Austin Dispatches 
No. 20
Aug. 27, 2000

My social whirl nowadays approximates a Texas twister. I must choose judiciously from the events and occasions peppering my appointment book.

Some choices glitter all the brighter in a trove of possibilities. On Aug. 17, while my co-workers flocked to Kiss' last tour1 — the final Kiss-off, so to speak — and homebodies watched the Democrats nominate the corrupt, phony Al Gore in the garrison state rendition of Los Angeles2, I opted for Harry Browne's appearance at the Inter-Continental Stephen F. Austin Hotel.3

In the refurbished downtown landmark,4 a crowd of more than 230, many young, most well-dressed (with a few egregious exceptions, too old to know better), responded favorably to the polished, mellifluous speaker's message of abolishing the income tax and limiting the federal government to its legitimate, constitutionally specified tasks. The crowd also contributed more than $14,000 to the Libertarian Party nominee, to run TV ads until Election Day.5

Local legislative candidates Robert "Rock" Howard and Michael Badnarik, and longtime party activist Michael Emerling Cloud opened for Browne.6 Cloud promised the LP would shrink the federal government until it "fits on the back of a milk carton."

Critique of Mahon

Among the crowd: novelist Tom Mahon.7 Some of you might recall a blistering e-mail or two he sent about Austin Dispatches No. 19, which endorsed Browne over Gov. George W. Bush. Mahon objected to that issue's criticism of the military and law enforcement as a paranoid, exaggerated "Byronic wail of anguish"8 from "the disaffected lunatic fringe."9 He also wrote Bush is the best bet for the election.10

However, at the hotel, Mahon suggested to Browne a merger between the LP and the most compatible faction of the splintering Reform Party.11 That faction used to be called the "Ventura wing" before Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura himself decided he didn't want to belong to the same party as Pat Buchanan.12 Ventura also used to call himself a libertarian before he decided he didn't want to belong to a group of "poorly dressed geeks."13 Poorly dressed? This, from a man who earned a living in pink spandex and a feather boa?

Anyway, Mahon's suggestion has supporting precedent: Shortly after Texas billionaire Ross Perot temporarily quit his 1992 presidential bid, LP vice chairman Steve Dasbach told me the entire Perot volunteer organization in Georgia had joined the Libertarians. The new volunteers helped contribute to the LP's continuing substantial vote tallies in that state, and to the election of a U.S. senator that year.14

Of course, the Republican Party contains even more disaffected members primed for political realignment. Browne reminded the audience that "since the days of Eisenhower," the GOP has thwarted the agenda of people like Mahon, who favors "deregulation as a means to laissez faire capitalism, limiting the powers of government on all levels, free trade and disentangling military alliances that are not in our interests ... ."15

Such an agenda is not consistently supported, if that, at the state or congressional levels; certainly not by "Dubya," who earned his millions in part from a taxpayer-subsized baseball stadium, and pirouettes about the open-ended U.S. military occupation of Kosovo.16 In fairness, Dubya, even at his worst as governor (e.g., his proposed 1997 tax shifts)17 hasn't yet pushed the laws of his New York counterpart, George Pataki, to ban or restrict citizens' weapons and to allow parents to abandon newborn babies without penalty.18 Pataki's actions are merely the most egregious acts the Republicans accede to that undermine the self-responsibility Mahon extols.19

That undermining of self-responsibility extends to armed government agencies, whose actions I deplored in the previous issue.

Mahon said he favors a Libertarian Party that "emphasizes anti-corruption";20 what is more corrupt than the open assaults by federal agents under the pretext of crisis or emergency?21 Such pretext serves as a means to thwart Mahon's agenda above, which is incompatible with the garrison state. Even Mahon understands the connection, judging by the blurb for his novel "The Special People":

            In the not too distant future America is barely recognizable as the country it
            once was. There are no jobs, federal troops patrol every large city, and the
            government's control over the economic system has become the power of
            life and death. The cold hand of dictatorship reaches across the nation as the
            people silently witness the twilight of the American dream ....22
Media Roundup

In the world of newspapers, the Austin Chronicle reports Cox Enterprises is reportedly eyeing community weeklies to complement the Austin American-Statesman, including a couple I once applied to, in a previous career.23 Nothing like the Cox media empire to take a small, inconsequential publication and make it more so. Cox Enterprises was founded by Gore's 1920 predecessor, of whom H.L. Mencken wrote:

Cox is quicker of wit, but a good deal less honest. He belongs to the cunning type; there is a touch of the shyster in him. His chicaneries in the matter of [P]rohibition, both during the convention and since, show the kink in his mind. He is willing to do anything to cadge votes, and he includes in that anything the ready sacrifices of his good faith, of the national welfare, and of the hopes and confidence of those who honestly support him.24
Cox Enterprises carries on in the tradition of its founder.25

Meanwhile, the New Times chain has purchased Fort Worth's FW Weekly.26 I read the Weekly a few times when I lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: I thought it was a struggling community paper, not a big city publication. (The Phoenix New Times, in turn, reports that both the Arizona Republic and the East Valley and Scottsdale Tribune have been sold.)27

The New Times buy leaves the Austin Chronicle the last non-chain "alternative" weekly left in Texas.28 Unfortunately, the Chronicle, one of the best such weeklies nationally, seems to be degenerating into a patchouli-scented corpse. I think the staff burned itself out after last year's massive, annual "Best of Austin" issue.29 Now the paper's produced a new politics editor who seems stuck in a pinko mindset circa 198030, and a "Summer Smut" issue (Aug. 11) that managed to make sex seem dull — c'mon, people, if you can't do better than that, you need lessons from the Phoenix New Times. (See Dewey Webb for details.)31

1 "Publisher's Picks." AM Aug. 2000: 13.
2 On the Democratic convention: Hipp, Jeffrey. "Democrats Attack Texas, George Bush." DT 18 Aug. 2000: 1-2
   On Gore: Coburn, Alexander, and Jeffrey St. Clair. Al Gore: A User's Manual. London: Verso, 2000; Reese, Charley. "Want to Find Out About the Man on the Left? Take it From the Right."OS 31 Aug. 2000: A18; Simpson, Alan. "Prime Time Al." AUSR Sep./Oct. 2000: 5; Wolfson, Adam. "Apocalypse Gore." NR  8 Mar. 1999: 37-40; Zelnick, Bob. Gore: A Political Life. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1999.
   On the garrison state: Quoted in Stromberg, Joseph. "Mere 'Isolationism': The Foreign Policy of the Old Right." 10 Aug. 1999. Antiwar.com. <http://www.antiwar.com/stromberg/s081099.html>.
    On Los Angeles: Coburn. "The Cops vs. Simon Rodia." NYPR 27 Aug. 2000, online ed.; Davis, Mike. City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. 1990. Rpt. New York City: Vintage Books, 1992; Davis. Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. New York City: Metropolitan Books, 1998; Ehrenreich, Ben. "Rants and Reflections." LAW 25 Aug. 2000: 19; White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. Norman, Okla.: U of Oklahoma P, 1991: 423-429.
3 Barnes, Mike. "La Dolce Vita." XL 24 Aug. 2000: 22+; Nolen, Julie. "Libertarian Candidate Campaigns in Austin." DT 18 Aug. 2000: 1-2; Patterson, Clark. " 'Libertarians Have the Most Powerful Political Message in the World.': An interview with Third Party Presidential Candidate Harry Browne." AUSR Sep./Oct. 2000: 5+; Susswein, Gary. "Nader Heads to Town Amid Third-Party Fight for Texas." AAS 17 Oct. 2000: A9.
    Susswein's article was the Austin American-Statesman's first mention of Browne's Austin visit.
4 "Downtown Landmark Hotel Readies for Grand Opening." ABJ 5 May 2000: B5.
5 APSB, 70.
    Monmaney, Terence. "The Suit Fits. So Wear It!" GQ Aug. 1995: 47. For the record, I wore a dark gray Armani suit (Cocks, Jay. "Suiting Up for Easy Street." Time 5 Apr. 1982: 60; Cohen, Scott. "Tag Hags." Details Oct. 1994: 92+; Uchitel, Diego. "The Power of Armani." Esquire March 1993: 161); a white, spread-collar Perry Ellis dress shirt (Oates, Joyce Carol. What I Lived For. New York City: Dutton, 1994: 47); a black silk Pierre Cardin necktie ("Cardin, Pierre." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 5th ed. New York City: Columbia UP, 1993: 6704) with a silver art deco tie clip; and black, cap-toed oxfords (Sullivan, Terry. "The Cap-Toed Oxford." GQ Jun. 1994: 54.).
6 "Be 'unreasonable' if you want victory, Urges Michael Cloud in Keynote Address." LPN Aug. 1998: 15; Susswein, and Laylan Copelin. "Tight Race Best Bet for GOP to Gain New Seat in House." AAS 22 Oct. 2000: E6.
7 Mahon, Tom. The Special People. (1980) Nashville, Tenn.: Winston Derrick, 1995.
8 Mahon. E-mail to Dan Eisler. 29 July 2000.
9 Mahon. E-mail to Eisler. 31 July 2000.
10 Ibid.
11 Walter Kirn. "Turn Right at the Orange Dumpster." GQ Aug. 2000: 79-82+; "States Get Double Dose of a Reform Headache." DMN 25 Aug. 2000: 14A.
12 Ventura, Jesse; and Julie Mooney. Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals. New York City: Pocket Books, 2000: 247-256.
13 Rauch, Jonathan. " 'The Body' Politic." Reason April 1999: 42; Ventura, ibid., passim.
14 Norquist, Grover. "Coverdell's Winning Formula." TAS March 1993: 40.
    Dasbach mentioned this fact during an phone interview. He interviewed me for a position as the West Coast advance man for LP presidential nominee Andre Marrou. Brookhiser, Richard. “The Party’s Over.” NR 21 Oct. 1991: 32; Gleick, Elizabeth. “Holding Fourth.” People 9 Nov. 1992: 50; Weaver, Paul H. “Going for the Bronze: On the Road with the Libertarian Ticket.” Reason Nov. 1992: 36.
15 EAD No. 6 (July 1999); Edwards, Lee. The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America. New York City: The Free Press, 1999: Ch. 4; Mahon. E-mail to Eisler. 31 July 2000.
16 "Budget Turmoil Takes Toll on Views." Knoxville News-Sentinel. 1 Jul. 2000: A1; Caldwell, Christopher. "High Office." NYPR 11 Oct. 2000, online ed.; "Cheney Vows to Take GIs Out of Balkans." AZR 1 Sep. 2000: A8; "Questions for Mr. Bush." IBD 1 Sep. 2000, online ed.; Moore, Stephen, and Stephen Slivinski. The Return of the Living Dead: Federal Programs that Survived the Republican Revolution. (Cato Policy Analysis No. 375) 24 July 2000; Schmitt, Eric. "Bush on Spot as G.O.P. Pushes to Pull Out G.I.'s From Kosovo." NYT 15 Sep. 2000: 12; York, Byron. "George's Road to Riches." TAS June 1999: 20.
17 Burka, Paul. "The Honeymoon is Over." Texas Monthly Jan. 1997: 134.
18 Knipfel, Jim. "Legislating Irresponsibility." NYPR 2 Aug. 2000 <http://www.nypress.com/content.cfm?content_id=2382>; Lombardi, Frank et. al. "Pataki Triggers NRA Anger." NYDN 15 Mar. 2000: sports final ed.: A8.
19 Mahon. E-mail to Eisler. 31 Jul. 2000.
20 Mahon. Conversation with Eisler, Terry Parker, and Lee Emmett. 30 Jul. 2000.
21 Higgs, Robert. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. New York City: Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy/Oxford UP, 1987.
22 Mahon. Special People, back cover blurb.
23 EAD No. 1 (Dec. 1998); Smith, Amy. "Off the Desk." AC 18 Aug. 2000: 23.
24 Mencken, H.L. "Bayard vs. Lionheart." Baltimore Evening Sun 26 July 1920. Rpt. The Impossible H.L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories. Ed. Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. New York City: Anchor Books, 1991: 256.
25 Cox's sole accomplishment in recent years has been bloodying the New York Times' parent company in a circulation battle in Atlanta. Joseph Nocera, "Family Plot." GQ June 1994: 71+.
26 Smith, op. cit.
27 Silverman, Amy. "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss." PNT 10 Aug. 2000; Nelson, Robert. "Let Freedom Ring." Ibid.
28 Black, Louis. "Page Two." AC 9 June 2000: 2.
29 AC. "Best of Austin 1999: Ten Years." 24 Sep. 1999: passim.
30 Brooks, David. "A Land Without Conservatives, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Paul Weyrich." TWS 9 Aug. 1999: 27-29; Dubose, Louis. "Gagging the Right."AC 11 Aug. 2000: 24.
31 "The Flash." "Dewey-Eyed." PNT 23 Sep. 1999: 8.