Song of the Day #1951

Song of the Day: Sweet Cherry Wine, words and music by Richard Grasso and Tommy James, appeared on the 1969 psychedelic rock album “Cellophane Symphony,” by Tommy James and the Shondells. This anti-Vietnam War protest song was among those included on the jukebox at the Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of this day, when that gay bar was raided by police for the umpteenth time. But the patrons fought back, asserting the authenticity of their own lives and the right to pursue their own happiness. In looking back on the Stonewall riots, some commentators have cited an urban legend that views the June 27, 1969 funeral [YouTube link] of gay icon Judy Garland—who was born 100 years ago this month (on June 10, 1922)—as an emotional catalyst for the riots late that night. This view has been challenged by many, but there is a poetic irony that gay men of a different generation once referred to themselves euphemistically as “friends of Dorothy” and that Garland’s most iconic song (and LGBTQ anthem), “Over the Rainbow” [YouTube link] (from the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz“) finds its symbolic expression in the rainbow flag of Pride (though its creator, Gilbert Baker, denies the connection). Be that as it may—today, I proudly salute the Stonewall Rebels. From the 1969 Stonewall jukebox, check out “Sweet Cherry Wine” (below).

It’s Mourning in America

If you are among those conservative folks who simultaneously believes that abortion—even in the first trimester—is murder, and you also happen to be in favor of the death penalty, I hope you’ll be ready to start executing women and doctors who defy your celebration of today’s US Supreme Court ruling, which overturns Roe v. Wade after fifty years. The conservatives aren’t done yet. One of the concurring justices in today’s decision, the repulsive Clarence Thomas, thinks that today’s decision can very well impact the court’s rulings on contraception, sodomy, and same-sex marriage. (And under the radar today, the Court even eroded Miranda rights.)

It’s mourning in America.*

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* For those who don’t ‘get’ the title of this post, it’s a play on Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign ad—given that the Reagan administration was the first to so embolden the Religious Right and its war on humane, cosmopolitan, liberal values. Well, that war has finally borne rotten fruit.

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Postscript #1

On Facebook, enraged over today’s ruling, I added these points:

I confess that I’m most angry at those ‘libertarians’ who have traditionally sided with Republicans because they favor “less regulation” and “lower taxes”—for them, it’s all about “business”. Gotta oppose the “left wing” and their “woke” agenda, after all! Don’t worry about things like “abortion”, they were saying, because it’s been the law of the land for 50 years. “Nobody is gonna touch that!”

Well, we’re back to the patchwork of state-by-state illegalities that will make it impossible for poor people especially (poor people? who cares about them?!), living in states dominated by the reactionary right, to secure reproductive freedom. Those who supported the GOP for “economic” reasons traded-in people’s personal liberties and the looney-tune right-wingers have finally won out. [And mind you, there’s nothing about the GOP that will ever give you “less regulation” or “lower taxes”, given the GOP’s commitment to both economic nationalism and the military-industrial complex.]

My rage is only outstripped by my fear—that I will never live long enough to see the damage done today, undone.

And with Reason magazine telling us to chill because the “other conservative judges don’t necessarily agree with” Clarence Thomas, all I could add is: “F*^K him, F^%K them, and F&^% all of them who got behind the conservative agenda [of “low taxes” and “less regulation”], such that this could eventuate.”

And by “this“, I mean not only the erosion of reproductive freedoms but the reactionary war on profoundly personal liberties, which will only gain steam in the shadow of today’s obscene Court decision.

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Postscript #2

This New York Times piece tracks which states banned abortion today. And it tells us which states are on the way to a total ban or deep restrictions. This is a blow to human liberty. Those who voted in the SCOTUS majority be damned!

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Postscript #3

Ayn Rand was correct when she cited the moral bankruptcy of conservatism. She understood that the “pro-lifers” were at their core anti-life and anti-liberty. And she also understood the blatant attack on the poor that the denial of reproductive freedom would entail. From the Ayn Rand Lexicon:

Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights—and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable. . . . Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.

The question of abortion involves much more than the termination of a pregnancy: it is a question of the entire life of the parents. As I have said before, parenthood is an enormous responsibility; it is an impossible responsibility for young people who are ambitious and struggling, but poor; particularly if they are intelligent and conscientious enough not to abandon their child on a doorstep nor to surrender it to adoption. For such young people, pregnancy is a death sentence: parenthood would force them to give up their future, and condemn them to a life of hopeless drudgery, of slavery to a child’s physical and financial needs. The situation of an unwed mother, abandoned by her lover, is even worse.

Ski Visits II

The “Ski Visits” continue! My sister Elizabeth “Ms. Ski” Sciabarra and I wanted to extend our love and appreciation to two very dear friends—who stopped by today to say “Hi” and spread cheer: Rose De Pinto and Barbara Esmilla.

(L-R) Rose De Pinto, Elizabeth Sciabarra, Barbara Esmilla

The Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition) / Song of the Day #1950

At 5:14 am (ET) today, June 21, 2022, the Summer Solstice arrived in the Northern hemisphere. And that means I begin my Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition). All the songs I’ve picked for this year’s festival reference fruits, blossoms, wines, pies, and so forth, to give us a Summer of Edible Eclectic Music. Eclectic, indeed—since we’ll feature selections across musical genres from a wide variety of artists. Today it’s …

Song of the Day #1950: Watermelon Sugar features the words and music of Mitch Rowland, Tyler Johnson, Thomas “Kid Harpoon” Hull, and Harry Styles, who took this song to the top of the Billboard charts in 2020. Inspired by the Richard Brautigan novel, “In Watermelon Sugar,” this rhythmic, sultry song was the second release from Styles’s 2019 album, “Fine Line“, and would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance. Watermelon has been called “summer’s blessing“, and so I start my Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition) with a fruit we’ll return to when this festival concludes in September. Check out the official video (below).

Jim Peron’s “City Limits”

Having finished Jim Peron’s novel, City Limits, I sent him this blurb, and hope folks will check out the book! It can be purchased here.

Jim Peron has gifted us City Limits—a novel rich in characterization, adventure, charade, and humor, which takes us from a rural Kansas town to the ever-colorful Castro district of San Francisco. Peron’s laugh-out-loud portrait of a faith-healing evangelist crusade hellbent on keeping folks from embracing their inner truth is offset by a subtle shout-out to Ayn Rand, in her tribute to a “life, undefeated”. Though embedded in the particulars of a time and a place, this book’s poignant depiction of the search for individual authenticity and self-discovery carries with it universal appeal. A must read!

Ski Trip to Celebrate Aunt Mary 100!

With the amazing assistance of a terrific ambulette company, my sister, Elizabeth (“Ms. Ski”) Sciabarra, took her first trip out of the house since October 2021—to see our Aunt Mary, who celebrated her 100th birthday today. My Aunt Mary is my sister’s godmother. Aunt Mary is accustomed to saying she’s 26. And in spirit, she’s right on target! We were elated to see her, after such a long time. Happy birthday to our beloved Aunt Mary and a Happy Day for us all!

Elizabeth with her godmother, Aunt Mary (f); Chris with his godmother, Aunt Vina (b)

JARS: New July 2022 Issue!

The July 2022 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Volume 22, Number 1) will be making its debut on the Scholarly Publishing Collective soon—and will be on the way to print subscribers thereafter. The issue is dedicated to the memory of Merlin Jetton (1946-2022), who contributed seven essays to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies from 2006 through 2021. He was a valued member of the JARS family.

Our newest issue includes three highly provocative essays, two of which were written by writers (Philippe Chamy and David Tyson) who have never appeared in our pages. Here’s the line-up:

“The Empiricist’s New Clothes: David Hume and the Theft of Philosophy” – Dennis Hardin

“Glimpses of the Mystical Dimension of Ayn Rand’s Thought” – Philippe Chamy

“Should ‘The Metaphysics of Man’ Be a Sixth Branch of Objectivist Philosophy” – David Tyson

Check out the abstracts here and the contributor biographies here.

Postscript (27 June 2022): The July 2022 issue is now available on the Scholarly Publishing Collective.

The Theft of the Commons

An extraordinary article, “The Theft of the Commons,” by Eula Biss, was published two days ago, on 8 June 2022. Extraordinary—not because nobody has ever discussed this topic before, but because it actually appeared in The New Yorker (H/T to my dear friend Walter Grinder for bringing this article to my attention). The article emphasizes the ‘original sin’ at the foundations of what I have called “capitalism: the known reality,” in contrast to that ahistorical “unknown ideal” that Ayn Rand and so many others in contemporary libertarian thought have projected. As Biss writes:

As a visitor from the age of private property, it seems remarkable to me that commoners held rights to land they did not own or rent, but, at the time, it was commonplace. In addition to common pasture, commoners were granted rights of pannage, of turbary, of estovers, and of piscary—rights to run their pigs in the woods, to cut peat for fuel, to gather wood from the forests, and to fish. These were rights to subsistence, rights to live on what they could glean from the land. In the course of enclosure, as written law superseded customary law, commoners lost those rights. Parliament made property rights absolute, and the traditional practice of living off the land was redefined as theft. Gleaning became trespassing, and fishing became poaching. Commoners who continued to common were now criminals. 

Biss goes on to examine the 1968 Garrett Hardin thesis of the “tragedy of the commons,” though this thesis was first developed by William Forster Lloyd way back in 1833, in an examination of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land. That thesis was rocked to its core by the Nobel prize-winning political economist, Elinor Ostrom, a writer whose work is, regrettably, not touched upon in the New Yorker article. What Ostrom showed, in books such as Governing the Commons, was not that the Lloyd-Hardin thesis was fundamentally incorrect; it was that such a thesis was applicable less to an acontextual commons and more with regard to an unmanaged, unregulated common pool. Ostrom stressed the importance of context and empirical study and documented what might be called the miracle of the commons, in a way that challenged the monistic approaches of strict propertarians and centralizing statists alike. As the Wikipedia entry notes:

Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues looked at how real-world communities manage communal resources, such as fisheries, land irrigation systems, and farmlands, and they identified a number of factors conducive to successful resource management. One factor is the resource itself; resources with definable boundaries (e.g. land) can be preserved much more easily. A second factor is resource dependence; there must be a perceptible threat of resource depletion, and it must be difficult to find substitutes. The third is the presence of a community; small and stable populations with a thick social network and social norms promoting conservation do better. A final condition is that there be appropriate community-based rules and procedures in place with built-in incentives for responsible use and punishments for overuse. When the commons is taken over by non-locals, those solutions can no longer be used.

I hope to have a lot more to say about this topic in time; but for now, check out the New Yorker article!

Song of the Day #1948 & 1949

Songs of the Day: This Track is a Planet Killer / Milky [YouTube links] are two songs composed by Soy. (to appear on their upcoming album “Johnathan”), with my dear friend Eric Fleischmann on vocals. The starkly different tracks, which follow one another, are united as part of a live performance that debuted on 2 January 2022 [YouTube link]. The first track is full of punk fury; the second is an ambient-alternative instrumental. The full 50+ minute official video can be viewed here. When Eric isn’t protesting on campus or writing about the work of Laurence Labadie or subjects as varied as historical materialism and the anarcho-punk movement, he’s busy wreaking havoc on stage with his bandmates: Mose Hatcher (bass), Max Folan (guitar, vocals), Noah Michalski (drums), Lex Puckett (guitar), Shaan Dahar aka HHP (guitar, backing vocals).

Soy.