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The End of The Greatest

Muhammad Ali, who called himself The Greatest, is gone. He was 74 years old.

The Kentucky-born boxer who became a world champion told his story in 1977’s The Greatest co-starring Ali and Ernest Borgnine as his trainer. The film originated “The Greatest Love of All”, the egoistic anthem later made famous by the late Whitney Houston.

Ali’s life was exceptional for his arrogant expression of egoism rooted in superior athletic achievement. I think Ali’s life is likely to be distorted and misunderstood for many complicated reasons, stemming from the times in which he died, this season in which a con man, the fraud who is Donald Trump, claims to be the best and isn’t. Muhammad Ali, whatever else his flaws, claimed to be the best and, in fact, he was.

Ali’s pride in his own ability, not to mention his poetic and often profound musings, commentaries and thoughts, was larger than life.

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He was a poor boy in Louisville, Kentucky, encouraged by a policeman to channel his rage against injustice into training as a boxer, which he did. Soon, Ali, originally named for his father (who was named for an abolitionist) and known then as Cassius Clay, won the Gold Medal at Rome’s 1960 Summer Olympics, appeared in Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight with Anthony Quinn and upset the world’s heavyweight champion. He was then mentored by Malcolm X and joined the Nation of Islam, adopting the new name and seeking his own set of beliefs, a practice he never let go. He kept winning—Ali lost five bouts—and thinking for himself. He sometimes did so by race-baiting, bluster and dubious tactics.

He eventually left the Nation of Islam and mellowed his anti-white views and practiced his religion in private but not without first citing his personal beliefs as a conscientious objector to being drafted by the state into the Vietnam War. Ali was arrested, lost three years of prime competition due to persecution by the United States government and, long before Apple‘s Tim Cook, he fought a Democrat-controlled Department of Justice and later won in the U.S. Supreme Court. The damage to his career, however, had been done.

Yet Ali had influenced the nation, which turned against the Vietnam War, which was never declared and never won, and the military draft, which was abolished by President Nixon. By the time Muhammad Ali triumphed the last time as world champ, having defeated great boxers such as George Foreman and Joe Frazier and Leon Spinks, Ali had inspired Sylvester Stallone to make Rocky. Future athletes, such as Oscar De La Hoya, would invoke selfishness, too. According to Objectivist scholar Harry Binswanger in 100 Voices, Ayn Rand wanted Ali to play a role in an adaptation of her novel Atlas Shrugged.

If you think about it, it’s not difficult to see why. Amid today’s numerously preached and accepted contradictions and confusions, with scoreless sports games and entrenched egalitarianism, Muhammad Ali stood out as one—against the mob, the intellectuals and the state—proudly proclaiming his own excellence. He was arguably often tactless and vulgar, sometimes animated or even cartoonish and occasionally his means and ends were in legitimate dispute. But, in asserting with pride his own superior ability, Muhammad Ali was never wrong. Unlike today’s frauds, he dared his detractors to check the record. Ali earned his poetic and prideful proclamations.

It turns out that Ali, who was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, paid a high price for his fierce and determined, possibly overlong and overzealous, competition. But Muhammad Ali was right. He was, in fact, the greatest. As the song from his movie says, “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

This is fundamentally true. As the nation once in turmoil during Ali’s blustery, arrogant and triumphant youth goes into a violent new era ominously threatened by a blustery, vacant and bankrupt power-luster who would be president, Ali leaves a magnificent legacy which calls upon Americans to differentiate between the proud man whose pride is based in reality and the loud man whose bullying and boasting spews from raw, unchecked emotions.

Ali once said: “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Repeatedly, consistently, he did. This is what makes a man great. This—authentic self-esteem realized by human action—is what makes Muhammad Ali a great man.

Choosing the President 2016

With five major candidates remaining in the Republican and Democratic political parties, the 2016 presidential campaign is, like the nation, coming to a climax.

This Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary may prove to be a turning point for the GOP, whose frontrunner is a lifelong anti-Republican who is running as a Republican, because the challenger is expected to win by a wide margin. Later this month, the New York primary may similarly prove to be a Democratic Party pivot point because that party’s challenger, a socialist running as a Democrat, may defeat the frontrunner. By May, with over two more months to go before the summer party conventions, the 2016 race could be totally undecided.

DNC2012CharlotteAs in 2012’s election, the nation’s future hangs in the balance. The essential nature of America’s republican form of government—a constitutional republic based upon individual rights—is at stake in this election.

Especially this time, I think it is important to remember that, as loaded with volatility as the races are, and as divided as the nation is, anything can happen to change the whole campaign—economic catastrophe, acts of war, assassination, riots, smears, blackmail, indictment, illness, a third or fourth major candidacy, secret deal-making and maneuvering—and throw the American political process into a tailspin.

Already, for instance, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, whom I interviewed when he ran for president as the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 2012 (read the interview here) embraced a recent poll that puts him at 11 percent in a contest against frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Johnson would certainly be a better president than either Clinton or Trump, who both seek government control of people’s lives, though his election as a third party candidate is currently unlikely.

t1larg.ryan.romney.mar30A more likely scenario is that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a status quo Republican who said he would never run to be speaker of the House, will try to become the GOP’s nominee for president. The Speaker, who was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, clearly has higher aspirations and, contradicting himself on every other issue such as the budget, being speaker and his endorsement and subsequent disavowal of Ayn Rand, Congressman Ryan is the typical politician. Also in the typical/status quo camp is Ohio Governor John Kasich (pronounced KAY-SICK), an altruist for the welfare state who seeks religion in government. Kasich is running as a spoiler to frontrunner Trump’s main challenger, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, jockeying for deal-making position, probably all the way to the GOP’s Cleveland, Ohio convention, despite having only won his home state.

To his credit, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the candidate against President Obama last time who failed to identify Obama’s death premise and fully differentiate himself as the candidate of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has denounced Trump, whom he said he will not vote for. This is more than most conservatives, libertarians and Republicans have done. Indeed, it’s more than Cruz has done. Romney announced that he would vote for Cruz, though he stopped short of an explicit endorsement. Romney himself may want to become the party’s nominee, though it may be more magnanimous and patriotic if he makes a deal with Cruz to abandon Cruz’s worst positions, such as pledging to support Trump if he’s the nominee, building a wall, banning abortion and opposing marriage for gays, in exchange for Romney’s endorsement.

DonaldTrumpTrump is running to be America’s strongman whether as a Republican or as an independent candidate. He opposes free trade, free choice in medicine, immigration, free speech, property rights, capitalism and individual rights. He’s expressed admiration for states with socialized medicine. He talks about having journalists murdered and seeks to be “neutral” with Israel’s enemies. He agrees with Barack Obama in opposing Apple’s individual rights and he says he would build a wall around America. Kasich wants American government to be ruled by religion and so does Cruz, though he at least says he wants to unite the nation around two key secular proposals: unyielding national defense against the Islamic jihad and restoring America’s government to a Constitutional republic.

The challenger in both parties may yet emerge as the nominee. Self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders recently swept caucuses in the West, where pockets of socialism fester, especially among indoctrinated youths, and he could win the nomination (as he explains here). An election between Sanders and Cruz could be a contest of conflicting principles. A race between Trump and Clinton will be an impossible choice between toxic policies that will destroy America and there is a degree to which all the remaining five candidates pledge to end America. But there is time and there are degrees. The American for individual rights must choose (and those who refuse to choose are choosing, be default, to check and blank out). Because, this year, anything bad can happen—including economic collapse, foreign attack and anarchism (i.e., by the Anonymous anarchists)—the good American must start by choosing to be aware, staying on alert for rational activism.

The year 2016 promises to be another sharp turn in American government. Whichever direction the United States takes—toward dictatorship or liberty—becomes known in November. The choice intensifies next week.

Goodnight, Earl Hamner

The rich and gentle drawl of Earl Hamner is gone tonight. The old writer, who kept an office on Ventura Boulevard here in the San Fernando Valley near my home—down the hill from where he lived with his wife, Jane, who survives him, and a property full of pets—died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Hamner, who was 92 years old, is also survived by his children, Scott and Caroline.

earl1I met and interviewed Earl Hamner over 10 years ago in that office. He was one of my favorite people to interview because he was natural and unscripted, yet sharp and insightful. Everything came to him and talking about his past works invigorated him—he clearly enjoyed thinking about his work—and he wasn’t fussy and neurotic about this or that issue, problem or question, which is rare and refreshing. Earl Hamner was curious, bright and exuberant about his past, present and future. I think this comes across in the interview (read it here) which is one of my best. In this case, I am proud to say that I know Earl Hamner thought so, too, because he told me so and wrote it on his Web site.

We stayed in touch and met and talked about politics, Hollywood and writing projects and he was joyful every time. It wasn’t a put-on. Like his most enduring character, the mountain child John Boy Walton, who becomes a writer, Earl Hamner was a man whose poverty, family and wondrous life experience burnished on his mind, character and soul and, through his strength, idealism and fortitude, made him a soothing, generous and masterful storyteller of the American way. He is gone tonight and I know that I will miss this wonderful man, who was both passionate and kind but not too much of either. The writer leaves behind the treasure of his moving and meaningful stories well told—and a life well lived.


Interview with Scott Holleran: Earl Hamner (2005)

 

United States of ‘Appalling’

The proper word for today’s news is appalling.

This is the word used by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, who endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president with qualifications, to describe the prospect of a presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Sowell writes that these two disgraceful candidates “are not merely inadequate but appalling.”

Warning that the nation is on a “ruinous road to a point of no return”, he points out that:

The trends that brought us to this crucial day go back for years. But whatever the paths that led to this crossroads, we are in fact at a crossroads and our future, and our children’s futures, depend on whether we can come up with some presidential candidate better than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In other times and in other conditions, one bad president could not ruin a great nation. We survived Jimmy Carter and we may survive Barack Obama, but there is no guarantee that we can survive an unlimited amount of reckless decisions in a dangerous world. The dangers are both internal and external. Two of our bitterest enemies—Iran and North Korea—are openly declaring their desire to destroy us. And both are developing intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.”

DonaldTrumpYet, in an apparently sweeping approval of the two parties’ frontrunners, majorities of voters in most states with today’s primaries—in Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida and Ohio—Clinton and Trump won (Ohio Gov. John Kasich, an altruistic advocate for the welfare state, bolstered by Democrats crossing over to vote for him, won in his home state). Sowell’s column (read it here) forecast today’s disastrous results and, toward the end, he calls for supporting Cruz as the only real alternative to this increasingly likely and unacceptable contest between two shrill, cackling power-lusters who seek total government control of people’s lives. Leonard Peikoff, in a recent episode of his podcast (listen to it here), said that he thinks America is in fast decline and, given the presidential campaign thus far including today’s election results, I agree.

This year’s election looks like an oncoming catastrophe for the nation based on individual rights. I’ve been observing, reporting and writing about the nation’s downward spiral for years and now that the rate of acceleration downward is apparent to everyone, it is worse than I could have imagined. Sowell is right that these two candidates are appalling. Unfortunately, most appalled Americans may be making matters worse—some, if not most, I suspect, without knowing it.

HRChissyKnowing better could stop the coming disaster. On a fundamental level, this must happen through philosophical change achieved through education. But in the few months remaining before the national political conventions, especially the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio, and between now and Election Day, those who know why Clinton and Trump are appalling as candidates for the presidency of this American republic should think about activism and speak out as early and as often as possible. Though time is short, the impending doom of a race between Clinton vs. Trump—an unwinnable conflict—can be stopped.

For both aspiration and inspiration, look to the words and actions of the West’s greatest business, an American computer company called Apple in Cupertino, California. Apple, as you probably know, is being persecuted by the Obama administration, which fundamentally made Trump and Clinton possible, and Apple has decided to reject granting what Ayn Rand called the sanction of the victim.

Apple is fighting back.

Invoking America’s founding fathers in a defiant appeal to reason in the nation’s judicial system (read about it here), Apple again opposed Obama’s order to violate Apple’s rights today in court by arguing that “[a]ccording to the government, short of kidnapping or breaking an express law, the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up.”

Apple lawyers added: “The Founders would be appalled.”

Spielberg to Direct ‘Indiana Jones’ in 2019

Disney announced this morning that another sequel based on the action character Indiana Jones will return to movie theaters on July 19, 2019.

Disney studios logoThis marks the fifth picture in the popular series, which was introduced in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and continued with 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, earning what Disney estimates as nearly $2 billion in worldwide box office receipts.

Disney announced that the legendary Steven Spielberg (War Horse, E.T., Bridge of Spies, Schindler’s List, Lincoln, Munich), who directed each movie in the series, will also direct the currently untitled project. Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) will return to star as the archaeologist and explorer in the title role. Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are also back on board, so this new movie should deliver more of the same exciting, throwback adventurism, though Disney did not announce who will write the screenplay.