Hit & Run CCXVIII
Among the press corps, the
elephant in the room that no one
is talking about these days is
the already tired use of the
phrase "the elephant in the
room that no one is talking
about." Lately we've seen it in
debates, read it in columns, and
heard it around the Suck water
cooler. We don't know the
political origins of the phrase.
Perhaps it drifts down to us
from the Senate of Cicero, a
Disraelian quip, or simply an
early-20th-century reference to
our own 300-pound President
Taft. Maybe it has to do with
the GOP's favorite pachyderm
mascot, that counter pet to the
Democrat donkey, but we feel
such press club hackery needs to
be stopped before it gets out of
hand. We remember all too well
the trend a few years ago of
using the word "factor" every
three sentences, as in, "Bill
Clinton has to contend with the
sleaze factor" or "President
Bush fights the wimp factor."
Maybe it's too much to hope that
pundits will ever stop adding
the word "gate" to every scandal
that comes along, but let's kill
this one before it gets out of
hand. However, if we must keep
talking about the elephant in
the room that no one is talking
about, at the very least we
could try giving equal time and
mention to the jackass in the
room that no is talking about.
The problem there is that among
the pundits, there's always more
Starchild is the Libertarian Party
candidate for the California
State Assembly, 13th district.
In Tuesday's primary he won
6 percent of the popular vote,
for a third-place showing
behind Democrat Carole Migden
(78 percent) and Republican Bob
Lane (11 percent). He spoke with
us a few days before the primary.
Start off with a softball question: What's your vision for the future of California?
My vision for California is a place where there's a lot less rules, where
people have the right to do what they want as long as they're not
hurting anybody. I love alternative culture and diversity. I don't want to
use the blunt axe of government, for example, to stop chain stores
from coming in. People want to stop WalMart or stop building
highways, or other things that they see as blight. And I agree, but I
think you wouldn't have those things if you didn't have a government
structure in place that prevents people from doing things that are
different and creative. Building codes, for example you can't
just go off and build some really weird, creative building. You have to
do it by established rules and procedures. And that results in a kind of
A lot of this is counterintuitive. You think something like the minimum
wage will help poor people. But actually the opposite is true it
reduces the number of jobs.
But you know, part of libertarianism is about not imposing visions
on people. We tend to think a lot about coming up with one solution that
fits everybody. But you have the most creative vision when you step out
of the way and let people do their own thing. Visions will blossom. I have
my own particular ideas of things I'd love to see happen. But as a matter
of policy I'm more interested in reducing the overhead, and getting the
government out of the way.
What if I want to build a really cool house, but it extends over
the sidewalk and blocks people who are trying to walk by?
Well the old joke is that we'd privatize the sidewalks. There are a lot
of ways this could be done. The Reason
Foundation has done a lot of research on this kind of thing. Under
current laws, until the sidewalk is privately owned, of course you couldn't
do that. But on a plot of land that is privately owned you should be able
to do whatever you want. Unless it's something that's clearly dangerous
like having a munitions dump.
Do you have any presidential ambitions?
I have presidential fantasies, but I wouldn't say they're ambitions.
What kind of fantasies?
Anybody who dreams of changing the world fantasizes about having the
top job. I'd lay off half the federal workforce. But I don't have the drive
for it. I'm too much of hedonist. I'd never get to that level.
On the ballot your occupation is listed as "journalist/massage artist." You're
29 now. Do you think by the time you're ready for your White House
run America will be ready for a massage artist President?
I don't know. I can imagine the Libertarian Party nominating somebody
like myself. But the United States is such a big political jurisdiction
I think it should be split up into several
Where would you start dividing?
I'd devolve power back to the states and let things start from there.
Any feelings on the more famous propositions on the California
ballot? Indian gaming?
I'm for that. The Indians or anybody else who wants to should be able
to do what they want with their own money. The worst one on the
ballot is Prop 26, which would allow them to pass new bond initiatives
with a simple majority rather than the two-thirds they need now.
How about the campaign finance reform initiative?
I don't know the details on that initiative.
How about campaign finance reform as an issue overall?
I'm not sure it would hurt as much as some conservatives and
libertarians seem to think. On the other hand it's really kind of a paper
measure. The root cause in politics is that the government has so many
favors to hand out that it's like flies to honey, or shit if you prefer. As
long as the government's power is there you're going to have lobbying.
If you make that illegal the only difference is that occasionally somebody
will be caught and go to jail. So the real solution is to get power back to
the people so there isn't this incentive to lobby and influence the
How about Proposition 22 the gay marriage ban that's getting
a lot of national attention?
Opposed. Marriage should be your own business no matter what genders or
how many people are involved.
Don't these sorts of problems flow naturally from the fact that
marriage has all these legal attachments to it?
Oh sure. I don't like the government getting involved at all in what was
a religious ceremony and should be treated as a private contract between two
Oh yeah. It's not a traditional marriage, because of the kind of work
I do and the fact that I'm bisexual. And I don't believe in monogamy
So why get married?
Because we're very much in love.
You haven't got a web site and you haven't done any advertising.
How serious are you about winning?
I'm not going to spin this. I understand that San Francisco is 70 to 80
Democratic. And we've got a Democratic incumbent who's part of the local
political machine. I do intend to run seriously, but I'm realistic.
Did you have to do any Bush-McCain-style backbiting to get the
No, they're happy to have me. The party isn't big enough for us to
have contested nominations very often.
Do you find being a formal member of the Libertarian
Party, with all the bureacracy and regimentation that inheres in
any political party, conflicts with the individualist philosophies of
There are some people who seem to think so. We have kind of an
anarchist wing out there that doesn't believe in electoral politics at all.
But personally I think it's a happy balance. If we were to pull out of the
picture entirely things would be worse than they are now. Even though we
don't win we move the debate in a direction that focuses more on
Let's expand on that issue of the sidewalk and the building.
As greater liberty is given back to the individual, doesn't it follow
that one individual might come into conflict with another (for
example my right to sell books on the sidewalk might interfere
with your right to get in and out of your apartment building), and
wouldn't we then need more lawyers to sort out those conflicts?
In fact, doesn't the liberty of man increase in tandem with the number
of lawyers in the world?
That's a good question, but look at the United States 150 years ago.
We definitely had a lot less lawyers
Right, we had fewer lawyers. I think the number of lawyers we have now is
due to an excess of government, and the fact that the laws are now so
complicated that the average person can't understand them. You need
a lawyer to wade through it. Two years ago I served on a jury in a
tenant-landlord dispute. A lot of the case centered on whether the landlord
was providing sufficient heat. There were all these expert witnesses
brought in. It was really complicated.
Well that's because indoor heating is a complicated process, and
delivering it to an apartment involves a lot of technical expertise.
Yes, but under a Libertarian system the two sides would
agree between them whether heat would be provided. There would be no
law requiring that you provide heat in addition to providing housing. In
your example about the sidewalks, the sidewalks would be privately owned.
Whoever owns the sidewalk would make the rules for what kind of activity takes
place on the sidewalk. I have to admit I do have some reservations about
because I do think there need to be public spaces for the exercise of free
and things like that. In general, the way things are now, more activities,
selling books, should be allowed on the sidewalks.
What do you think of Mayor Willie Brown?
He's the most corrupt politician on this side of Mississippi that I'm aware
of. On a personal level I like the guy. I appreciate his boldness. But I
Ammiano. In fact I'm hoping to get Ammiano's endorsement.
Come on, Ammiano is a Nanny State spendthrift. You don't
think he'd put your taxes through the roof?
Yeah, yeah. It's a totally mixed bag, because he's very liberal. I agreed
him on all the social issues. I disagreed on most of the economic issues.
at least he was honest, and I think he would have stood up for the underdog
on issues like the police busting
Not Bombs for giving food to the homeless without
a permit. Or Mayor Brown's plan to crack down on free-standing newsstands.
If you have to walk through a public area to get to your job, at what
point does your right to walk through that area take precedence over
somebody else's right to feed the homeless?
I don't like aggressive panhandling any more than the next person. But I
their right to distribute food. And people are living on the street in
conditions. If you have to step around somebody who's giving them food, is
such a big deal?
No, but if you expect people not to be petty about a thing like that then
expecting people not to be assholes. And then you're talking about a change
the hearts of humanity. Clearly a great number of people maybe a
majority do bitch and complain over even a small
inconvenience like having to walk around somebody.
I guess. But you know, if you're trying to get from point A to
Point B there are a lot of buildings in your way and nobody
complains about that, and that's a much greater distance than
just walking around somebody who's lying on the sidewalk.
Do you have a campaign staff?
Ha, no. Not at this point. Right now I'm just trying to get
what publicity I can. I have had one fellow Libertarian offer to
go around handing out flyers for me. So now I have to get some
You need a street team!
But you need memorabilia to hand out to your street
team. Stickers and buttons and stuff.
I'm planning to get all that.
Do you have a campaign slogan?
Oh man, you're making me look really unprofessional. I
don't have a slogan at this point. What do you think would
be a good slogan?
"If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?"
That's pretty damn good. I like that. I'm not sure people
would get it, but it's pretty funny.
How about: "Why not Starchild, for a change?"
That's too much like the Bud Dry slogan "Why Ask Why?"
I'm actually recommending to our Presidential candidate
that he do a campaign based on the Mr. Jenkins Tanqueray
How many times has Harry Browne run for President?
This will be the second time, assuming he gets the nomination.
Who was the guy who ran in 1980?
Clark. He actually got the highest vote total of any Libertarian
candidates, because his Vice Presidential candidate was a millionaire
who pumped a lot of money into the campaign. That demonstrated
the vote-getting potential of Libertarianism, and I think the political
climate is even more suitable now. If we had that kind of money we
could really take off.
Who's your favorite Founding Father? And we'll define the
Founding Fathers broadly could be anybody from Washington
to, like, Ethan Allen.
Ethan Allen, I know that name. Is he an actor or something?
No, he was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, the Vermont
militia mobilized to fight the British.
OK. I was thinking of Ethan Hawke.
What can I say? I went to public schools. But I definitely think
Jefferson was the most libertarian of the bunch.
Have you been set back on your heels by Sally Hemmings?
Well, I don't think that's been conclusively proven...
Oh, come on!
Honestly, it doesn't make much difference to me one way or
another. Slaveowning is the original sin. Sleeping with a slave
is just the icing on the cake. It's not something I would be
very proud of, but I can honestly say I don't know, because I've
heard arguments on both sides about whether the DNA testing
What about your massage art are we talking
Shiatsu or what?
I'm not going to go too deeply into that, but it's sensual massage.
What does that entail?
It entails being sensual and giving people a nice massage.
It's erotic massage, though, right?
Yeah, I think I'll leave the rest of this to your readers' imagination.
Well, what should we be imagining?
I think I'll leave it at that.
Come on, aren't these acts of civil disobedience? You're
doing things that you don't think should be illegal, right?
Well, you can put drug use down for me as an act of civil
disobedience. I freely admit to using drugs that the government
regards as illegal. And in fact they're not illegal because we
never passed a consititutional amendment similar to Prohibition.
So heroin, marijuana, cocaine all those drugs are perfectly
legal; we just have a government that doesn't respect the law.
They're illegal in the US Code.
But the Constitution is the highest law in the land. In the famous
Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison, Justice John Marshall
said if a law is unconstitutional it's unconstitutional from the get-go,
not just when the Supreme Court rules that it's unconstitutional. It's
null and void even without a court ruling.
OK then. You've set me back. I have no response to that.
Well I'm not a constitutionalist. I believe whether or not the
Constitution allows it, people have the moral right to do what they
want with their own bodies. That's the ultimate authority. The
Constitution just limited the powers of the government. It didn't
give us any rights; our rights are inherent and inalienable.
Is the right to bear arms inherent?
Yeah. I'd call it the right to self-defense. Arms are just an invention.
Even in the old west there'd be situations where the sheriff wouldn't
allow people to bring guns into town. Is that an infringement or just
a community deciding what's safest and best for their own interests?
If it were voluntary it would be fine. If it's the sheriff saying he or she
is the sole representative of the government and that's the law, that would
be a violation of people's rights. A private tavern owner, on the other
hand, who says "No guns in my tavern" would be acceptable.
Isn't this funneling down to liberty for the rich only? Sure, if
you own the sidewalk or the tavern you're OK. But if you're a little
light that month you're shit out of luck.
Let me turn that question around. Under the current system do you
think the status quo favors the wealthy?
The status quo always favors the wealthy. It's the natural state
of human affairs that the rich are better off than the poor.
Then it doesn't matter what I favor, if the wealthy are always better off.
But clearly much of what we think of as big government is
stuff that's designed to alleviate the suffering of poor people.
My feeling is that the government regulations we have now, although
many are ostensibly made in the name of the poor, actually help
protect wealth and privilege at the expense of the poor. That goes for licensing
and business laws, and even down to something
like not having a parking space in the city if you don't have
a parking space you end up paying out a lot in parking tickets. Somebody
once said it's very expensive to be poor.
Let's say Libertarians won control of the White House and
both houses of Congress. Wouldn't they turn against individual
liberty as soon as they got the chance?
Oh definitely. I don't think Libertarians are necessarily immune to
the corruption of power. I favor a regular turnover of government.
There are definitely some people in our party who, if they ever
got elected, I'd be fearful that they'd start down that slippery slope.
People who tend to put too much emphasis on winning elections.
They tend to speak more in pragmatic terms than moral terms.
Even Harry Browne wouldn't be my first choice for President.
Who would be?
I really like Jacob Hornberger, who was going to run but
decided not to because it was too much of a conflict with his
role as director of the Future
of Freedom Foundation.
He passed up the chance to run for President to stay on
as head of the what?
The Future of Freedom Foundation.
What is he, out of his mind? Wouldn't you rather be
President than head of the Future of Freedom Foundation?
Well, yeah. I'm sure if he thought he could win he would have
run. I think he felt he had made a commitment to the foundation
and he decided to honor it.
Do you support open primaries?
No. That goes along with freedom of association. If I join the
Democrats why should I be able to go over and vote in the
Republican primary? I do, however, think we need some kind
of proportional representation. There are a lot of interesting
ideas for that, like the idea of having instant runoffs.
Wouldn't it be cool if there were a readout in the voting
booth that would tell you what place everybody was in as
Well people complain even now about the TV returns
showing results from the east coast before the polls are
Yeah, I know. "Ooh, they broke the embargo!" Like
we should have an embargo on the information of who's
winning a fucking election. Because we're all too stupid
to be trusted with our own votes if we know whether or
not our guy's gonna win.
The whole electoral system is based on fear. The biggest reason
people don't vote for Libertarians is because they're afraid of
"wasting their vote." People don't really vote for the Democrat
because they like Democrats but because they hate and fear
Republicans so much that they'll do anything to stop them.
And Republicans likewise. The truth of the matter is that it's
more of a waste of your vote to vote for a candidate who's got
a really big vote total, because if you vote for a candidate with
a smaller vote total your vote has a greater proportional impact.
With a larger vote total your vote is just a drop in the bucket.
What would your salary be if you got elected to the state
I actually don't know.
Would you continue what you're doing now to support
yourself, be a citizen/politician?
I probably would. I would probably decline if not the whole
salary at least half of it. I'd want to show that these people are
being paid too much, and it's at public expense. What money
I did get I'd plow back into Libertarian causes and just rely on
the star power that the office generates to make money later
doing TV commercials or whatever.
How would your massage skills work for you in the
There are a few legislators I wouldn't mind giving massage
Bock is kind of cute.
What other ideas do you have for the state assembly?
If I could pass one single piece of legislation it would be an
automatic sunset provision on any new laws, so they would
automatically expire in five years unless they were
specifically renewed. That's already the case with some
laws, such as the Independent Counsel law.
Yeah, which they kept renewing until they saw how it
actually worked. Speaking of which, what do you think of Bill
Oh, where do you start? At the risk of sounding like a wacko, I
believe he has knowledge of if not active participation in the deaths
of literally dozens of people. Check out a web site called
see how many people associated with the Clintons have died in
Oh, I thought you were talking about Serbs and Iraqis. So
you mean people like Ron Brown and Vince Foster.
What about the
waitress isn't that taking it a little far afield?
I've been to Georgetown. Georgetown is a nice neighborhood
of DC. People don't get gunned down like that
in that neighborhood.
That's what they said in Littleton.
But in Littleton obviously they know who the killers were and
the whole thing has been analyzed to death. In this case they
never caught the murderer, and nothing was taken. Highly
unusual. By itself it might be nothing, but in light of all the
other incidents, from Foster and Brown down to lesser
known people like
a former security chief for Clinton who was gunned down in
Little Rock it's pretty damning.
How hard was it to get your name legally changed?
Not difficult at all. There's always the paperwork.
But I just went before a judge. He asked why I wanted to
change my name, and I said because I like it better than the
old one. And he said all right. I even got the court costs
How did you think of "Starchild" as a name?
I heard it somewhere, but I didn't deliberately take it
from any particular
I've been using it since 1992 or 1993, on computer bulletin boards
and in the rave scene.
Is it true that ravers have to wear retainers now, because
they've ground their teeth so much that they're falling out?
No, no. That's what the pacifiers are for.
All right, in the state assembly you'll have to represent
all Californians, so here's your George W. Bush trivia
contest: Who is the mayor of Berkeley?
Good. Is Truckee north or south of Lake Tahoe?
I believe it's actually northwest.
Correct. Now the fast fingers question. Put the following
four cities in order from south to north: Fresno, Merced,
Oh God. Visalia is one of the ones I can never identify, so
guess that's near LA. So I'll put that at the southern end.
Bakersfield is south of Fresno. And Fresno is south of
Close, but I'm afraid Visalia is between Bakersfield and
Fresno. That was a good showing though. I'll be voting
Apparently fearing that
someone, someday might use the
words "progress" and "Alabama"
in the same sentence, a Southern
secessionist group used the
occasion of President Clinton's
visit to the state last weekend
to gussy up in their best
Confederate grays and march on
the state capitol, demanding a
return of the Confederate battle
flag to the top of the state
capital and reaffirming, in a
textbook display of redundancy,
that Southerners are "a separate
and distinct people." While, to
the outside observer, the whole
pageant might have looked like a
match with South Carolina,
leaders from the League of the
South told the assembled crowd
of 2,500 that their aim was a
split from the "national culture
of the United States," which was
necessary, they said, "to
preserve Southern language,
speech, manners, music,
literature, tradition, thought,
custom, and faith." League
officials insist, of course,
that the Southern heritage
they're talking about isn't
racism but states' rights and
Christian morality, leaving us
to marvel at the sheer force of
will necessary to believe in a
history made up of only those
things that went on between
lynchings. In a move that almost
lent credence to the idea of an
insurgent Southern Dadaism, Kirk
D. Lyons, chief trial counsel
for the Southern Legal Resource
Center, even tried to portray
the leaguers as latter-day
crusaders for civil rights.
"Southern people will no longer
go to the back of the bus," he
said. "Rosa Parks, we know how
you feel." It's almost enough to
inspire pity for Alabama's more
progressive leaders. They have
spent years trying to buck the
state's (almost undeserved)
barefoot and toothless image by
whoring it out to corporate
interests only to watch extras
from Hee Haw drag them back into
minstrel show territory.
Saturday's march was
particularly unfortunate because
Clinton's visit he took
part in a ceremony commemorating
"Bloody Sunday," a 1965 voting
rights march in Selma was
the state's first chance for
positive attention in the
national media in quite some
time. The silver lining here, of
course, is that if
self-contradiction has the first
thing to do with wisdom, we've
all been giving the Heart of
Dixie short shrift.
"I'm so thrilled,'' Hollywood
kingpin Rob Reiner said Tuesday,
after a tobacco tax Reiner
loudly supported last year
survived a recall vote in
California. "Clearly, the voters
of California sent a very loud
message that they care about the
health and development of young
children and reject the tobacco
industry.'' Director, producer,
actor, intellectual beacon for
Hillary Clinton: It's common
these days to marvel at how far
Reiner has risen above early
typecasting as Mike Stivic, the
responsible for so many of
Archie Bunker's most painful
hours. But we've never been so
sure there's a difference
between the freeloader who
lectured Archie on women's lib
while helping himself to the
Bunker groceries (a practice
that no doubt contributed to the
Hollywood triple threat's
relentless supersizing) and the
tiresome busybody who can't stop
haranguing us with obscure data
points like the fact that
smoking is bad for you and that
children should be fed and
changed on a regular basis.
Granted, the mature Reiner
appears to be self-sufficient,
but what is the movie industry
if not the ultimate rent-free
room on Hauser Street? While
we're not quite ready to throw
in our lots with Archie or any
of the other soreheads who give
the Meathead an angry raspberry,
we hope the director of North and The
Sure Thing might learn to stifle
himself real soon.
courtesy of theSucksters