libertarian” Bush sympathizers like talk radio’s Neal Boortz and CNBC’s Dennis Miller.

RadicalsThe Mises Institute,, "Rob" and, the coalition, the Movement of the Libertarian Left, and a growing number of writers and bloggers like B.K. Marcus, Claire Wolfe, Wendy McElroy, Tom Knapp, Karen De Coster, Anthony Gregory, and Roderick T. Long.

As Murray said, “Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Here comes "Serenity"

Okay, okay...I am often guilty of getting overly excited about an upcoming movie, then suffering minor — sometimes great — disappointment. But the trailer for Joss Whedon’s Serenity debuted online just a few hours ago.

It kicks ass, comrades. It really does.

Serenity springs from Whedon’s Firefly TV series, which Fox unveiled in fall 2002. Firefly was set 500 years from now, shortly after a galaxy-wide civil war ends in victory for the totalitarian Alliance. Mal Reynolds, who fought as an Independent against unification of the planets, captains a Firefly-class spaceship dubbed Serenity. His motley crew includes a preacher, a prostitute, a soldier-of-fortune, a renegade doctor, and a young girl who was victim to mysterious government experiments. Their mission: to dodge Alliance authorities while earning a living smuggling illegal cargo and occasionally sheltering rebel fugitives. The series offered clever writing, thoughtful characters, and was genuinely libertarian through and through. It was the best sci-fi I’d seen on TV since Babylon 5.

The Fox network did what it had to do, of course. It stuck Firefly on Friday nights, television’s graveyard. Then it began airing the series’ episodes out of sequence, making it difficult to follow; the last episode aired was the pilot, fer crissakes! Finally, after ten episodes were broadcast, it dumped the show and began making preparations for memorable fare like Joe Millionaire.

Remarkably, Firefly refused to die. It built a cult viewership. And in 2003, the complete series of 14 episodes (three never before seen) were released in a box of DVDs. And goddamn if that package wasn’t a hit! A movie was greenlighted, to be written and directed by Joss Whedon and to star the original cast. That film, Serenity, is scheduled for release to theaters on September 30.

Buy or rent the Firefly DVD package. You won’t regret it. And watch the trailer for Serenity right here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Always vigilant, always ready

Matt Drudge is reporting that U.S. spy satellites have spotted heightened activity at missile sites and other "suspect sites" in North Korea. So the ever-vigilant U.S. has quietly warned China that North Korea could be preparing for a nuclear-weapons test and asked the Chinese to urge Pyongyang to desist. Fears of these tests have also been conveyed, Drudge reports, to South Korea and Japan.

Meanwhile, the U.S., the only nation in history to use nuclear weapons against civilian populations, keeps its arsenal ready for anything.

Earth Day 2005

Thanks to Tom Novak for directing my attention to this.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The GREATEST Randian hero

Who's the greatest Randian hero in literature? John Galt? Howard Roark? Hank Rearden?

The character I'd nominate is Professor George Edward Challenger, who first burst upon the scene in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's landmark sci-fi novel The Lost World in 1912. No other fictional character is quite so brilliant, dynamic, and ego-driven as Challenger, not even Doyle's own Sherlock Holmes. This guy not only fought dinosaurs and natural disasters, in his last recorded adventure ("When the World Screamed"), published in 1928, he had the balls to shove a massive drill eight miles up the ass of the planet Earth itself, just to get its attention! Here are a few lines from the end of that story:
"...suddenly the mighty achievement, the huge sweep of the conception, the genius and wonder of the execution, broke upon their minds. ... From every part of the field there came the cries of admiration, and from the hillock [Challenger] could look down upon the lake of upturned faces broken only by the rise and fall of waving handkerchiefs. ... He rose from his chair, his eyes half closed, a smile of conscious merit upon his face, his left hand upon his hip, his right buried in the breast of his frock-coat. ... The June sun shone golden upon him as he turned gravely bowing to each quarter of the compass. Challenger the super scientist. Challenger the arch-pioneer. Challenger the first man of all men whom Mother Earth had been compelled to recognize."
Doyle wrote five Professor Challenger tales -- two novels (The Lost World and The Land of Mist), one novella (The Poison Belt), and two short stories ("The Disintegration Machine" and "When the World Screamed"). Each one is a gem.

Hollywood has made several movies (one of them starring Wallace Beery, above) and at least one TV series based on The Lost World, but it's ignored the other four stories. Someone really ought to correct that oversight.

Imagine that! Benedict XVI is anti-war

On the blog this afternoon, Thomas DiLorenzo reveals that the new Pope, Benedict XVI, named himself after Benedict XV primarily because of the latter's anti-war activism. It seems Benedict XV (Pope from 1914 to 1922) opposed The War To End All Wars (i.e., WWI or The Great War) and even delivered a Plea for Peace in 1917, demanding an end to hostilities.

Writes DiLorenzo:
"The neocons have been going berserk (their specialty) over how the Left has been criticizing the new Pope, but they're sure to turn on him as well. Shortly after John Paul's death, Bill O'Reilly used his forum on the Neocon News Channel to insinuate that the pontiff was opposed to the war in Iraq because he had apparently gone senile. It won't take long before he and other neocon blabbermouths begin trashing Benedict XVI for his anti-war stance."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What's Left? What's Right?

B.K. Marcus performs the near-impossible on his blog today. He summarizes in a totally understandable way the differences between liberal and conservative, Left and Right, in their original and now-forgotten 18th and 19th century forms (as opposed to their corrupted 20th and 21st century definitions).

His post is a must for those who ask how I -- a fierce supporter of laissez-faire and free markets -- can call myself a "Left Libertarian, with roots in the liberal tradition." You'll find B.K.'s post right here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

A new Pope has been chosen -- much to the dismay of Big Media, I'm sure. They would have loved several more days of photo ops at the Vatican.

Anyway, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is now Pope Benedict XVI. Jeffrey Tucker has some interesting comments on the blog this afternoon:
"Only recently I read his long essay on Christianity and politics, and found myself just thrilled by its level of understanding and grasp of history. Not that politics should be the first concern, but he knows and understands the state, sees Christianity as separate from the state, condemns the role the state has played in diminishing the impact of faith on the world, and believes in the right to resist. On Church and State relations, he is genuine liberal in the late 19th century sense."
No wonder the Catholic Left seems to hate him.

"Who Killed Bambi?"

My wife and most of my friends try to avoid subtitles, so I end up watching foreign movie rentals late at night, all alone. I should have watched this one with all the lights on. Nothing in the past year has creeped me out as much as Gilles Marchand's 2003 French thriller, Who Killed Bambi? And I loved every minute. For four reasons:
  1. I adore Alfred Hitchcock type films. This is one of the best I've seen.
  2. Hospitals make me squeamish as hell, and the eye-watering, bright, sterile, claustrophobic hospital in which this movie takes place is very frightening, underscoring my commitment to avoiding them.
  3. Laurent Lucas, who portrays the psychopathic Dr. Phillip, is the best film villain I've seen in the past year.
  4. Sophie Quinton, who plays the young nursing intern Isabella (whom Dr. Phillip has ominously dubbed "Bambi"), is not only great eye-candy, she can act. She's terrific in her role.
The hospital in Who Killed Bambi? is the sort of "movie place" you don't easily forget. At this hospital, you might remain comatose while a doctor has his way with you sexually. Or you might wake up at a most horrible time during your own surgery.

This movie ain't for everyone (what movie is?), but for me, Who Killed Bambi? gets four and a half stars out of a possible five.

Remembering Oklahoma City

As most everybody online is noting, today marks the tenth anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.

As I recall, before Americans could regain their emotional balance that day in 1995, Bill Clinton and his bought media commentators had begun their smear campaign against citizens with "anti-federal government tendencies." (That narrowed the field down to, say, about seven out of every 10 Americans.) All criticisms of "big government" or the Clinton administration, it seemed, constituted "hate talk." Speech, the president told 60 Minutes, can be as deadly as any weapon. Each of us, he advised, must monitor it ourselves lest it become necessary for others to monitor it for us. The very next day, the president and his media lapdogs had targeted the real culprits behind Oklahoma City -- talk radio and the Internet. "Irresponsible hate speech" and disclosure of information unfavorable to government had somehow brought about the deaths at the Murrah building. So "official" calls for federal policing of talk radio and computer networks began. Criticism of our masters, they said, must stop. For our own safety, of course.

The real motive, naturally, was power. As usual. Clinton wanted to maintain his as his plethora of scandals heated up. And the establishment media wanted to solidify its as it was losing market share and influence to talk radio and the Internet.

Ten years later, post-9/11, things haven't changed. Any who question this Republican administration's War on Terror in general and occupation of Iraq in particular are "traitors." We must be monitored, indexed, and filed for our own safety. "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists." The list of mundane items we can no longer take aboard an airplane is ludicrous.

Regardless, any so-called "liberal" heard bitching about the tyrant George W. Bush should be quickly reminded of the tyrannical efforts of William Jefferson Clinton just a decade ago. In politics, friends, it's all about power, whether it comes from Right or Left.

Do yourself a favor. Read Anthony Gregory's column today at It's the best thing out there right now on this crappy anniversary.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"The Great Explosion"

I just finished re-reading for the umpteenth time Eric Frank Russell's classic 1951 short story "And Then There Were None," first published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1951 and later incorporated into Russell's 1962 novel The Great Explosion. I don't think anyone's written a more whimsical and skillful skewering of posturing bureaucrats and stodgy militarists than Russell. After more than 50 years, both this story and the novel are still amazingly contemporary, and very anti-statist (downright anarchist, in fact).

The story, briefly: Within 100 years of the discovery of "Bliederdrive," which shatters the speed-of-light barrier to space travel, half of humanity has escaped Terran soil to build self-reliant and diverse civilizations on hundreds of planets. Eventually, the arrogant Terran state decides to re-establish its authority and launches several battle cruisers to "persuade" those colonists to join the Terran Empire. The results are hilarious.

"And Then There Were None" is the final half of The Great Explosion. If you can find a copy of the short story in an anthology, read it. The novel's out of print right now, but you can find it online (hooray!) as a free download.

Bringing the revolution to...Rhode Island?

Sheesh! It's bad enough that Che Guevara's image has come to represent the spirit of revolution on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters. Now it adorns, along with the image of Fidel Castro, a restaurant in Providence, RI, called Cuban Revolution! According to their website, this restaurant "is much more than a place to find great food at a great price with great atmosphere. We honor the revolutionary spirit of individuals who struggle against tyranny and oppression, fight big government and corporate greed, while giving their lives in the fight against injustice -- wherever it exists. ... We honor those who have fought in the name of revolution. And we openly question the sordid history of US policy and the economic embargo directed against Cuba and its people."

The owners are soliciting potential franchisees. I wonder how this restaurant concept would go over in Florida.

Thanks to Emiliano Antunez for his tip about this.

Che: image vs. reality

The controversy continues, but Brad Spangler does a terrific job this morning in "summing up" the positions. And better yet, B.K. Marcus offers a great alternative to the Che image!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Open Channel D..."

"THRUSH believes in the two-party system: the masters and the slaves."
-- Napoleon Solo, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thanks, Lew!

What a nice surprise on this most hideous of days -- Tax Day 2005. Lew Rockwell has linked my You Can't Take It With You post from yesterday to the front page of today's As usual, there's a lot of other great stuff there, too.

Why a robber is more noble than the State

"The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a 'protector,' and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to 'protect' those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful 'sovereign,' on account of the 'protection' he affords you. He does not keep 'protecting' you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave."
-- Lysander Spooner, No Treason (1870)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Movie recommendations for April 15

Here's a fun way to celebrate Tax Day tomorrow:

Why not invite your friends and neighbors to your home for a screening of the two most entertaining, swashbuckling movies ever -- both featuring tax-collectors as the vilest of villains? The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone) and The Mark of Zorro (starring Tyrone Power and, again, Rathbone) illustrate vividly the power of the State to tax unmercifully. Both are available for rent almost anywhere. And incidentally, The Mark of Zorro includes what I believe is the greatest swordfight sequence ever filmed, between Power and Rathbone.

The taxman cometh

From Frank Capra's 1938 Oscar-winning (Best Picture, Best Director) You Can't Take It With You:
IRS Agent: "Our records show that you have never paid an income tax."

Grandpa Vanderhoff (Lionel Barrymore): "That's right."

IRS Agent: "Why not?"

Grandpa Vanderhoff: "I don't believe in it. ... What do I get for my money? ... I wouldn't mind paying for something sensible."

IRS Agent: "Something sensible. What about Congress and the Supreme Court and the President? We gotta pay them, don't we?"

Grandpa Vanderhoff: "Not with my money."

Che redux

Without targeting me by name, Tom Novak has ripped me a new one for my recent defense of the Che Guevara image. You can find his post from yesterday right here. Thanks for your discretion, Tom!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"Neolibertarianism" = Same Ol' Shit

It’s bad enough the so-called Libertarian Party’s spent more than three decades sucking radicalism out of the libertarian movement. Now there’s a small faction of self-described “pragmatic libertarian hawks” calling itself Neolibertarian and publishing a webzine named The New Libertarian. You can find some of their nonsense here.

Jon Henke, the most vocal of their number, writes:
“The libertarian ideal of a truly limited government is an [sic] utopian dream. In the real world, where powerful interests — individual and collective — compete for the reigns [sic] of power, there will be violations of the ideals libertarians hold. After all — as a result of their disavowal of power — libertarians are uniquely unqualified to defend their ideals against political opposition. ...

“So, doctrinaire Libertarians are fighting an uphill battle against human nature. And they do so, precisely because they refuse to accept human nature as part of their political calculation. ...

“Pragmatic libertarians — Neolibertarians — cannot win, but we can ameliorate the loss. ...

“Indeed, Leviathan is with us, for better or worse. Libertarians should try to make it better, rather than worse.”
Whew! That’s an exciting program I can get behind!

These Neolibs have just taken the Libertarian Party’s failed strategy of moderation, cowardice, and political compromise to its inevitable endpoint: The Same Old Statist Shit.

Murray Rothbard used to call this hogwash “anarcho-pragmatism.” As he wrote in Samuel Edward Konkin III’s original, radical New Libertarian magazine 20 years ago:
“Anarcho-Pragmatism ... simply doesn’t work. It cannot push radicalism among the public, and it cannot build a radical movement. All it can do is subvert, weaken, and, if unchecked, even destroy the libertarian movement which the anarcho-pragmatists claim they are striving to strengthen and promote. Objectively, anarcho-pragmatists can only function as wreckers of libertarianism.”
Worst of all, these neolibs are further corrupting the term libertarian (as if the LP hadn’t corrupted it enough already), just as socialists and social democrats hijacked and corrupted the term liberal more than a century ago.

My guess is that this Neolibertarianism will quickly fade away. As a “movement” — and it really hasn’t yet proven itself to be one — it has no real ideology or moral passion. We’re all better off re-reading Mises, Rothbard, and SEK3’s New Libertarian Manifesto, which is still the Real Deal.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Burroughs' politically incorrect hero

Funny that Bob Wallace was writing online about his love for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series while I was revisiting the series myself. I just finished the third novel, The Warlord of Mars, this afternoon. I hadn’t read it in probably 35 years or more, and I still found it exhilarating when the gorgeous Phaidor, daughter of the Holy Hekkador of the Holy Therns, plunged her gleaming blade deep into the heart of the vile Thurid not once but five or six times before shoving his carcass off the deck of the flier and into the yawning depths of the chasm outside Kadabra. This book completes the “John Carter trilogy” that began with A Princess of Mars (1912) and continued through The Gods of Mars (1913). There are eight more Mars books beyond Warlord, which was written in 1914, but they deal generally with characters other than John Carter, including Carter’s son Carthoris. John Carter remains my favorite Burroughs character, other than Tarzan.

The Mars (aka Barsoom) novels are still terrific, filled with fantasy, swordplay, pageantry, and always a heavy, heavy dose of coincidence. But today, John Carter is the most politically incorrect of heroes: a former Confederate officer from Virginia, spirited away to Mars to rescue again and again the love of his life, Helium’s beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris. Kerry Conran, the guy who wrote and directed last year’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, is now working on John Carter of Mars for release sometime in 2006. I wonder if John Carter’s roots in Dixie will even be mentioned. And Dejah Thoris will probably give Xena a run for her money.

Monday, April 11, 2005

No comment needed

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Jefferson Starship...creaky but still rockin'

It was dusk, and 800 or so of us were sitting on the big lawn at Avila Beach, watching and listening to Jefferson Starship. Marty Balin opened the set yesterday with an odd choice, "She Has Funny Cars" from Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. The crowd was responsive, but not overly so. Then Diana Mangano launched into a rousing "Somebody to Love" (not Grace, but damn close). A quarter of the audience ran up to the stage and started dancing.

I sat in my beach chair, washing down the last piece of tri-tip sandwich with a Corona, and wondered who the overweight, gray-haired guy with glasses was. I'd seen this Jefferson Starship crew three times since 1995, and I was able to identify most everybody. Of the real oldtimers, Balin was there. And Paul Kantner, of course (the heart of the band). Jack Casady was missing this time. But who was this other guy, singing background harmonies on "Miracles" and "Count on Me"?

Then Diana introduced the band. When she got to the overweight guy with glasses, we found out he was David Freiberg! The Avila crowd roared. The last time I'd seen Freiberg, originally with the great Quicksilver Messenger Service before joining the Airplane/Starship family in 1972, was probably at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A. in, oh, 1976 or 1977. I found out last night that he's been performing occasionally with JS since last fall (see photo above) -- 26 years since last appearing with Marty, at least 20 years since last appearing with Paul.

Last night, Freiberg performed strong lead vocals on "Jane," which he'd written for JS's 1979 Freedom at Point Zero album, and "Pride of Man," a very old Quicksilver tune. Then the party really took off, and it didn't stop until the sun had disappeared entirely and we were all too cold to stay much longer anyway.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Mexican Spaghetti Western"

This has been on the Accord's CD-changer since it arrived in the mail last Tuesday. It contains the hottest selection of music I've heard in several months.

Chingon (Spanish for "bad ass") was started by director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City) to create music for his movies and those of his friends. Their electric re-arrangement of the classic mariachi "Malaguena Salerosa" can be heard during the end titles of Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 2. A Rodriguez original, "Siente Mi Amor," featuring vocals by actress Salma Hayek, was used in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Chingon is made up of Rodriguez and various musicians from Austin, Texas. Now the band's playing live shows, and Mexican Spaghetti Western is their first studio CD. You can order it here.

Question of the Day

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hot licks & private dicks

It's been almost 50 years since Craig Stevens and Lola Albright sat at Mother's each week, sharing a cigarette and listening to smokey jazz late into the night until a pair of creepy lugs would waddle in to escort them outside and into the back of some crimelord's limousine. Those were great times...

But what I really want to talk about is Eyes, the coolest private eye series on TV since, well, since Lola treated Craig's head wounds.

Hey, its soundtrack may not be Henry Mancini, but I highly recommend this new ABC show (Wednesday nights at 10:00).

Tim Daly is terrific as Harlan Judd, owner of Judd Risk Management, a high-tech investigations firm that hires itself out to only the wealthiest clients for only the most discreet jobs. Each hour-long episode is packed with crosses and doublecrosses, blackmail, kidnappings, and plenty of sex and violence. Oh, and a lot of humor. The writing is top-notch. The entire cast is great, with Rick Worthy being a standout.

Eyes has only been on the air for two weeks. I understand the ratings have been good (it follows the popular Lost and Alias on ABC's Wednesday schedule). But just in case Eyes suddenly vanishes into the quagmire of doomed series, catch it now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Those subversive Ten Commandments

Carl G. Estabrook defends the Ten Commandments in a recent Counterpunch, the best political Left newsletter around (both offline and online). Estabrook’s remarkable article, “The Subversive Commandments,” was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s focus on the Commandments’ posting on the grounds of the Texas Capitol and in two Kentucky courthouses.

Writes Estabrook:

“Conservatives defend the postings in Kentucky and Texas on the grounds that the Ten Commandments ‘formed the foundation of American legal tradition.’ Liberals on the other hand insist that the posting is an ‘establishment of religion,’ contrary to the first amendment to the Constitution. In fact, both are wrong; the Ten Commandments in their historical setting are a revolutionary manifesto, dedicated to the overthrow of traditional authority and religion.

“... the Israelites as a people began in a revolution of slaves against the Egyptian empire, a massive rejection of the society of the time. That society was one of authority and religion, presided over by a king whose position was guaranteed by the gods. The Hebrews (the word seems originally to have meant ‘outlaws’) rejected both the kings and the gods.

“The Exodus events of perhaps the thirteenth century BCE were not so much a migration (as is pictured in the bible story) but a ‘going out’ (exodus) from a society and its assumptions. The Ten Commandments are a proclamation of that revolution, a ‘Declaration of Independence of Liberated Israel.’ ...

“The Ten Commandments in their proper historical context commend atheism in regard to the religion of the gods and anarchism in respect to the laws of the kings. Arising from a revolutionary people, they support the overthrow of authoritarian structures in the name of human community. That sounds pretty good to me.”

Sounds good to me, too. Read Estabrook’s complete article right here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

In, well, "defense" of Che

Radical chic is underfire again. This past weekend, Humberto Fontova, author most recently of Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, took an angry shot at Carlos Santana on In “Che at the Oscars,” Fontova wrote:

“Did you catch Carlos Santana’s grand entrance at the Oscars?

“Well, the famed guitarist couldn’t contain himself. He stopped for the photographers, smiled deliriously and swung his jacket open. TA-DA! There it was: Carlos’ elegantly embroidered Che Guevara t-shirt. Carlos’ face as the flashbulbs popped said it all. ‘I’m so COOL!’ he beamed. ‘I’m so HIP! I’m so CHEEKY! So SHARP! So TUNED IN!’

“Tune in to this, Carlos: in the mid 1960’s Fidel and your charming t-shirt icon set up concentration camps in Cuba for, among many others, ‘anti-social elements’ and ‘delinquents.’ Besides Bohemian (Haight-Ashbury, Greenwich Village types) and homosexuals, these camps were crammed with ‘roqueros,’ who qualified in Che and Fidel’s eyes as useless ‘delinquents.’

“A ‘roquero’ was a hapless youth who tried to listen to Yankee-Imperialist rock music in Cuba.”

Put more bluntly, Carlos Santana’s chic t-shirt on Oscar night displayed the symbol of a regime that made it criminal to listen to Santana’s music!

Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia almost four decades ago. And as years pass, we learn more and more horrible things about the man. But his “radical chic” status continues, through the t-shirts, the posters, the books, and the recent movie The Motorcycle Diaries.

How come?

Shortly after Che’s death, the great Murray Rothbard posed that very question in an editorial written for the journal Left and Right. “How come?” wrote Murray. “Surely not because Che was a Communist. Precious few people in this country or anywhere else will mourn the passing, for example, of Brezhnev, Kosygin, or Ulbricht, Communist leaders all. No, it is certainly not Che’s Communist goals which made his name a byword and a legend throughout the world, and throughout the New Left in this country.”

So what is it? Answered Murray:

“What made Che such an heroic figure for our time is that he, more than any man of our epoch or even of our century, was the living embodiment of the principle of Revolution. More than any man since the lovable but entirely ineffectual nineteenth-century Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, Che earned the title of ‘professional revolutionary.’ And furthermore, to paraphrase Christopher Jencks in a recent perceptive, if wrongheaded, article in the New Republic, we all knew that his enemy was our enemy — that great Colossus that oppresses and threatens all the peoples of the world, U.S. imperialism.”

Murray was right in 1967. And I think his editorial still rings true. I’m not going to defend Che Guevara the man. But despite everything I know today about Che, I still can’t help but be stirred by that image of the professional revolutionary...just as I was 35 years ago in high school. That famous Che image, whether on a poster or t-shirt, is the equivalent of a defiant fist raised in the air. The truth about the man behind that image may be hideous, but the image is now bigger than the man. Whether you like it or not, to most people — including me — it doesn’t represent Communism, or Cuban concentration camps, or state socialist regimes.

It represents a revolutionary spirit.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Finally..."Sin City"

Here's what Deb always tells me:

"Don't get your expectations too high."

But I usually do anyway.

My expectations for the movie adaptation of Frank Miller's terrific Sin City graphic novels were very high. After all, Frank Miller himself was getting a director credit right alongside Robert Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino, fer cryin' out loud, was getting an equally unheard of "special guest director" credit. And the trailer looked absolutely incredible.

Sin City opened nationwide on Friday. My expectations were more than met. It's a blockbuster. You've never seen anything like it. It's Miller's noir vision come amazingly to life. The casting is extraordinary. Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen are perfect. Likewise, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson are marvelous. My favorite performance, though, is that of Devon Aoki as Miho (pictured above), the Samurai warrior of Sin City's Old Town. She never speaks a word in the movie; she's the silent killer. But she steals every scene she's in.

Granted, Sin City most definitely ain't for everyone. But for fans of Frank Miller, cutting-edge film noir, and hardboiled action, it provides a movie experience not to be missed.

Monday morning addendum

I have to admit a little surprise at how well Sin City performed at the box office over the weekend. It made slightly more than $28 million, more than twice what was earned by the No. 2 film, Queen Latifah's Beauty Shop. Congratulations to Robert Rodriguez, who "shot and cut" the film, for taking a little-known graphic novel series and making a hit out of it (a hit, that is, if it can maintain its momentum into next weekend).

Friday, April 01, 2005

12 tips for toppling tyrants

Hands down, Claire Wolfe is the clearest thinker in the freedom movement when it comes to strategy and tactics. Here's what she's saying:
"Our strategy must be one suited to more patient, watchful, (and for the moment) downright sneaky people.

"We must wear tyrants down without wearing ourselves out! And we must also remember that every tyranny, every empire, every top-heavy government will eventually defeat itself with its own excesses. Our greatest roles will be first to give tyranny a push when it's starting to wobble and second to be ready to restore freedom in its place. Act too soon, act randomly, or act foolishly -- and we defeat ourselves rather than our enemies.

We are small, so we must be very, very, very wise."
I urge you to read Claire's "Twelve Tips for Toppling Tyrants" in its entirety.