Friday, December 21, 2012

Craig Loves Ayn - A Love Affair Gone Wrong

                                                                                 by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Craig Loves Ayn 

The film opening for Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” occurred recently. My son, Arthur, said he wanted to see it, so we went. Dozens of people I know had waited for decades for this movie to make it to the theater. As reported, the characters were flat. Attempts to draw parallels between the predictions made by Rand in her book of 1958 to what we face today fail both badly and sadly. I was strongly reminded of a conversation I had, years ago, with my former husband about fantasies that don’t work. I would bet Craig was there in the theater on opening night, despite what I am about to tell you.

Craig and I were married and living in Santa Barbara when, one night, Craig asked me in a puzzled voice, “I can’t make my fantasy come out the way I want.” I looked up from the book I was reading. “What?

Fantasies are part of our inner lives and generally it is a good thing when fantasies remain private. From the look on Craig’s face it was clear he was sincerely puzzled, unable to understand his failure to marshal his not inconsiderable intellect in this task of pure unreality. But, according to what he told me that evening, this was not for lack of trying. His face was crumpled and red. He looked like a man in the throes of an arduous task or badly constipated.

You could see he was hesitating to tell me the details. I waited, attentive, dispassionate.
As expected, Craig’s need for advice overcame any hesitancy to share the details. Others who know Craig have noted his disconnect from what is generally normal. I sensed this would be one such occasion.

“It starts out fine. I’m in the torch of the Statue of Liberty, looking out on New York. Ayn Rand is standing there with me as we gaze out on the city, waiting for the lights to go out.”
If you are not familiar with Rand’s work you need to know the final denouement of the book, “Atlas Shrugged” includes the moment when the lights of New York wink out because her Nietzscheian super-heroes have turned their backs on the world, thus canceling all electric power. Craig fancies himself one of the supermen who gather in Galt’s Gulch, awaiting the awareness of how essential they are to the world to dawn in those Left Behind.

Craig went on, “I am holding Ayn in my arms. She is saying, “No, no, I cannot be unfaithful to Frank and Nathaniel.”

Frank is Frank O’Connor, Rand’s long-suffering husband. Nathaniel is Nathaniel Branden, Rand’s lover, 25 years her junior. Rand inflicted her fantasy life liberally on others, many of them very close to her. Rand lived out her fantasies and coerced those nearest and dearest to her to put up with these fantasies, justifying them as the rational, necessary, logic of her ideas and values. Frank had to leave the couple’s apartment as Branden was arriving to help Rand with her fantasy life.

For details read: Judgment Day by Nathaniel Branden and The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden.

By his own report, Craig, the only person who ever stalked Ayn Rand, was obsessed with Rand and jealous of Branden. Craig sent Rand copies of his papers on math, which Rand could not understand and so appreciate. Craig sat for hours in the lobby of her apartment building, dressed in a newly purchased Brooks Brothers suit, his finger nails manicured, hair cut, shoes shined, holding orchids for Ayn for quite some time. He also made himself known to her in ways which resulted in a nasty stay-away letter from her attorney.

Craig’s fantasy continued. “I pulled out two documents to show Ayn. That day I had paid Frank and Nathaniel to end their relationships with her. I handed Ayn quit-claim deeds from Frank and Nathaniel, who, I told her, were even then leaving the city.”

What perplexed Craig, because he could not change it to conform with his fantasy, was Ayn decking him with a fast right and left punch, just as he tries to embrace her.

Craig looked to me for understanding.

I pointed out his fantasy was diametrically opposed to the reality he had experienced. Rand loathed him and adamantly refused to have anything to do with him, by his own report. Perhaps this failure was the rational reaction of his mind when asked to distort reality. Craig paused, considering. Clearly, he did not like the answer provided.

I don’t know if he ever managed to get a different outcome with this particular fantasy, the subject then being dropped.

Emotionally normal people move beyond the ideas of Ayn Rand by examining them in detail and understanding the source of the attraction. But many retain a fondness, in the same category as enjoyed earlier with fairy tales.

When Rand was first writing Nietzsche‘s ideas had more traction, as less was known about psychopathy and the neurobiology of the human mind. People in their late teens and early twenties often go through a period of playing with the idea they are ‘special’ in this way. 

Most recover.

The assertion some group is superior, possessing a right to live by different standards, expressed itself in two other venues in America during the 20th Century. The first was through the work of Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda, whose work in what he called ‘public relations,’ is also known as propaganda. This became the tool which remade American culture at exactly the time Rand learned what it meant to be an American. The second came out of the thinking of Leo Strauss, where those ‘destined to rule’ were empowered to take whatever action needed to take control. This is the explicit tool used by the Neoconservatives.

Ideas, theology and philosophy, are early human tools used to create a common set of values and expectations, allowing humanity to function in a world of human design, beyond the hard-wiring of the human brain. But going beyond that small town took humanity onto dangerous ground.

Humanity originates from a human culture of small groups where it was possible for all individuals to know each other well and so reliably predict the behavior of others. Think of this as visual credit-rating, an assessment of reliability, honesty, and other values, which aid survival and provide community safety-nets. The drama of superpersonhood had not yet reared its head. The problem of psychopathy, those whose neurological make up is distorted and who have no conscience, was not yet understood. Many now believe the recurring presence of this haunting icon, the devil, refers to those we now know as psychopaths who do, routinely, refer to themselves as outside the ordinary rules, as supermen.

Rand, herself, by reports from those who knew her, was inclined to ignore reciprocal social obligations, citing various justifications of ignoring the subject. She asserted different rules for her supermen than for ordinary humanity, therefore rejected the Lockean ideas which underlie the foundations of American culture.

The hero of her first work of fiction, The Little Street, was drawn from the example of the most infamous cold-blooded murderer of 1928. “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard,” she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

William Hickman, Ayn’s chosen model, kidnapped a 12 year old girl, held her for ransom and then murdered her. After chopping her body into parts he extorted money from her frantic father and shoved her body out of the car to be found, the girl’s dead eyes sewn open.

Rand was explicitly aware of the circumstances when she chose Hickman.

The network of social obligations is the basis of all human culture, the original and proven-to-work, strategy which allowed humanity to survive and prosper. Robust social networks arise organically, as discussed in Hayek’s, The Fatal Conceit. The corporate business-model, profiting in any way possible, had nothing to do with human survival. Instead, it has brought us to the brink of annihilation.

America was founded on the ideas of equality for all people, an affirmation of the natural rights philosophy of John Locke, expressed so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence.
 This idea worked with the Christian beliefs which brought the Puritans and Quakers to a new world where all people would be equal in law, as they are in the eyes of Christ and in nature.

Three times in the 20th Century ideas have been used to convert us to a view which deifies corporations. This line of reasoning has proven potently valuable to the entire Military Industrial Complex, in recent years, especially the Brothers Koch. The first people who should have noticed what they proposed was not free market were the same people who lined up to support them, framed as they were in the Rand Fairy Tale. This is the reason Alan Greenspan was named Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The corporates knew we would not attack ‘one of our own.’

Ideas which consistently create disaster, personal, national and global, should be deleted.  
 End the Fed.  Enforce accountability by demanding restitution for profits made through fraud.

This article is dedicated to Nathaniel Branden, who recognized Craig Franklin as bizarre while we were in therapy with him, and to Craig himself, who, still trying to achieve his fantasy, illustrated in one story line, how psychopaths impact our world, from the personal to the hidden reaches of corporate profit.

The Triumph of the 1991 Libertarian Convention. The untold story.

                                                                               by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Initially I thought I would just publish this series on Libertarian sites. Then I realized I was missing a real opportunity to explain Libertarians to the mainstream and the mainstream to Libertarians  This article is all  too true and provides some insight.  I'm looking for more I can recycle, then will write some new material. 

       I warned Craig that there was no way they were going to let him get the microphone while C-Span was actually live. It was not like I did not know the people running the Libertarian Convention in Chicago in 1991; I did. That is why I told him what to expect.
      “They PROMISED that if I would buy four full packages (this was not cheap) and have someone else do the singing and provide entertainment at the cocktail party on Friday night that they would be delighted.”
       I knew why they had made the offer. They needed to augment attendance. Their top candidate was Andre Marrou, not the world's greatest excitement. Four packages can make a difference.
      Craig was stubborn. He was also entirely addicted to the idea that somehow if he could only get to the right audience he, a dumpy software engineer, would suddenly be converted into a rock star. In the Libertarian Movement you meet many people whose premises would be better torn down so someone could start over. But I was married to him. I had signed up for better or worse (worse was much more prominent in the relationship). Part of that was making him happy, when possible.
     I sighed.
    “Craig, they are lying to you to augment their attendance. They will never let you or anyone else perform with a guitar live at the Nominating Convention.”
    Like I said, I knew these people. Mary Gingell, Williamson Evers, Michael Emerling-Cloud, Perry Willis, David Bergland. The names gurgled through my mind, the memories of previous encounters during the Bergland Campaign and elsewhere still, if not fresh, certainly had burned in enough to remain vivid. They never kept their promises. I had watched how they did fund raising for years. Promise them anything to get the bucks was standard operating procedure. Getting Libertarians to give down the cash and then changing the terms did not even strike them as cheating. Also, I suspected that their other requirements, that a video be produced of the show proposed, a singer hired, and other prerequisites that drove up the price, would fall on my shoulders.
    “Michael is my BEST FRIEND. Would he lie to me? Would he rip me off?”
    Craig looked indignant. I had been listening to Michael Emerling-Cloud con and rip off folks for 20 years. I tried to warn people but charm trumps truth every time. Michael had a line that was elastic and never seems to wear out.
    “Yes. Without another thought. And you would forgive him - again. This would not be the first time, you know.”
     This caused a slight pause as Craig reflected.
    “Not this time. He knows how much it means to me.”
    I sighed again. Having been a mother for many years I understood that when a kid wants something that much you can either let them get it, and hopefully learn a lesson, or live with the scowls and whining for the rest of your life.
    “OK Craig. But when they tell you after we arrive at the convention that you can't do the performance live on C-Span I want you to remember I told you it would happen.”
     Craig was so bouncy and happy for a while it was almost worth it. Almost.
    As the mother of five children at the time I had made sure that all of them encountered the concept of working in organizations and Community Charity Work early on. My son Arthur had gone through scouting and joined DeMolay. My daughters, Dawn and Ayn, had been girl scouts and were now very active in The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. That is, like DeMolay, a Masonic sponsored group. I liked it because, unlike Debs, it lets the girls take responsibility for projects so they learn organizing. One downside was the need for more formals than anyone can imagine.
    Ordinary meetings for Rainbow take place with all the girls dressed up like a prom held in the 40s, though no scandalous low necklines or hems that do not touch the floor are allowed, naturally. They looked adorable. But my native thrift had driven me to make all of their dresses, not just to save money there but because of the dry cleaning bills.
    Dry cleaning a formal can cost as much as the formal did in the first place. By making them myself I found I could pay slightly more for material and get dresses that lasted longer and could be tossed in the washing machine. In fact, Dawn's Worthy Advisor dress was embossed, beaded with seed pearls and so complex that it staggered the observer. But it washed beautifully turned inside out. It also went into the dryer. I set every stitch myself.
    You are probably wondering what this had to do with a Libertarian Convention in Chicago.
   Well, there was that requirement for an audience to demonstrate that a performance of the Song Craig wanted performed, Thomas Jefferson, would rock them off their seats.
   Craig had heard Thomas Jefferson performed by the man who wrote it, Dean Ahmad, at a Libertarian event that took place in Boston in 1976 on April 13th, Thomas Jefferson's birthday. Dean wrote it in Jefferson's honor that morning, performing it at the event that night. Craig wanted the song so much he wrote his own version and one about Patrick Henry, too. The Henry song was so long that Homer might have been jealous. It also lacked the passion and beauty that Dean is able to get into his work. So the song Craig wanted performed was Thomas Jefferson. All the kids knew it by heart, having heard it continuously.
    Tastes differ. What group could I get to be the enthusiastic audience required by The Convention Committee? I was not sure that was possible to rock anyone but getting people to sit still long enough meant I needed a group of live people with limited mobility. 
     This story could actually take us into the recall campaign in 1992 for David Roberti, and sometime I may tell you about that. But what you need to know is that I had joined The Order of Eastern Star, another Masonic group for women, so I could attend the otherwise closed meetings of my daughters' Rainbow Chapter. I had there met the human dynamo, Dolores White, who would successfully run the Roberti recall, although at the time she was not interested in politics. That was my fault.
     Dolores was a trustee for the Eastern Star Retirement Home in West Los Angeles. I had visited the place with her. It was a gorgeous facility in a kind of Moroccan – Spanish style with a room that was perfect for performances and would hold a couple of hundred people. It occurred to me that these ladies did not get much entertainment and were too polite to leave an ongoing performance, even if they could walk. Perfect.
     The singer I found had a gorgeous voice. She was also a former Worthy Advisor from the girl's Rainbow Chapter who would work incredibly cheap since the idea of getting paid to sing was astonishing. Rainbow requires music. It is always donated.
     I made the dresses in the very appropriate colors of Red, White, and Blue. I borrowed the camera from Jerry Corbetta, the songwriter who actually wrote, “Green Eyed Lady,” and played with Sugar Loaf and the Four Seasons. Jerry had become a friend after we went through a natural childbirth class together. He was sort of interested in politics and I persuaded him to produce the song we did the next year for the Perot Campaign titled, “The H. Ross Cannonball.” I got a credit because I blew the train whistle. Jerry now tours with Greats of Rock and Roll. Very nice guy.
     So, camera, me to run it, singers, programs for the event, a light buffet for the ladies transported in my Tupperware containers and produced at home for $18.00. Craig to play his guitar and a lovely afternoon event is taped. The ladies were a little confused about what had happened. They thought we were a family singing group, missing a few members, but they sat still, listened politely, applauded, and asked about whether or not it was the 4th of July. 
     The video tape went off immediately.
     Vicky, our singer, had just turned 20. We also took my daughter, Dawn, who was then still in high school.  Dawn was then 17. Dawn was the child most interested in Libertarianism. At that point in time the rest of the kids avoided Libertarians.
    Chicago was hot, hot, hot. I did not expect that to matter since when at a Libertarian Convention you never leave the hotel. It did sort of make me sad to see how happy Craig was. I knew what was about to happen but had made up literature for him to sell his tapes anyway. His eyes had gleamed with delight, the promise of Super Rock Stardom about to be realized.
    The happy mood lasted through to Saturday morning. They had let him perform for the cocktail party although it was noisy and no one much listened except me.
    He came back to our room staggering like someone had hit him across the head with a two by four to tell me, obviously stunned, that they had decided the performance could not go on with C-Span live. Maybe sometime when the convention hall was vacant perhaps?
    At a moment like that there are so many things you can say. I didn't. Instead I said, "Congratulations, you are running for President.”
    Eventually we settled for Vice President.
    I designed his flyers, printed them up at the local Kinkos, got the signatures, and helped Craig endure the questions about why he had developed this sudden interest in running for office. Since Libertarians routinely make up reasons for insane behavior this was not hard. There were lots of questions.
    The kids at home in Los Angeles were watching the coverage and went into shock. The threat of being dragged into yet another Libertarian Campaign loomed heavily in their minds. They remembered my involvement in various campaigns and when I had run myself. Warnings that they would not be available for collating parties or doorbelling were left on the answering machine in our hotel room.
    The bylaws of the LP allow candidates 17 minutes for their nominating speeches while the cameras are live. I figured we had to go through the motions. The Committee was frantically looking over the bylaws trying to figure out how to stop what they recognized as an end run.
    Nominating Speech. Check. That was me. Seconding Speech. Check Lee Nason, “I rise to second the nomination of Craig Franklin. for the Libertarian nomination for vice-president.” Very short, leaving more time for the singing.
    The second Seconding Speech was Craig with his guitar and Vicky. It was actually a good show and got a standing ovation. It was doubtless the high point of his life.
    My job was over. Mary, Bill, Jack Dean, Emerling and various other people were angry at me. They had immediately identified that it was not Craig who had outflanked them. It served them right.
    At that point in time I still thought of Craig as someone worth while. I should have realized that anyone who would have Michael Emerling as a best friend was probably suspect. So many things change during our adventures with life – and so many things, like character, are constant.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Went Wrong - Why the Libertarian Party was not effective as a tool for freedom

What Went Wrong – or why the Libertarian Party did not become an effective tool for freedom – A personal account

(First in a multi-part series to include personal insights and research spanning from 1848 to present day with particular attention paid to covert action on the part of corporate interests (Greedville) from 1909 on.

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Wage and Price Controls – August 15, 1971

When President Nixon's image appeared on television the Vietnam was still raged and protests were still building. As Nixon spoke on August 15, 1971, the nation began to learn, to its shock, about his brave new policy for our monetary system and the power of the executive order through No. 11615.

This act simultaneously caused thousands of Americans to figuratively burn their registration cards to the Republican Party and one man, David Nolan of Colorado, to write an article calling for the founding of a new political party and begin organizing, which he discussed in this article.

Dave had been the major organizer at MIT for Students for Goldwater and active in the renewal of energy for freedom around the Goldwater Campaign in 1964. Bob Poole, who later bought a faltering small magazine called, “Reason,” and wrote the first article on deregulation of the airlines, was a close friend of Dave's.

I was living in Los Angeles then and had been active in Young Republicans in college. Goldwater was my candidate and before my father had relocated us to Rome, Italy for his sabbatical, I had gone door to door with literature until we left, three months before the election. At the time I was reading through the works of Ayn Rand, chewing through the ideas and thinking about them.

We were all young then, and most of us were hampered by our innocence, or ignorance. Most of what matters is not available in books. Ideas are tools, and seductive.

As Dave's organizing efforts gathered steam newsletters proliferated. There was no Internet. Many of us read the Freeman or other publications focused on the ideas of freedom and many also considered ourselves Objectivists, though Ayn Rand had nipped her budding movement firmly in the bud when she dumped Nathaniel Brandon for refusing to sleep with her on August 24, 1968.

This abrupt end to Nathaniel Brandon Institute (NBI) caused a large number of people to exchange phone numbers outside the Empire State Building since they had been locked out of the offices where the NBI classes were conducted. [This will link to my later story about Nathaniel]

I was blissfully ignorant of these events and had no idea Rand was female or even still living. I just read the books and inflicted the ideas on my friends. Those of us interested in freedom read many of the same books. Books we read included Rand, Heinlein (many of us were science fiction fans), Mises, Rothbard, Mencken, Isabel Patterson and Rose Wilder Lane.

The voice of Toni Nathan on the radio was my first introduction to the Libertarian Party. I had not voted for president in 1972 because I was unwilling to cast a vote for Nixon. Within minutes of the phone call I had located the only listing for the Libertarian Party within drive distance. It was in the San Fernando Valley. A voice on the phone Shirley Gottlieb, put me in touch with a group near where I lived, in West Los Angeles.

Organizing had been taking place feverishly, since the organizing meeting in Dave Nolan's living room, attended by five people in December 1971. My first meeting with the Libertarians was a collating party in 1974. I had just given birth to my second child and was determined my next would be born at home, something I considered to be a freedom issue. While I did not know it, I was already in conflict with the dominant culture of the Libertarian Party. I was raised to believe women were equal, and smarter than men, by a father whose grandmother was a suffragist and early medical doctor. Mother was a mathematician.

The collating was soon followed by a meeting. Our 'speaker' was an audio tape on the Tea Pot Dome Scandal.

The Libertarian Party was not yet on the ballot in more than a tiny handful of states and in California ballot status looked impossible. The events of the next nine years saw the emergence of the Libertarian Party as a potential force to change the direction for America. By 1983 this promise was dead.

In my next two articles I'll show you what happened.