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I, Whiskey

18 Oct
This was published yesterday at The Daily Caller.

For people wanting a vacation from non-stop election coverage, one advocacy group is inviting people to organize their own happy hour to escape it.  
I, Whiskey,” is a short film that takes you to a cocktail hour at an upscale whiskey bar, Jack Rose, in the District of Columbia’s hipster Adams Morgan neighborhood.  Produced on an $80,000 budget crowd funded from 107 donors, the short has high production values, and looks like either an unusually long high end whiskey commercial, or like several scenes from a sexy Hollywood drama set in a beautiful venue with shelves of hundreds of brands of whiskey climbing up exposed brick walls to a 20 foot ceiling. The venue, Jack Rose Dining Saloon, hosts a variety of creative events, including Buzzfeed’s annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner after-party.

A variety of happy customers and bartenders are interviewed about what whiskey means to them,  along with interviews with specialty producers like Rick Wasmund, whose Copper Fox Distillery makes an applewood aged whiskey in rural Virginia, and with Garret Peck, a historian whose recent book includes “Prohibition in Washington, D.C.” and “The Prohibition Hangover.”  Bill Thomas, the owner of Jack Rose, loves the film: “Amazing what they could capture in 8 minutes.  It’s a good balance of the history of whiskey making and of the modern whiskey drinker – they just captured the energy of whiskey culture.”  Asked if he thinks the short might lead film industry location scouts to consider the saloon for feature films, Thomas, who appears in the short, answered “I feel like I’ve already been in a major film.”
The film is a subtle celebration of the creativity and diversity of small start up businesses, like micro-breweries and small distillers – and of free market economies that allow them to flourish. 
Producer Amanda France, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market advocacy group, is following up on a 2012 animated short she produced that has received 500,000 views.  This is the second installment in CEI’s acclaimed I, Pencil film series.  I, Whiskey is the story of freedom and how the human spirit thrives when it has the freedom to connect, create, and innovate.”  Wasmund, one of the whiskey entrepreneurs featured in the film – who met his wife when she asked him what he was drinking and he answered “a whiskey I make” – was interviewed this weekend on RealClearRadio, an interview and news broadcast Ms. France also produces, aired on the IHeart radio app, and 13 terrestrial radio stations around the country.  Wasmund’s Copper Fox Distillery now has two plants and employs his mom and several other family members.

France, whose group produced the film with Passing Lane Films, says she hopes to get “a quarter of a million views in the first two months.”   Though she thinks the political philosophy of the film, which is so subtle some viewers may miss it, will appeal to the growing ranks of libertarian sympathizers who made Congressman Ron Paul and then Governor Gary Johnson household names and regular TV presences, she says the film has a broader appeal because it is “fun.  At CEI we like to work hard and play hard.  And I think this film will reach people who like to have fun beyond our usual work with policy studies and legal briefs.” 

CEI founder Fred Smith appears as a bar patron in the film.  When he retired as the group’s head in 2013, he told the Washington Post“I recognized that intellectuals were dour, and that the war was going to be a long one.  In warfare, you need R&R; in our world, that means having fun while you fight. And we do have fun.”

Garrett Peck, author of several history books on and also a tour guide on the history of the Prohibition era, says I, Whiskey “shows how much innovation and how much community – Americans tend to be social drinkers, drinking whiskey – or wine or beer – around a table.  Americans innovated when they started using corn, which is what they had, instead of the barley Scots used, creating the foundation for bourbon.”  When asked if he thinks the film is so subtle – and so beautiful – that viewers won’t get that it is trying to educate them, Peck answers: “I think the ideas are there – especially about innovation.”
The earlier short “I, Pencil,” was based on an influential 1958 essay by popular economics writer and educator Leonard Read, was a first person narrative, from a pencil’s point of view, of how it was made without any central planning, from wood, graphite, rubber, and clay transported from many different continents.  Thousands of students read the short essay in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Milton Friedman based an episode of his “Free to Choose” PBS series on it, and more recently it was the basis for an episode of NPR’s popular “Freakonomics” broadcast.  

“I, Pencil,” along with a longer 70s film, “The Incredible Bread Machine,” were popular educational media for high school and junior high school students learning basic economics.  (A pre-political Ronald Reagan read the story Bread Machine was based upon on one of his broadcasts.)  France says people as far away as middle school teachers in Africa have asked her for transcripts of the “I, Pencil” film, and even though “I, Whiskey” has only been live on-line since midnight Tuesday, she’s already had a request from college professors for transcripts they can use in classrooms.  France says she’s “bracing,” in today’s climate, for someone to eventually complain that the film triggers people or promotes drinking, though no one has done so so far. 

The film’s producers held a premier Wednesday at Jack Rose Saloon, as part of the whiskey Wednesday popular with whiskey aficionados – though the guests in attendance were heavy with D.C. policy wonks and lobbyists, like Grover Norquist – a frequent guest on The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher – and his wife Samah.  But CEI is inviting people – some of whom might have been students who read “I, Pencil” – to contact them for the video and information and to hold their own viewing party next “whiskey” Wednesday, October 19.  

Ten Things About the New "Atlas Shrugged" movie – in lieu of an actual review

16 Sep

1.  It may or may not be better than part 2.  It’s definitely better than part 1.  Libertarians are basically panning it everywhere, not for its (in)fidelity to Rand’s book, but for the talents of the directors and producers.

2.  The production values are somewhere around the level of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or a B grade made for TV movie.  (Maybe that’s why so many trek actors, like Armin Shimmerman, have been sprinkled throughout this trilogy — they know how to act beside nothing but papier mache and glitter.)

(Shimmerman – are Ferengi interstellar Randians?)

3.  Rob Morrow (as Hank Reardon) and a number of well known TV character actors have bit parts or mid-level parts for which they are either bad casting or oddly brief cameos.

And who knew Hank Rearden was a hot Jewish boy?

(Morrow – I’d eat him with some horseradish!)

4.  Actor Kristoffer Polaha does a very respectable job as John Galt, as well as being both a moderately delicious hunk (though truth be told, aside from some pretty mountains, there isn’t a lot else for the gaze to settle on).  As long time Objectivisty libertarian Republican activist Ann Stone just emailed me “I was not crazy about this one at all…seemed stilted…the only positive was the hunk playing John Galt.”  So far all the gals and gay guys I have spoken to agree.

5.  The torture scene, where the worst of the fascist kakistocracy strip and electrocute Galt to try to force him to become the nation’s economic czar, features only a shirtless, not nude, Galt, unlike the book.  The special effects are also not good even for an old episode of TNG in this scene.  And though Polaha, married and the father of three, is 6’3″ and in better shape than me or most of the people reading this, by Hollywood standards he needs to lift some weights to have shirtless scene quality pecs.  Rearden is also not there to help rescue Galt, as he is in the novel.

6.  Funnily, Polaha does actually resemble a number of good looking libertarian boys, our better looking nerds, although he’s taller.  I think he and Gary Johnson’s son could be cousins.

7. Amazingly a number of people attending the group event screening I attended in Arlington, Virginia were libertarians who have never read Atlas Shrugged.  More amazingly they claimed to understand this movie without having read the book or in some cases having seen the first two installments.  I don’t think it is well written enough to stand alone, but if these other viewers can be trusted, I am wrong.

8.  Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist, among others, all appear, in some cases playing themselves and in some cases as extras.  It’s cute, but when someone does a real version of this someday, starring Anne Hathaway and Joe Mangeniello they should take these “product” placement gimmicks out.  (How come they didn’t get Kennedy to play Cheryl Taggart? I bet she would have been good at it for real.)

9.  It’s actually very touching and almost misty eyed making, mainly the scenes where Dagny and Galt navigate the fact that they want to be together but are on different sides of a war.

10.  The one thing the writers and directors did do well is condense The Speech and figure out how to film it.  Among all the overly long and loving panoramas of redwoods and mountains and the cheesy sets, this they did surprisingly well.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Audit the IRS rally

19 Jun

A very multipartisan Washington day – I went to Grover Norquist’s center-right meeting I can say nothing about under penalty of defenestration, then stopped for lunch at Johnny’s on the Half Shell take out on the way to the Audit the IRS rally at the Capitol.

Johnny’s is under the building CNN, FOX and FreedomWorks are in, so while there I saw a still not arrested James Rosen and the internet’s Token Libertarian Girl Julie Borowski as they left for lunch, rallies, etc

Then I was in a food line with my FaceBook friend and former Howard Dean campaign chair Joe Trippi (who I’d never met) and ended joining him for lunch and getting to ask him about politics for the next two election cycles (something he does professionally as a liberal pundit for FOX). He’s very likeable for a Democrat on and off screen. 

At the Audit rally I heard Glen Beck, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and ran into Austin Petersen and DC Libertarian Party chair Ryan Sabot.

At some point earlier, but I’m not allowed to say where, I talked to Dick Heller of Heller decision fame, and a former Libertarian candidate himself.

Tonight I’m going to something at reason magazine.  Don’t hate me because I’m a Beltway libertarian.  Buy a damn house from me so I won’t have time for this stuff.

Ann Coulter: Groupthink is Destroying Libertarian Pussies

21 Mar

Ann Coulter: Groupthink is Destroying Libertarian Pussies

It’s curious that Ann Coulter is charging libertarians with sucking up to progressives.  I don’t disagree with her that one can find libertarians or “liberaltarians” who do this, especially in academe, the media, and inside the Beltway.  But Ms. Coulter herself in her tortured legal “philosophizing” thinks that African Americans, and African Americans alone, should be given special legal privileges no one else has, at the expense of everyone else, because America once had race slavery.  What is that if not sucking up to “liberals”?  Especially when black comedians like Chris Rock point out that American Indians had a harder time than blacks.  Not to mention the fact that, if you want to play this game, women and gays didn’t have a jolly old time before or after Emancipation.  And that no one alive today in any of these groups has been a slave, except to the federal and state governments, and no government programs overall help disadvantaged groups get out of their underclass status.

Coulter’s barbs and jokes at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, where she is less defensive than when before libertarians, are indeed entertaining.

Ms. Coulter’s history with libertarians predates the recent Students for Liberty/Stossel kerfuffle about which Nick Gillespie writes on the reason magazine website today.

She was once approached by the Connecticut Libertarian Party to run for Senate against a RINO Republican when she opined that she would seek the LP line to run against him and make him lose to the Democrat. The LP decided she was not sufficiently pro-decriminalization so it thanked her for the meeting and did not allow her the candidacy. (A woman scorned?)

Early in her career out of law school she became friends with a libertarian Republican fellow Hill staffer and lawyer (who is now my neighbor). He stills reads her books before they are published and tries to persuade her each time to remove the most non-libertarian elements. Following CoCo Chanel’s advice about accessories, she is reported to only remove one item each book.

At her book signing in DC last year at the offices of Grover Norquist group, Americans for Tax Reform, Ms. Coulter entered to first encounter me and a Ron Paul donor to whom I had just given a Gary Johnson button. It was the day after Romney’s one good debate, and she grabbed my friend’s blouse and looked into her face nose to nose and said “Oh no no no no no no no – after that f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s performance last night you must be for Romney!”  She then grabbed my own epynomous button for my Congressional campaign on my shirt and stared at me, to which I non-confrontationaly said “It’s for a local campaign.” She released me intact from her grip. Later one could hear her reply to a book buyer’s question of how her day was going – “it was great until I got here, and even here there are Gary Johnson buttons!”

Ann Coulter

6 Oct

I love Ann Coulter but I ruined her night last night. I went to her book signing at Americans for Tax Reform, the Grover Norquist group at 4, which had an open bar and shrimp and WMAL’s Chris Plante. I was carrying a bag of Majors for Congess window signs and buttons, as well as Gary Johnson buttons and flyers, as some ATR interns had asked me for a yard sign and I was going to a Gary Johnson happy hour afterwards. I saw a red head from Adams Morgan I have met before who is a big Ron Paul donor, and she saw my Gary Johnson button on my man purse and asked me for one, which she immediately fixed to her bosom. Ms. Coulter came in and grabbed my Majors for Congress button on my chest and read it and was puzzled and I explained I was running locally. Then she grabbed my friends Gary Johnson button and said “Oh, no, no, no, no, no! After that fabulous performance Wednesday you must be for Romney!” Later as I was in the huge line to get my copy of “Mugged” signed, and convey a hello from my neighbor who is an old friend of Ann’s, I heard someone ask if she had had a good day, and she said it had been great but now she had a headache because even here someone had a Gary Johnson button.

Gary Johnson cyber town hall Monday, March 19th

16 Mar

EventsInvite Friends
6:30pm MST / 8:30 EST Online Town Hall with Gary Johnson & Grover Norquist
Public Event · By Gary Johnson
6:30pm until 7:30pm
Online at:
Governor Gary Johnson will be hosting an on-line Town Hall on Monday March 19, 2012 beginning at 5:30 PM PST / 6:30 PM MST/ 7:30 PM CST/ 8:30 PM EST with very special guess Grover Norquist.

About the co-host:
Grover Norquist is an American lobbyist, conservative activist, and founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is best known as the promoter of the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”, which was signed by 95% of all Republican Congressmen and all but one of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, to oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate.

Additional information:

To participate, go to Anyone can view the online town hall just by going to the website. If you do not have a web camera, you can still participate via text questions.

For technical help please visit:

If you can’t join us “live”, and would like to watch the video later, you can always go to to to view my video archives. Ask any question LIVE on video, on taxes, spending, civil liberties, etc.

Gary Johnson 2012
March Matching Funds Mania – double the size of your donation for liberty and he…

Taxes and Debt, a Debate

29 Nov

Pledge or Wedge? Grover Norquist vs. Ross Douthat on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge
The American Enterprise Debates

About This Event
Online registration is closed. Walk-in registrations may be accepted.

If you cannot attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page.
In the next American Enterprise Debate, Grover Norquist, founder of
Americans for Tax Reform, will argue that the Taxpayer Protection
Pledge is an effective bulwark against tax increases. New York Times
 columnist Ross Douthat will counter with his claim that the tax
 pledge has created political gridlock that threatens to derail serious
 tax reform and deficit reduction. AEI research fellow and former
 chief economist to the House Ways and Means Committee
 Alex Brill will moderate.
5:15 PM

5:30 PM

GROVER NORQUIST,  Americans for Tax Reform
ROSS DOUTHAT, New York Times


Wine and Cheese Reception 

Event Contact Information
For more information, contact Daniel Hanson at
 or 202.862.5883.
Media Contact Information
For media inquiries, contact Veronique Rodman at
or 202.862.4870.
Speaker Biographies
Grover G. Norquist has been one of most effective issues
management strategists in Washington for three decades. Mr.
 Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a
 taxpayer advocacy group he founded in 1985 at President Reagan’s
 request. ATR is a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and
 businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state and local
 levels. ATR organizes the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which asks
 all candidates for federal and state office to commit in writing to
 oppose all tax increases. In the 112th Congress, 238 House members
and 41 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 13 governors
 and 1,249 state legislators have taken the pledge.

Ross Douthat joined the New York Times as an op-ed columnist in
 April 2009. Previously, he was a senior editor at the Atlantic and a blogger
 for He is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the
 Education of the Ruling Class (Hyperion, 2005), and the co-author,
with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can
Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (Doubleday, 2008).
He is the film critic for National Review.

Alex Brill, a former senior adviser and chief economist to the House
Ways and Means Committee, also served on the staff of the President’s
 Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). In Congress and at the CEA, Mr.
 Brill worked on a variety of economic and legislative policy issues,
including dividend taxation, the alternative minimum tax, international tax
policy, social security reform, defined benefit pension reform and U.S.
 trade policy. At AEI, Mr. Brill studies the impact of tax policy on the U.S.
 economy; the fiscal, economic and political consequences of stimulus
 legislation; health care reform; pharmaceutical spending; unemployment
 insurance reform; and financial innovation and technology.