S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 9 March 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
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

than one.

 

[]

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 conformity.

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 anyway. I think it should be split up into several smaller countries.

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 government.

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 originally a religious ceremony and should be treated as a private contract between two people.

You married?

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 particularly.

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 percent 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 Libertarian nomination?

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 libertarianism?

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 individual liberties.

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 —

Fewer 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 this because I do think there need to be public spaces for the exercise of free speech and things like that. In general, the way things are now, more activities, such as 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 voted for 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 with him on all the social issues. I disagreed on most of the economic issues. But at least he was honest, and I think he would have stood up for the underdog on issues like the police busting Food 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 respect their right to distribute food. And people are living on the street in pretty abominable conditions. If you have to step around somebody who's giving them food, is that such a big deal?

No, but if you expect people not to be petty about a thing like that then you're expecting people not to be assholes. And then you're talking about a change in 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 flyers printed.

You need a street team!

Yeah.

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 Harry Browne that he do a campaign based on the Mr. Jenkins Tanqueray ads.

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?

Ed 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.

Kids today!

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 was conclusive.

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.

What people?

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 you're voting?

Well people complain even now about the TV returns showing results from the east coast before the polls are closed.

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 assembly?

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 state assembly?

There are a few legislators I wouldn't mind giving massage to. Audie 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 Clinton?

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 devvy.com to see how many people associated with the Clintons have died in unusual circumstances.

Oh, I thought you were talking about Serbs and Iraqis. So you mean people like Ron Brown and Vince Foster.

Right.

What about the Starbucks 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 Jerry Parks — 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 waived.

How did you think of "Starchild" as a name?

I heard it somewhere, but I didn't deliberately take it from any particular source. 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?

Shirley Dean.

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, Visalia, Bakersfield.

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 Merced.

Close, but I'm afraid Visalia is between Bakersfield and Fresno. That was a good showing though. I'll be voting for you!

 

[]

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

cultural-backwardness grudge

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

sanctimonious supermooch

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