Can We Take a Joke? will be released on July 29th.
Last night The Newseum hosted a private screening of this powerful and brilliant film about the 'outrage culture' that has resulted in comedians being heckled and shouted down, and at times physically attacked on stage, often on college campuses (with some college administrators allegedly paying hecklers to be in the audiences), and how social media fuels a frenzy of public censure of comedians for being, well, funny. The cast includes, among many others, Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla, and Jim Norton, all of whom are pushing back, with razor sharp wit and humor, against out-of-control political correctness. Bursts of applause and cheering from the several hundred people in attendance punctuated the screening of the film.
The tragic saga of the pioneer free speech comedian Lenny Bruce is a storyline throughout the film, culminating in his 2003 posthumous pardon by the state of New York secured by free speech lawyers Ron Collins and Bob Corn-Revere.
The jokes, satire, and humor delivered by the cast of comedians are the edgiest and funniest ever combined in one film. And the passion these artists have for promoting individual freedom and liberty, diversity, and the betterment of society through free speech and the open exchange of ideas is palpable.
This poignant documentary tells the stories of some of the many attempts to stifle free speech by the ranting, raging, and protesting of both the most squeamish and thinnest-skinned as well as the most self-righteous among us. There are many take-aways from this film.
What stood out for me is that we cannot sit idly by the next time there is a tidal wave of manufactured outrage intent on ruining someone's life or career, suppressing free speech, or advancing the agenda of some group through the tyranny of social media. The equally powerful voices in support of free speech and the thoughtful exchange of ideas are essential to a functioning society.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the one hand, many consumers love companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. And somewhere around 50 million people make a living in freelance businesses that provide them with the freedom to work the hours they wish, along with the flexibility to provide extraordinary customer service while building up a loyal clientele.
On the other hand, there are politicians whose immediate reaction to any such free market start-ups is that they are part of a “gig economy” and should be shut down because “they cannot be regulated.” It’s often the case when these same politicians are asked about the “other perspective” on the issue, i.e., free market, lightly-regulated businesses, they look puzzled and reply “what other perspective?”
In a recent article, Ronald Bailey, author and Science Correspondent for Reason, summarizes the results of economic growth theory models that conclude that the cumulative effect of increasingly burdensome government regulations over the last 60 years has been to make Americans nearly $40 TRILLION dollars poorer than we would have been were it not for the growth in governmental regulations.
According to those economic studies, the per capita income in the U.S. would be almost four times higher today, at $168,000 per person, instead of the current $48,000 per person it actually is, were it not for governmental regulations that stifle economic activity.
In 1950, the federal tax regulations and internal revenue code comprised 1.4 million words. Today, according to the Tax Foundation, those regulations have grown to more than 10 million words.
In 1950, the code of federal regulations comprised approximately 10,000 pages. As more regulatory agencies have been created, and as each of those agencies have developed more and more often self-serving regulations, the code of federal regulations has grown to more than 200,000 pages. And words like “shall” and “must” now appear more than 1 million times in those regulations. The Mercatus Foundation at George Mason University is the world's premier university source for free market ideas, and Senior Research Fellow Patrick McLaughlin created a highly entertaining 2-minute video on the growth in federal regulations.
Outside of the U.S. there is a marvelous concept called “paradores.” Basically, “house restaurants” that allow food-loving entrepreneurs to invite people into their homes, for a price, to prepare and serve them dinner, fine wines, and desserts, and to engage in entertaining conversation. I can’t even imagine the number of code and regulatory violations someone would be cited for and how quickly they would be shut down if they offered that charming experience in the U.S.
As Ronald Bailey states in his article, the economy is growing ever less efficient and “the growing burden of regulations could someday turn America’s economic growth negative” and that “in the long run that will not be tolerated by society.” Let's hope he's right.
Onward and upward!
Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky on this day in 1937.
On October 24, 1957, shortly after his 20th birthday, and while serving in the Air Force, Hunter wrote a letter to his Louisville high school friend, Joe Bell, about Atlas Shrugged, the first edition of which had been released two weeks prior on October 10, 1957.
Below is Hunter's letter to Joe Bell, as published in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1), edited by Douglas Brinkley.
According to Brinkley, “Throughout his early twenties Thompson considered novelist Ayn Rand a kindred spirit. He often lent copies of her books to friends.”
Letter to Joe Bell [from HST] as printed in Proud Highway.
October 24, 1957
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Two reasons for writing this one, to let you know I’ve finished The Fountainhead, and two, to tell you that Ayn Rand’s new book is called Atlas Shrugged. I thought you might be interested.
To say what I thought of The Fountainhead would take me more pages that I like to think I’d stoop to boring someone with. I think it’s enough to say that it’s everything you said it was and more. Naturally, I intend to read Atlas Shrugged. If it’s half as good as Rand’s first effort, I won’t be disappointed.
You might also be interested to know, as I was, that she has never married. Maybe she has the courage of her convictions, or maybe it’s something else. I don’t know – and I doubt that it matters a great deal to her whether I care or not. [Ayn Rand actually was married at that time. Ayn Rand and Frank O’Connor were married on April 15, 1929 and stayed married until O’Connor’s death in 1979. Rand died in 1982. ~ J.C.]
To discuss The Fountainhead would be useless – even more so with a person who understands it than with one who doesn’t. It is nothing more or less than a re-affirmation of a principle, a principle so vital, so absolutely timeless, and so completely personal, that to drag it down to the level of a conversation piece would serve no purpose but to cheapen it. I can understand your mis-directed enthusiasm to show it so someone like O’Dea [a Louisville dilettante], but I think you might just as well have tried mixing bourbon and Coca-Cola to make a mint julep. One and zero doesn’t make two.
Although I don’t feel that it’s at all necessary to tell you how I feel about the principle of individuality, I know that I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life expressing it one way or the another, and I think that I’ll accomplish more by expressing it on the keys of a typewriter than by letting it express itself in sudden outbursts of frustrated violence. I don’t mean to say that I’m about to state my credo here on this page, but merely to affirm, sincerely for the first time in my life, my belief in man as an individual and independent entity. Certainly not independence in the everyday sense of the word, but pertaining to a freedom and mobility of thought that few people are able – or even have the courage – to achieve.
Even Rand, who can make it live and breathe between two paper covers, seems to have trouble putting this certain spirit or attitude into words, so I don’t think that I, at an age where this thing is just beginning to slip into the realm of reality, should offer any excuses for not being able to express it in the everyday language of words. That will come later.
And I can see your dilemma – in wanting to believe in this thing, yet not being able to find a way to believe in it and eat it too. Keep in mind that the ability to create is an integral part of the makeup of man. If a lack is encountered, it lies not in the ability, but in the scope of perception of one’s own creative ability.
With that, I leave you to your efforts on the assembly line. I don’t write many letters like this, so don’t be afraid to drop me a line.
Cheerio . . .
And "Cheerio" to you, Hunter, on the anniversary of your birth!
".... who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?" ~ HST
As Paddington is trekking across the frozen terrain of Antarctica, the coldest, windiest continent on Earth, he sees storm clouds amassing off in the distance. A hellacious blizzard is on the way.
As the storm clouds grow darker and bear down on him, Paddington begins harvesting blocks of ice to build a small igloo. He sets the first row in place and begins building on it, leveling and shaping the walls as he completes his shelter.
The blizzard hits hard but Paddington is safe in his igloo even as it is blasted by snow and ferocious winds.
The next day Paddington is staring at the inside of his igloo and it seems to him as if the igloo is getting smaller. He shakes off the feeling, attributing it to his exhaustion.
On the third day, he experiences that same sensation of uneasiness that the igloo is getting smaller and smaller, that the walls of his shelter are closing in on him.
And they are. Paddington realizes that with each breath he exhales, the moisture from his lungs is condensing and freezing on the inside of the walls, and that the walls are getting thicker and that his igloo is gradually smothering him.
The point of the Paddington story is that there are many patterns of behavior in our lives, and beliefs that we hold, that served us well at some point, but that as times change and as we grow, those behaviors and beliefs that once protected us or helped us get through tough times become self-limiting and smother us, as Paddington’s igloo was doing to him.
In business, the markets in every industry are changing so quickly that unless business people are adapting just as quickly, instead of clinging to what worked for them in the past, they will soon be former businesses.
The same is true for you personally. It is too easy to hold onto beliefs and behaviors that served you well at some point in the past, or got you through difficult times, but as you’ve grown, acquired new skills, and now have more wisdom about yourself and the world, you want to appreciate and be grateful for those behaviors and beliefs that served you well in the past, but recognize that they are self-limiting, let them go, and adopt new behaviors and beliefs that will free you to grow and develop. By doing so you will be able to experience more joy, happiness, love, or whatever it is that you are looking for, than you could have ever possibly imagined.
Want to fly? Let go of your limiting beliefs. Spread your wings!
Hey! What's up with the French title? Well, first off today is Bastille Day. Though the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789 was a day of violence that kicked off the French Revolution, which ushered in the Reign of Terror, a period of seemingly infinite repression and remorseless bloodshed, which was not so poetic as most history books make it out to be, it was also the event which led to the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that established that "men are born free and remain free and equal in rights". That is something to be celebrated.
The French title of this blog also leads to a shout-out for a couple of stellar artisans.
Wade and Danielle Papin, the owners of Vancouver-based Pyrrha, are artisanal metalsmiths who have been practicing their craft for more than 20 years. One of their lines of jewelry is based on antique heraldic wax seals that incorporate the cracks and flaws from the original fragile wax.
Pyrrha's mission and values are inspirational. A sentence from their mission statement reads: "We don't believe in the idea of perfection; while attractive as a concept, in reality it breaks down. Instead, we believe in personal significance. Instead of trying to hide our flaws, we embrace them and make them central to our character."
Pyrrha's KNOWLEDGE talisman is created from the seal of an Ouroboros serpent, an ancient symbol depicting a dragon or serpent eating its own tail, surrounded by the phrase La fin depend du commencement, i.e., "The end depends on the beginning." In a sense, "As You Sow, so Shall You Reap."
Success in life greatly depends on how you prepare yourself to be successful and that preparation must include a passionate dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is one of the seeds that successful people sow. The Ouroboros serpent symbolizes the perpetual nature of education.
Knowledge is liberating!
Daredevil Tattoo, founded in 1997, has been listed as the "Best Tattoo Shop" in New York City by Time Out, The Village Voice and The Gothamist. Daredevil has been featured in every tattoo publication and is regularly profiled in the media.
Prior to 1997, however, if Daredevil co-founders Brad Fink and Michelle Myles were caught practicing their art in New York City, they would have been committing a crime because in 1961 New York City declared it "unlawful to tattoo another human being" and the tattoo trade wasn't re-legalized until 1997 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration.
Banning tattoo shops in New York City is yet another classic case of government regulators and bureaucrats enacting laws against something that they personally don't like. And for more than 30 years New York courts supported their ludicrous argument that "the decoration, so-called, of the human body by tattoo designs is, in our culture, a barbaric survival, often associated with a morbid or abnormal personality" and that only a total ban on tattoo shops would save the citizenry of New York City. Thanks to Reason Magazine for being the inspiration for this blog post.
There are still officials in some communities who want to ban or prohibit tattoo shops, such as in the recent outrageous case of bureaucrats in Tempe, AZ attempting to ban Tom and Elizabeth Preston from opening Body Accents and in the process almost bankrupting them. The great news is that lawsuits against self-righteous, squeamish, prejudiced officials in communities like Tempe are now being won on the grounds that tattooing is an art form and that tattoo artists are engaged in the venerable act of free expression, as protected by the First Amendment.
The battle continues against bureaucrats and regulators who want to police our bodies and impose their personal beliefs on others.
"If I ever lose a role because of my tattoos, I'll quit Hollywood and go to work for Costco." ~ Megan Fox
Many of you may be familiar with the Library Way. It's "a celebration of the world's great literature, brought to you by the Grand Central Partnership and the New York Public Library Sculptor: Gregg LeFevre."
Library Way was created in 1998 and it's a series of around 90 large bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalks on both sides of East 41st Street (also known as 'Library Way') stretching from Madison Avenue to Fifth Avenue, basically from Grand Central Station to the New York Public Library.
I spend way too much time looking down at the plaques instead of looking up and where I'm going whenever I'm walking down E. 41st because inscribed on each plaque is an inspirational quote about reading or writing or literature.
This particular plaque caught my eye because we've been involved in so much thoughtful discussion about the 1st Amendment since the launch of the 1st Amendment Society in May.
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." ~ Thomas Jefferson
The oppressive blanket of heat and humidity that has been testing the endurance of Manhattanites has finally lifted giving way to an absolutely gorgeous midsummer day.
While taking a lunch break at Bryant Park, I listened to author Jeff Selingo speak about higher education in the 21st century.
One of Jeff's key points was that we have to teach young people that it's OK to fail.
Yes. Most definitely. And to fail as fast as possible.
There is a saying in the world of stock trading that "your first loss is your best loss." This means that the odds are that you are best served by taking a relatively small loss before it becomes an even larger loss or, even worse, a loss that eats up virtually all of your funds. This loss cutting applies not only to stock trading, but also to your individual endeavors, relationships, and business ventures.
Too often we stick with a failed initiative for too long after we know that it's not going to work. Or we abandon a failed initiative and take the loss, but we can't stop thinking about the loss, which weakens our ability to be great going forward.
Do original work. Expect to fail. And to fail often. It comes with the territory. But fail fast. As fast as possible. It saves time and energy, and frees you mentally to move forward. Figure out to the best of your ability what was supposed to be learned from the experience and move on. It's done. This is true whether it's an epic failure or a series of micro failures. Let it go. The past is over.
You are not succeeding or failing. You are either succeeding or LEARNING. Banish the concept of failure from your brain and you will find that you are on the path to realizing what you are truly capable of.