Tuesday, May 31, 2005

SMILE again

Last October, I wrote about Brian Wilson’s Smile, which was definitely the pop music event of 2004, maybe of the past ten years. Now there’s a complementary DVD, and if you liked the CD, you’ve gotta have this.

Brian Wilson Presents SMILE (Rhino Home Video) is two discs. The first is a documentary of almost two hours by David Leaf called Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson & the Story of SMILE. It’s fascinating. Almost everybody is interviewed, including Smile lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Brian, and most of the members of his touring band. My only complaint is that it doesn’t address how the Beach Boys salvaged bits of the “lost album” for other projects in the 1970s and how, for 38 years, the game for Wilson fans was figuring out how all those pieces would have fit together had Smile been released as intended in January 1967. Bonuses on the disc include highlights of the world premiere of Smile at London’s Royal Festival Hall in February 2004, plus several interviews with Brian.

Disc Two is the real gem. It’s a live, 50-minute performance of Smile in Los Angeles, as exciting a concert as I’ve seen in a long time. It’s interesting to see Brian’s band (including strings and horns) perform this complex series of suites so perfectly on stage, complete with sound effects (power drills, whistles, mallets, etc.). And when was the last time you saw Brian Wilson really smile? He looks like he’s having the time of his life. Wonderful. Extras on the second disc include a photo gallery, a featurette about the recording of the Smile CD, several videos of Brian at the piano, and lots of other stuff.

Like last fall’s CD, this DVD is a keeper.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Why I love France

France Rejects EU Treaty, Europe Faces Crisis”

This is the headline on a Reuters report today that French voters overwhelmingly rejected the European Union’s constitution on Sunday. Reuters reported that this defeat of the EU constitution “[plunged] the EU into crisis and [dealt] a possibly fatal blow to a pact designed to make it run smoothly.”

News media abroad and here in the U.S. is claiming that the French vote is a devastating blow to a European free market. Of course, it’s nothing of the kind. Rather, it’s a devastating blow against the decades-long effort to politically centralize Europe.

Let freedom reign!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Film Festival, Part 3

Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 World War I classic, almost didn’t get made. No studio wanted to do it until Kirk Douglas signed on to star. Even then, it was pretty low budget, filmed in black and white and costing less than a million dollars. And it’s very short, just 84 minutes. But it packs a wallop.

To summarize the movie: French General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) orders General Mireau (George Macready) to do the impossible — take an impregnable German position within two days. The operation is doomed to horrible failure. The French advance is halted, and Mireau orders French artillery to fire on their own men to push them forward. The battery commander refuses to act. To cover his ass, Mireau orders that three soldiers, one from each company, be tried and executed for cowardice. Broulard argues that such executions will be “a perfect tonic” for the troops: “One way to maintain discipline is to shoot a man now and then.”

In war, men are cannon fodder. Never has that been better illustrated than in Paths of Glory.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

On the trail of ERB

My piece on Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Moon Maid from this past Monday has been republished this week by Bill Hillman at ERBzine, the top-notch online resource for Burroughs fans and researchers. While you're there, you might also want to check out comrade Bob Wallace's terrific and politically incorrect "Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from Edgar Rice Burroughs."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Memorial Day Film Festival, Part 2

Granted, both Dr. Strangelove and M*A*S*H are great antiwar comedies. But for my money, the funniest of all is the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup from 1933. With a broad brush, it brilliantly skewered not only the War Machine but politics and the State in general.

It’s hard to believe that when first released, Duck Soup was a terrible flop both critically and commercially. Such disrespect for government and political leaders was unheard of — and especially during a time of crisis, with the Depression at home and Hitler gaining power abroad! Gee, even Mussolini hated the movie; he banned it in Italy.

Two classic moments...

First, at his coronation as the new leader of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) performs a song and dance number to explain his new program for the nation:

"If any form of pleasure is exhibited,
Report to me and it will be prohibited.
I'll put my foot down, so shall it be,
This is the land of the free!

"The last man nearly ruined this place,
He didn't know what to do with it,
If you think this country's bad off now,
Just wait 'til I get through with it...”

Second, Pinkie (Harpo) contributes to the war effort by wandering the front lines, wearing a recruitment sign that reads:


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Playing "book tag"

I’ve been “tagged” by Thomas L. Knapp to answer a few questions about my reading. Alrighty then. Here we go...

Total number of books I own: When I was single, I cleverly threw bedsheets over stacks of books in my apartment, creating unique pieces of furniture. In 1998, preparing for our move out of the Los Angeles area, Deb and I donated more than 700 books -- both hardcover and paperback -- to the local library. We now have nine bookcases in our house, most of their shelves containing books behind books, and corners in the living room and master bedroom are stacked with books. Plus there are at least 12 boxes of books in the garage, which Deb keeps urging me to weed through. Hell, you do the math.

The last book I bought: An old paperback copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Mucker, purchased just this morning while I waited for the Accord to be serviced.

The last book I read: Out of the Gray Zone, the brand new freedom movement novel by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman. I plan to post a review of it here in the next few days.

Five books that mean a lot to me: This is so tough that I think I’ll avoid the obvious altogether and shoot instead for the unexpected.

  1. Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, by Dr. Seuss. Any book by the good doctor was very big in my home when I was a kid, but this one about poor Thidwick, whose enormous antlers serve as perches for ungrateful woodland creatures, was the best. I probably read it a hundred times before I was 10. When I turned 15, its political relevance smacked me up the side of the head. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s still not too late.
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. A single copy floated around my junior high for most of the 1967-68 school year until every boy in eighth grade had read it. "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." Every few years, I miss Holden Caulfield enough to read Salinger again.
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man #1-38. OK, they’re comic books, but damn it, these first 38 issues from 1962 to 1966, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko, aren’t just comic books, they’re the greatest comics of all time, for cryin’ out loud. I’ve still got the originals (for the time being), the hardcover Marvel Masterworks reprints (my reading copies), and the recent CD-Rom edition. And if I were stuck on a desert island, I’d want the classic issues #31-33 with me at all times. So there.
  4. Radical Libertarianism: A Right Wing Alternative, by Jerome Tuccille. My folks bought this for me in 1970. Thirty-five years later, I’ve still got that hardcover copy, now beat up but still with its faded dust jacket. The jacket says the book cost five bucks. Holy cow. Anyway, at slightly more than 100 pages, Tuccille’s first book is still a pretty good primer on libertarianism. And it’s the first book I ever owned that had the word “libertarian” in it. It’s probably long out of print, so I’ll just hold onto this copy, thank you.
  5. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I may own a dozen or more editions of these four novels and 56 short stories. My dad introduced me to Holmes when I was seven or eight, and I still reread at least one story a month. There’s comfort in these tales. Another must-have for that desert island.

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs:

  1. B.K. Marcus
  2. Claire Wolfe
  3. Libertarian Critter
  4. Bob Wallace
  5. Tom Ender

Memorial Day Film Festival, Part 1

Over the next few days, into Memorial Day, I plan to share some of my favorite antiwar movies. Tom Ender's beaten me to the punch somewhat with his wonderful review yesterday of Shenandoah, the 1965 Civil War classic starring Jimmy Stewart, which is on my list. Ah well... Great minds think alike, as Bob Wallace told me earlier this week (but that's another story).

I first saw Shenandoah on TV in 1971, and it blew me away. It's truly radical.

The film is about a widowed, mind-your-own-business Virginia farmer named Charlie Anderson (Stewart, in one of his greatest roles). Charlie and his large family are sitting smack dab in the middle of the goddamn war. Charlie's son Jacob remarks early in the movie that the fighting is getting very close. Asks Charlie: "They on our land?" "No, sir," Jacob responds. "Then it doesn't concern us, does it?" says Charlie.

Another highlight (which Tom reminded me of in his review) is when a Confederate lieutenant arrives at the farm to recruit Charlie's sons:

Lieutenant: "Virginia needs all her sons, Mr. Anderson."

Charlie: "That might be so, Johnson, but these are my sons. They don't belong to the state. When they were babies, I never saw the state comin' around here with a spare tit! We never asked anything of the state and never expected anything. We do our own living, and thanks to no man for the right."

Shenandoah sits right at the top of my list of great antiwar movies. It's easily found for rent in both VHS and DVD.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Truth is not a half-way place"

When I was a baby libertarian in the early 1970s, the late Bob LeFevre was one of my teachers. I read his books (and there were quite a few in print back then), I read his newsletter, and I attended several of his lectures. In the early days of our "modern" libertarian movement, few teachers of the freedom philosophy were as thorough yet succinct and effective as Bob. His Freedom School, which he ran in Colorado in the late 1950s and into the '60s, was groundbreaking, featuring teachers like Rose Wilder Lane, Frank Chodorov, and my friend Butler Shaffer. Robert Heinlein based the character Bernardo de la Paz from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress on Bob LeFevre.

The Mises Institute offers free MP3 downloads of dozens of Bob's lectures from the '70s, on everything -- economics, property rights, natural rights, the free market, Communism, anarchism, American history, Fabianism... And every one of them will exponentially expand your understanding. Best of all, the lectures can now be heard 24/7 on your computer, absolutely free, on streaming Mises Radio. Bob used to say that "truth is not a half-way place," and when you listen to these old lectures, I promise, you'll know the truth.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Real ID Rebellion!

Sunni Maravillosa is providing us all a real service. She's launched a Real ID Rebellion blog to assist those who care enough to both avoid and resist this latest government repression. I urge everyone to take a look. (Cartoon by Paul Conrad)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Browncoats, unite!

Roderick T. Long has joined the growing number of libertarian Browncoats, those diehard fans of Joss Whedon's all-too-brief, half-season Firefly TV series from Fall 2002. Long admits to having missed the show entirely during its original run (as did most everybody), but so many people encouraged him to watch it that he bought the small box of DVDs and became a new convert.

I've written about Firefly many times on this blog, so I'll let Mr. Long do the talking for a moment:
"What's it about? Well, its main 'gimmick' is that it's a Western set in space, but that doesn't tell you much. Imagine the Star Wars universe but grittier, with lower tech, better dialogue, and no aliens, plus the Rebellion is over and it failed. A more embittered Han Solo is still flying his second-hand spaceship around the Outer Rim, taking ethically questionable assignments, dodging bullets, and trying to avoid imperial entanglements. Oh yeah, and cursing in Chinese. Plus Princess Leia is a psychotic teenager who can kill you with her brain.

"Where Firefly shines is precisely where Star Wars doesn't -- in character and dialogue. The show also has a strong, albiet implicit, libertarian edge to it. (Switching analogies, the creepy bureaucratic Central Alliance is what the Federation in Star Trek would really be like.)"
Of course, as I've mentioned before, the entire Firefly cast returns this coming September 30 in a full-blown theatrical movie titled Serenity (which prompted the poster above). You can't always kill a good thing.

"The Moon Maid": a lost freedom classic

When I was 13, my parents gave me a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Moon Maid for Christmas.

They did it for two reasons. First, they knew I loved Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books. Second, they knew I loved science fiction.

I thanked them for the gift. Then I tossed it into the back of my closet, unread.

I did it for two reasons. First, neither Tarzan nor John Carter was in the novel. Second, it was called The Moon Maid, which stirred up images of that awful Moon Maid character from the Dick Tracy comic strip.

That old copy of The Moon Maid is probably sitting in some Salvation Army thrift store today. But I’ve been feeding a Burroughs binge lately, rereading the Tarzan stories and Carter’s adventures on Barsoom. And last week, looking for something I hadn’t read yet, I finally picked up a new copy of The Moon Maid.

What I missed at age 13 — and only now discovered at 50 — is not just a sci-fi classic but a pioneering novel of freedom and resistance that stands splendidly alongside Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, and, most recently, Vin Suprynowicz’s The Black Arrow.

Continue reading "A Lost Freedom Classic...Found!"

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How liberty dies...

"So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause."
-- Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Remember this, you masters of war

I know, I know...Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo was a dirty, rotten commie. But he wrote the greatest antiwar novel ever — Johnny Got His Gun.

In summer of 1970, I was a 16-year-old Young Republican. Then this punctuation-deficient piece of lefty propaganda somehow got into my hands. It shook me to my core. Johnny Got His Gun was one of three or four bits of writing that turned me into an anarchist peacenik. It’s not just a novel. It’s a concussion device.

Each year, as we approach Memorial Day, I pick up Trumbo’s book. I urge you to find a copy and read it. Or reread it. Then pass it on.

Johnny Got His Gun closes with what is one of the most powerful antiwar, anti-state manifestoes ever written:

“If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. They will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles the guys who build dams and power plants and string the long moaning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light globes and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and airplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.

“It will be you — you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

“We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

“Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Enemies of the State, be warned...

...we take no prisoners!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Get lost, Thunderbirds!

On average, movies travel from theater to DVD in about four months. So why the hell did it take Team America: World Police SEVEN LONG MONTHS?!

Regardless, satirical puppet masterpiece Team America is in stores today. F--k yeah!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Have I become too scary?

I received an anonymous e-mail today. It said, with no further explanation:

"You and your kind scare me."

This prompted some self-reflection. Have I in fact become too scary for my readers? I hope not. Believe it or not, I am a gentle person, despite my hatred of the State. I love kids, dogs, and even kittens...

Bob Wallace's "Cure for Illegal Immigration"

Nose-thumbing not allowed

You know what really pisses off people in government? No, it's not when you break their laws. And it's not even when you don't take them seriously.

It's when you set a "bad example" for the rest of the hive.

Case in point:

On Friday, Lee "Crazy Cabbie" Mroszak, disc jockey for New York's WXRK-FM and a "Howard Stern Show" regular, was sentenced to serve a year in prison for tax evasion.

But at the sentencing in Brooklyn, U.S. District Judge Gleeson said Mroszak's crime was made more serious by gloating about it on Stern's nationally syndicated show.

Said the judge: "Those folks are out there watching you, listening to you thumb your nose at the government."

Silly me. I thought thumbing our noses at government -- publicly or privately -- was an American tradition dating back to 1776.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Entertaining the troops at Deep Space Nine

In respose to my last post, Charley Hardman writes, "There are some pretty saucy pics out there of that bold TV candy [Major Kira Nerys/Nana Visitor]. Hope you're not going 'conservative' on us."

Well, with a little surfing, I've discovered this photo, which shows that the Major was apparently willing to shed her Federation duds on occasion to entertain the troops at DS9.

What was great (and not-so-great) about "Star Trek"

For me, the only really great thing about the entire Star Trek franchise, which finally shut down last night on UPN, was this lady at the right. Major Kira Nerys (aka Nana Visitor) was a former Bajoran freedom fighter and had an undeniable, uh, appeal. Sure, she turned to the Dark Side and joined the goddamn Federation, but she maintained her rebel spirit throughout the entire Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series. She had spunk.

Bob Wallace posted an anonymous “Ten Things I Hate About Star Trek” today. The whole thing is funny and worth looking at. But here are my two favorite items from the list:

9. The Federation.

This organization creeps me out. A planet-wide government that runs everything, and that has abolished money. A veritable planetary DMV. Oh sure, it looks like a cool place when you’re rocketing around in a Federation Starship, but I wonder how the guy driving a Federation dump truck feels about it? ...

5. Rule by committee.

Here’s the difference between Star Trek and the best SF show on TV last year:

Star Trek:

Picard: “Arm photon torpedoes!”
Riker: “Captain! Are you sure that’s wise?”
Troi: “Captain! I’m picking up conflicting feelings about this! And it appears that you’re a ’fraidy cat.”
Wesley: “Captain, I’m just an annoying punk, but I thought I should say something.”
Worf: “Captain, can I push the button? This is giving me a big Klingon warrior chubby.”
Giordi: “Captain, I think we should reverse the polarity on them first.”
Picard: “I’m so confused. I’m going to go to my stateroom and look pensive.”


Captain: “Let’s shoot them.”
Crewman: “Are you sure that’s wise?”
Captain: “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I’ll BEAT YOU WITH until you realize who’s in command.”
Crewman: “Aye Aye, sir!”

Friday, May 13, 2005

A sign for our times?

What do you get when you combine the peace sign, the anarchy sign, and the libersign? Roderick L. Long suggests that you get this...

A new symbol for the libertarian movement! "Okay, I admit it's a little busy," he writes on his blog. But he adds that "creating one requires only five passes with your spraycan (which is just one more than for any of the constituent signs taken individually)."

Why the green color? Because historically sea-green was the color of radical liberalism.

Why the black background? Writes Long: "Well, duh."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Neither Left nor Right -- are we Up?

“I have never felt comfortable with the horizontally-based arrangement that defines political thinking along a ‘Left’ to ‘Right’ continuum,” wrote Butler Shaffer yesterday in his essay “No Room on the Spectrum.” Added Butler:

“I know this designation arose from the seating order in the old French parliament, but this only adds to our confusion. We have structured our minds to believe that ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ are polar opposite political systems, and that those desirous of avoiding the vicious ‘extremes’ of either are invited to seek refuge in the safe harbor of the ‘middle’ of the spectrum. In such ways has the state continued to expand its powers, advising the uncritical booboisie to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ ...

“...along the ‘Left/Right’ spectrum are to be found the various franchises of statist behavior that have conspired to plague mankind with the horrible nature of all political systems. The parliamentary origins of this concept ought to have been a tip-off that human freedom was not to be part of the equation defining positions along the spectrum.”

Butler proposes an alternative to the Left-Right spectrum, substituting vertical “up” and “down” designations. With complete individual liberty at the upper end and total statism at the lowest end, the arrangement might be:
  • Anarchism
  • Libertarianism (classical "limited government" liberalism)
  • Conservatism
  • Modern liberalism
  • Welfare-statism
  • Limited state-socialism
  • Feudalism
  • Expansive state-socialism
  • Fascism/communism
Seems to me that if you just knock this vertical model over on its side, with anarchism falling on the far left and both fascism and communism falling on the far right, you’ve got the cleaner, more historically correct Left-Right spectrum championed long ago by Murray Rothbard (“Left and Right: the Prospects for Liberty”) and Karl Hess (Dear America).

But Butler’s vertically-described system is appealing. It reminds me of my old friend, author-teacher-futurist F.M. Esfandiary (aka FM-2030).

Years ago, F.M. used to hold wonderful Rothbard-like salons at his Westwood apartment near UCLA that would always run into the wee hours. The conversations were civil and mind-expanding. The wine and food were top-notch. F.M. died five years ago. I miss him and his gatherings.

Anyway, in the 1970s, F.M. wrote a trilogy of nonfiction books on the future, all of them now unfortunately out of print. The middle tract, published in 1973, was titled Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto. In that book, F.M. explained that Right and Left were “traditional frameworks predicated on traditional premises striving in obsolete ways to obtain obsolete goals.” In an era of rapid technological, scientific, medical, and cultural breakthroughs, the liberal and radical Left were the “new gradualists — the new conservatives.” He wrote: “I stress the point because this liberalism and Left radicalism masquerading in the name of progress are putting up the strongest resistances to the newest breakthroughs.” These breakthroughs “are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.”

Maybe we anarchists should follow Butler Shaffer's advice, adopt an Up-Down philosophical model, and start referring to ourselves as Up-Wingers. Wouldn't that draw attention to our movement?

"Star Trek" as Wilsonian propaganda

In a post today at the LewRockwell.com blog, Norman Singleton writes:

"This Friday UPN will air the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, bringing the Star Trek franchise to an at least temporary end. Contrary to the Trekkies claims that Star Trek provided an 'optimistic view of the future,' Star Trek has always been propaganda for democratic imperialism. Star Trek was based on the notion that an enlightened society had a right, and maybe even a duty, to bring freedom and equality to the unenlightened. Of course, Star Trek's definition of an enlightened society was a democratic socialist state. In one of the movies we were even informed that money was abolished in the Trek universe since people had learned to work for the common good!"

Singleton correctly recommends Joss Whedon's Firefly as a great libertarian sci-fi alternative (and if you've followed this blog more than a month and still don't know about Firefly, shame on you).

Keeping America safe from...thongs?

Angela Keaton, station manager of KOOP 91.7 in Austin, Texas, and host of the weekly "Liberated Space" radio program, has posted a letter written to Rear Admiral David Stone, USN (Ret.), Assistant Secretary of Security for the Transportation Security Administration. Dated yesterday, it reads:
Dear Admiral Stone:

Today, I flew out of Austin Bergstrom Airport on XXXXX flight XXX to Los Angeles International. When I pulled my bag off the carousel, all of my possessions flew out. As my underwear traveled around the carousel, I tried to reassemble my bag and, quelle surprise, I found a TSA "notice of inspection."

As a frequent flyer, my luggage is often the choice for the random search. As an American, I realize it is crucial to the nation's security to have my corset, stockings and thong panties handled by as many agents as possible. As such, please remind the great patriots to zip up the bags after they do their brave and noble work.


Angela XXXXX

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Elvis Costello: his aim is true

As they get older, some rockers rest on their pasts and settle into a strictly oldies playlist at their concerts. Not Elvis Costello. Of course, Elvis has never settled into anything. I remember friends being baffled by his Almost Blue country LP back in the early '80s. Then there was his brush with Burt Bacharach in 1998, which turned off a few rock ' rollers but resulted in the beautiful Painted from Memory CD.

There are few recording artists I really stick with. But for almost 30 years, I've purchased everything Elvis Costello has recorded -- from his first album, 1977's My Aim is True, to his latest, The Delivery Man -- within days of its initial release. There've been weak moments, granted. But there's always been something unique or exciting going on in his work.

This new DVD, Club Date: Live in Memphis, presents Elvis Costello and the Imposters live last fall in front of a few hundred people at the sweaty little Hi Tone Cafe in Memphis. The show cooks. It's fundamental Costello. It's four guys (the Imposters are two of the original Attractions, keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, plus bass player Davey Faragher) blasting through a solid mix of both old and new songs. They open with three classic Costello rockers ("Waiting for the End of the World," "Radio Radio," "Mystery Dance"), mix in some very new stuff, eventually share the stage with Emmylou Harris for three numbers (including Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone"), then offer a boffo oldies close ("Alison," "Peace Love and Understanding," "Pump It Up") before calling it a night. Twenty songs, plus another four bonus songs, make up this DVD. It's a helluva show.

Club Date also includes almost an hour of documentary stuff with Elvis and Thomas bustling around Memphis, with a side trip to Mississippi. Great moments. And a great DVD.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Shannon Wheeler's brilliant...

Monday, May 09, 2005

A case for optimism

About three years ago, I confessed in a piece for Strike-The-Root.com ("Hey, Libertarians -- Cheer Up!") that most libertarians depress the crap out of me.

They still do. That's why I love to read articles like that offered this week by Alan Bock on Antiwar.com. Alan says that, unlike most post-Marxists, he maintains a long-range optimism "that the state will eventually wither away (although I've come to accept the likelihood that it just might not happen during my lifetime)." In his essay "With a Whimper," Alan writes:
"It would hardly do to predict that the impulse has disappeared or that it won't resurface soon. But I'm beginning to think that it's just possible that the current manifestation of American empire-hunger, in its somewhat confused Bushian, neocon, neo-Wilsonian, democracy-obsessed manifestation, has reached something of a high-water mark and is likely to recede, at least for a while.

"The dreams of benevolent conquest are being mugged by reality."
Read all of Alan Bock's terrific article right here.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

More "gratuitous" pix of Madison, uh, Jessica Biel

Is "The Black Arrow" gratuitously vulgar?

Laissez Faire Books is refusing to carry The Black Arrow, Vin Suprynowicz's extraordinary new novel of freedom and resistance. They say Vin's book contains "gratuitous vulgar" sexual scenes and may put off some of their customers. Vulgar? Well, the novel's only truly vulgar sexual acts are committed by the bad guys -- and sex may be the least of their vulgar acts. Gratuitous? Not at all.

But hey, kiddies, it's a free market, and Laissez Faire Books can do whatever the hell it wants. It can carry the latest drivel by Sean Hannity for all I care. However, by shrugging off the most important libertarian novel in, well, maybe a decade, LFB has proved my point when, in a post here last month, I placed them in the conservative, not radical, libertarian camp.

You can find quite a fierce debate about LFB's decision (including posts from LFB itself) right here. And if you want to read The Black Arrow, which I urge you to do, go ahead and buy it directly from the radicals at Liberty Book Shop.

By the way, this photo of Jessica Biel has absolutely nothing to do with Vin's novel. It's a promotional photo from last year's Blade Trinity movie, starring Wesley Snipes. I offer it here for two reasons. First, it radiates the spirit of The Black Arrow, and if someone has the good sense to make a film of the book, Jessica Biel would make a dynamite "Madison." Second, Jessica Biel is extremely hot.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Have a cup o' joe for peace

I drink a helluva lot of coffee. And although I don't collect coffee mugs, I've accumulated a lot of them over the years. This one's my particular favorite, featuring Randolph Bourne's famous statement that "War is the health of the State." This mug is perfect to use as a conversation-starter, whether you're entertaining guests in your home or just raising hell at your local coffee house.

Buy one here and you help support Antiwar.com, the best website ever on foreign policy and the madness of war. Justin Raimondo and the gang at Antiwar.com provide a great educational service.

Why not celebrate Memorial Day this month by buying a few of these coffee mugs for your friends?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Revenge of the Neocons!

I've just renewed contact, after more than 30 years, with an old cross-country "pen pal" of mine from way back when we were both young lads of 15 or so. (For you younger folks, pen pals actually wrote things we called "letters," sometimes with pen and ink and sometimes with old contraptions called "typewriters.") My old pal's name is Warren Bluhm. Warren, who accidentally fell across this blog o' mine, is now editor of the Door County Advocate in Wisconsin. He also writes a weekly column for The Green Bay News-Chronicle. He forwarded one of those columns to me, a wonderful piece titled "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Neocons." Warren writes about the political subplot of George Lucas' Star Wars series.

"George Lucas has written a cautionary tale that could be interpreted as a parable of our times," Warren writes, "not a fable about something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

Read Warren's terrific column right here.

Ahh...springtime in Paris!

Sometimes you just gotta laugh, even when you know you probably shouldn't...

Thanks for this one, Tom Novak.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Reclaiming our radicalism, part 2

Carl Milsted, a Libertarian Party stalwart, has posted a note on this blog in response to my entry of last week, “Reclaiming our radicalism.” He makes a few comments that I feel are worth addressing. Writes Carl:

“I hate the state enough to do something about it. I don’t mean fuming about the state, pretending to fight the state, making a good show of it, etc. I mean doing something that has a reasonable chance of having an effect.

“Purism, Suddenism, Anarchism etc. do not mix with the American political system.”

Nor should they, Carl. For more than three decades, I’ve watched the Libertarian Party ineffectively exercise its “reasonable chance of having an effect” through the electoral process. The LP fails because it contains within it a fatal flaw — a disconnect between its alleged “ends” (a free society) and the means it uses trying to get there. Politics is not the means to achieving liberty. You can’t create a free society by electing politicians to abolish politics, appointing bureaucrats to abolish bureaucracy, and governing to abolish government.

But then, Mr. Milsted continues:

“Extreme libertarianism is too unpopular to win at the polls, and it is too unpopular to gather a revolutionary army. Terrorism is your only viable option.

“I prefer electoral politics to violence and intimidation. And I prefer winning to losing. This is why I have rejected the Rothbard strategy and launched www.ReformTheLP.org.”

I urge readers here to visit Carl’s site to see just what’s wrong with his strategy. Likewise, it underscores a core problem with today’s libertarian movement: most LPers, Neolibertarians, and other compromisers have no sense of the history of their own movement. They are woefully unfamiliar with the works of our philosophical forebears, whether Molinari, or Mises, or La Boetie, or Rothbard. So Carl falls back on parroting George W.: “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.”


I suggest Carl start reading up on just why electoral politics is not only a dead-end for freedom lovers, it runs contrary to libertarian principles. Here are some places to start:

“Party Dialogue” by George H. Smith

“Abstain From Beans” by Robert LeFevre

“How to Vote for Liberty” by Joseph Sobran

“The Anti-Electorate Manifesto” by (blush) Wally Conger

Al Franken is a big fat phony

Yesterday, the real honest-to-God Left at Counterpunch delivered an effective body blow to the so-called Leftist radio network Air America, focusing primarily on host Al Franken and his refusal to address immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Wrote columnist John Walsh in “Al Franken is a Big Fat Phony”:

“Coverage of Iraq is largely confined to the corruption of Halliburton and the general idea that whatever has gone wrong there is the fault of George W. Bush and the Republicans. That the war was a ‘mistake’ is laid at the feet of Bush, with no mention of the Democrats’ role in voting for it, including J. Kerry and H. Clinton. ‘Incompetence’ over the waging of the war is a frequent complaint, as though it would be better for an ‘unjust and unnecessary war,’ in the words of Jimmy Carter, to be waged more competently. ...

“Most of Air America Radio is only marginally different from Franken, who is little more than a shill for the Democratic Party establishment. Franken faithfully parrots its pro-war line. Fundamentally, he is just like Rush, who is a Republican partisan, not a principled conservative. Franken is simply a Democratic partisan, a pitiful hack at heart. A progressive he is not. And disappointingly, Air America has turned out to be little more than a mouthpiece for the DNC and one more way to divert the anti-war movement to DNC-approved ‘issues’ like DeLay, Bolton and the other trivia that are like so many straws in the wind compared to the carnage in Iraq.”

Monday, May 02, 2005

Is "1984" still relevant? Well, duh!

A few days ago, while stationed in a corner at one of our local Starbucks -- as I am most afternoons -- I heard a couple of high school kids talking. Said one: "I have to wonder if this book is even relevant anymore. After all, 1984 was more than 20 years ago!"

These kids were talking about George Orwell's 1984. Honestly, I wanted to shake the little bastard and yell into his face. But I restrained myself. Just another victim, I thought, of the Ministry of Truth (i.e., government schools) and its program to rewire today's children, "our most important resource" (as Hillary might say).

Next time I hear someone question the relevance of Orwell in this "enlightened" era, I'll send 'em to Orwell Today. Check it out.

Launching a new Antiwar League

As we approach Memorial Day 2005, Doug Fuda has announced the creation of a new Antiwar League, designed to unite Left and Right against the War Party and its “perpetual war for perpetual peace.” Sam Konkin and I both promoted this kind of joint Left-Right antiwar coalition back in the mid-’90s, when Clinton began his Bosnia campaign (Sam through the Movement of the Libertarian Left and Karl Hess Club, me through the old print version of out of step). Sam and I had little success, but Doug seems to be generating some interest, and I encourage you to take a look at his website. He’s also launched a discussion list to help build this vital alliance.

Here’s Doug’s preliminary sketch for the Antiwar League platform:

Antiwar, Antistate Platform

  1. The “war on terror” is a fantasy war, a totalitarian construct that clearly illustrates that “war is the health of the state.” Iraq is not a diversion from the War on Terror. Iraq is the War on Terror.
  2. We propose not just to end the Iraq occupation but to bring home all U.S. troops, close foreign military bases and shutdown the War on Terror. The U.S. government must not go abroad in search of enemies.
  3. We view the Iraq war as a war crime and a premeditated war of aggression — not just a mistake or an act of crazy leaders. Therefore George Bush and his closest advisors must be investigated and tried for war crimes.
  4. Secrecy and the “national security state” must be abolished. Close the CIA and all “intelligence/spy” agencies. Declassify everything and open the books on the decades long crimes of the empire.
  5. The central U.S. government must be disarmed. Scrap nuclear weapons and all offensive weapons.
  6. Technology and warfare must be uncoupled. The U.S. government must not use tax dollars to promote the development of new means of warfare and killing in alliance with giant corporations. End the military/industrial/scientific complex forever. For example, close DARPA.
  7. All military aid to Israel and Egypt must be cancelled.
  8. September 11 and the events leading up to it must be fully investigated.
  9. The right of the people to keep and bear arms must not be infringed. Self defense is legitimate. Empire and wars of aggression are not.