Sunday, August 25, 2013

Applause! Applause! Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jesus Christ Superstar performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 3 (2013) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Jesus Christ Superstar
Cultural Arts Playhouse (44 Lincoln Avenue, Rosyln Heights, NY)
Reviewed 7/24/13

Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show opened on Broadway on October 12, 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre and closed on June 30, 1973 after 711 performances. The musical is loosely based on the Gospels' accounts of the last week of Jesus' life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles that may have existed between Judas Iscariot and Jesus but which are not mentioned or referenced in the Bible. There was a Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2000 at the Ford Center that lasted for 161 performances and on March 22, 2012 another Broadway revival of the rock opera was staged at the Neil Simon Theatre, which ended July 1, 2012 after 116 performances.

This production of Jesus Christ Superstar has a fresh feel to it and features a very talented ensemble cast. The two standout performers were Michelle Belio, who played Mary Magdaline, and Roger Leonardis, who brought gravitas to the role of Pontius Pilate. Ms. Belio's rendition of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" captured my attention as I sat in awe of her amazing vocal abilities and her realistic portrayal of Mary Magdaline, a prostitute who is Jesus' current lover in the musical. This relationship and the increasing radical political activism of the followers of Jesus are objected to by Judas Iscariot, a long-time follower of Jesus, who believes his partnering with a prostitute and challenges to the existing Jewish religious hierarchy, places his ministry at risk, opens them up to criticism and takes them away from their original message of helping the poor, a goal now apparently abandoned by Jesus. Matthew Demaria, who plays Judas, has a powerful voice but I believe he was not the best choice for this part. With Jesus, Judas and Mary being the main characters in this rock opera, the jealousy, sexual tension and strategic disagreements need to be highlighted to make the play work and that was absent in this production. Also disappointing was Joe DeMaria, who played King Herod. "King Herod's Song" should have brought the house down but Mr. DeMaria wasn't strong enough to pull it off. Christopher Russo portrayed Jesus as an introverted character with delusions of grandeur who believed God was ordering his death and that he must comply. Mr. Russo's most brilliant moment came during his extraordinary rendition of "Gethsemane".

It is hard to discern Judas' true motives in betraying Jesus. Was he afraid the revolutionary activism of Jesus' followers would result in retaliation by Roman authorities causing the suffering of many Jews, did he believe the ministry had deviated from its original goals and purpose, or was Judas jealous of Mary Magdaline's new role in the ministry replacing him as Jesus' confidant and right-hand man. Another possible interpretation presented in the 2012 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar was that Judas was sexually attracted to Jesus and got angry when Jesus turned his affections to Mary Magdaline, rationalizing his betrayal with the argument that Jesus having a relationship with a prostitute undermined Jesus' moral preaching and would ultimately lead to the destruction of the entire ministry. The one line in this rock opera that made me cringe was when Jesus confronted Judas for betraying him and said, "You Liar, You Judas!" using the word Judas to mean traitor well before it gained that secondary meaning.

All in all, I was very pleased with this production of Jesus Christ Superstar and I recommend you see it. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tea Party of New York Organizes To Run More Pro-Liberty Candidates In 2014

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013, the Tea Party of New York was formed at an Organizational Meeting held at the Massapequa Public Library located at 40 Harbor Lane in Massapequa Park, New York. Brian Mahon was elected State Chair and Dr. Tom Stevens was elected Vice-Chair.

The motion that unanimously passed forming the Tea Party of New York read as follows: "that it is the purpose of those assembled, after having received proper notice, to form a new Political Party in the State of New York entitled "Tea Party of New York" and that those individuals recording their name on the Founding Members sign-in sheet shall permanently be known as the Founding Members of the Tea Party of New York, the purpose of which shall be to run pro-liberty candidates for public office in the State of New York."

Brian Mahon, the newly elected State Chair of the Tea Party of New York, said:

I live, work and play in New York. The obvious critical conditions of all phases of our society demand that people of all kind make an effort to do something before our way of life becomes a faded memory. The simple inverse relationship, between liberty, and the size and scope of government, is the growing cancer on the heart and soul of our way of life. If government is indeed a necessary "evil", it is no wonder that the growing threat to our freedom and individual liberty is the very government we created.

We the people are the Dr. Frankenstein of our time, as well-intentioned as we were, our creation has now turned on us, and has come to destroy the very people it was meant to serve. The worst is yet to come!

Over time as with many great nations, its original intent has been lost, stolen, sold, negotiated, or simply sold out! In my New York, the disappearance of the two-party system has fed the monster that is our government on all levels. That, plus the fact the New York State Republican Party to this day remains in the hands of a single man so devoid of any concern for anything other than how much money, power and influence he can wield, regardless of the harm and destruction it causes.

The rise of the Tea Party is the perfect medicine for this disease, and what better place to apply this than in New York, the bluest of states suffering these blues. 

Some of the values I intend to reinforce with the New York Tea Party are support for a veterans bill of rights, the flat tax, the right to privacy, as well as strong support for the 2nd and 4th Amendments.

I seek a return to the simple genius our Founding Fathers gifted us when they created our system of government or non-government government, as the value of the individual, freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was the defining purpose and its protection of these values, by the government, which has become totally lost.

Dr. Tom Stevens, the newly elected Vice-Chair of the Tea Party of New York, commented on the party's prospects:

I am very honored the delegates in attendance at the Organizational Meeting of the Tea Party of New York elected me to serve as its Vice-Chair. I see great promise for this new political party and will do all I can to recruit pro-liberty candidates to run for public office and to enable the party to be a strong and effective voice for liberty in the State of New York. Under the able leadership of Brian Mahon, the party's new State Chair, I expect there will be significant growth in this new grassroots movement. I will use all my political experience and expertise to help the Tea Party of New York make its mark on the political scene in New York State.

The Tea Party of New York has decided not to charge membership dues and will instead rely on donations and contributions to fund its activities.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Russia Should Be Applauded For Granting Asylum To Edward Snowden

Patrick Lembo, Chair of Downstate Libertarians, wrote the following article regarding Russia recently granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden:

"Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden sets up a beautiful libertarian opportunity; a criticism of foreign policy and civil rights violations should be pushed to highlight the maladministration and oppressive nature of the federal government; the Snowden situation should be used as a rallying cry for liberty seeking Americans to join together and take back individual freedoms and root out overbearing globalist politicians and activists from decision making. Human rights advocates, U.S. foreign policy experts and members of Congress are clearly upset by Russia's decision to give temporary asylum to Snowden. It is perceived as a sign of disrespect and lack of understanding to these experts who, with their superfluous arrogance, want complete control over the world's decision making and are deflated that the incredibly weak President Obama has again failed to show assertiveness in a trying situation. Russia should be applauded for granting Snowden asylum and thumbing its nose at the feds.

The saddest thing about the Edward Snowden situation is that his actions are what it took to reinvigorate the issue that constitutional rights are being shattered by the federal government with the coerced help of the major telecommunication companies. Mark Klein, the former AT&T employee, divulged details about the NSA installing equipment to capture telecommunications data in 2006 and this revelation caused considerable stir; it eventually faded away from the American consciousness like most news stories do. These constitutional violations have never been forgotten by Libertarians, but even after congressional admissions and countless reports seem to only affect the average American when a "whistle blower" comes forward. For this reason, whether the person is a government employee, a contractor or neither, anyone with privy information speaking out about massive constitutional violations is a hero. Some Americans, but not enough, have been constantly tracking the egregious civil liberty infractions imposed by the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, FISA and its continued extensions. There is nothing shocking about the Snowden revelations aside from the ignorance of the majority of Americans as to what has been happening and what is surely to come.

The Libertarian Party has always been at the forefront of defending Americans' 4th Amendment rights in regards to blanket, pre-emptive data collection; however the Democrat and Republican parties have massively failed and are both to blame for the lack of constitutional probity. Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attacked libertarian thinking, saying there is a dangerous libertarian strain in the Republican Party right now, and esoteric, intellectual debates don't hold up when talking to family members of 9/11 victims. Christie's fear based rhetoric sends the clear message that many Republican leaders aren't interested in fighting for constitutional privacy rights and are intent on broadening the powers of the NSA and FISA. Leading Democrat thinkers like John Podesta, the chairman of Center for American Progress, have not directly criticized the spying, but that there are too many government contractors involved, like Snowden, and that everyone involved in the data collection on Americans should be a government employee. Ultimately, neither of the two parties can be trusted on the issue. There are isolated examples of Senators and Representatives on both sides showing concern about privacy and constitutional rights of citizens, but the majorities continue to support the Executive Branch. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have misled and fobbed off the nation while violating the premise of the 4th Amendment.

All the evidence points towards every single phone call, text message, and e-mail being recorded and eventually stored in the NSA facility being built in Utah; a massive data collection center with the capability to store mind boggling amounts of data. We cannot trust the explanation that although the data is being preemptively collected it has to be approved by a judge before being examined. The process is completely secret and, as we saw the Bush Administration already do, a secret court can and will be set up outside of FISA, effectively blocking all checks and balances of the judicial process. The Bush Administration granted retroactive immunity to telecom companies for violating the Constitution on the grounds that they were aiding the fight against terror. It is now basically fruitless to sue the telecom companies as the suit will be tossed out. Again, all of this information was already known but brought to the American consciousness and expanded by the Snowden situation.

As bad as the situation is with the NSA, apparently and predictably it doesn't stop there. Other federal agencies feel snubbed that they aren't privy to the endless data collection and have been clamoring for access. The D.E.A., Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and the Pentagon have been frequent complainers that the mass data pool isn't easily available to everyone in the federal government. In the name of foreign policy and national security, every major fed wants their slice of the illegally recorded data. It won't stop there either; all of the other expanding departments are eventually going to have access to this metadata. For now the pretext is safety and security; constitutional rights are nothing more than a pesky hurdle.

Hopefully Snowden's asylum continues to garner media attention to highlight the current pathetic bully tactics behind American foreign policy and keeps constitutional violations in the minds of citizens who will hopefully take action against it. Threatening other countries for harboring a national hero shows the flimsy certitude that the federal government exhibits and believes in by trying to control its citizens and other nations."

Downstate Libertarians is a chartered chapter of Empire State Libertarians covering Richmond, New York, the Bronx, Westchester & Rockland counties. Empire State Libertarians was founded on July 4, 2010.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Independent Political Report Disparages The Very Third Parties It Seeks To Cover

Independent Political Report, a website that claims to have reported on "Third Parties & Independent Candidates Since 2008", often disparages the very third parties it reports on in "news articles" that are little more than hit pieces designed to place a number of third parties in a bad light. Krzysztof Lesiak, one of the main contributors, is the most egregious offender.

The Personal Freedom Party's New York City Nominating Convention held on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at Boulder Creek Steakhouse in College Point, New York nominated Sam Sloan to be its candidate for Mayor of New York City. Mr. Sloan recently spent $22,900.00 on a petition drive to get his slate into the Republican Party Primary for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate. The Personal Freedom Party petition drive is still ongoing.

In writing an article about this situation, Krzysztof Lesiak, a contributor to Independent Political Report, referred to the Personal Freedom Party as an "essentially nonexistent political party in New York State" "without more than a handful of legitimate members". He said Sam Sloan's nomination took place "at what was termed a nominating convention" and called the party a "frivolous political organization...without state recognition of any kind or anything else". Mr. Lesiak placed the party's name in quotation marks to further denigrate its legitimacy and later in the article referred to it as "a paper organization".

Dr. Tom Stevens, National Chair of the Personal Freedom Party objected to these characterizations. Thane Eichenauer, commenting on the article at the Independent Political Report site, wrote:

I agree with Dr. Tom Stevens in his objection to the description of the Personal Freedom Party (of New York State) as "virtually non-existent", a "frivolous political organization" and a "paper organization."

The Libertarian Party and its candidates (not to mention most third parties in the last 3 decades) have in the past been labelled with similar terms that disparage the passionate, principled and very real efforts that people put into its behalf.

So long as a person is willing to attempt to place a political party and its candidates on the ballot, it should be given fair and dispassionate coverage on IPR or any other media. An aspiring political party may not have a "website, formal organization, bylaws, more than a handful of legitimate members, state recognition of any kind" but so long as it is possible for it to qualify it should not receive coverage of this sort.

"State Recognition"? Come on now, that is what the bureaucratic endeavor is intended to accomplish.

If your contribution to IPR is to write articles that are clearly biased about certain people and their political endeavors, then you have done that and done it well.

Several of the disparaging terms in your article are only true in some people's opinion, some, perhaps most may be true and yet still be clearly biased in their use. How many of the terms are relevant when it comes to discussing, describing and covering the issue of the quest for ballot access for a new political party in New York? I would asset that few to none of the terms are topic relevant. If any of the disparaging terms are relevant as far as ballot access and the legal hurdles involved certainly your article does nothing to point out which are and which are not. Those terms that are potentially not relevant should either be omitted or modified so they are neutral and descriptive and not clearly disparaging.

You then further comment that the "Personal Freedom Party is a bullshit organization that exists in theory only." There are two claims packed into that sentence. I would assert that a person could argue either side of "is the PFP or is not the PFP a bullshit organization?" and have a 50%+ chance of persuading any given audience as to the truth or falsity of the claim. As for "exists in theory only", I would say that as soon as someone hired two paid petitioners that the Personal Freedom Party ceased by any reasonable measure to exist in theory only.

I believe it would be possible to write an article on the effort of Stevens to qualify the PFP for the New York ballot which accurately describes the party and the likelihood of success (or lack thereof) of its ballot access effort without using terms that Stevens or I would object to. What is it that prevents you from doing so? Are you unable or just disinclined? If you are capable of writing an article full of facts such that neither Stevens nor I can dispute the accuracy of then I strongly encourage you to do so.

I live in Arizona and have minimal first hand knowledge of New York state ballot access laws. I haven't met Dr. Tom Stevens. I would prefer to read unbiased new reporting on any political party especially those that claim to wish to advance freedom so as to accurately identify people and groups worth supporting. Your article and comments only muddy the water in this regard due to your mix of what may well be facts and other information which is clearly included because of your personal opinion.

In case there was any doubt about the defamatory intent of Krzysztof Lesiak, who wrote the "news article", in the comments section, he defended himself by saying, "'Doctor' Stevens is a dangerous person to the LP and he needs to be ostracized from it at all costs". Mr. Lesiak also referred to Dr. Tom Stevens as a "deranged moron".

Matthew Kelly, a member of the Personal Freedom Party of New York who was the elected Secretary Pro Tem of the party's New York City Nominating Convention held on May 11, 2013, reacted as follows:

The Personal Freedom Party has been a pro-liberty activist organization in New York State for over three (3) years with many committed members and none of the infighting often present in other political parties and organizations. It is not as the IPR contributor Krzysztof Lesiak said, "essentially nonexistent" nor is it a "frivolous political organization". It is outrageous that a site committed to reporting on the activities of third parties would disparage the reputation of those very parties. Krzysztof Lesiak should be immediately dismissed as a contributor to Independent Political Report. To me, he appears to be nothing more than an immature, pot-smoking pipsqueak who shouldn't be given serious responsibilities.   

Dr. Tom Stevens founded the Personal Freedom Party on June 6, 2010. Its initial focus has been to recruit candidates to run for public office as well as to seek out pro-liberty individuals willing to serve in leadership positions. The Personal Freedom Party Platform (adopted on November 5, 2010) includes support for Legalization of Marijuana, Decriminalization of Prostitution, Legalization of Gambling, Lowering of the Voting Age, Legalization of Gay Marriage, Elimination of Excessive Taxation and Elimination of Excessive Regulation. On November 11, 2010, the Personal Freedom Party adopted the slogan, "Tell Your Children! Fight The Menace! Kill The Devil! Save The Country!" The phrase was used in the song "Reefer Madness" from Reefer Madness: The Musical, which is a musical satire of the 1938 cult movie classic Tell Your Children (now commonly referred to as Reefer Madness).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Casey's Revenge (Sequel to Casey At The Bat) by Grantland Rice

Casey's Revenge, a sequel to Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888, was written in 1906 by Grantland Rice (1880-1954). Its first known appearance in print was in the quarterly magazine The Speaker in June, 1907 published under the pseudonym of James Wilson.

The original version of the poem is the following:

There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses - every fan in town was sore.
"Just think," said one, "how soft it looked with Casey at the bat,
And then to think he'd go and spring a bush league trick like that!"

All his past fame was forgotten - he was now a hopeless "shine."
They called him "Strike-Out Casey," from the mayor down the line;
And as he came to bat each day his bosom heaved a sigh,
While a look of hopeless fury shone in mighty Casey's eye.

He pondered in the days gone by that he had been their king,
That when he strolled up to the plate they made the welkin ring;
But now his nerve had vanished, for when he heard them hoot
He "fanned" or "popped out" daily, like some minor league recruit.

He soon began to sulk and loaf, his batting eye went lame;
No home runs on the score card now were chalked against his name;
The fans without exception gave the manager no peace,
For one and all kept clamoring for Casey's quick release.

The Mudville squad began to slump, the team was in the air;
Their playing went from bad to worse - nobody seemed to care.
"Back to the woods with Casey!" was the cry from Rooters' Row.
"Get some one who can hit the ball, and let that big dub go!"

The lane is long, some one has said, that never turns again,
And Fate, though fickle, often gives another chance to men;
And Casey smiled; his rugged face no longer wore a frown -
The pitcher who had started all the trouble came to town.

All Mudville had assembled - ten thousand fans had come
To see the twirler who had put big Casey on the bum;
And when he stepped into the box, the multitude went wild;
He doffed his cap in proud disdain, but Casey only smiled.

"Play ball!" the umpire's voice rang out, and then the game began.
But in that throng of thousands there was not a single fan
Who thought that Mudville had a chance, and with the setting sun
Their hopes sank low - the rival team was leading "four to one."

The last half of the ninth came round, with no change in the score;
But when the first man up hit safe, the crowd began to roar;
The din increased, the echo of ten thousand shouts was heard
When the pitcher hit the second and gave "four balls" to the third.

Three men on base - nobody out - three runs to tie the game!
A triple meant the highest niche in Mudville's hall of fame;
But here the rally ended and the gloom was deep as night,
When the fourth one "fouled to catcher" and the fifth "flew out to right."

A dismal groan in chorus came; a scowl was on each face
When Casey walked up, bat in hand, and slowly took his place;
His bloodshot eyes in fury gleamed, his teeth were clenched in hate;
He gave his cap a vicious hook and pounded on the plate.

But fame is fleeting as the wind and glory fades away;
There were no wild and woolly cheers, no glad acclaim this day;
They hissed and groaned and hooted as they clamored: "Strike him out!"
But Casey gave no outward sign that he had heard this shout.

The pitcher smiled and cut one loose - across the plate it sped;
Another hiss, another groan. "Strike one!" the umpire said.
Zip! Like a shot the second curve broke just below the knee.
"Strike two!" the umpire roared aloud; but Casey made no plea.

No roasting for the umpire now - his was an easy lot;
But here the pitcher whirled again - was that a rifle shot?
A whack, a crack, and out through the space the leather pellet flew,
A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.

Above the fence in center field in rapid whirling flight
The sphere sailed on - the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit,
But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit.

O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun!
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall,
But Mudville hearts are happy now, for Casey hit the ball.  

Casey At The Bat: A Ballad Of The Republic, Sung In The Year 1888 by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888 is a baseball poem written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940) that first appeared in San Francisco's The Daily Examiner on June 3, 1888. The poem was originally published anonymously (under the pen name "Phin") based on Thayer's college nickname "Phineas".

The original text is the following:

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that -
We'd put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped -
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted some one on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clinched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.