P.O. Box 230351
Encinitas, CA 92023
December 7, 1995
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Vice President Al Gore
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Christmas and Chanukah Greetings!
FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM AND OKBOMB
Pierre de Fermat was a French mathematician who died in 1665. Actually, he was a lawyer who did mathematics as a hobby, but he is better known to history for his contributions to mathematics than to law just as Spinoza is better known as a philosopher than a lens-grinder, which was how he made his living and Chekhov is better known as a playwright than a medical doctor. Fermat liked to theorize, but he often left the proofs of his theorems to others, a pretty neat trick for someone who made his reputation as a mathematician. On perusing a volume by Diophantes, the ancient Greek mathematician, Fermat encountered a problem and excitedly wrote in the margin of the book, “I have found an admirable proof of this theorem, but the margin is too narrow to contain it,” which was the seventeenth century equivalent of “The dog ate my homework.” Three hundred and fifty years later mathematicians, some of whom had devoted their lives to finding the proof of Fermat's elusive theorem, were still looking for what had been obvious to Fermat. Finally, last year a Princeton mathematician by the name of Andrew Wiles proved Fermat's Last Theorem.
How is this related to the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh? Why Tim McVeigh is famous, his mug having graced the cover of Newsweek magazine1, and Andrew Wiles is not. Someone who has made an enormous contribution to human knowledge and progress is hardly known by anyone other than the mathematical cognoscenti and aficionados, hardly mentioned in the media. Not only that, but in addition to the relatively photogenic McVeigh's cover photo, there is a full page photo of him on page 22 in a relaxed pose, more photos on page 24 showing him in pensive, smiling and whimsical poses. His life story is told, his thoughts probed. Hardly anyone has heard of Andrew Wiles. If Wiles had been French, they would have hoisted him on their shoulders and sung the Marseillaise from Paris to Marseille. He deserves at least a Congressional Medal of Honor and a State Dinner at the White House with a lot of bally hoo and fol de ra.
Why is this important? Because the message this sends to impressionable minds and youthful souls is that one can become more famous in this society by committing a horrible act than by performing a noble deed. This is a measure of a sick society. Good deeds go relatively unnoticed, but not necessarily unpunished. The more unspeakable the act, the more is spoken about it in the media, the more money is involved from Neilsen ratings to selling magazines to selling T-shirts. Another good example is the OJ trial which spawned a whole industry unashamedly dedicated to profiting off the killing of two innocent human beings. However, my favorite example of an ignoramus who has become rich and famous over his misdeeds is Joey Buttafuoco. What did he ever do besides have sex with an underage girl and then put her up to shooting his wife in the face? But now his life story is known by the public. We eagerly wait the next episode in the Joey Buttafuoco saga. His underage girlfriend, Amy Fisher, has had her life history written and published. Oh, how many trees had to lose their lives for that! Joey probably has an agent by now who sits around and dreams up more misadventures so that Joey can profit off them. The following scenario or something like it is not far-fetched in the surreal media culture we live in:
Agent: Hey Joey, I got a great idea for you.
Joey: Oh yeah, what's in it for me?
Agent: I guarantee you the Inquirer will pay 100 grand for it.
Joey : Oh yeah, what do I have to do?
Agent: Well, see, you drive up to your wife's pad with Amy in the car, see. We'll have all the photographers and TV people there staking out the place, see. Yeah, the video cams will be rolling. Then Amy takes this bottle full of sulfuric acid, see, and goes up and knocks on the door. When she opens it, Amy throws it at her, see, then runs back and hops in the car. You give your wife the finger, see, as the tires screech and you make your getaway. Don't worry; we'll have the cameras positioned to catch all the action. I've already got the deal clinched with the Inquirer. They're willing to pay you 100 grand, and what's more, they think there's a good market for what shall we call it ... the continuing misadventures of Joey Buttafuoco? In fact I'm in the process of working out a long term contract that calls for one incident about every 6 months. More than that and the boys upstairs think you'd saturate the market, but there's enough ongoing interest in Joey Buttafuoco memorabilia to where a couple incidents a year would sell, see. You make 100 grand per incident, and that's 200 grand per year, Joey. Not bad, huh, pal? Beats auto body repair work, doesn't it?
I'm wondering are we even culturally related to an era that would celebrate the climbing of Mt. Everest, or being the first to fly across the Atlantic, or discovering the Theory of Relativity? Does the heroization of a Lindberg or an Einstein belong to what 21st century scholars will call “The Age of Naiveté”?
FREE SPEECH ANARCHISM
A lot of the problem is that the concept of free speech has been made absolute and unconditional in this society no matter how much harm is done in the process. As a consequence information on how to build a bomb like the one that killed 170 or so men, women and children in Oklahoma City is readily and freely available. “Only hours after the bomb that shook America, someone posted directions for a repeat performance on the Internet.”2 Books on bomb-making can be had almost anywhere, from Bookstar to Barnes and Noble. Some of the titles: “The Anarchist Cookbook”, “How to Kill” and “Exotic and Covert Weapons.” On the Internet there are several “discussion groups” where information can be traded anonymously. “One Internet query read: ‘I am a child of 13 and am very interested in explosives.’”3 Even information on how to make nuclear bombs has been published in an explicit test of the First Amendment right of free speech.
But it isn't only what might be called violent speech that is protected by the First Amendment. It is commercial speech of a sexual or salacious nature. The so-called family hour between 8 and 9 PM during which predominantly family-oriented entertainment used to be found on TV is now being given over to “explicit sexual references, off-color language and mature themes.”4 ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox have virtually abandoned family-oriented programs in their zeal to cater to the age group advertisers want to reach most: young adults.
In general most sexual and violent material purveyed by the media whether fantasy-based or reality-based is purveyed for profit, and its purveyors protect themselves by hiding under the banner of free speech. This is where money is to be made in the media. This is why people like Andrew Wiles are ignored. It is a rush to appeal to the prurient, debasing interests of humanity rather than to the ennobling and uplifting interests. This is precisely where government should take a stand if it doesn't want our society to degenerate into a sicker society. Oh, but you say, government should not get involved. This should all be left to the private sector and religious institutions to sort out. It was one of the fundamental tenets of the Enlightenment that government should be involved in the shaping and tailoring and, yes, engineering of society to desirable ends. But more about the wholesale abandonment of the Enlightenment by those who are hastening a return to the Dark Ages later. Commercial speech should not be protected by the First Amendment or at least it should be discouraged if it serves no constructive social purpose. It can be discouraged very easily by taking the profit out of it. For instance, no one should be able to profit from a crime—not the perpetrator nor a third party. The only exception to this is that the victim should be entitled to a cut of the proceeds from whatever source, be it network news, books, journals, talk shows, what have you.
In particular violent and pornographic material can be handled in such a way that it is neither completely censored nor is made readily available to the general public which includes children. This involves a distinction about what kinds of materials should be broadcast and what types should be restricted to narrowcasting. Narrowcasting involves the distribution of media materials in such a way that they are not generally available to everyone without having to go out of one's way to acquire them. There may be an additional cost involved. Other societies handle this predicament in a much more rational, sane, mature and enlightened way. In Sweden, for example, explicitly violent scenes are cut from movies that are purveyed to the general public with the proviso that if you really want to see those scenes, you can make an appointment provided that you're a mature individual and not a child, and go ahead and see that material. Hence, free speech is preserved. It's just more difficult to consume socially ill-advised material. A stiff tax could be levied on violent or pornographic materials that would tend to discourage their creation. And let's face it; pornography and violence are crucial to profit-making in the media. And it's not yesterday's pornography, yesterday's violence, but cutting- edge pornography, cutting-edge violence. Bringing what once was beyond the pale and making it acceptable in the mainstream is the assignment for those who wish to make big bucks. Movie director, Paul Verhoeven knows this and what he was attempting to do with the NC-17 rated movie, “Showgirls,” was “to take hard-core pornography from the noxious marshes to the mainstream with high production values and the imprimatur of a studio.”5 There is almost an inexorable law of nature: the cultural margins of the past become the mainstream of the present.
Finally, it is not hard to see that child pornography is the cutting edge cultural frontier. It is one thing, perhaps the only thing, that is still just beyond the pale. Calvin Klein miscalculated slightly, but not by much, when he ran his ad campaign involving apparently underage models in sexually alluring poses. Bringing the slightly forbidden into the mainstream is where the money is and Calvin has made his fortune from this knowledge. Yesterday's forbidden is not good enough because we are satiated with it already. This is why child pornography and more sick and gruesome violence is the cutting-edge. Creative minds will come up with ever more clever and sick ways of portraying doing harm to and inflicting ever increasing violence on others in order to continue to titillate because, once titillated, we become soon satiated, in order to make the previously forbidden culturally acceptable to the mainstream since market research tells them that this is where the money is so that is what they're in the business of doing, disclaimers aside.
Finally, what is free speech? This letter, for example, is free speech. I'm not being paid to write it nor do I charge anyone for it. It is strictly an expression of my own personal opinions. This is truly the kind of speech that should be protected under the First Amendment. Speech or images that are purveyed for profit should come under another heading and be subject to regulation and control by society in general for the greater good of that society.
WHO'S PULLING THE WAGON?
We hear a lot of talk these days by Senator Phil Gramm about who's pulling the wagon and who's sitting back and going along for the ride. “For 40 years the federal government has been preoccupied with doing things for people who are riding in the wagon. Our new Republican majority is determined to do something for people who are pulling the wagon for a change.”6 According to him the rich, of course, are the ones who are pulling the wagon of the economy forward because they are the ones who are creating new jobs while the poor and the workers are just sitting back and being given the privilege of being a job holder or are not working at all and are living off of welfare. According to him, therefore, everything possible should be done to reduce taxes and increase subsidies for the rich while increasing taxes and reducing any kind of financial assistance to the poor. This will tend to maximize the number of jobs and get everyone off the dole. Unfortunately, on closer analysis, Senator Gramm's metaphor just doesn't, to use another one, hold water.
First of all the notion that workers are riding in the wagon while their employers or the financiers of the companies they work for are laboriously straining at the harness inverts and camouflages the meaning of the words labor and work. To think that people whose income is derived from rents, dividends and interest and hence “unearned” are the ones who, by virtue of shifting their accounts around in search of the highest returns are the prime force behind the economy is simply ludicrous, but that is what Senator Gramm would have us believe. He wants to give new meaning to the terms "unearned' and “earned” income as defined by the IRS probably during the debacle known as the New Deal or at least by some liberal. According to Gramm's redefinition, unearned income is really derived by people who are “pulling the wagon” and hence is “earned” to the highest degree while “earned” income is derived by those ingrates who don't appreciate the fact that they are being provided with the opportunity of working! I'm sure eighteenth century British coal miners didn't feel like they were “riding in the wagon” while their bosses and corporate owners were pulling it. But this is the meaning that Mr. Gramm would derive from the situation.
Secondly, not all money that is invested results in the creation of jobs. Much of it goes into mergers and acquisitions and corporate takeovers or leveraged buyouts—the whole cornucopia of casino-like speculative finance. In a corporate takeover, typically, a productive company with x number of workers is bought out, management fired, workers laid off, corporate assets sold off, the company dismembered, the pension fund raided and finally the skeletal hulk taken into bankruptcy. In fact we have seen an inversion between worker layoffs and stock value increases. When a corporate giant like AT&T announces that it is going to lay off 70, 000 workers, what happens? Why its stock goes up, of course. All those people who switched stocks in order to buy AT&T participated in the destruction of 70,000 jobs. Who's pulling the wagon? In fact a case can be made that there's money to be made in the stock market by eliminating jobs as in the following scenario:
JR: You know JP, I've been CEO here at the Acme Corporation for 20 years, and I'm going to retire soon. I know my salary is umpteen times that of the average worker, but, you know all that stock I own in the company, I'd really like to see it go up dramatically so that I can really retire in style. What do you think I should do?
JP: That's a no brainer, JR. Simply announce that we are laying off 50,000 workers, and our stock will fly through the roof. Then take your profits and bow out.
JR: That's brilliant, JP. I always knew I made a good choice when I recommended you for VP.
Phil Gramm carries the notion of using government as a means of transferring money from the poor to the rich as justified because they “create jobs” to its logical conclusion: welfare only for the rich and devil take the hindermost.
THE REPUBLICAN ENDARKENMENT
To support my thesis that the Republicans are taking us forward to the past and away from the Enlightenment philosophy upon which this country and the French Republic were founded in 1776 and 1789, respectively, we have only to look at the paradigm shift that occurred about that time due to the effort, primarily, of the French philosophes such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Condorcet and others and our own American Enlightenment philosophers, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It is not to be forgotten that they both spent long years in Paris as ambassadors and that Jefferson was there right up to the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 and had a hand in fashioning the French Constitution as well, of course, as the American. In fact Jefferson knew Condorcet and the other philosophes and enjoyed the salon life of Paris. However, he preferred the US because he felt that French morals had a disturbing effect on “domestic tranquility.” Jefferson's wife had died before he went to Paris so he can be forgiven for any dalliances with French women perhaps.
The Enlightenment philosophers were not averse to big government, nor were they even averse to monarchism. Their mission was to turn the crowned heads of Europe into “enlightened despots” who, under their tutelage, would bring about a revolution from above and, through rational means and progress generally, perfect society as they knew it. Diderot had the ear, or so he thought, of Catherine the Great, who generously purchased the encyclopedist’s library making him curator until his death at a generous annual stipend. In fact Catherine was so enlightened that she insisted that she be the first to undergo the new procedure of inoculation against smallpox thereby setting an example for her superstitious and fearful populace. Catherine also let Potemkin procure for her a succession of younger and younger lovers presumably for the stimulation they provided in getting her rational juices flowing! The flute-playing Frederic the Great conferred with Voltaire to the mutual enlightenment of each, one presumes. They philosophes were Deists and were against the Church which they considered hypocritical and irrational. Little did it matter that the Church for thousands of years had been the provider of all that we think of as social services such as education, hospitals, caring for the poor, the sick, the aged. Big government, not democracy or republicanism, would take on those functions and provide them in an increasingly rational fashion without the need for fear mongering, superstition or indulgences. This is the paradigm that we have lived with since the founding of the American Republic. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Statute on Religious Freedom for the State of Virginia as well as championed the public education system by, among other things, founding the University of Virginia. Government and public education were to be the agents for social progress, the institutions that would instill and perfect Enlightenment ideals.
Now there was a Scottish Enlightenment going on at the same time of a slightly different nature. Adam Smith published “Wealth of Nations” in 1776. Locke had published his “Second Treatise on Government” previously around the time of the English Revolution. Hume tried to befriend Rousseau, but he had become too paranoid by that time. Adam Smith, of course, was the founder of modern capitalist economics. He believed in free trade, but his beliefs were not unrooted in more mundane considerations. He believed that there should be no import duties on Scotch whiskey, for example, which the English taxed unmercifully. The general view of the Scottish Enlightenment was “get government off my back and get my neighbor's hand out of my pocket” as befitted a Scot who historically had always had the government of England on his back and to this day has the reputation for being pretty tight-fisted with a pound.
Now the Republicans want to take us back to that golden yesteryear where the church was responsible for “welfare” and where the government was responsible for military adventurism, building glorious palaces such as Versailles and Neuschwannstein and generally thinking up ways of taxing their subjects, er constituents, for the noble purpose of their own higher edification and grandeur. They think churches and charitable institutions, not government, should take back the functions of education, caring for the poor, the sick, the needy.7 Let's repeal the New Deal. Let's dethrone John Maynard Keynes not to mention John Galbraith who had the outdated notion that the way to end the Depression was to get people working and money circulating. Hell, let's even throw out Henry Ford who paid his workers $5.00 a day so they would be able to buy the automobiles that they had produced. Hey, they were only riding in the wagon! But not only let us dismantle the New Deal. Let us go back and throw out those two womanizing scoundrels Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and their whole French Enlightenment inspired ideas, like trusting government to democracy and educating the common man, and get back to the true ideals of guys like Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson's bitter rival, and Adam Smith and John Locke. After all we really are more English in temperament and sensibility, aren't we, than the French who riot in the streets at the drop of a hat or when sensible conservative government tries to prune their welfare benefits. What hotheads and cry-babies. If they'd only get out and work and get off the wagon!
House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants to “destroy... the failed liberal welfare state.”8 Or at least that's what he says. “But the truth is that Gingrich and his fellow-travelers are not trying to repeal the New Deal. ...[They] are tearing down only selected parts [of it]—the parts that benefit citizens who don't typically vote for, or donate money to, the GOP: poor people. Meanwhile, Republicans are leaving largely undisturbed the entitlements, tax breaks and subsidies that go chiefly to their ... contributors.”9 We don't hear Newtie ranting about getting all those people that benefit from corporate welfare off the dole or the dislocations of the free market caused by those lousy agricultural subsidies where we taxpayers, think of it, pay farmers not to grow crops! Oh, but the Republicans say, we are saving the family farm. Phooey! Most of them are corporate farmers and they know it. If they wanted to save the family farm they could target assistance only to family farmers which are readily identifiable. If they wanted to save Social Security, they could circumscribe those who truly needed it and stop giving it to retired billionaires. But that's not the point. They want to help the rich, and they want to make the poor pay, much as that pre-Enlightenment philosopher Louis (L'etat. C'est moi.) XIV did. What the Republicans are really about is thinking up ways to outfox the hoi polloi, while preserving, augmenting and enhancing the perquisites of wealth and privilege to which they largely aspire if not possess.
It all depends on whose ox is being Gored when we consider who is on the Dole and who is being subsidized for “pulling the wagon.” I mean are workers on the Dole and corporate welfarists pulling the wagon or are workers pulling the wagon and corporations who receive subsidies on the Dole? I think that Dole will be hoist on his own petard if he tries to Dole out punishment to those whose ox is doing the real work of hoisting his petard. Sir, you've hoisted my ox on your petard. Let it down immediately before you Gore it in which case it will not be able to pull the wagon any more and I will be forced on the Dole.
WHY CAN'T ARTISTS GET A DAY JOB?
Ever since Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm and others found out that Anthony Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photography were produced with taxpayers' dollars, they have been having an apoplectic fit and trying to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Actually I don't think that's such a bad idea. Before producers of art or widgets or anything else, which isn't able to make it in the market place, should be supported with taxpayers' money, certainly the sick and the needy and the homeless should be taken care of. Then in a more enlightened society perhaps experimenters of all sorts should be funded to some extent on the principal that they might come up with something valuable and important, but, if they don't, it's to be written off as a bad investment. However, we have not by any stretch of the imagination reached that rarified level of Utopia. So in the meantime may I suggest that artists who can't sell their work become lens-grinders like Spinoza or patent clerks like Einstein or lawyers like Fermat or live off family members like Van Gogh?
Actually this whole idea of privatization of the arts, I believe, should also extend to the military. Why should they be on the dole? They need to develop a competitive marketplace psychology just like artists and entrepreneurs instead of just trying to sell Congress. You know the difference between a libertarian and a Republican? A Republican believes that the free enterprise system is best for the arts but socialism is best for the military whereas the libertarian believes in consistency—free enterprise for both. If free enterprise and privatization is good for the arts, then so it should be for the military. For example, why should all those atom bombs and nuclear weapons simply be destroyed? There's profit-making potential here. There must be a lot of old geezers out there with big bucks who would like nothing better than to be able to tell their grandchildren that they detonated an atomic explosion, right? Therefore, with a little advertising, the military could set up a program whereby, for a million bucks or so, they would fly a "Patron of the Military" out to some South Pacific atoll, put him up at the Wai Ki Ki, give him a luau and on his big day he would be escorted to the detonation sight where the big red button would await him and he could watch the whole thing through binoculars. They could call it the “Blow It Out Your Atoll” program. I think the military should get used to thinking creatively and using their enormous human and natural resources for profit-making opportunities and ventures wherever possible. That would get them off the backs of us taxpayers.
What I'm proposing for the military is nothing different from the fundraising schemes that the arts have been using for years. For instance, for $25,000, the San Diego Symphony will give you a) a private recital in your home, featuring San Diego Symphony Orchestra musicians; b) a once in-a-lifetime opportunity to conduct the orchestra and receive a golden baton (upon request); and c) an invitation for four to a private dinner with Maestro Yoav Talmi plus all the above gifts and privileges that accrue for lesser donations. First off I would like to know why anyone wouldn't request their golden baton. I sure would, but this model for fundraising, in addition to applying to the military, could be used in many more widely ranging situations to provide funding for the arts.
For instance, to fund the Public Broadcasting System, we could set up a program whereby, for $100,000, you would get to be driven around Manhattan Island in a chauffeur driven limousine for 3 hours while participating in a conversation with Courtney Love and Madonna on "The fin de siecle and the future of Rock and Roll," while munching on caviar and brie washed down with a premium vintage of Nouveau Beaujolais, if you're a male. If you're female, you would get all the above except that you would be discussing “Ethnocentricity and the Weltanschauung of the African American Male with Snoop Doggy Dog. Don't worry Snoop has agreed to be triply bonded for the occasion: for surety, liability and performance. If you're an underage female, you get a 3 hour limo ride with Calvin Klein while discussing "How wearing Calvin Klein jeans is an expression of my spirit of independence and self-reliance." If you're an underage male you get a ride on the Ferris wheel at Neverland while discussing "The Zeitgeist of the fin de siecle" with Michael Jackson.
Or how about this? For $50,000 you get to conduct the Philadelphia Symphony while Eugene Ormandy looks on reassuringly and patronizingly while all the time thinking, "I can't wait to get that baton back in my hand. Will this never end?" For $100,000 you get to sing a duet with Placido Domingo and the Lincoln Center Orchestra. For $200,000 you get all the above plus your name up in lights in Times Square. For $300,000 you get to be principal bassoon player with the Boston Philharmonic and for $500,000 concertmaster with the Cleveland Symphony. Using the same creative ideas, of course, the navy could charge $500,000 to let some lucky person be commander for a day of a destroyer in a mock battle off the coast of Iraq or the air force could charge the same to let some dude pilot a B-17 in a simulated dogfight. Oh, the ideas and fundraising schemes are endless. The main thing is to get the military and the arts to get their hands out of taxpayers' pockets, get them off the Dole and used to the bracing fresh air of competition and the marketplace and to get government off our backs. It all depends on whose ox is being Gored.
INDIANS HAVE THE LAST LAUGH
Of course when all else fails, the arts can fall back on being funded by charitable donations from casinos on Indian reservations much as the arts in San Diego are funded by Barona Casino. Now isn't this ironic? The Indians sit back and get their monthly share of the profits (pleases note this is not welfare) while having enough left over to dole out to some European cultural institution like the symphony which was brought over here by people who conquered them and is being mismanaged financially by their conquerors' descendents! Now I can see why Louis Farrakhan wants his own nation. Instead of arguing over affirmative action where some black guy might beat out some white guy for a job working in the New York City sewer, the smart money is on Farrakhan’s idea for a black homeland. It would only have to be big enough to hold a casino, and then Farrakhan could sit proudly back and support European arts institutions with a large smile on his face while handing (not doling) out the profit-sharing (not welfare) checks.
Speaking of affirmative action, I've decided that as a Scottish-American (no more a generic), I should be entitled to it since some of my forbears were indentured servants. Not only that but I want affirmative action for the highest paid American profession in which we Scottish-Americans are way underrepresented with respect to our numbers in the population at large, and I'm referring to professional football and basketball. When you turn on the tube, how many McGregors, Carlysles and Stewarts do you see playing these sports? We're way underrepresented. That's all there is to it. And please don't say that it's because we lack the necessities. Did you ever see how in those Highland Games, we carry around those big telephone poles and then heave them at the last second... and in our kilts, no less? This sport came about because we had to have some way to get our telephone poles across the lochs and glens, mind you. You might wonder if we wear athletic supporters under our kilts. I can tell you, sir, that no true Scottish man wears a jock strap. There's no need for it and beside they cost $4.95! No true Scot would think of it. So, I ask you, what is the reason we're underrepresented with respect to our race in professional football and basketball. If you say that we Scottish-Americans lack the necessities, then you sir are a racist. If you are not a racist, then the only logical and inescapable conclusion that you can come to is that we are victims of discrimination.
But getting back to my favorite senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, a man who never met a cigarette he didn't like, and his battle to defund the National Endowment for the Arts due to his rage over Serrano's “Piss Christ,” a crucifix immersed in a bottle of yellowish fluid that was produced with taxpayer funding. I think Jesse's right. We should defund the NEA. Artists should become self-supporting and get off the dole. I, myself, have produced a work of art for which I hope to make a lot of money in the marketplace without the benefit of taxpayer funding. It is called “Piss Helms.” Roughly speaking as if anyone could capture all the nuances and dimensions of any major piece with mere words, it consists of a bust of Jesse Helms immersed in a fish bowl containing a yellowish fluid. Now I guarantee that the fluid is odorless, tasteless, non-toxic and hypoallergenic. So there's no need to worry. I am making a limited number of reproductions available to the general public for $69.95. In honor of the Senator from Phillip Morris, we have strewn a generous scoop of cigarette butts around the tank. For an extra $15.95 we have an automatic device that scatters the butts and keeps them suspended in fluid much as those old globes of snowmen in which the snowflakes scattered when you used to shake it. We can also make a “Piss Gramm” if you would prefer. Or a “Piss Limbaugh” or even a “Piss North” But don't ask us for a “Piss Clinton” or a “Piss American Flag.” We have too much respect for the institution of the Presidency, our commander-in-chief and the symbols of our republic to ever prostitute our art form for the sheer exercise of making money.
We also have a deluxe animated version for $89.95 in which at the push of a button the head tips back, the mouth opens and the Adam’s apple bobs. The figurine appears to be drinking. There are plans in the works for a computer-controlled, voice-actuated high tech version which includes an Intel Pentium chip. Voice recognition software initiates the above activity on the voice command, “Drink piss, Jesse.”
Although we intend to reap huge profits for our investors in accordance with the dictates and sound principles of capitalism, we intend to make a donation of 10% of the profits to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which is one of the few worthwhile stations (both TV and radio) on the air. That means that less taxpayer dollars will be required to support good programming because through the magic of the marketplace, the invisible guiding hand and excellence of product line, we will be fulfilling a real human need and then patronizing the arts with a portion of the profits thereby alleviating the need for taxpayer dollars. Good sound Republican principles.
ALL KIDDING ASIDE
I would like to nominate Andrew Wiles and Rick Steeves as Men of the Year. (gender specific language intentional) Rick is the host of the PBS series “Travels in Europe,” and has an excellent travel philosophy. It's sort of the liberal, Democratic philosophy which is a combination of the Playboy Advisor and the Sermon on the Mount or, in other words, womanizing and helping the needy which are not on all occasions necessarily mutually exclusive. (Where is Hugh Hefner when we need him? All his good work in liberating us from our repressive, Puritanical upbringings and making womanizing respectable has been for naught. After all helping the needy and no womanizing makes Jack a dull boy. No not that Jack, you idiot. May he rest in peace?) All kidding aside, Rick has donated all the monies from certain of his tours, not just the profits, to the homeless and other charities in this land and in others. A recent newsletter contains this philosophy:10
“The ‘land of the free’ has a powerful religion—materialism. Its sophisticated priesthood (business, media, military, and political leaders) worships unsustainable growth. ... Evil is anything steering you away from being a good producer/consumer.
“Yes, greater wealth could be wonderful. But for whom? The gap between rich and poor—both within our society and among humankind in general—is growing. Regulatory, tax and spending policies in the USA since 1982 have caused the greatest trickle-up of wealth in our nation's history. And globally, the richest 386 people now own as much as the poorest 40% of humanity put together. ...
“A new enlightenment is needed. Just as the French ‘Enlightenment’ led us into the modern age of science and democracy, this new Enlightenment will teach us the necessity of sustainable affluence, peaceful co-existence with other economic models, controlling nature by obeying her, and measuring prosperity by something more than material consumption.”
Andrew Wiles and Rick Steeves, you're great. Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco, take a hike!
1. Newsweek, July 3, 1995.
2. “Explosive Recipes Fill Books, Cyberspace,” by Dennis Romero, LA Times, April 23, 1995.
4. “Racy Programs Creeping Into Family Hour,” by Daniel Howard Cerone, LA Times,
October 15, 1995.
5. “A Huge Mainstream That Feeds on Fringe Thrills,” by Neal Gabler, LA Times,
September 17, 1995
6. “GOP Budget Plans Would Put Burden on the Poor,” by Elizabeth Shogren, LA Times,
October 29, 1995.
7. “The GOP's Blind Faith in Charity,” Business Week, March 6, 1995.
8. “The Poor, Not New Deal, Are GOP's Real Target,” by John Heilemann, LA Times,
October 29, 1995.
10. Europe Through the Back Door, Newscat #47, November-December 1995.