"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
[Read "The Future Face of American Justice," by Joseph M. Birkenstock.]
Mr. Birkenstock does not appear to understand that the terms “democracy” and “majority rule” are not synonymous. He finds it undemocratic of the people of the United States to follow the system laid out in the Constitution by giving the presidency to the candidate who won the most electoral votes in 1999. He would evidently have found it more democratic had we changed the rules of the electoral game after the votes were cast and given the office to the candidate with the popular majority. Who cares what’s written down in that fussy old Constitution — it’s just an anachronism, right?
I didn’t vote for Bush, and I’m not a particular fan of the Electoral College. But I am proud of my country for navigating the minefield of the Gore/Bush election without the violence and constitutional collapse that would have followed such a shaky election in many other nations. Our system of government didn’t collapse precisely because we do not have simple majority rule but have, instead, a true democracy grounded in respect for the rule of law.
Whether or not Bush’s presidency is “legitimate,” it would not be democratic for him to give up his right to nominate a Supreme Court justice. Such an action would defy the constitutional system of law over which Bush presides. Mr. Birkenstock needs to realize that living in a democracy means taking responsibility for your electoral losses as well as for your victories. It does not mean weakening the presidency, the Constitution and the rule of law for future generations, just because your candidate lost in 1999.
– Catherine Murphy
It would be a conflict of interest for Bush to choose a Supreme Court justice. This Supreme Court decided the presidency in the last election. For that same president to turn around and pack the court would in essence make the court a self-replicating institution.
The weakness of the decision to grant the presidency — the very fact that the person who was chosen president did not receive the most votes — just underscores this basic conflict.
– Samuel Knight
This could become the Democrats winning issue in 2004. A vacant Supreme Court seat and a venomous Senate showdown would be great drama. The issue would explode where other scandals melt away. It would make heroes of Democrats and moderates to all but the farthest right of the right wing.
Court appointees are the one issue where Democrats have shown strength. The message would have the force of simple, unnuanced truth: One more Reublican vote, and abortion is illegal.
– Kevin Fattor
John Birkenstock’s perpetuation of the myth that George Bush serves illegitimately, and his expansion of this specious argument to the notion that Supreme Court justices owe some duty to the nation to avoid a well-deserved retirement, are both insulting in their presumption and laughable in their arrogance.
Whether one lives in a blue state or a red one, every informed citizen is well aware of the rules that govern the election of the president of the United States. The Electoral College exists because the authors of the Constitution and the congresses that have amended it (or not) over the years intended it to do so. How is this anything but the most democratic of circumstances?
The Supreme Court in turn performed its constitutional role in 2000, hearing a case that was brought before it and deciding it according to the individual justices’ interpretation of the law. To suggest that justices appointed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Reagan somehow are in cahoots with the Republican Party is to condemn the entire political process of the last 25 years.
If Mr. Birkenstock is so concerned that the Bush administration is corrupting America, he should quit looking for ways to overturn the results of the last election and focus on winning the next one. Unfortunately for him, that would require ideas extending beyond obstruction and petty backbiting. Elections are won or lost regardless of the margin of victory, and that victory entitles the officeholder to execute his duties.
– Christian Germain
So the only way to restore integrity to the Supreme Court That Failed is for the president to forgo replacing any retiring justice until the president is legitimately elected in 2004? Forget about it. It ain’t gonna happen.
The next best option is for the Democrats to filibuster any Bush nomination to the court until after the election. Even if we’re still cursed with Bush in the White House at that point, his nomination should then be given full and fair consideration.
– Jack Madsen
[Read "Can Bush Be Toppled?"]
I enjoyed your article, and I’d like to share a couple of thoughts. First, I woke today with the epiphany that Bush will lose the election: When push comes to shove, his repeated tax cuts for the wealthy are really bad for the economy, and this will be his downfall.
As for the Green Party, as Nader is no doubt aware, studies have consistently shown that our system of democracy, namely the winner-takes-all system, has a very strong correlation with, and is probably the causation of, a two-party system. This explains why the United States has never seen three or more major parties for any extended period of time. If the Green Party is truly committed to changing the two-party system, it ought to start engaging the masses to demand alternative voting systems — whether parliamentary, preferential voting, runoff voting or any number of others.
For the Green Party to enter into the presidential race again is simply stupid and purposefully destructive to our country. I truly question the good intentions of Nader and his ilk, who are intelligent enough to realize that launching presidential campaigns at this time can have only negative effects.
– Dave Min
Has Paul Berman, who calls for the Green Party to be “crushed,” been taking night classes with Karl Rove and John Ashcroft? That would explain how he assigns the Greens a stereotype of being impractical, “middle- and upper-middle-class” political dilettantes. Democrats, he advises, should warn the Greens, “You cannot sacrifice the interests of poor and working people.”
What’s the Clinton legacy? NAFTA and other anti-labor, anti-eco trade cabals; Plan Colombia; national health insurance discarded from the Democratic platform; Reagan’s space-based missile scam revived; Reagan’s welfare-reform dream signed; the war on drugs escalated; small nations bombed; the Kyoto protocols obstructed; prison populations doubled, etc. Let’s not forget the zeal of mainstream Democrats currently in Congress to endorse the USA PATRIOT Act, surrender constitutional war powers to Bush, pass the 2001 Bankruptcy Bill, and retreat on prescription drug assistance for seniors (the Grassley-Baucus bill). Poor and working people, indeed.
What’s left for the Greens to spoil? The real spoilers of 2000 were not Nader and the Greens, but the Florida GOP and a biased U.S. Supreme Court, armed with ballot-access rules targeted at African-Americans that the Democrats have still not attempted to dismantle and accommodated by Senate Dems who refused to back the Black Caucus’ challenge to the engineered Bush victory. Nader’s spoilage is a useful myth that Dems at the top don’t quite believe; read DLC chief Al From’s “Building a New Progressive Majority: How Democrats Can Learn From the Failed 2000 Campaign.”
The Democratic mainstream’s retreat from poor and working people has given Republicans the license to move to even greater extremes. The Dems will not reverse this direction. The likely nominee for 2004 will be a Kerry or a Gephardt — who will maintain Clinton’s DLC agenda — certainly not a Kucinich. The argument against Green participation is essentially an argument to restrict the November 2004 ballot to two pro-war, pro-corporate candidates.
The Green Party is here to stay because the U.S. needs an opposition party.
– Scott McLarty,
Green Party media coordinator
Paul Berman needs to understand that his visceral hatred of the Greens will get him nowhere. His caricature of Green Party members as middle-class political dilettantes with no stake in the outcome of decisions handed down in Washington, and little interest in the repercussions of actual policy on the poor, might excite the passions of yellow-dog Democrats, but it’s hardly going to “crush” a political movement of disaffected idealists who are upset with the way the Democratic Party, under the guidance of the DLC, has in recent decades turned its back on the poor, the uninsured, minorities and the world.
The Democratic Party has been in a tailspin ever since Michael Dukakis responded to Ronald Reagan’s charge that he was a “liberal” by insisting that he wasn’t, rather than by claiming the mantle proudly. Democrats have been cowering ever since, reacting to Republican policy proposals by offering slightly less regressive “me too” alternatives, rather than fighting them head-on. If Democrats really want to “crush” the Greens, then they should stop blaming Greens for their woes and instead focus on serious reform.
– David Flores
Thank you for the series on beating Bush in ’04. As a registered Democrat who occasionally votes Green, I found Paul Berman’s and Sherman Alexie’s remarks emblematic of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party today, in comparison to the refreshing comments of Tom Hayden, and Ross Mirkarimi’s outlook for progressive change.
Beating Bush will be tough. Based on the Dems’ terrible voting record during this Congress and their nosedive in the 2002 elections, I wonder if they’ve become unglued. It’s really too bad that the Green Party is still a new party.
– Patricia Clark
The needed discussion between Greens and Democrats mentioned by Medea Benjamin has already begun.
There are many folks in the Democratic Party that believe the Green movement has great ideas and courageous grassroots organizers who should be role models, not enemies of Democrats. If Democrats could organize as well on the streets this would restore the progressive movement in America. That’s why a collection of activists has established a new Web site to begin this discussion.
We hope to bring the activism of the peace movement, the Seattle generation, the Fair Trade movement, the Schools Not Jails movement, and many others into efforts to build a progressive wing of the Democratic Party that will get out in the streets and work for progressive Democrats in 2004.
Republican-lite doesn’t work. How many more elections will the DLC be allowed to lose in our name?
– GreenDemocrats.net (an editorial collective)
[Read "Vigilante Injustice," by Max Blumenthal.]
When I read Max Blumenthal’s Salon article “Vigilante Injustice,” I was once again reminded of how masterfully the practitioners of creative writing can ply their trade. A conversation I had with Mr. Blumenthal was cut and pasted to produce a depiction of my observations which I hardly recognized.
Although it always annoys those like Mr. Blumenthal, who would rather interpret and characterize the position of others than report them, I wish to restate how I feel about the immigration reform movement.
If there are people motivated by racism who consider themselves supporters of immigration reform and my efforts in the Congress, I do not want nor do I need their involvement. Immigration reform is a legitimate topic of debate for a host of reasons — national security, the economy, the environment, the decline of the civic institutions of democracy, etc. Indeed, it is a growing topic of debate by millions of citizens across our country because of these reasons. The issue has nothing to do with ethnicity or race.
I did indeed decide to take all links off the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus Web site. I realized that, unfortunately, because of “guilt by association” tactics like Mr. Blumenthal’s, we would have to spend too much time responding to alleged comments of any member of any organization to which any link existed. That is obviously not a productive use of my time or the time of my staff. There was no specific organization, of those that had been listed, from which we were going to remove the connection.
Finally, when I was asked about the genesis of the name “Vdare,” I replied truthfully that I did not know. Mr. Blumenthal characterized this response as culpable “befuddlement” on my part. Nonetheless, I can say that I was aware of editor Peter Brimelow’s solid credentials as a professional journalist, and I had no reason to believe that this online magazine is anything but a legitimate contributor to the vast library of resources on this vital issue. After looking over Vdare’s recent work, I have not changed this opinion.
– Tom Tancredo
[Republican Tom Tancredo represents Colorado's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.]
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)