Friday, June 30, 2006


I wish I could take a pair of scissors to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I really do. Overall, it’s a boffo entertainment, with a terrific cast, great dialogue, a sense of humor, and action set pieces that filled me with the sense of wonder I wish the Christopher Reeve films had offered me three decades ago. But its pacing...I don’t know how else to put this... sucks big time.

After a stunning recreation of the old 1978 opening credits from Richard Donner’s Superman, complete with John Williams score, the movie opens with...Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) forcing a dying old woman (Noel Neill, the 1950s Lois Lane) to sign her wealth over to him. Then we quickly shift to...Ma Kent (Eva Marie Saint) washing a dish in the kitchen of her farmhouse. Soon after, we spend an insufferable amount of time watching her son Clark (Brandon Routh), returned to Earth after five years, staring out over the Kansas landscape, reminiscing about his youth.

By this time, 15 minutes into the picture, I was mentally screaming, “Put on the friggin’ costume!”

But first, Lex and his cohorts are shown in the Arctic, breaking into the Fortress of Solitude. Then Singer treats us to Clark’s return to Metropolis, his lengthy helloes to Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Lois Lane (the truly luscious Kate Bosworth). This takes another 15 minutes or so. Then we’re back with Lex, now playing endlessly with a train set. Then Jimmy and Clark go to a bar for drinks to mull things over with a bartender (Jack Larson, the 1950s Jimmy).

Then — finally! — more than a half-hour into the movie, Clark rips open his shirt and takes to the sky.

Superman Returns suffers from a very slow opening. Superman, we learn, has been missing from Earth for many years because he’s visited the remains of the planet Krypton. Maybe we should have been shown that, not told about it. Or Singer might have moved the film’s first big action sequence — Supes’ spectacular airplane rescue — into the first six or seven minutes of the movie. Returns needs a kick-start, not a dishwashing scene.

After the first 30 minutes, Superman Returns really soars...for about 105 minutes. Then, after the Big Final Action Sequence, it dribbles off for 15 angst-filled minutes to its end.

This movie is slightly more than two and a half hours long. Given the chance to re-edit it, I’d cut the first 30 minutes to maybe 12, trim 10 minutes off its end, and shuffle an action scene or two. Then you’d have a nice, fast-paced Superman Returns, just two thrilling hours in length.

But I doubt we’ll see a Conger’s Cut of Superman Returns on DVD anytime soon. A pity, even if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Greetings from Ground Zero

Mercury, Nevada, sits 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, next to nowhere in the broad Nye County desert. For decades, it was a booming “company town,” with some 10,000 people, a first-run movie theater, a lending library, a dry cleaner, a health center, and an interfaith chapel. Its eight-lane bowling alley was busy on most weeknights and packed them in on weekends. The cafeteria seated 800; the Mercury Steakhouse offered more elegant dining for special occasions. And the Olympic-size community swimming pool drew big crowds when temps frequently topped a hundred degrees.

But today, a lot of that’s been bulldozed in Mercury. The place turned ghost town after October 1992, when the U.S. government ended 41 years of nuclear testing at the adjacent Nevada Test Site (NTS).

Oh, there’s still some activity at the test site. Just not enough to sustain a bustling settlement like Mercury once was. The Department of Energy (DOE) now markets NTS resources to private sector customers for hazardous chemical testing, environmental remediation development, and continued defense-related support.

And one day a month, the site opens its gate to nosey visitors like me who wonder what an expanse the size of Rhode Island looks like after a hammering by 928 nukes.

“What in blazes do you expect to see out there — giant ants?” a drinking buddy asked me.

“Not sure,” I confessed. But a childhood of “duck and cover” civil defense films and an eccentric interest in historic awfulness had me primed for a daytrip to America’s former atomic proving ground.

So one morning last week, I was “badged” in Las Vegas by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office. Then I joined two friends and several dozen other tourists on a long, hot bus ride up dusty Highway 95 to what’s left of Mercury, the gateway to The Most Bombed Place on Earth.

[Full story here]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Movie Review: PANTHER

[From the May 19, 1995 issue of my old out of step newsletter.]

While the Clinton Justice Department and establishment media proceed to assail today’s citizen militias, Mario Van Peebles’ Panther has arrived in the nation’s movie theaters.

I love the irony.

Panther, you see, chronicles the early history of the most infamous citizen militia of the last 30 years — the Black Panther Party, founded in Oakland, California in 1966. It’s not a great film. Its characters are one-dimensional, so it’s not particularly involving dramatically. And viewers unfamiliar with figures like Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, or Eldridge Cleaver won’t really learn anything about those individuals. Since Van Peebles is known for action pictures, there are plenty of gratuitous explosions and gunfights peppered throughout the movie. There’s a gangster subplot that detracts from the movie’s general story thread.

But worst of all, many will say — and many have already said — Panther plays too loose with the facts. Well, maybe it does. And I’m not recommending that anyone fully accept the Black Panthers as portrayed by Van Peebles without pursuing some extra homework. But Panther, fictionalized as it is, arrives at a larger truth: the enemy isn’t black or white, or Right or Left; it’s unrestrained state power. And that, I think, is what’s most important about this film. And why I recommend that all concerned Americans see it.

Panther is brilliant agitprop. And whether or not it “plays fair,” its heart is in the right place. It speaks loudly for self-rule, self-reliance, community values, and self-defense. And it speaks loudly against over-reaching federal police powers, government secrecy, and gun control. And it has come into American theaters at a time when those messages most need to be heard.

At the height of Clinton’s anti-militia, anti-anti-government barrage, it’s amazing that a studio had the guts to send Panther to the theaters at this time. Van Peebles and Gramercy Pictures should be applauded.

UPDATE: Eleven years later, seeing Panther isn’t easy. You won’t find it on either broadcast or cable TV. Netflix doesn’t offer it for rent. More than a year after its theatrical run, Panther was finally released on VHS; you can still find a few used tapes through Amazon. It was briefly issued on DVD in 1998; Amazon shows only two copies available, the cheapest costing $140. Yet, judging from postings at, Panther seems to be gaining cult status, and there’s a demand for a new DVD release. I wonder — ahem — what could be holding it up.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


[My movie review of Oliver Stone’s Nixon, first published in the January 5, 1996, issue of the out of step newsletter.]

“Stone’s films are good entertainment,” my friend the radio personality said over Christmas dinner. “But they’re lousy history.” This is the typical knee-jerk reaction of Establishment Liberals to Oliver Stone. They don’t blink at blatant falsehoods found in State-sanctioned histories, but they’re quick to shout down any historical revisionism or speculation offered by an Oliver Stone. So Janet Maslin of The New York Times writes about the “historical quicksand” of Stone’s 1991 film, JFK. And she finds Nixon, his latest movie, “reckless, bullying and naggingly unreliable.”

Nonsense. Nixon takes some dramatic license; it admits that in its opening credits. But it’s largely factual, as the recent publication of its thoroughly annotated screenplay proves. Nixon is, in fact, an extraordinary film. It’s no simple character assassination of Richard Nixon. Rather, it’s a well-honed attack on the Imperial Presidency itself — a brilliant analysis of the very workings of government and the State’s inevitable destructiveness.

In a wonderful scene — one well-documented as having occurred but with which Stone takes obvious liberties — the president, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, meets at pre-dawn with Vietnam war protesters camped at the Lincoln Memorial. There, in the shadows cast by the enormous monument, a confrontive young woman tells Nixon, “You can’t stop the war, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it’s not you. It’s the system. And the system won’t let you stop it...”

“There’s a lot more at stake here than what you want,” Nixon replies. “Or even what I want...”

“Then what’s the point?” the woman presses. “What’s the point of being president? You’re powerless.”

“No, no,” he says, flustered. “I’m not powerless. Because...because I understand the system. I believe I can control it. Maybe not control it totally. But tame it enough to make it do some good.”

“It sounds like you’re talking about a wild animal.”

“Maybe I am,” the president admits.

Minutes later, Nixon is escorted to his limousine by Secret Service men. He turns to Bob Haldeman, played by James Woods. “She got it, Bob,” Nixon says. “A nineteen-year-old college kid. She understands something it’s taken me 25 years in politics to understand. The CIA, the Mafia, the Wall Street bastards...”


“...The Beast. A nineteen-year-old kid. She understands the nature of The Beast.”

That’s the power of Nixon.

If this movie has any fault, it is its re-emphasis of the tired myth that a “watchdog” press brought Nixon down. What really brought Nixon down were counter-powers within The Beast itself. Nixon wasn’t working out. He had to be removed. Stone understands many of The Beast’s inner-workings, but Nixon doesn’t quite follow through with what should be natural conclusions. See it, regardless.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rothbard: "A Strategy for Victory"

Cleaning out desk drawers and filing cabinets can be a pain in the ass. But sometimes, treasures are found. Case in point: my notes from a dinner lecture given by the late Murray Rothbard in October 1993 at a meeting of the John Randolph Club in San Mateo, California. Fascinating stuff.

Murray’s talk was titled “A Strategy for Victory,” and from my scribbling, I see that he argued that the Libertarian Party is not a “real-world, real-people” organization where middle and working class Americans feel at home. Still true, 13 years later.

Rothbard said it was time for libertarians to re-enter the real world and create a new populist movement: “exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses but the often shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well.” He suggested a few rules for radicals committed to building such a movement:

  • Always hold the freedom principles aloft. Talk about them constantly to help keep your eye on the ultimate target.
  • Any transitional demands must be radical and consistent with the ultimate goal.
  • Accept no compromise.
  • Remember, we’re guerilla fighters. We’re small and don’t have to worry about our image. We can pick our shots.
  • Recapture the moral high ground from the Left. Our core principles are correct, moral, and newsworthy.
  • Sustain the attack. Keep the enemy on the defensive.
  • Tap the masses directly. Short circuit the dominant media and academic elites.
  • Rip the mask off the unholy preppie-liberal-media-academic alliance. Our foe is the Elite — full-time professional tyrants. They are not well-meaning. Their motives are evil: expansion of their own power.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Expose the fraud.
  • Demystify the State.
  • Hammer home the message persistently. Accustom people to our ideas.

Still good guidelines for revolution, don’t you think?

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Conspiracy revealed!

The U.S. government itself has hidden clues in the currency to suggest its complicity in the tragic events of 9/11! Find the key to unlocking those clues right here.

Wall Street & the "Banksters"

[I wrote the following review of Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy, by Murray N. Rothbard, for the April 5, 1996, issue of my old out of step newsletter, this blog’s predecessor. The book is now available as a free PDF download from the Mises Institute.]

This slim book compiles three Rothbard articles: “Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy,” first published in the August 1984 issue of World Market Perspective, and “The Treaty That Wall Street Wrote” and an accompanying sidebar called “Who’s Who for the Canal Treaty,” which were both published some two decades ago in the now-defunct Inquiry magazine. This book is a welcome addition to the historical arsenal of those who would fight the world money/power elites.

Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy is a great example of Rothbard’s trenchant and brilliant historical analysis. He saw American history as the story of a tremendous power struggle between economic elites, between the House of Morgan and the Rockefeller interests. But as Rothbard points out in his lead essay, it was an alliance of these two powers that foisted the disastrous Federal Reserve System on us early in this century, orchestrated the First and Second World Wars, and prompted the creation of this nation’s income tax (and birthed the hideous Internal Revenue Service).

Is this a — gasp! — conspiracy book? You could say so. But as Justin Raimondo writes in his afterword to the book: “ would be inaccurate to call the Rothbardian world view a ‘conspiracy theory.’ To say that the House of Morgan was engaged in a ‘conspiracy’ to drag the U.S. into World War I, when indeed it openly used every stratagem, every lever both economic and political, to push us into ‘the war to end all wars,’ seems woefully inadequate. This was not some secret cabal meeting in a soundproof corporate boardroom, but a ‘conspiracy’ of ideas openly and vociferously expressed. ... Here there is no single agency, no omnipotent central committee that issues directives, but a multiplicity of interest groups and factions whose goals are generally congruent.”

Many left-wing intellectuals would call the members of these interest groups “capitalists.” But Rothbard reveals that the biggest “capitalists” have never been friends of true capitalism (i.e., a free market). In particular, he says, bankers — both commercial and investment — are inherently statist. Every leap forward in economic planning and centralization, Rothbard shows, has been supported, and often initiated, by the biggest and most politically powered business interests in the country. Writes Raimondo: “The House of Morgan, the Rockefellers, and the Kuhn-Loebs must take their place alongside the First, Second, and Third Internationals as the historic enemies of liberty.”

In this post-Cold War period when the U.S. is still rattling sabers worldwide, Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy should be read by anyone puzzled about why things are as they are — and why they have been that way for more than a century.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Austrian Economic Analysis 101

Its title may sound dry and dull, but Joseph Salerno's Introduction to Austrian Economic Analysis seminar, offered at the Mises Institute for the past two weeks, is Rothbardian to its core. In both an educational and entertainment sense. If you care about liberty, property, and markets, listen to Salerno. I promise you a good time. All 10 lectures can be found as MP3 files right here.

Raise high the flag of liberty!

Just another week or so till Independence Day. And for the fifth consecutive year, I’ll be shaking out my Gadsden flag and hoisting it for the holiday. I spent seven bucks for the flag at a gun show back in the mid-’90s, and it’s served me well. Even though it’s made of cheap flammable polyester.

When I wrote a full-blown piece on the Gadsden flag a few years ago, there wasn’t too much info available about it on the Internet. Now Chris Whitten offers a whole web site dedicated to the Gadsden, chock full of history, images, news, and even links to nifty merchandise. Maybe I’ll upgrade my flag this year.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Captain America to the rescue!

My old pal Warren Bluhm and I have known each other since, oh, 1968 or so. Back then, we were pen pals, two teenaged comic book geeks sending each other weekly dispatches coast to coast, knee-deep in comics fandom. And the superhero we adored above them all was Spider-Man.

But Warren and I, who renewed our friendship on the Internet just a year ago (and we’ve still never met), are 38 years older now — and wiser, I hope. And while we would have stood by Spidey through thick and thin at 14, we’re both crusty, middle-aged, radical libertarians now. And we can’t ignore the obvious.

The ol’ webhead’s a sell-out.

Warren posted this weekend about the latest shocker in Marvel Comics’ current Civil War story arc: bending to a Superhero Registration Act that orders all superheroes to reveal their identities and list themselves in a federal database, Spider-Man unmasks himself in a press conference. Peter Parker, lapdog to the State. As Warren writes, this event “smashes 44 years of tradition” and “violates all artistic sense — 44 years of establishing a character with an intense sense of privacy flushed down the toilet.” Like Warren, I think this plot device is a betrayal of the spirit in which Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the “classic” Spider-Man.

Ironically, the Marvel hero who leads the resisters to Civil War’s national ID mandate is Captain America, often portrayed in the past as a “my country right or wrong” Cub Scout. When the feds demand that Cap “obey the will of the American people” and assist in arresting super-rebels, he shouts, “Don’t play politics with me! Super heroes need to stay above that stuff or Washington starts telling us who the super-villains are!”

So...a big raspberry today to Spider-Man. And three cheers for Captain America, upholder of freedom, privacy, and the American Way!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Tribute to a "black sheep"

John V. Denson, an attorney in Opelika, Alabama, and editor of two volumes of essays for the Ludwig von Mises Institute (The Costs of War and Reassessing the Presidency), spoke at LMI last week about “Free Speech and Dissent During Wartime.” The subtitle of his talk was “How I Came to Admire the Black Sheep of the Family.” You see, a cousin of Denson’s, William “Wild Bill” Denson, was unsuccessfully tried in federal court in 1918 for violating the Espionage Act when he criticized President Woodrow Wilson and U.S. entry in WWI. This speech is terrific. Listen to it here.

Your dad will love Power Girl!

Power Girl is one of DC Comics' more obscure characters. Since her debut in 1975, she's had at least three distinctly different origin stories. Is she Superman's cousin from a parallel world? Well, for a while, she was. Is she the granddaughter of an ancient Atlantean sorcerer? Yeah, she was for a few months anyway. Is she a pawn in a game of cosmic chess that threatens the known universe? Yes, at least for the time being.

But regardless, for most male comic book readers (myself included), there's no denying Power Girl's, uh, extraordinary "charms." And this new softcover collection of some of her adventures over the past 30 years, simply titled Power Girl, offers a lot of fun.

It's a perfect gift for Dad on Father's Day!

A gun-controller's wetdream

“You’d think a movie entitled Bill’s Gun Shop must have some redeeming value,” Claire Wolfe writes. “You’d be wrong.” Claire rented the film, billed as an “action-packed drama,” and “found it the most unintentionally hysterical film I’ve seen in a while — the Reefer Madness of gun movies. If Michael Moore and Diane Feinstein had a child who went to film school, this would be his senior project.”

Claire continues: “With hand-wringing intensity, the film follows the adventures of 23-year-old Dillon. Brainwashed from a childhood filled with toy guns and violent movies, this otherwise-nice kid is obsessed with (gasp!) firearms. When he’s hired on at Bill’s Gun Shop, he is predictably pulled into the dark, chaotic world of the gun culture. Stereotypes dripping of propaganda abound.”

I found Bill’s Gun Shop listed at Amazon. It’s dated 2005, is “unrated,” and looks like a direct-to-DVD item, perhaps intended originally for the Big Screen but bumped by more sophisticated works like Big Momma’s House 2 and RV. I’ll be avoiding this one, although, who knows, it may become a libertarian “cult classic” a la Reefer Madness. Regardless, check out Claire’s post. It’s fun...and she even offers rules for a Bill’s Gun Shop Drinking Game!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Passionate about liberty

From Karl Hess' posthumously published autobiography, Mostly on the Edge (1999):
"Liberty for me boils down to a passion, somehow instilled, but a passion nonetheless. I have never been able to see my own passion for liberty as coldly rational; it just burns there, like the sort of love that causes you to suddenly cry, as I sometimes do, when I look at Therese in a certain light of day or a glow of night. I have done the same thing thinking about the sheer good feeling of doing work freely, without coercion, of doing it well, of building something, of thinking something. Love, passion, liberty."

Sunday, June 11, 2006


AK Press does a great job keeping much classic Left-collectivist anarchist literature in print. Now they’ve released two 1980 documentaries by Steven Fishler and Joel Sucher (“Anarchism in America” and “The Free Voice of Labor”) on a single DVD broadly titled Anarchism in America. Both movies are worth your attention, particularly if you’re interested in some of the roots of U.S. anti-statism, but the film after which this DVD is named is especially interesting for Libertarian Leftists. It features a nice segment about our “granddaddy,” the late Karl Hess, and speaks briefly of Murray Rothbard, whom he credits for his conversion from conservative Republican to anarchist radical. Karl is also shown alongside Left anarchist Murray Bookchin at a libertarian conference.

It’s nice to have these two films available. But they are 26 years old. Somebody should really pull together a new documentary about the American anarchist movements, both Left and Right, yesterday and today.

Consumer warning: Advertisements claim that Ursula K. LeGuin, author of the anarchist sci-fi classic The Dispossessed, appears on Anarchism in America. She does not.

A shift on the Left?

Author Jim Peron recently shared some thoughts with Wendy McElroy, which she has in turn shared with readers of her blog, on the subject of libertarians facing Left rather than Right:

... I find it fascinating that the Left today is starting to sound more and more like the Old Right. You still would have a hard time finding a better, more hard hitting libertarian speech than the one Gore gave about the imperial presidency. I was floored when he gave that. With just a few very minor problems it was excellent. If libertarians are serious about advancing liberty (which is an open question I think) they would discuss how to take advantage of this shift on the Left to recruit these people to liberty. If they are merely more extreme Republicans (and some are) they will dismiss these comments as meaningless, etc. I think the Left is seeing what the imperial presidency is like and maybe understanding the problem of centralizing power for your guys but find out that means you centralized it for the guys you don’t like as well. I think it is more than time for a major libertarian forum, somewhere, to discuss the shift in American politics and why libertarians ought to be spending more time talking to the Left and less time talking to the Right.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"I am a renegade..."

Anybody who’s known me more than a few days is aware I’m a very big fan of the late Warren Zevon. So what happens when you run his great song “Renegade” (from 1991’s Mr. Bad Example) behind video clips from my all-time favorite sci-fi TV series, Firefly?

Goddamn magic, that’s what. Check this out.

Some prayers never reach the sky
Some wars never end
Some dreams refuse to die
Next time I would rather break than bend

I am a renegade
I’ve been a rebel all my days...

Three cheers for "southpaw libertarians"

Comrade Tom Knapp contributed a valuable post yesterday at the Unqualified Offerings blog about what he calls “southpaw libertarians,” libertarians on the Left. He wrote:

Libertarian ideas are picking up advocates on the Left, and “southpaw libertarians” are becoming an increasingly credible force in the libertarian movement.

Why? Well...I do have some quick thoughts.

Any history of the libertarian movement is going to have to start on the Left. Yes, I know that we have a long record of decrying the “Left-Right political spectrum” as inadequately descriptive, but it’s still there and it’s still used. Advocates of laissez faire sat on the left side of the aisle in the French pre-revolutionary and revolutionary governments. Anarchists contested control of the First International with the Marxists. 19th century American libertarians and anarchists allied themselves, to a large degree, with Left-anarchists and Left labor movements.

The first real period of identification of American libertarians with the Right was between the world wars — and that identification was specifically with the isolationist, often near-anarchist, “Old Right,” the ruins of which lie next to the USS Arizona beneath Pearl Harbor. Ever since, the association has been tenuous, tumultuous and periodic. Not to mention — in my opinion, of course — unjustified.

Libertarianism is a movement apart...but it’s going to identify with other movements, and other movements are going to identify with it, on the basis of two simple criteria:

(1) Radical movements oppose the party in power. It’s just that simple. If they don’t oppose the Establishment, they’d be part of the Establishment. And since the present Establishment is generally regarded as “Right-wing,” its opposition is going to be regarded as “Left-wing.” Libertarians are embracing (as they should) the label.

(2) Former Establishments in exile want to return to power. This makes them more willing to consider new ideas, or reconsider old ones long abandoned (or at least given short shrift). Left factions dominated the American Establishment for 70 years. They want to dominate that Establishment again. They need allies, and they need winning ideas. Thus, they are looking back to their own “classical liberal” past, and to the inheritors of the mantle of “classical liberalism” in American politics...the libertarians...for inspiration.

Both of which, of course, smack of grandiose “theories of history.” There are other, simpler explanations for the resurgent phenomenon of “left-libertarianism.”

For example, self-designated libertarian spokespersons who have never associated themselves closely with “the Right” have felt more free to take the lead in criticizing the “Right-wing Establishment” than “conservatarians,” and the movement is therefore taking on the flavor of those criticisms. Similarly, Lefties who were “progressive civil libertarians” — an opposition of sorts within their own faction — back in the days of Left ascendancy now have the high ground versus the “mainstream” Lefties who lost power when talking about how to regain power.

Join the debate here.

Condolences to friend Warren

I had just dashed an e-note to my old pal Warren Bluhm, inquiring after Monday’s missing installment of his podcast of B.W. Richardson’s The Imaginary Bomb, when this arrived from B.W.:

The Imaginary Bomb is on a bit of a hiatus while Warren copes with the unexpected death of his dear mom. She got up Monday morning and told his dad she had a bad headache and went back to bed. When she was unresponsive that afternoon, the guys at the ER said she’d had a bad stroke, and she was taken off life support and passed away Tuesday evening. Today’s rain seems entirely appropriate.

The one good thing out of this is that Warren is here in New Jersey and we should get a meet-up out of this while he’s in town. I might be a little spotty around here myself while the two of us hoist a few brews and plan future endeavors together.

Warren, my mother passed away very similarly just seven years ago. I grieve with you.

Monday, June 05, 2006

DiLorenzo: "Liberty & American Civilization"

Tom DiLorenzo, author of The Real Lincoln and the upcoming Lincoln Unmasked, launched into his five-day, ten-lecture seminar for the Mises Institute today, Liberty and American Civilization. The first two lectures, on Lincoln’s tariff war against the South and the triumph of mercantilism in the U.S., are already available as free downloadable MP3 files.

I began listening to DiLorenzo this afternoon, and his meticulously researched talks are absolutely devastating to the Lincoln Cult. But the seminar won’t be limited to material on Lincoln. Later in the week, lectures will include: “The Revolution of 1913,” “The Myth of Natural Monopoly,” “The Truth about the Great Depression,” and “Is Voluntary Government Possible?”

Keep your eye on the availability of new downloads all week. This seminar is not to be missed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More like a Shrub

From Reuters today, a photo of the Incredible Shrinking President.

Natalie Maines: cute, and still anti-Bush too!

Big Media is still promoting a myth that the South, filled with hawkish rednecks, hates the Dixie Chicks. Singer Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush remarks in 2003, reports, have resulted in “disappointing airplay for the first two singles from the new album [Taking the Long Way],” exposing “a deep — and seemingly growing — rift between the trio and the country radio market.” Fact is, there is no rift. Many of the country music radio stations boycotting the Chicks’ new CD are owned by corporate monolith Clear Channel, a Bush lapdog. And despite the “boycotts,” Taking the Long Way not only continues the Bush-bashing, it’s now number one on both the general album charts and the country music charts, having already sold 526,000 copies. See Lee Ballinger’s piece today at

The scent of statism

out of step “regulars” may recall that I had doubts about Greg Bear’s latest sci-fi thriller, Quantico, when I first heard about it. Judging from its PR, I thought it smelled like “another typical defense of Leviathan.” Having enjoyed earlier Bear novels, I ordered it anyway.

Update: Quantico arrived last week, and my worst suspicions were correct. Before it even begins, the book drops a clue; it’s dedicated “to those who put themselves in harm’s way to save us from madness, greed, and folly.” By page 30, brave federal agents are preparing a Waco-like raid on the farm of a formulaic “anti-Semite and white supremacist.” (“It is no sin to sweep away the polluted,” says the farm's Patriarch, typically. “Death to the Jews, my friend.”) The feds are even aided by a consultant from Morris Dees’ elitist band of scaremongers, the Southern Poverty Law Center. He fingers the right-wing nut after spotting him through binoculars from a Forest Service fire tower. And the stalwart agents move in.

I doubt I’ll finish reading Quantico.

Manifesto for Smalltown America

I’ve been reading and enjoying Bill Kauffman for a decade. “Michael” at calls Kauffman a “category-busting radical crank.” Not bad. Kauffman describes himself as an American patriot, Jeffersonian decentralist, fanatical localist, and anarchist. What I love about Kauffman is that he’s so adaptable in finding allies — he frolics with both Right and Left, in both Chronicles magazine and CounterPunch — as long as they love America and despise Empire.

Bill’s a master of the beautifully crafted sentence and the subtly clever turn-of-phrase. I think he’s one of the best political essayists — strike that — best essayists period of the last 25 years. I spent the past two weeks reading and re-reading then reading again his new book, Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists, a paean to families, neighborhoods, and insubordinate, smalltown America. At least a dozens times, I stopped at the end of a paragraph, rubbed the bridge of my nose, and mumbled, “Goddamn that’s good.”

Here’s Kauffman writing about a pilgrimage he made in Iowa:

“So there we were, my wife, Lucine, our then-nine-year-old daughter, Gretel, and I, driving the gravel roads outside Clear Lake, Iowa, following directions like ‘first fencerow past the big grain bin,’ till we ditched the rental car and walked the narrow half-mile path between corn and soybean fields to the spot where on February 3, 1959, the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper crashed, a tragedy later mythicized by Don McLean in ‘American Pie’ as ‘the day the music died.’ We found the cross and makeshift memorial to the three paleo rock-and-rollers. Lucine detests the har-har leering of the Big Bopper — ‘Hell-ooooooo Ba-Beeeee!’ — but Gretel and I persuaded her to join us in a spirited chorus of ‘Chantilly Lace,’ capped by a hearty ‘Oh baby that’s what I like!’ I imagined the Bopper, a bespangled specter, giving us a lewd wink.”

Still wandering through Iowa, Bill reflects on the late actress Donna Reed:

“At some point in post-World War II America, the Middle West and all its Middle American manifestations became inexplicable. Take Donna Reed, without question the most beautifully American-looking actress of the Cold War era. Donna was an Iowa girl, a tomboy who grew up playing baseball with her brothers on the farm — watch her hurl that rock at the window of the old Granville place in It’s a Wonderful Life; what a wonderful arm! She was an Iowa Republican who was for her fellow Iowan Henry Wallace in 1948, for Barry Goldwater in 1964 because the Kennedy-Johnson Democrats offended her Iowa isolationism, and for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 for the same reason. Viewed through old-fashioned American glasses, Reed’s politics make perfect sense as the expression of a girl who attended the one-room schoolhouse in Nishnabotna, Iowa, and won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair for the whole-wheat yeast rolls she made for the Nimble Fingers 4-H Club. It is only in the funhouse mirror of postwar American politics that the Donna Reeds are contorted and the Arnold Schwarzeneggers look normal.”

Kauffman writes about the effect of war and empire on rural America:

“War devastates the homefront as surely as it does the killing fields. Soldiers are conscripted, sent hither and yon to kill and maim or to be killed or maimed; their families relocate, following the jobs created by artificial wartime booms. War is the great scatterer, the merciless disperser. How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm when Mom and Pop and Sis have found Elysium in Detroit?”

Look Homeward, America is a short book, just shy of 200 pages. But it’s stuffed with history, personal asides, and lots and lots of profiles of those Kauffman would call “reactionary radicals,” folks as diverse as U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (for whom Kauffman worked briefly), Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, writer Wendell Berry, novelist Carolyn Chute, Robert Frost, and Mother Jones. What it all adds up to is a virtual manifesto for front-porch radicals — a loose-limbed movement where Left and Right can stop arguing the little stuff and meet on common ground in their admiration for small-scale over big-scale, local over nation-state, peace over war, America over Empire, and plain, old-fashioned neighborliness.

Bill Kauffman has written a rallying cry for common sense, building relationships, and getting the real work done of just living satisfying lives. If you haven’t read Look Homeward, America by summer’s end, shame on you.