From Dr. Andrew Bernstein:
IRVINE, CA--On Tuesday the San Diego City Council voted to ban retail stores of more than 90,000 square feet that use 10 percent of space to sell groceries and other products that are not subject to sales tax. The ban targets Wal-Mart and similar large stores.
"Neither the residents of San Diego nor their representatives on the city council have a right to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a store there," said Andrew Bernstein, senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.
"Wal-Mart violates no one's rights by opening stores on its own land and should be free to do so even if local residents are against it.
"Wal-Mart deals with its customers and employees by voluntary means. Wal-Mart offers products that people can choose not to buy and jobs people can choose not to take. That millions shop in Wal-Mart's stores and thousands line up for job openings in the company is evidence that huge numbers of people find value in dealing with Wal-Mart.
"While local retailers may indeed lose their business to Wal-Mart, they have no right to be protected from competition and from Wal-Mart's ability to offer lower prices.
"Likewise, while local residents may be inconvenienced by a surge in traffic or by the sight of a Wal-Mart store, they have no right to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a store in their city.
"If the residents of San Diego--or any other American city--don't want Wal-Mart to succeed, they should not shop in its stores."
Dr. Andrew Bernstein is a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Marist College; he also teaches at SUNY Purchase and formerly at Pace University, and Marymount College. Dr. Bernstein lectures regularly at American universities and appears frequently on the radio talk shows. His Op-Eds have been published in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Constitution, The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Daily News, The Houston Chronicle and others. Dr. Bernstein is the author of The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire.
Given that Colin Powell and John McCain -- to name just two prominent Republicans -- both favor national service, how likely will other Republicans be to take a stand against Rangel's "draft"? If volunteering for the military can substitute for it? If the military gets to cherry-pick from the draftees? If some of the draftees get to serve in "faith-based" initiatives?The more I think about this, the more worried get that unless more and better arguments are made against this horrendous idea on moral grounds, the more likely we Americans are to get blindsided by a bunch of politicians pulling the bait-and-switch of a national service measure Republicans foolishly support in the initial guise of an anti-war draft proposal by a Democrat.
Such an innocuous name: net neutrality. Who could be against that? And the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006 sounds so fair! What bigot would dare oppose nondiscrimination?There have been rumbles about this for quite some time, too.
Under the cover of these happy fuzzy words the Democrats are about to slap price controls on internet providers. Americans should be happy, as the consumers in the Soviet Union were under price controls. Oh, wait -- there were long lines and empty shelves? Scratch that.
But making the internet better is not really the point of all this legislation. Giving the state power over the internet is the point.
Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.Gosh. I wonder why. Before I get to my point, though, there is the following not unrelated story.
To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.
A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused.As I said about a similar incident, in which a Middle Easterner wearing an Arabic tee shirt in an airport raised Cain over being told to wear something else:
"They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.
"CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew," Hooper said. "Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's one that we've been addressing for some time."
While we all have freedom of speech in America, we are not entitled to express our opinions through the use of someone else's resources. This is why I cannot simply plant a campaign poster in my neighbor's yard. This is why [Raed] Jarrar should not have my tax money at his disposal (if he does) to finance his various foreign junkets. Nor I his money for my causes. Indeed, Jarrar himself seems to apprehend this point: He has closed the comments on his blog. This is no more an infringement of my freedom of speech than JetBlue's imposition of a rule against Arabic script would be an infringement of Jarrar's. If he objects to the notion that an airline can have "no Arabic script" as part of a customer dress code, then he has some explaining to do. [bold added today]So these imams were allegedly praying. Let them pray, but do not force an airline to ignore the fact that they are Moslem or pretend that their religion does not rightfully arouse suspicions among most Americans. If they haven't the foresight to schedule a flight around prayer time in an overwhelmingly non-Moslem country which has been repeatedly attacked by Moslems, then tough nuts. Have these nincompoops never heard of red-eye flights? Or trains? Or automobiles?
But even if our government actually protected the right of a carrier like Jet Blue to bar certain forms of dress on its flights, all the above still does not mean that the government would properly just ignore suspicious-looking characters with an interest in domestic aviation. Not after the atrocities committed in the name of Islam on September 11, 2001.
But the tectonic plates move in dangerous ways when the topics are taxes, trade, torts and terrorism. [George] Miller voted against reducing the federal tax code's "marriage penalty"; [Ellen] Tauscher was for it. He was against liberalizing trade with China; she was for it. He was against limiting awards in lawsuits; she was for it.Tauscher is a mixed bag to be sure, but if there are more people like her in the party (and this article is accurate), that would be a very good thing.
Then there is terrorism -- and Iraq. Tauscher, with her lower Manhattan ties and her swing district (which includes two of the government's most important defense-research labs), voted to authorize the war in Iraq and is wary of the consequences of a too-hasty exit. To Miller, the war is an unsalvageable blunder. Coming of age in antiwar San Francisco, his view is framed by Vietnam. He voted against authorizing the invasion. He admires Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for having come forward last year to denounce it. "Everyone discounted the criticisms of people like me because we were the 'antiwar crowd'," Miller says. "Jack gave the Democratic Party a place to stand."
The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. manufactures a Jesus doll that is less a toy and more a tool with which to preach Christianity to children. For example, the toy quotes the Holy Bible with statements like "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." The doll's manufacturer offered to donate 4,000 of its dolls to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, founded by the Marines in 1947 to ensure that needy children received some toys for Christmas.The purpose of our military is to defend the United States from foreign threats. Not to serve as an overseas welfare agency (to which many conservatives rightfully object) or as a religious order. This is an outrage.
The foundation, supported today by the Marine Corps Reserves as part of its official mission, opted to refuse the Jesus dolls on the grounds that the Marines don't profess one faith over another, and that the doll was an inappropriate gift for a non-Christian family. And that's when all hell broke lose.
In response to its decision, the foundation was peppered with so many calls of Christian outrage that The Washington Post reports that it became impossible for the foundation to perform its mission -- which is simply to give some hard-luck kids something nice to play with on Christmas Day. Caving in to the pressure, the foundation reversed itself and agreed to accept the Jesus dolls, and will simply have to make an extra effort in addition to its already large commitments to ensure that these dolls don't go to families that don't want them.
To say grace is to give credit where none is due -- and, worse, it is to withhold credit where it is due. To say grace is to commit an act of injustice.Thank you, Craig, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Rational, productive people -- whether philosophers, scientists, inventors, artists, businessmen, military strategists, friends, family, or yourself -- are who deserve to be thanked for the goods on which your life, liberty, and happiness depend. This holiday season -- and from here out -- don't say grace; say justice: Thank or acknowledge the people who actually provide the goods. Some of them may be sitting right there at the table with you. And if you find yourself at a table where people insist on saying grace, politely insist on saying justice when they're through. It's the right thing to do.
Al Gore’s new movie on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” opens with scenes from Hurricane Katrina slamming into New Orleans. The former vice president says unequivocally that because of global warming, it is all but certain that future hurricanes will be more violent and destructive than those in the past.
With the official start of hurricane season days away, meteorologists are unanimous that the 2006 tropical storm season, which runs from June 1 through November, is likely to be a doozy.
Can you name a single hurricane from 2006? If not, don’t be too hard on yourself -it’s “the most tranquil season in a decade“.
PrefaceI would add just one small point based upon my own preliminary readings of the New Testament, Augustine, and Aquinas. It's not just Paul that is allied with Augustine: Jesus himself is too. The Gospels -- particularly Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" -- are thoroughly anti-worldly and anti-reason. All of the values of this world are totally opposite to those commanded by God. Although I've just started reading Augustine, his fundamental philosophy is clearly that of the New Testament. In contrast, Aquinas is often shockingly Aristotelian in his fundamental method and principles, so much so that Christian doctrine often seems like an afterthought. While Aquinas often exploits Aristotle's Platonic remnants (e.g. the contemplation of eternal as the best form of life), he's fundamentally grounded in a philosophy contrary to that of the New Testament.
I would like to thank all those who posted comments on my previous essay on Christian fundamentalism. I was a bit surprised at the number of people who recognized similarities to my own background. Several people also raised some interesting questions. Rather than answering individually, I decided to respond with this brief essay.
The Two Christianities
The Christian religion is not a monolithic structure; two major strains stand out in its history. From a philosophical perspective these two might appear to be separate religions only loosely associated, since they have very different answers to what is the nature of the world, the relationship between faith and reason, and how one should live one's life. These two perspectives have formed a polar opposition and much of the history of Christianity can be seen as a struggle between them.
The first of these two derives from Saint Paul of the New Testament and Augustine (354 - 430). This world is to be avoided; emphasis is clearly on the kingdom of God. In fact, this world is regarded as corrupt, a source of temptation, and the province of Satan. Equally emphatic is the denunciation of reason. The only justifiable exercise of reason is as a handmaiden of faith. Without faith, the exercise of reason not only leads to error, it is also corrupt, evil, and the province of Satan. Without faith, mankind is hopelessly mired in mountains of sin, to the extent that no amount of good works could form even a molehill in comparison. Salvation, then, is a free gift of God's grace, completely undeserved. Complete obedience to God is demanded in return.
Now, of course, it is not easy to remain alive in this world with such guiding principles. So, there has been a counter trend within Christianity throughout its history. The most articulate spokesman for this trend is Thomas Aquinas (1224 - 1274). The natural world is good; after all, God created it and pronounced it to be good. Consequently, interest in the natural world is appropriate and can even lead to God. This attitude is the source of such views of an awareness of the laws of physics as "thinking God's thoughts after Him". Reason is viewed as a natural capacity of human beings and can lead to truth about the world. Aquinas was very careful to distinguish philosophy from religion, and the "God of Philosophy" from the "God of faith". His famous five proofs of the existence of God can be criticized philosophically; this is a proper subject of rational debate. However, the "God of faith" is not subject to rational deliberation. But, Aquinas insists, there can be no conflict between faith and reason. Ethically, to live successfully in this world according to one's nature is a good thing for all living creatures, including human beings.
Most modern Christian denominations are complex mixtures of these two perspectives falling, on average, somewhere at an intermediate point on this continuum. This is also true of the Catholic Church. Various monastic orders tend to emphasize one side or the other of this divergence. For example, the Augustinian and Jesuit orders tend to fall on the Augustine side; the Benedictine order tends to fall on the Aquinas side. I attended a small Catholic college run by Benedictine monks my first two years. It was there that I was introduced to Aristotle, logic, and Thomas Aquinas, as well as getting a superb grounding in the fundamentals of mathematics.
Another example is also illustrative here. Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) was a theologian and a member of the Augustinian order within the Catholic Church. His "reformation" actually began as a friendly dispute over some rather arcane theological points related to the relevance of good works to salvation. His point of view was a conservative reaction to the "liberalism" of his day, harking back to the older teachings of Paul and Augustine. Later in his life, as the reformation took on political dimensions and resulted in an overt split from the church, he moved even closer to the positions of Paul and Augustine. His position on reason is unambiguous. He described it as "the Devil's Whore" and urged the faithful to slay it.
Ideas matter; they influence and shape our lives. Therefore, these two oppositions are more than theoretical; they very much affect the daily lives of people caught in the grips of the Christian religion. One of the best portrayals of these affects is in the movie Chocolat. At the beginning of the story, a small French village is caught in the grips of the Augustinian side of this opposition. The mayor and priest keep the people in a dour state of misery, suffering, and general malaise. Along comes the heroine of our story who brazenly opens a chocolate shop, during Lent no less. The movie can be seen as an allegory, using chocolate as symbolic of the enjoyment of life, as it portrays the gradual transformation of the lives of the people in the village moving toward the Aquinas side of this opposition.
Now let us turn to Christian fundamentalism and ask how it fits into this picture. Traditionally, three pillars grounded Christian faith: the authority of the church, tradition, and Holy Scripture. The church provided an interpretation of the Bible; it wasn't necessarily taken as literal truth. Fundamentalism in Christianity tends to reject the authority of the church and tradition, grounding its faith solely in a literal interpretation of the Bible as the revealed word of God. Fundamentalism may be found across all dimensions of Christianity. Many fundamentalists choose to remain in mainstream Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church. However, many do not; they may attend independent or non-denominational churches, or even gather informally in small groups. This is one reason why one must be very careful in interpreting polls about attitudes toward religion. Unless questions are carefully phrased, some fundamentalists fall through the cracks, since they do not regard themselves as part of traditional Christian denominations.
While I doubt that a blanket statement can be made that covers all fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists overwhelmingly tend to fall on the Paul/Augustine side of the ledger. The Bible is the source of all truth: What is the nature of reality? Whatever the Bible says it is. How do you know? It is in the Bible. How should one live? Do whatever the Bible says. There is no room for rational debate; it has been completely cut off. This is why fundamentalists have so little regard for historical scholarship as it applies to the origins of the church and the Bible. The acceptance of the Bible is itself a matter of faith and is not subject to rational deliberation.
How does one judge the content of fundamentalism? By looking at what is philosophically significant about it. By asking: How do they view the nature of the world? How do they regard the use of reason and the relationship between reason and faith? How do they answer the question of how should one live one's life? The answers to these questions are fairly easy to discover. Moreover, it is important to accurately identify their contents and treat fundamentalism accordingly. It is especially important to judge how they regard the exercise of reason.
Judging the cultural significance of contemporary Christian fundamentalism is more difficult. In this respect Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis is very helpful. So is his The Ominous Parallels, which is an underrated work. I am aware that it is denigrated in certain quarters that call themselves Objectivist, but this is a huge mistake. Not only is The Ominous Parallels the most coherent account of the rise of Nazism in Germany that exists, it is a remarkably detailed account of how ideas are spread throughout a culture. This process is by no means obvious; it takes a lot of work to trace the interconnections. Furthermore, Peikoff shows that the essential preconditions that made the rise of totalitarianism possible are operative here in the United States.
Let me make one observation about contemporary society. If you look at the recognizable intellectual movements of the last fifty years or so: pragmatism, positivism, socialism, Marxism, post-modernism, multi-culturalism, etc. the adjectives one would use to describe these movements today would not include "rejuvenated", "enthusiastic", and "energetic." Indeed, many of these movements are regarded today as a dead-end. Do they still have influence? Yes, but it is more from inertia than anything else. They are not going anywhere. Even linguistic analysis and existentialism, long dominant in many quarters in philosophy, can't be described as "vital." Their adherents continue to engage them because that is what they know how to do and they can't see any alternative. At best, contemporary society is characterized by a kind of intellectual vacuum. Just as in science, nature abhors a vacuum, so does society. Something will emerge to fill that vacuum. Today, one movement that can be described as rejuvenated, enthusiastic, and energetic is Christian fundamentalism.
The kind of split within Christianity that I have characterized here is probably applicable to other religions as well. I do not know as much about the history of Islam, but my impression is that this kind of split is present there as well. Indeed, it seems that Islamic fundamentalism runs parallel to fundamentalism within Christianity and the Augustinian side of this split. This is one reason why the United States has been so ineffective in fighting the war on terrorism. To do so requires a vigorous denunciation of religious fundamentalism and an emphatic insistence on the separation of religion and state. But, of course, to take such steps requires a philosophical understanding of why these positions are necessary.
The antidote to Christian fundamentalism is a philosophy based on reason and reality. Our hope for the future lies in the fact that there is another movement that can be described as rejuvenated, enthusiastic, and energetic: Objectivism.
November 22, 2006
For those of you wishing to explore these issues further, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy has reasonably competent overview articles on Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther. Also, if you haven't read The Ominous Parallels I recommend it highly.
As if you needed more proof that Russia has reverted to a dictatorship, the Brits have found conclusive evidence that yet another Putin critic has been assassinated by radiation.
Security sources said MI5 believes the Russian intelligence services assassinated Mr Litvinenko. Britain made a formal request to Moscow for help in the murder investigation. But Mr Putin left diplomats open-mouthed with claims that the former spy did not die â€˜a violent deathâ€™.
At a dramatic press conference in London the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that he had been killed by a â€˜large doseâ€™ of radioactive polonium 210, and not thallium as previously thought.
Only a speck of it would have been enough to prove fatal once it got into his system, probably by being slipped into his drink or on to food.
Whoever did this must have been expert in the dosage because giving him too much would have caused almost instant death while it took weeks for him to become gravely ill, giving the killer ample chance to escape.
...Janet Wolfson is a 44-year-old mother of eight in Canton, Georgia. Tracie Moore, a 39-year-old midwife who lives in southern Kentucky, is mother to fourteen. Wendy Dufkin in Coxsackie has her thirteen. And while Jamie Stoltzfus, a 27-year-old Illinois mom, has only four children so far, she plans on bearing enough to populate "two teams." All four mothers are devoted to a way of life New York Times columnist David Brooks has praised as a new spiritual movement taking hold among exurban and Sunbelt families. Brooks called these parents "natalists" and described their progeny as a new wave of "Red-Diaper Babies"--as in "red state."I'd like to read more about this movement, as I suspect these Christians are drawing upon Augustine's views of sex, marriage, and procreation. (That Augustine essay is very revealing.)
But Wolfson, Moore and thousands of mothers like them call themselves and their belief system "Quiverfull." They borrow their name from Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God.
Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship--"Father knows best"--and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power.
As a result of the changes in philosophical ideas from Enlightenment assumptions to Kantian premises, we have seen the subjects of French 19th-century paintings move from the heroic to the ordinary to the unrecognizable, and style move from the careful evocation of texture and atmosphere to daubs and smears applied with a palette knife. By the early years of the 20th century, the works being produced by the French avant-garde were bizarre and incomprehensible, but were defended vehemently by the artists and critics. Hence, although it is startling that Matisse's Luxe, calme, e volupte (fig. 2) was accepted as an admirable work of art a mere century after David painted Madame Recamier (fig. 1), it is understandable in the context of the time. Art is, after all, subject to cause and effect. Most artists, like most other people, uncritically adopt the ideas circulating in their culture. The philosophical ideas circulating by 1900 were horrendous. Art followed suit.Compare this to the following passage from the clinical tale whose title lends itself to the collection The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, in which he shows us the dramatic toll a physical illness can take on a man's cognitive powers:
"Yes," Mrs. P. said, "he was a gifted painter as well as a singer. The School exhibited his pictures every year."Fortunately, if we regard Western civilization, too, as a patient with an illness, the prognosis is uncertain, but it is far from hopeless.
I strolled past them curiously -- they were in chronological order. All his earlier work was naturalistic and realistic, with vivid mood and atmosphere, but finely detailed and concrete. Then, years later, they became less vivid, less concrete, less realistic and naturalistic, but far more abstract, even geometrical and cubist Finally, in the last paintings, the canvasses became nonsense, or nonsense to me -- mere chaotic lines and blotches of paint. I commented on this to Mrs. P.
"Ach, you doctors, you're such Philistines!" she exclaimed. "Can you not see the artistic development -- how he renounced the realism of his earlier years, and advanced into abstract, nonrepresentational art?"
"No, that's not it," I said to myself (but forbore to say it to poor Mrs. P.). He had indeed moved from realism to nonrepresentation to the abstract, yet this was not the artist, but the pathology, advancing -- advancing towards a profound visual agnosia, in which all powers of representation and imagery, all sense of reality, were being destroyed. This wall of paintings was a tragic pathological exhibit, which belonged to neurology, not art. (p.17) [link added]
I object to Rob's theory, on two main grounds. Firstly, I believe he is seriously misrepresenting Leonard Peikoff's view of the role of ideas in history, in essence constructing a straw man. Secondly, I see Tracinski's own new and still-forming theory as being incompatible with Peikoff's actual view, with which I agree completely. [bold added]Like Ed Cline, Medworth notices that Tracinski quotes only part of a larger passage on the subject from Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Like Harry Binswanger, he quotes a much larger passage -- the quote Tracinski used along with some relevant missing context. Medworth uses this larger passage as a basis for examining in more depth how Objectivists think ideas shape history.
I do agree with Tracinski on one point, and that is that the modern achievements are significantly helped by the collapse of Objectivism's enemies. In particular, the Kantian influence in the world has taken a big knock. Fascism is dead, and communism is discredited, an ideological "dead man walking". Socialism has been exposed as a failure, and this has left a gap for freedom to be advanced by the more rational thinkers in society. More fundamentally, modern academic philosophy is widely held to be a useless joke, even among academic philosophers. I know of philosophers today who see their profession as a meaningless pushing-around of words, a fraud perpetrated on those (usually taxpayers) who fund them. This blunts their influence on society.This is not only the most thorough freely-available discussion of the controversy I have seen so far, it is the most polite. In fact, Medworth urges us to take the time to hear Tracinski out.
But the collapse of a negative is not a positive. What we increasingly have today is an ideological vacuum waiting to be filled.
If Objectivists are getting anything wrong at present, I think it might be an underestimation of the strength of good ideas in society. Reason and egoism may be in a parlous state in modern academic philosophy, but the strength of their influence in society (the "cultural momentum", if you will) is still strong. Looking around society today, it is absurd to say that reason and egoism are dead today. ... [bold added]
I am certain that Tracinski has received many letters from TIA Daily readers making many of the points I did above. Tracinski is not a fool, nor do I have any reason to suspect he is dishonest. I see no call for frenzied denunciations or insults: in fact I am grateful to him, and to Harry Binswanger, Ed Cline and others who have commented, for helping me to think through these issues. Tracinski is only half-way through his six-part article, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to his critics.Fair enough. But after reading the following from an Editor's Note in Friday's TIA Daily, I would add a caveat.
"[O]n the question of whether I disagree with Ayn Rand on this topic, the answer is: I'm still trying to figure that out for sure, and I am certain there will be many people who will offer their suggestions (friendly or otherwise) on this question. I certainly don't reject the essentials of Ayn Rand's philosophy -- indeed, I am relying upon them in this series -- nor do I mean to imply, for example, that she held that the content of specialized fields could be deduced from philosophy.If Medworth closes his post by citing Ayn Rand on the the role of ideas in history, I will close my comments on his post by quoting her on the matter of being in less-than-full agreement with Objectivism. I owe the following quote to Diana Hsieh:
That leads me to say something about the status of my own theory. I have always held that Objectivism is Ayn Rand's philosophy and stands for her ideas, and that any new theory contributed by a subsequent thinker is his own. So I am not arguing that my view on the role of ideas in the world is the "real" Objectivist theory. To the extent that what I am saying is original, it is my theory, and the reader may judge for himself to what extent it is consistent with Ayn Rand's philosophy -- and, most important, with the facts of reality. [my bold]
There is nothing wrong in using ideas, anybody's ideas. Provided that you give appropriate credit, you can make any mixture of ideas that you want; the contradiction will be yours. But why do you need the name of someone with whom you do not agree in order to spread your misunderstandings -- or worse, your nonsense and falsehoods? (From "The Moratorium on Brains," Question and Answer Period.)If Robert Tracinski, upon finally stating his theory, believes (or even suspects) that it is at variance with Objectivism, I would hope that he would publicly announce that, although he is strongly influenced by her ideas, he is not an adherent to her philosophy. That he has forthrightly acknowledged that he might be at odds with Ayn Rand is encouraging in that respect.
I was interested enough in his new series to read it pretty closely, and I'm not convinced. He made a point about a common view among Objectivists; I've run across it myself. However, he doesn't do a good job at all of quoting anyone actually propounding that view, and among major Objectivist thinkers I'm not sure he'd be able to do so.The bold above reminded me of an attempt on my part a few months ago to write a rather lengthy review of Glenn Reynold's An Army of Davids because the error Tracinski makes is like one that Glenn Reynolds makes, and which permeates his entire book. Reynolds' error seems to be that it is advancing technology -- and not better ideas -- that will fundamentally improve society in the long haul. Quoting from that review:
So, at best he's cleaning out some undergrowth, but his misquotes of Peikoff are shadowboxing with a cardboard cutout of his own making. My considered response is exactly what Edward Cline's was -- the growth of knowledge in the special sciences only leads to the growth of rational philosophy at large when there's an openness to and glimmerings of rational philosophy in a culture in the first place. [cf. Medworth's "mutual reinforcement" as below --ed]
In the past the circumstances have sometimes been due basically to historical accident; for instance, the rise of science and liberal philosophy and the decline in religiosity in England after Elizabeth's accession because the balance of power between the Church of England and the low-church sects was such as to encourage tolerance (in other circumstances you'd have ended up with disastrous wars of religion like the Thirty Years' War just a few years after her death).
If you're going to discuss the history of those ideas as an historian, you'll have to take all that into account rather than rationalistically deriving things from bare ideas, and more than that, you'll have to take into account the interaction between one generation of thinkers' ideas and those of the following as well as the growth (or extinction) of knowledge in the various fields of thought.
However, historical accidents merely give opportunities, and if the ideas aren't there, all the freedom and scientific research in the world isn't going to bring them into existence. Basically, he's taking too short-term a view of things; at best he's simply arguing past Peikoff. [my bold]
Here's another counterexample to the notion that technology -- unaided by an improvement in a society's intellectual climate -- can effect meaningful social change. Reynolds notes that Philippine President Joseph Estrada was brought down by a text-messaging flash mob. He fails to mention that this flash mob gathered in exactly the same place the old-fashioned mob that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos 15 years before had gathered. I dare say that unless the people of the Philippines make fundamental cultural and political changes, some other corrupt president will probably have to be overthrown later on. What difference does it make that a president can be overthrown if he never gets replaced by anything better?Although, as Medworth points out, the various advances -- in philosphy and the special sciences -- of a rational society can be "mutually reinforcing", it is clearly easy to lose sight (by dropping context) of when a technological advance serves as "reinforcement" of the underlying rationality of a culture and when it falls more into the category of "historical accident".
And besides, the example Tracinski uses of Aristotle's biology is misleading in another way than Edward Cline mentioned. Aristotle didn't start Greek science or philosophy. The two advanced pretty much hand in hand starting with Thales (actually, probably centuries earlier than him, but he's the first big name in both), and the really significant fact about Greek science and philosophy is that both flourished because Greek thinkers were free (within broad limits, such as not denying certain aspects of a given city's religious myths) to pursue thought as far as they could.Binswanger made a related point about the ability of scientists to function as philosophers. He noted that a scientist who, say, figured out an epistemological method needed for his research, was functioning as a philosopher when he did so.
How that culture came about is a ripe question, and no, I don't have an answer; but it was only with such a view of reason that Greek science could advance beyond the rules of thumb of Egypt and Mesopotamia and philosophy beyond the Homeric myths. (In that regard, compare the Greek myths and subsequent philosophy with Hindu myths and philosophy; the two started with the same Indo-European basis and ended up in quite different places. And the two philosophical systems, or better, bundles of systems, ended up more similar than many people realize because they converged with the spread of Greek thought under Alexander and his successors.
For example, three of the four Aristotelian syllogistic figures are basic to Tibetan Buddhist logic, and the realistic musculature of Greek sculpture lives on in Japanese (!) sculptures of Buddhist guardian dieties, thanks to the spread of Hellenism to the East and its influence on Buddhism.) Aristotle didn't just start pursuing science out of the blue, nor for that matter did Thales; Aristotle pursued science in reaction against his training in Platonism at the Academy, and Thales pursued science because he was seeking to understand the nature of the world -- you can't even separate the scientific and the philosophical into different compartments with those guys.
And that, when you think about it, is one big reason they made the progress they did, and why progress in the specialized sciences is in the long run philosophically nugatory without a pro-reason philosophy. And without some favor for reason in a culture, you're not going to have the specialized sciences growing at breakneck pace in the first place. And thus you can see from another vantage point in what way Tracinski's view is short-term; he's confusing the inertia of institutionalized science with the motive power of free reason.[This is from a third email.]
And of course, having thought about it further, this is a good sentence of mine to think about: "Thales pursued science because he was seeking to understand the nature of the world -- you can't even separate the scientific and the philosophical into different compartments with those guys." Which condemns the tendencies of our age -- if it's not nonsensical to think of science but not philosophy as seeking to understand the nature of the world, that's a sign science is doomed in the long run.I will close by noting a thought of my own. Harry Binswanger's series on Tracinski he titles, "The Power of Philosophy", which reminds me of the current title of a blog by a fly-by-night "Objectivist" whose blogging style is to overwhelm the reader with tons of selected evidence, slipping in his own assumptions on the sly the whole time. I at one time contemplated fisking this blog, using the title of "The Fallacy of Narrative".
And another thought: Greek science didn't end with Aristotle, though he was certainly the height of Greek philosophy. So, obviously the continued progress in Greek (more precisely, Hellenistic) science didn't translate into philosophical progress. Instead, you had a pinnacle of scientific knowledge roughly around the time the Mediterranean became a Roman lake, and then a slow contraction in what was known to the world outside a few centers of learning.
It's not directly related to a decline in rational philosophy, but instead is due to a number of historical factors: There was foremost the transformation of the Mediterranean into a Roman lake, or more precisely the rise of the imperial system, which demanded a strictly set curriculum devoted to the practical arts of administration; this led to the concomitant reduction of the curriculum to the seven greatest plays of each dramatist, the greatest works of each poet, etc. Their other works were less and less copied at Alexandria and other centers of learning, which caused a slow winnowing of the mass of classical learning. Over the centuries there was a slow funnel effect of more and more of the non-essential material being discarded and a loss of variety in the manuscripts made.
More generally there was the straitening effect of a uniform and prosaic imperial system (not to mention the simple fact that it was run by Romans, who were skilled at technology and the brutely practical but had little curiosity on the whole for science or philosophy); and socially and economically there was a marked decline in independent cultural centers in the cities of the empire from the high imperial period on (say after Trajan) due to increased taxation and interference from the center. The factors more familiar to most people, like the rise of Christianity, the incursion of barbarians, and the severing of tradition as higher civilization collapsed, were added onto this.
But again, how much of that is not due in some way to the decline of rational worldly philosophy?
Killing a regulator who does not answer to the will of the people is justice.
Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the Earth, more than half the American population believes that the entire cosmos was created 6,000 years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. Those with the power to elect presidents and congressmenâ€”and many who themselves get electedâ€”believe that dinosaurs lived two by two upon Noah's Ark, that light from distant galaxies was created en route to the Earth and that the first members of our species were fashioned out of dirt and divine breath, in a garden with a talking snake, by the hand of an invisible God.I agree. I've noticed that in the past year or so, atheist views have taken on a much larger public profile than they have in the past. Even South Park noticed the trend in a recent episode (as it nevertheless tried to lampoon atheists as dogmatists who are no less ruthless than the religious).
This is embarrassing.
"Philosophy is not the only cause of the course of the centuries. It is the ultimate cause, the cause of all the other causes. The books of philosophers are the beginning. Step by step, the books turn into motives, passions, statues, politicians, and headlines."This is an incomplete, and dishonest quotation. The full quotation should have been:
"Objectivism does not deny that 'many factors' are involved in historical causation. Economic, psychological, military, and other forces play a role. Ayn Rand does not, however, regard all these forces as primaries.And without a determination of the essentials, details will be contextless, unintegrated, and random, as they were in the Dark Ages, and as they are to any modern child or adult until he grasps the role of reason. It was the discovery of essentials by men that allowed them to abandon alchemy and found the sciences of chemistry and physics. And the integrator of essentials is philosophy. The full quotation of Dr. Peikoff's excerpt blows Tracinski's assertions to pieces. Tracinski omitted those parts of the quotation that did not fit his thesis.
"There is no dichotomy between philosophy and the specialized factors. Philosophy is not the only cause of the course of the centuries. It is the ultimate cause, the cause of all the other causes. If there is to be an explanation of so vast a sum as human history, which involves all men in all fields, only the science dealing with the widest abstractions can provide it. The reason is that only the widest abstractions can integrate all those fields.
"The books of philosophers are the beginning. Step by step, the books turn into motives, passions, statues, politicians, and headlines.
"Philosophy determines essentials, not details...." (Dutton edition)
"This is a kind of trickle-down theory of intellectual influence, in which the philosopher is the originator and only source of the ideas that drive the course of history, while the public intellectuals and the men in the specialized sciences are mere transmitters and translators of those ideas."How would one then explain the "trickle-down" intellectual influence of Kant and his successors in philosophy? Tracinski dwells on "fact-driven" knowledge in the sciences and in the headlines, but discards the ultimate philosophical causes of those facts. If men defy reality and pursue the irrational, regardless of the consequences in reality - such as the Democrats wishing to impose socialism on America or Bush refusing to acknowledge this country's foreign enemies - what will govern and explain the "new" facts of the impoverishment of Americans and Iran's Ahmadinejad developing nuclear bombs? What will explain suicide bombers, or the Amish forgiving the killer of schoolgirls? What would explain advances in stem cell research, or its prohibition by government?
"Theirs is a career path with one healthy epistemological consequence: the work of these intellectuals is relentlessly fact-driven. Every day brings new events whose causes and consequences they have to explain."Explain how? Are they the heirs of Aristotle, or of Kant? While it is not necessary for a journalist to be able to trace the ultimate origin of a fact, the fact remains that philosophy is the origin of facts. If the fact-driven epistemology of a 21st century American is healthier than that of a feudal serf (or of most modern journalists), what can explain the difference?
"It is worth noting that the first great pro-reason philosopher, Aristotle, was also his era's greatest biologist and an inheritor of several centuries of progress in Greek science. Or, in a modern context, consider where the defenders of reason would be without Newton and Darwin, men who provided natural, scientific explanations for the nature of the universe and the origin of man, two questions that had traditionally been the exclusive domain of religion."Counterpoint: Aristotle was a pioneer in his fields and applied reason to them (not always consistently, since, as Rand and Peikoff noted, there were still elements of intrinsicism in his thinking). And, it was the advocates of an incomplete philosophy of reason that allowed Newton and Darwin to accomplish what they did, advocates who lived and wrote before Newton's and Darwin's times.
Fred Weiss recently wrote the following:Tony said: "if someone mistakenly thinks you're about to kill his wife, and shoots you to prevent it, he is NOT wrong, and has NOT violated your rights, if the circumstances are such that his mistaken belief is objective and rationally justified."I briefly stated that I think this analysis implicitly rests on a mistaken understanding of the nature and justification of rights, and one that is inconsistent with the Objectivist view. I'll defend that position in the following post. (Warning in advance: to treat this issue properly, this post will have to be long.)
Brian's reply to this was correct. It is a violation of rights, but the motivation and intention based on the error can constitute mitigation... In any event, whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights. Your context of knowledge or motivation doesn't change that fact.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that of course I do not intend that statement as an attack on or a disparagement of anyone -- neither Fred, nor anyone else who may agree with him. I would have thought that would go without saying, but if it doesn't, then by all means let me say it. I certainly wouldn't take it as a disparaging reflection on myself if someone turns out to be able to argue that it is my understanding of this issue is in error. That is entirely possible, and it wouldn't exactly be the first time that it has happened. :)
Let me start by positing two nearly identical scenarios. You are armed, and you witness a man you do not know behaving erratically, brandishing a toy gun, and shouting about how he is about to kill your spouse -- who is well within firing range, and with no cover. You have your weapon aimed at him, when he begins to raise his gun toward your spouse's head. You fire, and kill him.
The two scenarios are identical, except for the following, single difference:
Scenario 1. You know that the man's gun is a toy.
Scenario 2. You do NOT know that the man's gun is a toy.
I would argue that in Scenario 1, you have at the very least committed manslaughter, if not murder -- since there was in fact no real threat to your spouse's life, and you knew it. In that case, I would agree that you have violated the man's right to life. In the second scenario, by contrast, you were acting entirely and legitimately in self-defense. You were entirely justified in believing that your spouse's life was in danger. In an emergency situation, if the police are not present, you have a right to act in self-defense, and there is no legitimate argument to be made that you ought not to have shot him. Had the gun in fact been real and loaded, no rational jury in the world could (or should) convict you.
Fred states explicitly that: "...whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights. Your context of knowledge or motivation doesn't change that fact." On that premise, I see only three possible positions to take with regard to these two examples -- since the only difference between them lies in your context of knowledge.
1. In both scenarios, you have violated the victim's rights, and are morally culpable in the victim's death.
2. In both scenarios, you have not violated the victim's rights -- irrespective of your knowledge or lack thereof about the gun.
3. In both scenarios, you have violated the victim's rights, but in scenario 2 that violation of rights is somehow "OK" or "justified" by the mitigating circumstances.
From my reading of your objection, Fred, I'm assuming that it is position 3 that you would defend. I state the others just for the record.
(To anticipate one objection relevant to argument 2: I do not think it is legitimate to posit that by his actions, the man has forfeited his right to life in both scenarios. The fact that you have the right to use force in self-defense, and in an emergency situation, does not entitle you to use force when you know that your self-defense does not require it, and when you know that you are not in an emergency situation. Doing so would make you an objective threat to the lives and safety of others, who would be justified in treating you accordingly.)
Why do I think that position 3 is wrong? This is where I think the Objectivist definition and defense of the nature of rights comes in. According to Objectivism, "A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." There are two aspects of this definition that I want to focus on in making my point. The first is that a right is a moral principle. As such, like every other principle, it is contextual -- that is, it has a context in which it applies, and there are also contexts in which it does not apply. The second is that it is a "sanction to independent action." What this means is that a right is a moral claim upon the actions of others -- specifically, a claim that they not interfere with your exercise of independent action. I think it follows from this that because rights are moral claims upon the actions of others, that a violation of someone's rights is necessarily an immoral act.
Thus, it doesn't make sense to me to talk of a rights violation that is nevertheless "OK" because of mitigating circumstances. If you violated someone's rights, then the victim had a moral claim on you not to have acted as you did, and what you did was wrong; that's what I understand a right to mean. But if what you did was "OK" because of mitigating circumstances, then he didn't have a moral claim against your actions, under those circumstances. That's why I think that position 3 entails a contradiction. It's one thing to argue (as an earlier poster did, and I would agree) that mitigating circumstances mitigate the severity of the moral breach involved in a rights violation, and thus the appropriate punishment. It's another to say that mitigating circumstances somehow make the rights violation "OK." In order for that to be the case, you would have to have stepped outside the context in which the moral principle in question (the right) applies, and thus you would not be talking about a rights violation at all -- in that context.
I think it is helpful in trying to identify whether something is or is not a rights violation to always ask the question: "What did the victim have a moral claim against the perpetrator not to have done?" -- in other words, "What ought the perpetrator to have done differently?" When I apply that question to the second scenario above, I can't see a legitimate answer. The man can't have a moral claim on you to hold your fire, given that you have legitimate cause to believe that someone's life was in immediate danger. To say that he does is to ask the impossible -- namely, that you divine causelessly (by "noumenal insight," so to speak) that the gun was fake. A rational and objective view of rights cannot be based on moral claims that demand the impossible.
I think that most of us (myself included) were probably raised (thanks to the influence of religion) with a view of rights that is colored by an intrinsicist perspective. Certainly I think that is the predominant mindset within which most people understand the meaning of rights. In that mindset, rights are a kind of "inalienable possession" that all of us "have" as part of our natures, and which others violate or "take away" from us by certain actions. This is a mindset that I've specifically had to work to overcome over the years, and one which I've found tended to lead me to certain errors in thinking about rights. One of these was to lose sight of the issue of rights as moral claims, and instead to focus on the loss of something that one is "entitled to by right" as the defining element of a rights violation.
I don't want to ask anyone to wear this shoe if it doesn't fit, but it seems to me that something like this is implicit in statements like "...whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights." These place a focus entirely on the outcome, and the facts regarding what the victim has "lost," rather than on what moral obligations the alleged perpetrator can reasonably be expected to have had under the circumstances. The facts of the outcome, and what the victim has "lost," however, cannot be the sole and defining element of a rights violation. If they were, then a rock falling on you during an avalanche would be a "rights violation" as well -- and never mind the fact that moral claims that recognize context of knowledge cannot reasonably be made of inanimate nature.
That's an outline of my basis for thinking that context of knowledge has to be an important factor in defining when something is and is not a rights violation. I'm certainly interested in what others think, in particular about whether there may be any flaws in my reasoning. As Diana said, being wrong isn't a moral failing, and I won't object if anyone can make a case for why I am. :)
Starbucks has a â€œThe Way I See Itâ€ program that accepts submissions from customers and celebrities to be printed on their coffee cups. You can comment on the random thoughts you found on one of their cups, or submit your own. Most of the submissions are predictably boring. Wouldn’t it be great to see some really great ideas on a cup? Submit yours here.
Is a burrito a sandwich? The Panera Bread Co. bakery-and-cafe chain says yes. But a judge said no, ruling against Panera in its bid to prevent a Mexican restaurant from moving into the same shopping mall.
Panera has a clause in its lease that prevents the White City Shopping Center in Shrewsbury from renting to another sandwich shop. Panera tried to invoke that clause to stop the opening of an Qdoba Mexican Grill.
But Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke cited Webster's Dictionary as well as testimony from a chef and a former high-ranking federal agriculture official in ruling that Qdoba's burritos and other offerings are not sandwiches.
The difference, the judge ruled, comes down to two slices of bread versus one tortilla.
"A sandwich is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans," Locke wrote in a decision released last week.
In court papers, Panera, a St. Louis-based chain of more than 900 cafes, argued for a broad definition of a sandwich, saying that a flour tortilla is bread and that a food product with bread and a filling is a sandwich.
Internet neutrality proponents believe that the recent change in Congress is likely to boost their efforts to push legislation that would prohibit tiered access to the Internet.
SaveTheInternet lobbied to stop telecommunications and cable companies from setting higher prices for improved speed and access to some customers. The group said election results have catapulted their efforts forward.
"The outlook for better, more public-spirited Internet legislation is now quite good," the group said through a prepared statement.
In fact, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who proposed legislation supporting their cause, is set to lead telecommunications policy for the House majority in 2007. So is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who said he would propose a telecommunications reform bill with public interest and net neutrality in mind.
The House Judiciary Committee's Task Force on Telecommunications and Antitrust is holding a hearing Tuesday on whether the Internet should operate like a utility, with equal service, or whether providers should be able to provided tiered access and pricing.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Thursday unveiled a bill that would prohibit telephone and cable companies from charging others businesses for faster delivery of content to consumers over the Internet.
The bill to ensure so-called 'Net neutrality' would also prohibit network operators from favoring content over others, such as their own video services over those of Internet companies.
In unveiling the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, Wyden said in a statement that allowing cable and telephone companies to create a two-tiered system for distributing content over their networks would "have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can't afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world."
The Tubes are safe!
YES ... we get to keep the Internets!!!
They should make it an Amendment to the Constitution that no one can ever take our tubes away from us. The Intenets are the only true democracy!
Kerry's heading the Senate Committee and he's a firm believer in MORE ACCESS to citizens not less, with restrictions only for serious matters like child porn.
Just reading the legislative initiatives that our Dem representatives have put out in the past week makes me want to sob in relief. And I have a feeling they're just getting started--they aren't even in power yet!
Speaking only as an individual, I am telling you that if I hadn't had the net these past few years, I wouldn't have known of many of the incredible rip-offs, crimes, boondoggles, and other Abramoff-esque antics of the repukes. I certainly wouldn't have learned of them from cable news, nor from our pathetic local newspaper. You, unlike the repukes, seem not to be afraid of an informed public. The free net is the best news ever for those of us who want to hear something besides the ol' Mighty Wurlitzer blasting in our ears.
Communist officials give monotonous speeches warning the populace against "peaceful evolution" toward Western values and decadence. But many, including the revered Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, under whose command the Vietnamese defeated the French and then the Americans, send their children to study and live in the U.S. and Europe. (Many stay and launder their parents' ill-gotten gains in Western real estate.) The version of Vietnam the Vietnamese people like best is by far the one with America and its stuff.Unfortunately, if we are "winning Vietnam after we lost Vietnam", we are "losing the American Revolution after we won the American Revolution":
The Belmont[, California, ] City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in a park and even in one's car will become illegal and police would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone. [bold added]Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that if you ban the smoking of tobacco, you must burn freedom to do so. Talk about some truly hazardous "second hand smoke"....
Pastor Rick Warren, who yesterday met with [Syrian] President Al-Assad and Foreign Minister Al-Mu'allim, said: "Washington is wrong not to hold dialogue with Syria, which wants peace. I call on the Americans to visit Syria and meet its beautiful people. I will tell the Americans that their idea about Syria does not reflect the truth." This is what the American clergyman said after seeing the facts on the ground. It was not in his interest not to say the truth about what he himself and the accompanying Protestant delegation saw and felt. [bold added]"Facts on the ground" is an argument that sometimes has merit, but as it is being used here, it is simply another variant of the "chickenhawk" fallacy. One need not actually go to Syria to know whether or not it is a state sponsor of terrorism. Nor does visiting the country transform someone into an expert. In fact, given that it is a dictatorship, such a visit will almost certainly make one less knowledgeable.
While the speakers at the National Press Club unveiling were highly critical of Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of "intelligent design," they said that their group was nonpartisan and that many Democrats were hostile to keeping religion out of public policy. [bold added]Although this group is right that, "This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies," I would argue (and have) that it is far more damaging for organizations to push a leftist fad in the name of science. In fact, doing so makes the fundamentalists look more credible than they deserve. (HT: TIA Daily)
What really matters is what our forces are ordered -- and permitted -- to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.I think this has even been used in the past against Islamic insurgents by the American military itself!
That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them. [bold added]
When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul.GB links to the whole story at his blog.
..."When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, 'Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.' At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.
Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart. [bold added]
According to market research firm iSuppli, the newly released PS3 game console costs Sony $241-$400 for each console sold. This is not the cost of the system - this is the net loss to the company after subtracting the price of each console from the cost of the components.
Game console makers like Sony and Microsoft take an initial loss for each system sold so they can provide the very best product to the customer. Of course they wouldn’t do this unless they believed that the initial loss would eventually yield a net profit. They make up for the loss in two ways. First, they take advantage of accelerating technology to get cheaper components. For example, while Microsoft initially took a $126 loss for each Xbox 360 sold, it now makes a $75 profit due to the cheaper cost of the components. It’s probable that some of the cost decrease comes from manufacturers who compete for the console maker’s business. Second, they take a cut of the price of every game sold for their system.
Think about the gamble such decisions involve. Microsoft bets on how many million systems will sell at a given performance level to determine whether it will recoup its costs. Hardware manufacturers bet on the success of a given console to decide where to direct their research. Game makers decide which platform deserves years of development time. Consumers, by comparison, face the least risk, but they must also decide which console will be successful and have the games they want. Success is far from guaranteed - consoles fail as often as they succeed, often taking their company down with them. Remember the Sega Dreamcast?
Do you have a sense yet for the excitement of markets? Such strategic decisions are made every day in every industry — to the extent that it is free. Why doesn’t Hollywood make movies about THIS, rather than yet another gang of thieves bickering with each other as they complete yet another caper?
Some people have reported problems accessing the forum. The forum was down for several hours yesterday, but should be fine now. If you continue to have problems, especially after today, please email heroic(at)gmailDOTcom.
Correction: The website is still having DNS issues. If you are unable to access any part of it, please try again tommorow.
This rare three-hour long interview allowed him to discuss his ideas in depth and take calls from the public. The show profiles his many inventions (starting with a videotape of his 1965 appearance at age 17 on “I’ve Got A Secret” with Steve Allen).
It also covers his career, ideas, and recent books, “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” and “Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough To Live Forever.”
Cole: I was just thinking . . . My father's highest accolade about somebody was that he was a gentleman.Indeed!
Martin: Exactly. But in court societies you'd be a gentleman by birth no matter how you behaved. That's the point about America--you have to behave like a gentleman to be a gentleman. And surely that is a superior system.
ELTON JOHN: 'I WOULD BAN RELIGION COMPLETELY'It is at times like this that I feel especially grateful to Ayn Rand for clarifying exactly what is wrong with religion and the emotionalist left. Otherwise, there is so much that is so wrong here one would hardly know where to begin.
Sat Nov 11 2006 15:42:55 ET
Sir Elton John wants religion banned completely -- because he believes it promotes hatred of gays.
Speaking to the Observer Music Monthly Magazine the singer said religion lacked compassion and turned people into "hateful lemmings".
The PRESS ASSOCIATION reports: In a candid interview for a dedicated Gay issue of the magazine he shared his views on topics as varied as being a pop icon to Tony Blair's stance on the war in Iraq.
He said there was a lack of religious leadership, particularly in world politics, and complained that people do not take to the streets to protest any more.
Sir Elton said: "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.
"But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion. From my point of view I would ban religion completely.
"Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."
He added: "The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together?
"I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts. Instead of more violence why isn't there a meeting of religious leaders?
"It's like the peace movement in the Sixties. Musicians got through to people by getting out there and doing peace concerts but we don't seem to do them any more.
"If John Lennon were alive today he'd be leading it with a vengeance," he said.
Sir Elton said people were too busy blogging on the internet to go out onto the streets to stand up for what they believed in.
"They seem to do their protesting online and that's not good enough. You have to get out there and be seen to be vocal, and you've got to do it time and time again.
"There was a big march in London when Britain decided to join the war against Iraq and Tony Blair is on the record as saying 'the people who march today will have blood on their hands'. That's returned to bite him on the ass," he said.
Sir Elton compared his place in British culture with that of the Queen Mother's.
He said: "People come to me and I'm a bit like the Queen Mother. I never get those problems. I don't know what it is with me, people treat me very reverently.
Referring to his "wedding" to long-term partner David Furnish, he said: "It was the same when Dave and I had our civil union - I was expecting the odd flour bomb and there wasn't.
"Dave and I as a couple seem to be the acceptable face of gayness, and that's great."
He pledged to continue to campaign for gay rights saying: "I'm going to fight for them whether I do it silently behind the scenes or so vocally that I get locked up.
"I can't just sit back; it's not in my nature any more. I'm nearly 60-years-old after all. I can't sit back and blindly ignore it and I won't."
Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when mean deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, persuasion, communication, or understanding are impossible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduces mankind -- a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. [bold added]Yes. Religion often fosters hostility towards homosexuals. Yes. Religion turns people into lemmings. And yes, Mother of Queens, there is no conclave. All of these things are true for the exact same reason -- that religion fundamentally rejects reason. On what basis do religions claim homosexuality (or anything else) is wrong? Because it defies God's will as allegedly revealed to man. Why do men become lemmings? Because they accept, on faith, ready-made answers about difficult issues rather than taking on the responsibility of thinking them through on their own. And why no conclaves? On what basis would religious leaders determine whose infallible yet somehow conflicting revelations were correct? The violence he decries is part and parcel of the irrationality fostered by religion.
The only power of a mob, as against an individual, is greater muscular strength -- i.e., plain, brute physical force. The attempt to solve social problems by means of physical force is what a civilized society is established to prevent. The advocates of mass civil disobedience admit that their purpose is intimidation. A society that tolerates intimidation as a means of settling disputes -- the physical intimidation of some men or groups by others -- loses its moral right to exist as a social system, and its collapse does not take long to follow. [bold added]I regard homosexuality as outside the realm of morality and the activities of consenting adults to be their business and their business only. I am sympathetic to Elton John's desire to be able to live the way he chooses free from fear of persecution. But John offers no compelling reason on his own behalf for why we should live and let live! He makes no attempt to persuade. Rather, he simply states that religion turns men into lemmings, that he would ban it, and that he wishes people were still attempting to address major issues like this by thrashing about in the streets rather than thinking about them carefully and discussing them.
Blue Origin, the suborbital space venture created by Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos, is gearing up for a round of rocket testing at its private spaceport in West Texas over the next few days. The first tests would involve sending up a prototype rocket vehicle to about 2,000 feet (610 meters) for no more than a minute - but between now and 2010, Blue Origin plans to shoot its rocket ships up 62 miles or more, to the edge of outer space.Blue Origin activity might account for a few recent hits from Google searches for "Van Horn, Texas". Not droves, yet, but one can always hope!
Notice of the upcoming tests came in the form of a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. The notice sets aside airspace in a 5.75-statute-mile radius around Bezos' launch site, near Van Horn, up to an altitude of 10,000 feet (just to be safe). The area will be off-limits to pilots between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. CT, starting Friday and ending Monday.
... Blue Origin spokesman Bruce Hicks is keeping mostly mum, as is his habit. When I contacted him for comment, he said the schedule called for test launches to begin in November. "It's November," he observed.
Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.Although it looks like a thoroughly unpleasant fear-inducing experience, it does not appear to cause any kind of permanent physical damage. Nor does the subject ever appear to be at a real risk of drowning.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.If one accepts that definition, then I'm not sure that waterboarding quite falls into that category. Because it appears to induce strong reflexive fear response (as opposed to direct pain), it seems different in kind from more "traditional" forms of torture (such as sticking hot pokers into the victim's body), although there are definitely some similarities as well. And there are also legitimate questions as to the reliability of any information gained by this technique.
South Dakota voters have rejected the state’s proposed abortion law--a law that would have outlawed abortion in virtually every case. The law’s supporters claim that its rejection is a blow to “the sanctity of human life.” But is it?
Consider what banning abortion would mean for human life--not the "lives" of embryos or primitive fetuses, but the lives of real, living, breathing, thinking women.
It would mean that women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy because it resulted from rape or contraceptive failure--or because the would-be father has abandoned her--or because the fetus is malformed--would be forbidden from doing so. It would mean that they would be forced to endure the misery of unwanted pregnancy and the incredible burdens of child rearing. It would mean that women would be sentenced to 18-year terms of enslavement to unwanted children--thereby suffocating their hopes, their dreams, their personal ambitions, their chance of happiness. And it would mean that women who refused to submit to such a fate would be forced to turn to the "back-alley" at a staggering risk to their health. According to a World Health Organization estimate, 110,000 women worldwide die each year from such illegal abortions and up to six times as many suffer injury from them.
Clearly, anti-abortionists believe that such women's lives are an unimportant consideration in the issue of abortion. Why? Because, they claim, the embryo or fetus is a human being--and thus to abort it is murder. But an embryo is not a human being, and abortion is not murder.
There is no scientific reason to characterize a raisin-size lump of cells as a human being. Biologically speaking, such an embryo is far more primitive than a fish or a bird. Anatomically, its brain has yet to develop, so in terms of its capacity for consciousness, it doesn't bear the remotest similarity to a human being. This growth of cells has the potential to become a human being--if preserved, fed, nurtured, and brought to term by the woman that it depends on--but it is not actually a human being. Analogously, seeds can become mature plants--but that hardly makes a pile of acorns equal to a forest.
What can justify the sacrifice of an actual woman's life to human potential of the most primitive kind? There can be no rational justification for such a position--certainly not a genuine concern for human life. The ultimate "justification" of the "pro-life" position is religious dogma. Led by the American Roman Catholic Church and Protestant fundamentalists, the movement's basic tenet, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is that an embryo must be treated "from conception as a person" created by the "action of God." What about the fact that an embryo is manifestly not a person, and treating it as such inflicts mass suffering on real people? This tenet is not subject to rational scrutiny; it is a dogma that must be accepted on faith.
The "pro-life" movement tries to obscure the religious, inhuman nature of its position by endlessly focusing on the medical details of late-term abortions (although it seldom mentions that "partialbirth" abortions are extremely rare, and often involve a malformed fetus or a threat to the life of the mother). But one must not allow this smokescreen to distract one from the real issue: the "pro-life" movement is on a faith-based crusade to ban abortion no matter the consequences to actual human life--part of what the Pro-Life Alliance calls the "absolute moral duty to do everything possible to stop abortion, even if in the first instance we are only able to chip away at the existing legislation." This is why it supports the South Dakota law, which is the closest the movement has come to achieving its avowed goal: to ban abortion at any stage of pregnancy, including the first trimester--when 90 percent of abortions take place. As the Pro-Life Alliance puts it: "We continue to campaign for total abolition."
The "pro-life" movement is not a defender of human life--it is, in fact, a profound enemy of actual human life and happiness. Its goal is to turn women into breeding mares whose bodies are owned by the state and whose rights, health and pursuit of happiness are sacrificed en mass--all in the name of dogmatic sacrifice to the pre-human.
The result in South Dakota is the only pro-life result.
Christian Beenfeldt, MA in philosophy, is a guest writer for the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/) in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." Contact the writer at email@example.com
By Alex Epstein
Every Veterans Day we pay tribute to our fellow Americans who have served in the military. With speeches and ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But justice demands that we also recognize that we should have far more living veterans than we do. All too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily--because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America's freedom.
The proper purpose of a government is to protect its citizens' lives and freedom against the initiation of force by criminals at home and aggressors abroad. The American government has a sacred responsibility to recognize the individual value of every one of its citizens' lives, and thus to do everything possible to protect the rights of each to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This absolutely includes our soldiers.
Soldiers are not sacrificial objects; they are full-fledged Americans with the same moral right as the rest of us to the pursuit of their own goals, their own dreams, their own happiness. Rational soldiers enjoy much of the work of military service, take pride in their ability to do it superlatively, and gain profound satisfaction in protecting the freedom of every American, including their own freedom.
Soldiers know that in entering the military, they are risking their lives in the event of war. But this risk is not, as it is often described, a "sacrifice" for a "higher cause." When there is a true threat to America, it is a threat to all of our lives and loved ones, soldiers included. Many become soldiers for precisely this reason; it was, for instance, the realization of the threat of Islamic terrorism after September 11--when 3,000 innocent Americans were slaughtered in cold blood on a random Tuesday morning--that prompted so many to join the military.
For an American soldier, to fight for freedom is not to fight for a "higher cause," separate from or superior to his own life--it is to fight for his own life and happiness. He is willing to risk his life in time of war because he is unwilling to live as anything other than a free man. He does not want or expect to die, but he would rather die than live in slavery or perpetual fear. His attitude is epitomized by the words of John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous soldier in the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die."
What we owe these men who fight so bravely for their and our freedom is to send them to war only when that freedom is truly threatened, and to make every effort to protect their lives during war--by providing them with the most advantageous weapons, training, strategy, and tactics possible.
Shamefully, America has repeatedly failed to meet this obligation. It has repeatedly placed soldiers in harm's way when no threat to America existed--e.g., to quell tribal conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. America entered World War I, in which 115,000 soldiers died, with no clear self-defense purpose but rather on the vague, self-sacrificial grounds that "The world must be made safe for democracy." America's involvement in Vietnam, in which 56,000 Americans died in a fiasco that American officials openly declared a "no-win" war, was justified primarily in the name of service to the South Vietnamese. And the current war in Iraq--which could have had a valid purpose as a first step in ousting the terrorist-sponsoring, anti-American regimes of the Middle East--is responsible for thousands of unnecessary American deaths in pursuit of the sacrificial goal of "civilizing" Iraq by enabling Iraqis to select any government they wish, no matter how anti-American.
In addition to being sent on ill-conceived, "humanitarian" missions, our soldiers have been compromised with crippling rules of engagement that place the lives of civilians in enemy territory above their own. In Afghanistan we refused to bomb many top leaders out of their hideouts for fear of civilian casualties; these men continue to kill American soldiers. In Iraq, our hamstrung soldiers are not allowed to smash a militarily puny insurgency--and instead must suffer an endless series of deaths by an undefeated enemy.
To send soldiers into war without a clear self-defense purpose, and without providing them every possible protection, is a betrayal of their valor and a violation of their rights.
This Veterans Day, we must call for a stop to the sacrifice of our soldiers and condemn all those who demand it. It is only by doing so that we can truly honor not only our dead, but also our living: American soldiers who have the courage to defend their freedom and ours.
Alex Epstein is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Harriman, philosopher and historian of physics, is the originator of VanDamme Academy's revolutionary science curriculum. An expert both in physics and in proper pedagogy, Mr Harriman developed and taught a two-year course on the history of physics for VanDamme Academy. His unique approach is to teach physics historically, thereby teaching it inductively. From the early Greeks to Copernicus to Newton, this course presents the essential principles of physics in logical sequence, placing each in the context of the earlier discoveries that made it possible and explaining how each was discovered by reasoning from observations.
Teaching physics by this method not only renders physics thoroughly intelligible--it also makes physics an inspiring story of discovery, in which great thinkers triumph in their quest to grasp the nature of the physical universe.
VanDamme Academy is now making this revolutionary physics course, "Introduction to Physical Science," available to the public. While Mr. Harriman's easily accessible presentation makes the course appropriate for students as young as grade seven, the course's profound content (unavailable anywhere else) makes it equally valuable for adults: from those seeking to gain the science education they never had to lovers of history who want to understand how we reached today's wondrous world of technology.
Part 1 of this one-of-a-kind course (60 hours) is available now, for only $495 on Audio CD and $695 on DVD. Part 2 will be available in November.
Each part of the course consists of video or audio of classroom instruction delivered to a junior high class by Mr. Harriman, along with a day-by-day course outline and notes of blackboard drawings. Introduction to Physical Science is recommended for adults and for children in grade seven and above. An adult should guide junior high students.
For more information on this revolutionary course, see:
"Dave Harriman seems to know effortlessly everything worth knowing about physics and its history; yet he also knows that the student must be led through the material carefully, in crystal clear steps, if he is to understand the logic and power of the subject. As a result, physics taught by Harriman comes alive in the student's mind as a real part of his thinking. Harriman taught me physics personally, so I know whereof I speak."
Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Philosopher, Teacher, and Educational Expert
To purchase this course, or to learn more about VanDamme Academy and its revolutionary teaching methods, visit www.vandammeacademy.com.
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From Lisa VanDamme:
Science education is a frequent topic in the news these days. This past Wednesday, Microsoft announced a campaign to improve math and science education in the Seattle area. According to Brad Smith, a senior vice president and general counsel for Microsoft: "We're very concerned about the possibility that our kids are falling behind in areas like math and science."
As well they should be. Study after study shows that the average American student has an abysmal level of scientific knowledge. And as we witness greater and greater demand for strong math and science skills--and the thinking abilities that math and science foster--a poor background in science is a greater handicap than ever.
Many smart, wealthy, and well-meaning people are attacking the problem of science education. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about their chances of success.
Why? Because, from what I have seen, they are not getting to the core of the problem. They are trying to improve science education with a combination of money, computer programs, motivational speeches, and exciting field trips--but without changing the fundamental flaw of almost all science education today.
Consider this example from a newspaper story on Microsoft's initiative:
"One idea being floated is to have Microsoft employees volunteer to meet with kids to explain how they use math on the job, such as in developing the Xbox videogame player. If kids can see real-world applications for the advanced math skills they'll learn in school, it can get them more enthused about the subject, Smith said."
Now there is certainly nothing wrong with showing students the modern, practical applications of math and science. But does anyone really believe that kids talking to Xbox engineers will do anything significant to alleviate the mass boredom that exists in math and science classes around the nation?
Students around the nation are ignorant and bored with science because most science education goes against the most crucial principle of education: the hierarchy of knowledge. In brief, the hierarchy of knowledge is the fact more abstract knowledge, such as Newton's laws, depends on less abstract knowledge, such as Galileo's discoveries.
But consider how most of us were taught Newton's laws.
As I write in my essay, "The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education":
"If your education was typical, the teacher came into class one morning, stood at the board, and declared that Newton identified three laws of motion--which you dutifully wrote down and later committed to memory. No context had been established for these discoveries. No information had been given as to what earlier observations and theories were made by other great scientists, what further discoveries were made by Newton, and how Newton's incomparable genius enabled him to integrate all this information into three fundamental, universal laws governing the behavior of every object in the universe.
"Pick up any grade school science textbook and you will see the same problem. Page one usually displays in vivid color a diagram of the structure of an atom. The chapter tells the students that an atom is a tiny unit of matter, that it has a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons, that the nucleus is surrounded by electrons, and so on. The question that such books make no attempt to answer is: Why should a child believe this drawing any more than he believes the Saturday morning cartoons? He has never seen an atom, or a nucleus, or an electron; he has not been told how scientists discovered the existence and properties of this thing that cannot be seen; nor can he possibly understand the implications of the existence or nature of atoms. Thus, all of the material stands as meaningless gibberish he has been asked to accept on faith.
"The vast majority of today's science teachers simply do not understand what it means to learn. They do not understand that there is a necessary order to learning, and that adhering strictly to this order is the only way to ensure that the student has a clear, independent grasp of the material. Today's teachers seem more concerned with enabling their students to parrot impressive-sounding words than they are with fostering their ability to think. That is why a high school chemistry teacher of Kira, one of my former students, said the following when he began a section on quantum theory: "This material is far too complex for any of you to really understand--but don't worry, we'll only spend a few days on it.
"Such "teaching" is a betrayal of the purpose of education, which is to give children the essential knowledge and cognitive powers necessary to be independent, productive, happy adults. In terms of content, to the extent that the hierarchy of knowledge is violated in students' education, they learn nothing of the material they are being taught; they learn only to repeat what they are told. In terms of method, to the extent that the principle is violated, students fail to learn what it really means to come to know something; this is replaced with the deadly lesson that knowledge of complex, abstract scientific issues is gained by parroting the words of an authority.
"If students are to be truly knowledgeable about and excited about science, they must be taught by teachers who recognize that there is a necessary order to the formation of the concepts and generalizations that a students learns throughout his education. An abstract idea--whether a concept, generalization, principle, or theory--should never be taught to a child unless he has already grasped those ideas that necessarily precede it in the hierarchy, all the way down to the perceptual level.
"Visitors to VanDamme Academy often comment on the total engagement of the students. It is typical for every student in the class to be completely attentive and actively involved in class discussion. The fundamental reason for our students' excitement is that we teach students knowledge in a sequence that allows them to gain a real, deep understanding of it; they grasp its connection to reality and its importance in human life.
Several months ago, I gave a lecture to the parents at my school about the hiearchy of knowledge--and how it is the most neglected issue in education. If you're concerned about the state of modern education in general, and science education in particular, I highly recommend that you listen to this lecture. I am making it available free, in three parts, on our school's website.
If you are interested in gaining a real knowledge of the scientific principles that animate the wondrous world we live in--or if you wish to help a junior high, high school, or college student gain that knowledge--there is no better source than VanDamme Academy's "Introduction to Physical Science" course by David Harriman.
Rather than putting into my own words why this course is so valuable for just about anyone, let me quote a review I recently came across, by Andrew Layman of StrongBrains.com, who happens to also be a Product Unit Manager at Microsoft.
"These wonderful lectures, recorded before an audience of students just learning science and mathematics, teach the critical ideas in man's knowledge of the physical world by starting at the beginning of science and showing each step by which more was learned, what evidence and reasoning validated the new knowledge and how each step built on and extended prior knowledge into wider integrations. I was a physics major when I entered college, yet I can easily say that my actual understanding of physics is much greater as a result of this course than I can credit to any other class I've taken - in large measure because I now have a clear grasp of what the physical theories actually refer to and, thus, why they are correct. (ages 13 to 16)"
This is what it means to have a real science education. Nothing less--for our children and ourselves--will do.
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Irvine, CA--In response to the kidnapping of an American soldier in Iraq, U.S. forces imposed a blockade around Sadr City. Five days later, with the solider still missing, the United States ended the blockade at the behest of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"President Bush has mocked the idea that military decisions should be made by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., yet he is now allowing them to be made by bureaucrats in Iraq," said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "This is disgraceful."
"Yet this is perfectly consistent with Bush's Iraq policy, which aims, not to defend U.S. interests, but to sacrifice American wealth, security, and lives in service of Iraqis. So long as the welfare of Iraqis is paramount, there are no grounds for asserting our right to direct our soldiers as we see fit.
"We must reject President Bush's suicidal policy and embrace a foreign policy aimed solely at protecting the interests of the United States."
Once we peel away the sentimental rhetoric and cut through the doublespeak, compassionate conservatism's moral and political teaching boils down to this: first, that needs -- the needs of others -- constitute a moral claim on your life; second, that you -- you the taxpayer, you the private individual -- have a "duty" to support -- nay, to love and support -- the poor; and finally, that the federal government must coerce your love and compassion by taking your wealth and giving it to "private" organizations that will use it to serve "those whom prosperity has left behind." [notes removed]Thus the Compassionate Conservatives end up advocating, as Thompson notes elsewhere for example, the mere outsourcing of welfare via such mechanisms as "faith-based" initiatives rather than its outright abolition. This fails to end government redistribution of wealth and merely changes the details of its implementation. It does not take a genius to see how government imposition of racial quotas onto non-government organizations would make an excellent fit to this scheme of merely remodeling the Democrat's intrusive welfare state rather than demolishing it.
[A]ccording to [Irving] Kristol and friends, the principles espoused by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison lead inevitably to the Marquis de Sade, Abby Hoffman, and Jerry Springer. If the growth of the state represented the road to serfdom for Hayek, limiting the state to the protection of individual rights represents the road to nihilism for the neocons. The great political lesson that the neocons have successfully taught other conservatives and their Republican students over the course of the last twenty-five years is to embrace rather than resist the growth of the state.In other words, the Republicans, guided by these two factions, think that the welfare state is not only moral, but practical.
The neocons are committed proponents of what Kristol calls a "conservative welfare state." At first blush, they seem to support the idea of a welfare state rather begrudgingly and pragmatically, as an unfortunate reality of contemporary American politics that conservatives must learn to accept and use in order to remain politically relevant. "I shall, to begin with," Kristol writes, "assume that the welfare state is with us, for better or worse, and that conservatives should try to make it better rather than worse." Why fight the tide of history? Or, as neoconservative Ben Wattenberg has written: "I personally think the welfarists have probably gone too far and I am prepared to examine case by case, pragmatically, as Neo-Conservatives are supposed to do, what went wrong and how we ought to rectify it." As we will increasingly see, pragmatism is the neocons' modus operandi.
What GOP strategists need, according to Kristol and company, is a strong "dose of Machiavellian shrewdness," the characteristics of which are "quick-wittedness, articulateness, a clear sense of one's ideological agenda and the devious routes necessary for its enactment." The neocons' message to traditional conservatives and Republicans is, in effect: "Grow up! Get over your ideological hang-ups. Be clever. Develop an agenda that will get you elected and keep you in power." Once in power, says Kristol, the GOP must learn how to "shape" rather than balance or cut the budget, which means: shape it in politically advantageous ways (i.e., in ways that buy votes). [notes removed, bold added]
[R]ace remains the most volatile and, for white politicians, the most terrifying issue in American life. The mere hint of a "racism" charge transforms even normally principled leaders into panderers and cowards.And then there's cold, hard political calculation as with the Neo-Cons, too.
The brilliant social critic Shelby Steele gives the best explanation for this fear. Of mixed race himself, Steele writes of the paramount role that "white guilt" plays in contemporary American race relations. Conscious of the stain of the nation's discriminatory past, whites often feel a powerful need "to demonstrate to the world that they're not bigots." They do so most readily by deferring, at least publicly, to the civil rights establishment on matters of racial justice. [bold]
With a mere 8 percent of blacks voting GOP in 2004, party leaders have made no secret of their eagerness to try to splinter the most reliable of Democratic voting blocs. Over the last year and a half, party chairman Ken Mehlman has appeared before numerous black audiences, preaching the virtues of Republicanism. As the New York Times noted in a lengthy and laudatory piece on Mehlman in July, the GOP chairman believes that "Republican advocacy of economic policies that would give more power to individuals rather than to government -- like health saving accounts -- would appeal to middle-class black voters as much as it would to whites."Great. And so we see that the bad premises of altruism-collectivism and pragmatism have driven out the good ones of self-interest and individual rights. As a bonus, we catch the GOP in the very act of tossing out the crime baby with the color-blind bath water!
All well and good. But as the Times (approvingly) points out, Mehlman's outreach agenda hardly ends there. He has also repeatedly "apologized for what he described as the racially polarized politics of some Republicans over the past 25 years" and for "what civil rights leaders view as decades of racial politics practiced or countenanced by Republicans. One example they point to is the first President Bush's use of the escape of Willie Horton, a black convicted murderer, to portray his Democratic opponent in the 1988 election, Michael S. Dukakis, as soft on crime."
Ward Connerly has repeatedly witnessed [the] dynamic [described above by Shelby Steele] at work firsthand. "I've often had the experience of speaking in a room of 100 people, and knowing that 99 of them agree with me," he says. "But if there's one angry black person in the audience who disagrees, that person controls the room. He'll go on about the last 400 years, and institutional racism, and 'driving while black,' and the other 99 will just sit there and fold like a cheap accordion." [bold]Does this not sound just like dhimmitude? I have long thought that the corruption of the civil rights movement has played a major role in paving the way for our nation's weakness in morally opposing militant Islam. (How many pacifists keep calling this a "racist" war?) It is hardly a coincidence, seen in this light, that the Arab American Institute would sign on against the anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which is on the ballot this election day.
The 17-year-old daughter of a police sergeant in a working-class Detroit suburb and the first in her family aiming for college, Jennifer Gratz had been turned down by the Ann Arbor campus that she'd long dreamed of attending in favor of "some friends of mine, kids I sat next to in class," who clearly didn't measure up to her academically. "I really had trouble at first believing they would do that," she says now, laughing at her naivety. "It was so against everything I'd been taught was right -- that you treat everyone fairly and equally."This resulted in a court case that made it to the Supreme Court, about which Stein says, "For preference foes, the Supreme Court battle was a disappointment in another crucial respect: it signaled the Bush administration's abandonment of the cause."
China is the world's second-largest Internet market.I can only assume that Tipson is as big a fan of antitrust legislation as he is of Chinese restrictions on freedom of speech. If so, Microsoft at least has the legal representation it deserves.
It employs an estimated 30,000 people to trawl Web sites for subversive material and is a leading jailer of journalists, with at least 32 in custody, and another 50 Internet campaigners also in prison, according to Reporters Without Borders.
The largest U.S. network equipment maker Cisco and several other U.S. technology companies, including Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., are facing the ire of some U.S. lawmakers, activists and investors for their alleged complicity in allowing the Chinese government to commit human rights abuses.
Microsoft senior policy counsel Fred Tipson defended Cisco.
"The condition of doing business in a country is to abide by the law in that country," Tipson said. [bold added]
China helped North Korea develop nuclear weapons and in the past year increased its support to Pyongyang, rather than pressing the regime to halt nuclear arms and missile activities, according to a congressional report.--CAV
The final draft report of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission also says that Chinese government-run companies are continuing to threaten U.S. national security by exporting arms to American enemies in Asia and the Middle East.
The report is based on public testimony and highly classified intelligence reports made available to its members and staff. It indirectly criticizes the Bush administration for failing to pressure Beijing into joining U.S.-led anti-proliferation programs and calls for Congress to take action to force the administration to do more.
"China has contributed at least indirectly to North Korea's nuclear program," the report stated, noting that China was a "primary supplier" to Pakistan's nuclear-arms program.
Leonard Peikoff stated: "In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power. Socialism -- a fad of the last few centuries -- has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast -- the destroyer of man since time immemorial -- is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government."Also of interest, Ari wrote the following letter to the editor regarding the gubernatorial election in Colorado:
Peikoff's claim, and his related exhortation to vote Democratic as a way to oppose the rise of the religious right, has been criticized by some Objectivists.
However, Peikoff is exactly right. The evidence is overwhelming. As but one example, consider a recent article by TIME magazine. Be sure to check out the related links, "How We View God" and "Denomination Nation."
Here are some findings from a survey from Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR):
"The film The Passion of the Christ was viewed by 44.3% of those polled... The Left Behind books, very pious and very popular also, only [ONLY!] reached 19%." "Between 57% and 68% of respondents -- among all four God types -- include 'take care of the sick and needy' in their criteria for being a 'good person'..."
Examine the contents of this link. 31% of the population believes in an "Authoritarian God." Of those, 23% think "abortion is always wrong." 91% think "government should allow prayer in school." 57% think "government should redistribute wealth more evenly."
For EVERY SINGLE category of belief, a majority thinks that "government should redistribute wealth more evenly."
Here's the breakdown by belief type:
Authoritarian God: 31% Benevolent God: 23% Critical God [who "will exact divine judgement"]: 16% Distant God: 24%
And atheists? About 5%. (This is mentioned in the magazine but not online, as far as I found.)
Here's the document from Baylor [on which the TIME magazine article is based].
Here are some additional findings:
"Barely one in ten Americans (10.8%) is NOT affiliated with a congregation, denomination, or other religious group." "Fully a third of Americans (33.6%), roughly 100 million people, are Evangelical Protestant by affiliation." 54% of Evangelical Protestants spend "more than $50 a month on religious products." Among all four god-types, a majority wants the federal government to "regulate businesses more closely" (page 33). "Only" 47.2% of those who believe in an "Authoritarian God" want the federal government to "fund faith-based organizations." A strong majority of all four types wants the federal government to "protect the environment better." From page 34: 21.% of those who believe in an "Authoritarian God" think that "to be a good person it is very important to... convert others to your religious faith." Between 14.3% and 19.1% believe that a good person needs to "consume or use fewer goods."
There is a bit of relatively less-bad news for our region [i.e. Colorado]: "The West has the highest percentages of religiously unaffiliated people (17.6%) and people in other religious traditions (10.3%) of any U.S. region."
(Here are some other "fun" tidbits about the paranormal (page 45):
28.2% of the population believes, "It is possible to influence the world through the mind alone (Telekinesis)." 19.9% believe, "It is possible to communicate with the dead..." 37.2% believe, "Places can be haunted...")
Or, as Peikoff said: "Religion... is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government."
I have decided to vote for Democrat Bill Ritter for Governor to help preserve the separation of church and state. Republican Bob Beauprez has aggressively injected religion into the politics of abortion and welfare. More disturbingly, his running mate has rejected the separation of church and state.
Ritter also pushes religion into politics, yet to a considerably lesser degree. My vote for Ritter should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any of his policies. Ritter poses a serious threat to our rights to control our income, purchase medical services on an open market, and acquire and use tools for self-defense. Yet Beauprez poses the larger threat of breaking down the separation of church and state, the necessary precondition for freedom of conscience and the choice to adopt and support a particular religion or no religion.
By Elan Journo
America's campaign in Afghanistan was once widely hailed as a success in the "war on terror." We have nothing more to fear from Afghanistan, our policy makers told us, because the war had accomplished its two main goals: al Qaeda and its sponsoring regime, the Taliban, were supposedly long gone, and a new, pro-Western government had been set up. But as the daily news from Afghanistan shows, in reality the war has been a drastic failure.
Legions of undefeated Taliban and al Qaeda soldiers have renewed their jihad. Flush with money, amassing recruits, and armed with guns, rockets and explosives, they are fighting to regain power. In recent months, they have mounted a string of deadly suicide bombings and rocket attacks against American and NATO forces; more U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan in the last 20 months than did during the peak of the war.
Taliban forces have effectively besieged several provinces in southern Afghanistan. Local officials estimate that in some provinces the "number of Taliban . . . is several times more than that of the police and Afghan National Army." Taliban fighters are said to amble through villages fearlessly, brandishing their Kalashnikovs, and collecting zakat (an Islamic tithe) from peasants. With astounding boldness, they have assassinated clerics and judges deemed too friendly to the new government, and fired rockets at a school for using "un-Islamic" books.
The Taliban and al Qaeda forces are so strong and popular that Senator Bill Frist recently declared that a war against them cannot be won, and instead suggested negotiating with the Islamists.
How is it that five years after the war began--and in the face of America's unsurpassed military strength--Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are threatening to regain power?
Victory in Afghanistan demanded two things. We had to destroy the Taliban and we had to ensure that a non-threatening, non-Islamic-warrior-breeding regime take its place. But we did not think we had a moral right to do what was necessary to achieve either goal.
Our military was ordered to pursue Taliban fighters only if it simultaneously showed "compassion" to the Afghans. The U.S. military dropped bombs on Afghanistan--but instead of ruthlessly pounding key targets, it was ordered to gingerly avoid hitting holy shrines and mosques (known to be Taliban hideouts) and to shower the country with food packages. The United States deployed ground forces--but instead of focusing exclusively on capturing or killing the enemy, they were also diverted to a host of "reconstruction" projects. The result is that the enemy was not destroyed and crushed in spirit, but merely scattered and left with the moral fortitude to regroup and launch a brazen comeback.
Even with its hands tied, however, the U.S. military succeeded in toppling the Taliban regime--but Washington subverted that achievement, too.
A new Afghan government would be a non-threat to America's interests if it were based on a secular constitution that respects individual rights. The Bush administration, however, declared that we had no right to "impose our beliefs" on the Afghans--and instead endorsed their desire for another regime founded on Islamic law. Already this avowedly Islamic regime has jailed an Afghan magazine editor for "blasphemy"; earlier this year Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity, faced a death sentence for apostasy. The new Afghan regime cannot be counted on to oppose the resurgence of Islamic totalitarianism. Ideologically, it has nothing to say in opposition to the doctrines of the Taliban (two members of the Taliban leadership are in the new government). It is only a matter of time before Afghanistan is once again a haven for anti-American warriors.
The failure in Afghanistan is a result of Washington's foreign policy. Despite lip-service to the goal of protecting America's safety, the "war on terror" has been waged in compliance with the prevailing moral premise that self-interest is evil and self-sacrifice a virtue. Instead of trouncing the enemy for the sake of protecting American lives, our leaders have sacrificed our self-defense for the sake of serving the whims of Afghans.
The half-hearted war in Afghanistan failed to smash the Taliban and al Qaeda. It failed to render their ideology--Islamic totalitarianism--a lost cause. Instead, at best it demonstrated Washington's reluctance to fight ruthlessly to defend Americans. How better to stoke the enthusiasm of jihadists?
America cannot win this or any war by embracing selflessness as a virtue. Ultimately, it cannot survive unless Washington abandons its self-sacrificial foreign policy in favor of one that proudly places America's interests as its exclusive moral concern.
Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." Contact the writer at email@example.com.
Combating global warming won't bankrupt Britain's economy and could be worth billions for business, says an oil company-sponsored report released Thursday.Let's make sure we have this right. The expense of climate-control regulation will be offset by all the profits to be had from developing pro-green technologies. Sure, the same way all the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was offset by the profits to be had in post-hurricane reconstruction. Shell UK is trying to spin a regulatory disasterâ€”rather then admit the hard truth that regulations do not create wealth. After all, why does Shell call for a "government prize" to the creator of pro-green technologies? Aren't these innovators going to get wealthy enough on their own, without a handout or a government imprimatur?
The cost of action will amount to 0.3 percent of Britain's economic output, but that works out to business opportunities worth $55 billion over the next decade, said the report published by Shell UK, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, as part of its Springboard project to encourage business action on global warming.
Globally, the report said the market could be worth a trillion dollars in the next five years, the report said.
The report said business opportunities were mainly in developing products and systems to comply with regulations designed to cut energy use. That includes tighter building standards, supplying biofuels for road transport and renewable energy generation.
"The cost-benefit equation of action to tackle climate change is favorable. That's true not just for the U.K. but internationally as well," Shell UK Chairman James Smith said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
To encourage innovation, the report proposed that the government offer prizes -- as it did in 1714 when it offered a reward to the person who solved the problem of measuring longitude. [AP]