There have been some missteps and confused thinking along the way, the most egregious example of which was an ignorant episode that, while acknowledging that government schools are terrible at educating children, came out against homeschooling based on the incorrect belief that homeschooled children are socially retarded.
But in general, writer Trey Parker's heart and mind have clearly been very much in the right place. (And just in case you weren't sure, check out what is on the far right side of his office book shelf.)
Now, though, I have to wonder. There have been two episodes in the new season that began this month, and both included jokes that seem to accept the PC line that The Passion of the Christ is anti-semitic.
The unquestionably anti-semitic character, Eric Cartman, now has a Braveheart poster none-too-subtly on display in his room. And in the most recent episode, he had the following exchange with his Jewish friend/nemesis, Kyle:
KYLE: Cartman, I really, really have a problem with what you're doing [feigning disability to enter the Special Olympics and win $1000]. I object to it morally, and I find it grossly offensive.
ERIC: Go on, Kyle.
KYLE: I know that I often have serious objections to the things that you do, but this time I really think you need to reconsider, because if you do this, I believe you will go to hell. So I feel that it is my responsibility, as your friend, to tell people what you're doing and to put a stop to it.
ERIC: Well, Kyle, I understand where you're coming from, and I appreciate your being so direct. The thing is, you really have kind of a warped view on morality, because you're Jewish. Now, Kyle, you haven't gone to see Mel Gibson's film, The Passion, but...
KYLE: I didn't come here to talk about The Passion, Cartman!
ERIC: Let me finish. If you had seen The Passion, you would know that hell is reserved for the Jews, and all those who don't accept Christ. That being the case, it is actually me who is worried about your soul.
They've made fun of religion before, and that's fine. (Their episode on the Mormons is a must-see, and surprisingly sympathetic to Mormon people while skewering their outrageous beliefs. The episode on Christian rock music was even better.)
But the attacks on The Passion are wholly unjustified, and are exemplary of the kind of PC propaganda nonsense that South Park usually attacks and demolishes so well.
The real test of whether Mr. Parker has fallen to political correctness on this issue will come tonight, in a new episode called "The Passion of the Jew," in which Kyle is persuaded by Cartman to go see The Passion. I hope it turns out that Cartman never even saw the movie and only liked it because he thought it was anti-semitic.
We'll see. It wouldn't be South Park if they always did what anyone, including me, expected them to, but I hope they don't disappoint me on this.
It's a great way to increase your film literacy, so I buy a pass each quarter. Over the past three years, I've seen such classics in their theater as The Third Man, The Killing, A Clockwork Orange, Network, silent Hitchcock films, and Nosferatu, among many others.
This quarter, they're offering another rare educational opportunity. They're showing Deep Throat.
If you never experienced the original game, it's one of the few computer games that I would say is actually worth seeking out and spending your valuable time playing.
Seeing the LucasArts name on a game used to mean something special, that you were in for a uniquely amusing adventure. There was Sam & Max, and there was also Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, and more. Today, sadly, it seems that they're more interested in cranking out Star Wars product.
Of course, LucasArts has a right to release or not release whatever they want. If they're holding this back, it must be because they've decided that they would lose money by releasing and promoting this game. If so, fine.
But we who love Sam & Max know they must be wrong about that. So head on over to savesamandmax.com and help convince them.
I'm somewhat surprised, however, that it's doing any business at all.
Not that I didn't expect it to be an enormous hit here. Many of these people are as Catholic as it gets. Some of them even having signs up on or in their homes stating that they are Catholics and that they don't except "Protestant propaganda". Images of Jesus experiencing varying degrees of discomfort and disfiguration are everywhere.
But bootleg DVD's and VHS tapes -- filmed with video cameras from US theater screens, with Spanish subtitles superimposed -- can be found for sale everywhere, and were available even before the film hit Mexican cinemas.
I happened to see part of one such bootleg DVD this evening while dining in a Chinese restaurant. The image quality was surprisingly good. I certainly wouldn't count on a Mexican theater projectionist for better.
Not sure why you'd want to have the film's less-than-appetizing images where your diners could see them, but apparently the kids working there (who were not at all Chinese) were just watching what they felt like watching. After Jesus came back from the dead, they switched to Terminator 3.
The first match was apparently some sort of tag team thing, although it was not clear at all to me who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, or whether there were good guys and bad guys, or whether they were really on teams at all. The audience didn't seem to have a favorite. They seemed to enjoy the winners' victory, but also seemed to enjoy it when a particularly drunk audience member repeatedly yelled out to call one of the victors a "puto." My guess is that they were just glad to have some live "sports entertainment" in their remote neck of the woods.
I wish I could show you photos, but sadly, technical difficulties prevented me from taking any decent ones. And because there weren't any good pictures to be taken, I called it quits after that first match. Had I stayed any longer, I expect it would have become as tedious as the local pro wrestling I saw on cable when I was in Alabama last week.
Terry Teachout rightly observes that you can learn a lot about a person by finding out which silent film star they prefer: Charlie Chaplin, or Buster Keaton.
Chaplin, of course, was a dirty commie, and it shows in pretty much all of his work. I don't have the precise quote in front of me now (here in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico), but Chaplin once stated that the best way to entertain the masses with comedy was by humiliating the wealthy and successful. This spirit of resentment against achievement is on display throughout his films.
When Chaplin's jokes aren't about resentment, they're otherwise unfunny, at least in 2004. Consider the famous shoe-eating scene in The Gold Rush, or the scene in that film in which he makes legs and feet out of forks and rolls and has them "dance." Did you really, genuinely laugh at that? (I recall a Simpsons episode that made fun of the latter "gag"-- that was funny.)
Keaton's films, in contrast, are pure joy to watch. They have no ideological agenda, are timeless and are always laugh out loud hilarious. I had the pleasure of watching The Cameraman with live organ accompaniment in one of the nation's oldest and greatest movie palaces last summer, and if you haven't seen Seven Chances, you must.
Over at the LRC blog, Charley Hardman rightly cites Auburn, Alabama, as one of the best places for a libertarian to spend his vacation time. Mr. Hardman also correctly notes that the people are friendly, and that the Mises Institute is the ideal setting for vigorous exchanges of ideas among liberty-minded individuals.
What Mr. Hardman leaves out is that the city of Auburn seems as though the city council has passed, and successfully enforces, a law that decrees, "There shall be no ugly girls within our borders."
Day and night, there are countless beautiful women everywhere, and scarcely any bad-looking ones. Most of them appear physically fit in addition to being pulchritudinous in general, and even the minority that appears to be slightly overweight obviously puts extra effort into looking as good as possible under the circumstances. I saw very little, if any, of the deliberate disfiguration that is so common among young women elsewhere in the form of tattoos and various facial piercings.
Of course, that makes it all the more sad to see so many of them stocking up on unhealthy food and, especially, beer, which will likely catch up with most of them within a few years after they graduate. Still, as long as they're in their few prime years at college, they make Auburn an all-the-more-attractive place to visit.
Wish I could say the same for the University of Chicago.
"Women should be rallying together to demand better gynecologic healthcare," she says. "We need to hold Washington accountable when it comes to women's health issues."
Why is that whenever some celebrity suffers a health problem, they immediately demand that the whole country be forced to pay for it?
She also wants to federally subsidize obseity. She offers this pleasant imagery: "Patients being overweight make it even more unlikely that a doctor can evaluate the uterus properly by digital or manual exam and pressing down on her abdomen."
Instead of recommending diet and exercise to these women, she apparently wants Washington to force women who visit gynecologists to receive (and force someone to pay for) "trans-vaginal ultrasound."
"Improving basic gynecological healthcare is extremely important," Dresher says. "It's like when women weren't allowed to vote."
In contrast, this new film offers nothing but screaming kids (and they do scream, and scream, and scream some more) driving their pathetic, helpless dad nuts through a series of slapstick scenarios. (Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, and Tom Welling all deserve far better material than this.) The only thing it inspired me to do was take off the complimentary headphones and return to reading Lew Rockwell's excellent new book. And come to think of it, any movie that would cause me to do that can't be all bad.
Even the most ardent supporters of “limited government” tend to agree that the state is necessary to provide certain “public goods.” One of these goods is the protection of consumers from acts of fraud, and the provision of justice where consumers have been the victims of fraud.
Activities of the credit card or payment card industry, however, suggest that this may not be the case. Through voluntary contractual arrangements, motivated by a desire for customers and profit, credit card associations like Visa and MasterCard, and other payment systems like American Express and Discover, provide an entirely private means for consumers to gain redress when one of the card’s merchants wrongs the consumer in some way.
As international commerce becomes increasingly common, the traditional nation-state is becoming increasingly obsolete, especially in the resolution of consumer disputes in which buyer and seller may be located in separate jurisdictions. Payment card companies’ dispute resolution services effectively and efficiently provide the sort of cross-border justice that separate governments cannot, and new international governmental agencies could not do without seriously hindering the free flow of commerce that makes the internet so useful for bringing consumers around the world products they otherwise could not have enjoyed.
Sound interesting? I'll be presenting as part of the panel on "Liberty, Finance, and Banking," Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m., and hope to see you there.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in looking a draft of my paper on this topic, whether you will be at the conference session or not, drop me a line.