In Barack Obama's Wesleyan Commencement Address he urges students to dedicate their lives to service to others rather than the pursuit of money. Obama equates altruism and collectivism with Americanism:
You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should by. You can choose to narrow your concerns and live your life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America’s.
Obama doesn't seem to understand that individualism and the rational self-interest of our "money culture" are expressed in America's founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.
He has it backward. America's prosperity and liberty depend on individual prosperity and individual liberty. Why does the poorest American today have luxuries that kings did not have 100 years ago? Because Americans have been free to pursue their greed in a free market. Because rapacious capitalists have made billions of dollars in profits that Obama considers obscene and thinks should be taken from them. Battalions of social workers wiping babies' butts in ghettoes will not create an ounce of wealth that can be invested in our future and make us more prosperous. New cures for diseases, new drugs, life extension, higher quality of life -- all of these things and many more depend on capital savings invested by individual capitalists. All the state can do -- if it tries to do more than protect and defend individual rights -- is interfere with that process. When the state interferes with the economy it only destroys; it destroys wealth and it destroys our future.
But then, Obama probably does not equate prosperity with our "collective salvation." Maybe he thinks we would be better off spiritually if we were all wallowing in mud in an orgy of mutual self-sacrifice.
You don’t have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President.
Doesn't that just make you want to throw up? Yes, Obama is merely doing his community service by attempting to gain power over America and enslave us all to his vision of collectivism and altruism. You so crazy, Obama!
I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the future of this country – your future – depends on it. At a time when our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity.
Our moral standing does not depend on America sacrificing more for the socialist hell-holes of the world in make work programs like the Peace Corps that serve only to allow altruist young Americans to strut around in moral exhibitionism. Those forgotten corners of the world that think America is in low moral standing do not understand American liberty and capitalism -- and neither does Barack Obama, who might spend the next four years working to destroy it from the Oval Office.
At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas; if we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing countries promote clean energy.
The man is ready to enchain our economy for a fantasy.
At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support, but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and science.
He plans to turn American education into another welfare state scheme of redistributing wealth.
On the big issues that our nation faces, difficult choices await. We’ll have to face some hard truths, and some sacrifice will be required – not only from you individually, but from the nation as a whole.
Ever notice how power-lusters are always willing to make the rest of us sacrifice? We're all just insignificant parts of Obama's excellent community service adventure; we exist only so he can dictate how we will all suffer and then preen about his altruist morality.
You know, Ted Kennedy often tells a story about the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps. He was there, and he asked one of the young Americans why he had chosen to volunteer. And the man replied, “Because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.”
I don’t know how many of you have been asked that question, but after today, you have no excuses. I am asking you, and if I should have the honor of serving this nation as President, I will be asking again in the coming years.
How do you "ask" something with a gun in your hand? That's like the Godfather saying, "I'm asking you to do me a favor." You can do what he asks or you can end up at the bottom of the East River. The whole apparatus and propaganda of the welfare state serve only to obfuscate the common denominator between the Godfather and Barack Obama.
If Obama becomes President, we will be electing a mediocrity who is too goddamned stupid to understand that you cannot make America better by violating individual rights. All Obama can do with his altruist-statist-collectivist premises is make America less free, less prosperous, less happy and less successful. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will all suffer at the dictates of a two-bit, sanctimonious, dull-witted social worker. Obama will leave America mired in cynicism, bitterness and despair because statism does not work. And he will do it all while orating insufferable banalities about service to the collective.
If McCain is elected, we will be electing the same ignoramus.
In what's beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins — the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. — in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere.I'm sure this must be mankind's fault somehow...
This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds.
...The Hubble and Keck images may support the idea that Jupiter is in the midst of global climate change, as first proposed in 2004 by Phil Marcus, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The planet's temperatures may be changing by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The giant planet is getting warmer near the equator and cooler near the South Pole. He predicted that large changes would start in the southern hemisphere around 2006, causing the jet streams to become unstable and spawn new vortices.
MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. - High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.What could better concretize the damaging economic effects of government regulations strangling energy production than this return to mule power? If such exists, I can't think of it!
T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.
"This fuel's so high, you can't afford it," he said. "We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That's the truth."
And Danny Raymond says he just likes using the mules around the farm. "We've been using them quite a bit," he said.
Brother Robert Raymond added, "It's the way of the future."
Apart from the obvious idea that much of science is ideologically driven, many scientists - irrespective of any underlying, driving ideology - have deliberately cooked data and managed to get it published in scientific journals for no other reason than the fact that they are second-handed and they want to be right. And of course, scientific history is also rife with examples of new ideas taking time to become established in the mainstream due to a lack of objectivity in the scientific community. Just take that "quacky" idea that bacteria might cause ulcers!! We scientists "know" that bacteria can't inhabit stomach acid!? Right?? Most commonly of all, in my opinion, is not intellectual dishonesty but the fact that shoddy science is done all the time and people just fail to fully and objectively evaluate that research. Sometimes, those claims then end up becoming part of the "objective scientific consensus" that persists for 50 years.To say, "I've not studied the issue, so I just don't know," is often the most objective, the most self-aware, and the most honest reply possible to an inquiry. Sometimes, it's also the hardest reply.
Investigate Big Congress, Not Big Oil
By Alex Epstein
With gasoline prices exceeding $4 a gallon in some states, politicians are responding as usual: Blame Big Oil First. Several prominent senators have once again summoned industry leaders to Capitol Hill, subjecting them to yet another barrage of rhetorical questions, interruptions, accusations, and sermons. The lawmakers' goal, claims Sen. Patrick Leahy, is to identify "causes of the rising price of oil on which Congress can act." But the foregone conclusion is that "price gouging," "collusion," and "market manipulation" by Big Oil, or speculation by financiers, is responsible.
The simple fact that such Congressional investigations are designed to obscure is that the prices of oil and gasoline are determined by supply and demand--which neither private oil companies nor speculators have any power to dictate in their favor. If they had such market mastery, then why didn't they use it in the 1990s, when gasoline was selling at a barely profitable $1 a gallon? To be sure, speculators can bid up prices--but they only do so when they believe that oil will become even more expensive in the future, and only make money when they are right.
The question Congress should really be asking, then, is: What nonmarket factors are distorting supply and demand? If they sought an honest answer, they would discover that much of the blame lies with Congress itself.
No one disputes that environmentalist laws passed by Congress have cut off some of our most promising and plentiful sources of oil. In the name of safeguarding a tiny portion of caribou habitat in the Alaskan wilderness, drilling is prohibited in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge--a potential source of 1 million barrels a day, 5 percent of America's daily oil consumption. Also off-limits is 85 percent of America's coastline, which Shell estimates contains some 100 billion recoverable barrels--13 times America's annual oil consumption--and the vast majority of oil shale in Colorado, which Shell estimates at 1.5 trillion barrels.
Congress should publicize these facts, prepare an inventory of how many oil-rich areas they have blocked off, and bring in economists to estimate how much all of this raises gas prices.
And how about the effects of Congress's open hostility toward the future of oil? Our politicians damn oil as an "addiction" to be eliminated, and seek to cut--by up to 90 percent--the use of oil and other vital fossil fuels that make our standard of living possible. Congress should ask oil executives how this possible forced cut in demand affects their industry. It should ask whether they feel safe to make the billion dollar investments and decades-long plans that oil production requires when Barack Obama, a leading presidential candidate, can uncontroversially proclaim that "the country that faced down the tyranny of fascism and communism is now called to challenge the tyranny of oil." Is it a coincidence that the much-maligned speculators think oil will become even scarcer in the future, and are acting accordingly?
In addition to investigating its own impact on gasoline prices, Congress should investigate how its economic policy partner, the Federal Reserve, has raised our gas prices by lowering the value of the dollars we buy gasoline with. The Fed, along with the Treasury Department, has for years had an inflationary policy that has caused the value of the dollar to plummet relative to other currencies. Were it not for this devaluation of the dollar, oil prices would likely be 40 percent lower--as they are for those on the Euro. Why not call a free-market economist to the stand and ask how much more expensive Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Henry Paulson have made our gasoline?
Americans deserve to know the story--in all its gory detail--of what their government has done and is doing to cause high prices at the pump, and to make gasoline--indeed, all energy--more scarce and more expensive in the future. A congressional investigation of Congress would be a great public service.
Cleric Sadr warned that he would lift the cease-fire and spoke of "open war". His fighters were being killed, and he was threatening to fight back -- how lame is that? Soon, he issued a clarification, saying that his "open war" would not be with the Iraqi government, but with the U.S. Now, he's declared a truce. This seems like a potential turning point.
In an odd development, Sadr's Iranian supporters distanced themselves from him. According to one article linked above, Sadr's militia were gaining over the Badr militia that is closer to Iran. So, Iran still remains a huge threat, but it is good to see the Shia-militia on Shia-militia rivalry, and -- more importantly -- to see the government has that moral authority to act against them. [A good summary of the initiative against Shia militia from the WSJ, here.]
Problems remain: There are rumours that the Al Queda and the Shia are trying to cooperate against their common enemy. The bigger threat is Iran's ability to support an insurgency, particularly if the U.S. pulls out.Iraq still has a long, long way to go. Still, the Sunni areas reached a turning point about a year ago, and need to consolidate. The Shia area are in the middle of a potential turning point. If the Iraqi government can build on these successes, in a few years, Iran will be the only remaining major threat.
I will be speaking at Tel Aviv University, Israel. on June 2, 2008, 18:00-20:00, Room 133 Gilman Building. The talk is sponsored by the Moshe Dayan Center. Thanks to Boaz Arad for arranging the invitation, and to the Ayn Rand Institute for logistical support.I'd love to hear that talk!
Mr. Arad has translated my article 'No Substitute for Victory': The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism into Hebrew, for the journal Nativ [20.3, May-June, 2007]. [The Hebrew translation is here.] He has also translated my article 'Gifts from Heaven': The Meaning of the American Defeat of Japan, 1945 for the website Anochi. [The Hebrew translation is here.] Mr. Arad also translated an article by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein entitled 'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense, also from The Objective Standard.
Abstract of the talk: "The Inner Jihad and Islamic Totalitarianism."
This talk confronts and repudiates claims that jihad is not war, but rather a benign "inner struggle." These claims are ahistorical, and run contrary to the energetic statements of those waging war for Islam today. The purpose of such claims is to obfuscate the goal of imposing Islamic law by force. The outward manifestation of such obfuscation is the censorship and propaganda that exists in the Middle East today. This lecture will consider the relationship between this intellectual corruption and the rise of totalitarian Islam, a foe that must be confronted intellectually and defeated militarily.
BRITONS, thankfully, have been spared America's abortion wars. Political candidates' positions on the matter are of little interest to the electorate. More Conservatives are "pro-life" and more Labour MPs "pro-choice", but allegiances are rarely, if ever, based on this single issue. This is partly because Britain is less religious than America, but also because abortion laws are made in Parliament, where shades of grey can be debated, not in the courts, where black or white usually prevails.Clearly, religion still has some influence in the debates, although not as strong as in the US. The interesting question will be whether this influence increases or decreases over the next several years.
...By precedent, votes on abortion are "free": MPs may vote according to their consciences rather than a party directive. They still divided along party lines. Most Labour MPs—including the prime minister, Gordon Brown—voted against all the amendments, although three Catholic cabinet ministers supported a cut to 12 weeks. Most of the shadow cabinet voted for some reduction, and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, backed lowering the limit to either 22 or 20 weeks.
...The day before that, MPs had voted on two other amendments. The first would have prohibited experiments involving "chimera" embryos created by placing human DNA inside empty eggs from other mammals. The second sought to rule out creating "saviour siblings": screening embryos created by IVF in order to select a match for an existing sick child whose life could be saved by cord blood or bone marrow from a suitable brother or sister.
All three issues went the government's way, even though Mr Brown had to allow his party a free vote after a campaign by Catholic bishops made it clear that he risked losing three ministers if he did not.
The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations---and that the lights of New York had gone out. . . .In the novel, the lights go out as a result of willful evasion -- the refusal of the world's leaders to acknowledge that it is the power of the mind to reform nature in its own image that keeps the world alight. Evil enough, as far as it goes.
She remembered the story Francisco had told her: "He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done."
Kivalina is home to 402 residents, who live in very overcrowded conditions in just over 70 homes. The community is predominately Alaska Native, and residents depend on subsistence activities for a majority of their caloric intake. The community does not have a piped water or sewer system, except for running/piped water in its school and washeteria. Residents rely on self-haul water and on honey buckets for human waste.
[T]he suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.In other words, attorneys plan to throw the tobacco playbook at rich energy companies. The message the case wishes to convey is that energy companies knowingly caused global warming and must pay for the damage they've wrought by selling the fossil fuels that provide the world with energy.
When Berkman's team asked about the teachers' personal beliefs, about the same number, 16% of the total, said they believed human beings had been created by God within the last 10,000 years.And what do science teachers actually teach in the classroom?
Despite a court-ordered ban on the teaching of creationism in US schools, about one in eight high-school biology teachers still teach it as valid science, a survey reveals. And, although almost all teachers also taught evolution, those with less training in science – and especially evolutionary biology – tend to devote less class time to Darwinian principles.I find it deeply disturbing that an American child's only formal exposure to one of the fundamental principle of modern biological science may come from a government school teacher who is willing to let his own personal religious beliefs bias his portrayal of the facts.
...[A] quarter of the teachers also reported spending at least some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. Of these, 48% – about 12.5% of the total survey – said they taught it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species".
"Last fall, Sen. Joe Lieberman questioned the FBI, the DHS, the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) about their organizations' role in the 'war on ideas' against Jihadists. The answer was a giant shrugging of shoulders.If a "war of ideas" is a legitimate way to combat a mortal enemy, why should a "foreign connection" make a difference? It is the "foreign connection" - Islam - that is the root of the "war." It gets worse.
"...FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III revealed during the hearing that the FBI has no counterideology response other than its 'outreach' to Muslim-American communities so they 'understand the FBI and 'address the radicalization issue.' Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also said nothing is being done domestically to battle Islamist extremist ideas....Retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, said the intelligence community does not conduct any battle of ideas against terrorists...unless there is a foreign connection."
"...[W]hen the NCTC Acting Director Michael Leiter had a confirmation hearing with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Leiter brought up the issue of a 'war of ideas,' a reasonable person might have expected some discussion as to organizational responsibilities and goals. Mr. Leiter stated 'we must have an equally robust effort in what many term the "War of Ideas."' But Mr. Leiter offered no organizational ownership or goals other than seeking to respond to al Queda's use of mass media and Internet technologies, 'we must engage them on this front with equal vehemence - and we can do so in a way that makes quite clear how bankrupt their extremist ideology is.'""What some term the 'War of Ideas'?" To Mr. Leiter's mind, this "strategy" is as subjective and arbitrary as a choice between card games, say, between canasta and bridge. It is completely optional, more like a public relations campaign to put something over on a recalcitrant opponent. But, which ideas does he propose to engage the enemy on with "equal vehemence"? None were discussed at the hearing, nor have any ever been discussed anywhere in Foggy Bottom, except to "win the hearts and minds" of Muslims everywhere by expending blood and treasure on good intentions.
"At Mr. Leiter's confirmation hearing, there was little reported discussion of what 'strategic operational planning' NCTC provides, or what NCTC's role in the 'war of ideas' is."Leiter, of course, was confirmed by a panel of politicians whose non-extremist ideology is compatible with his own. Committee chairman John Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), told Leiter, "You're kind of an ideal of what a public servant should be." Leiter is also a lawyer, more concerned with "civil liberties" than with defeating and eradicating the enemy.
Every culture has a barbaric past. Some are just more stylish than others. [Warning: gory details to come!]
For instance Italy–the land of the Renaissance, homeland of Verdi and Marconi, was once home to the Lombards.
These nasty long-bearded types had a penchant for cruelty. As one story goes, a Lombard ruler, having conquered his enemy, made a mug out of his skull, then married his daughter and forced her to drink out of the cup at their wedding!
This reminds me of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play Titus Andronicus, in which Titus feeds a Goth woman a pie made from the body of her sons–themselves rapists, whose victim Titus kills at dinner to relieve her shame!
Europeans definitely have a certain flair for life-hatred. But if you’re looking for real commitment, for a barbaric ancient culture that went the extra mile, It’s hard to imagine anyone topping the Aztecs.
The Aztecs themselves claimed to have sacrificed 80,000 victims to consecrate the pyramid of Tenochtitlan over the course of four days. As one writer has remarked, this outstrips the rate of eradication of the Jews by the Nazis at Auschwitz! And the Aztecs did it by hand! Modern writers are pretty convinced the Aztecs were bragging, however, so I suppose that gives Germany the “edge.”
Speaking of edges, how about the edge of guillotine blade? The French were definitely stylish in their barbarism, if nothing else. But when the guillotine proved too slow at lopping off heads in the French Revolution, the French put their inventive minds to work, tied hundreds to barges, and sunk them in the middle of the river. I’m not sure if this got them to barbarism’s “magic number,” which seems to be the slaughter of 20,000 by hand.
This honor goes to Agha Mohammed Khan the first of the Qajars, the dynasty that would rule Iran from 1794 to 1925. When he finally captured the city of Kerman, which had supported his adversary Lotf Ali Khan, Agha Mohammed ordered all the male inhabitants killed, and had a pyramid made out of their 20,000 eyeballs!
Apparently, in a letter (now lost), Agha Mohammed then wrote a letter to Robespierre, which he received just before having his lead lopped off. It read, “Your barbarians owe my barbarians twenty bucks!”
The Canadian ban and the subsequent panic has an almost Orwellian feel for anyone who actually follows scientific discussions of BPA. To appreciate fully the gulf between the public perception of risk and the reality, it is worth knowing something about the discussion of BPA among scientists. Scientists have been studying the chemical intensively for the better part of a decade since it was first suggested it might pose a risk to human health by Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri at Columbia. More than 4,000 studies and several major risk assessments later, scientists in the US, Japan and the European Union have exonerated it.That sounds like old hat. McDermott also makes some interesting observations about why scientific evidence is getting short shrift in this latest panic:
It is of course very tempting to put these distortions down to journalists' predisposition for sensation, or perhaps to an environmentalist bias among some parents - but the story's grip on the public imagination suggests that there's more going on here. It is not that the facts are unavailable or that parents and journalists are incapable of grasping them. It’s more that it never occurs to them to be critical. They are blinkered by a mistrust of the fruits of modernity and by deep pessimism about the future. [bold added]McDermott is on to something here, but she's not being hard enough on journalists -- or others on the continuum of intellectual occupations. Consider the following from some past commentary about environmentalist "safety" scares by Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute:
Environmentalists got the pesticide DDT and the apple preservative Alar off the market with claims that each causes cancer--based on studies using mice fed the equivalent of over 100,000 times normal human consumption. To "prove" that fossil fuels cause cataclysmic climate change--first, global cooling in the 1970s, now, global warming--environmentalists cite the predictions of wildly inaccurate computer models that, according to climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels, perform "worse than a table of random numbers when applied to U.S. temperatures."The "blinders" of which Ms. McDermott speaks are both the unfortunate long-term result of several generations of "progressive" education mixed with propaganda and the shorter-term effect of the overwhelming overexposure such environmentalist scares get in a news media dominated by altruist-collectivists -- who know, by the way, that the best way to stir panic is to imply that infants and children may be in danger.
The environmentalists' proclamations of danger and doom are not honest errors based on an overzealous concern for human safety and well-being--they are a dishonest scare-tactic to make their anti-industrial policies appealing to those who do not share the environmentalist belief that nature should be preserved at human expense. [bold added]
Charles Krauthammer has an entertaining piece on "Obama's Growing Gaffe."
Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that. Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."
After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity.
It is an absurdity, but it should be remembered that Obama's statement is not a true gaffe, such as Al Gore's saying a leopard cannot change its stripes. (For you young people still serving out your sentence in public schools, leopards have spots, not stripes.) Obama's pro-appeasement statements accurately reflect his far leftist ideas. In the liberal cocoon he inhabited before running for President, nothing Obama has said is controversial.
In a speech to Israeli lawmakers this morning, President Bush suggested that statements from Democrats –including Barack Obama – about reaching out to America’s enemies were akin to appeasement of Hitler ahead of World War II. This drew a quick reaction from the Obama camp.
Bush said: “The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. .. Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”
Obama's immediate reaction, "He's talking about me!" reminds me of this passage from Shakespeare's 12th Night, or What You Will:
Sir Andrew is a comic character, so addled-brained that he is almost retarded. Obama is an American politician.
Since the McGovern rout Democrats have approached the Presidency by hiding their far leftist ideas, especially on foreign policy. They ride tanks and wear flag pins, hoping to fool voters into thinking they're as strong on defense as voters mistakenly think Republicans are.
Obama is something new. He "missed the memo," as the current phrase goes.
His sincerity has helped him among his base and young people. He exudes idealism and morality. No more of that cynical, Clintonian triangulation for Obama! His speeches induce swooning among Democrats. They haven't tasted this wine since the days of Camelot with JFK.
But more discerning and intelligent people find Obama surprisingly naive. Over and over, in blogs and comment sections of those who support free markets and individual rights, people have written something like "He really means it!"
For all of this, we should not be lulled into thinking Obama is without Machiavellian duplicity in the pursuit of power. Take this disturbing news:
His mild-mannered style has thrown off even some angry black radicals, who want him to speak out more forcefully about the legacy of U.S. racism and economic inequality.
One is Princeton professor Cornel West, a militant black and self-described socialist. Reportedly, West was reluctant to join the refined Obama's presidential campaign until Obama took him aside and explained to him that he had to walk a rhetorical tightrope to reassure whites. West is now solidly on board his campaign as an adviser.
If this is true, then as far left as Obama has been in his statements, he could go even farther were he not walking "a rhetorical tightrope to reassure whites."
All his life Obama has been deeply cloistered in the liberal cocoon. His father was a communist, so hardline that he sneered at communists who compromised Marxist principles to make them practical in this world. His preacher and mentor is a radical who believes in "black liberation theology." His wife is an ardent collectivist and typical anti-American leftist.
A life in the cocoon has left Obama out of touch with reality. The 20th century is one big laboratory experiment demonstrating the failure of socialism; Obama does not seem to have noticed.
George Packer has written a long essay in the New Yorker called, "The Fall of Conservatism." Dan Flynn has written a post on Packer's essay. AmSpecBlog has some interesting posts on the essay here, here, here, here and here.
To sum up the essay up briefly, Packer concludes correctly that conservatism has failed, then talks to big government conservatives like David Brooks and David Frum, who suggest that the solution is for conservatives to embrace big government.
Although it is predictable that Packer, a liberal, thinks the right should become more liberal, the essay is interesting for being packed with information about the last 40 years of politics.
One thing I must object to is the idea that Nixon won over Democrat voters because he...
...adopted an undercover strategy for building a Republican majority, working to create the impression that there were two Americas: the quiet, ordinary, patriotic, religious, law-abiding Many, and the noisy, élitist, amoral, disorderly, condescending Few.
I have read elsewhere the notion that the Republicans appealed to racism and other dark passions to steal voters from the Democrats.
Nixon certainly worked hard to get Democrat votes, but even if the Republicans had not noticed that there were Democrats out there for them to steal, the Democrat Party would have lost those voters anyway. The Republicans did not so much win those voters as the Democrats lost them when they became a party of New Leftists. No way culturally conservative, pro-American voters would stay in a party that moved away from them. The real "dark side" that pieces such as Packer's never mention is the darkness of collectivism and statism adopted by the Democrat Party.
I must also object to the ever-appalling David Brooks, who calls small government conservatives "un-American." As Philip Klein responds,
But conservatives believe in limiting the size and scope of government not because of some random whim, but because it is a necessary way of preserving liberty. Unlike anarchists, we believe that government is necessary to protect individual rights -- through a police force that catches criminals, a court system that prosecutes them and settles disputes among individuals, and a military that protects us from foreign threats. Far from being "fundamentally un-American," these are precisely the principles on which the nation was founded. The Declaration of Independence reads that "governments are instituted among men" to "secure" our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit --not attainment -- of happiness. The U.S. Constitution also envisioned a federal government of limited scope.
The welfare state that Brooks supports came from Bismarck's Germany. Bizarre, isn't it, that he sees this foreign import as the essence of Americanism?
Of course, neither Packer nor his conservative critics get close to the fundamental reason for the failure of conservatism: the political movement has been undercut from the beginning by the ethics of altruism. Capitalism cannot be defended by an ethics of sacrifice, only by an ethics of rational self-interest. Conservatism was doomed when Buckley made religion an integral aspect of the movement.
One of the key moments of the last 40 years, the government shutdown of 1995, is a perfect example of how conservative politics are undermined by altruist ethics. The Democrats stood firm with moral righteousness -- because they knew the morality of altruism that they shared with the Republicans was on their side. Once the TV networks started showing sob stories of government workers not getting their paychecks, the Republicans collapsed like a cheap lawn chair.
After '95 came the defeat of Bob Dole in 1996. In 1997 Brooks wrote his first piece on "National Greatness Conservatism." The fight was over. The idea of limited government had lost.
Where does the fall of conservatism leave America?
It leaves us waiting for next crisis. How we respond will determine our course into the 21st century. As Mises has written, crises caused by government intervention in the economy tend to lead to further intervention and eventually dictatorship. Hayek called it the road to serfdom. I don't want things to get worse, but I expect they will.
Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.Ah yes, giving recommendations to God would be the sin of pride, I suppose.
Twyman -- a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs -- staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.
Yes, it's come to that.
"God is the only one we can turn to at this point," said Twyman, 59. "Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring."
Gas prices have been driven relentlessly higher this year by the bull market for crude oil, gasoline's main ingredient. A gallon of regular now costs $3.89, on average, in California, while the national average has hit $3.58.
To solve the problem, Twyman isn't begging the Lord for any specific act of intervention. He is not asking God to make OPEC pump more oil. Nor is he praying for all the speculative investors to be purged from the New York Mercantile Exchange, where crude oil is traded. Instead, he says anyone who wants to follow his example should keep it simple. "God, deliver us from these high gas prices," Twyman said. "That's all they have to say."
Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.That's absolutely abominable behavior for a professor. It's good that students question what they're taught in college, rather than simply swallowing it, regurgitating it for the exams and papers, and then forgetting about it. Students have every right to be skeptical of some pet theory of a professor -- and to express objections to it in class. The professor should make the best arguments he can, then move on, accepting that students will make up their own minds about the material. Certainly, despite my strong views on various subjects, that's always what I strive to do in my own teaching.
Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional expos&e, which she promises will "name names."
The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.
Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.
Ms. Venkatesan's scholarly specialty is "science studies," which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, "teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth." She continues: "Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways." Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.
After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.
Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the pending litigation.
Such conduct is hardly representative of the professoriate at Dartmouth, my alma mater. Faculty members tend to be professional. They also tend to be sane.
That said, even at -- or especially at -- putatively superior schools, students are spoiled for choice when it comes to professors who share ideologies like Ms. Venkatesan's. The main result is to make coursework pathetically easy. Like filling in a Mad Libs, just patch something together about "interrogating heteronormativity," or whatever, and wait for the returns to start rolling in.
I once wrote a term paper for a lit-crit course where I "deconstructed" the MTV program "Pimp My Ride." A typical passage: "Each episode is a text of inescapable complexity . . . Our received notions of what constitutes a ride are constantly subverted and undermined." It received an A.
Where the standards are always minimum, most kids simply float along with the academic drafts, avoid as much work as possible and accept the inflated grade. Why not? It's effortless, and there are better ways to spend time than thinking deeply about ecofeminism.
The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor's best efforts, there's life in American colleges yet.
My mother's feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn't even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her.By that, she means that she voluntarily became a mother. Happily, Ms. Walker seems to have made a very good life for herself, despite her unenviable upbringing.
I love my mother very much, but I haven't seen her or spoken to her since I became pregnant. She has never seen my son -- her only grandchild. My crime? Daring to question her ideology.
Espresso drive-through stands with bikini- and lingerie-sporting baristas are popping up from Monroe to Edmonds.
In the past year, at least six of these java joints employing provocatively dressed young women have opened in the county.
A few owners of these roadside stands say business is so brisk, they're hiring more employees and have plans to open new locations.
...Sometimes wearing little more than pasties and bikini bottoms, the scantily clad baristas at Wheeler's stands have scores of well-tipping customers.
"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.This episode reminds me of a discussion of the epistemological status of the arbitrary, in which Leonard Peikoff likens arbitrary pronouncements to the squawkings of a bird:
"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said. [bold added]
The arbitrary ... has no relation to evidence, facts, or context. It is the human equivalent of [noises produced by] a parrot . . . sounds without any tie to reality, without content or significance.Note that the police didn't just take the parrot at his "word".
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, but the White House threatened to veto the measure.Let me count the things that are wrong with this bill!
The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.
The measure passed in a 324-84 vote, a big enough margin to override a presidential veto.
Climate scientist Noel Keenlyside, leading a team from Germany's Leibniz Institute of Marine Science and the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, for the first time entered verifiable data on ocean circulation cycles into one of the U. N.'s climate supercomputers, and the machine spit out a projection that there will be no more warming for the foreseeable future.And Tom Knutson....
Global warming isn't to blame for the recent jump in hurricanes in the Atlantic, concludes a study by a prominent federal scientist whose position has shifted on the subject.So "the science" isn't settled that we will have global warming or, that if we do, it will be all bad.
Not only that, warmer temperatures will actually reduce the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and those making landfall, research meteorologist Tom Knutson reported in a study released Sunday. [bold added]
[F]aith and force are corollaries, and ... mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men 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, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible. 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]Thanks for the demonstration, there, Mo!
[S]uch a comparison is fundamentally confused. Recall that atheism is not itself an ideology and therefore doesn't lead people to do anything in particular -- good or bad. So again we need to approach the issue in terms that will actually shed some light. The illuminating question to consider is: What does reason offer humanity over faith?Does the author of the Phi Beta Cons post at NRO himself want Christian prayer back in public schools? I must admit that I don't know. But he is working for a publication animated by the malevolent spirit of William F. Buckley. At best, the author is making a theocrat's legacy look better than it should.
[L]ong-standing Christianity only accommodated the relatively recent changes that unleashed minds brought while its overwhelming authority eroded. We were delivered from the Christian Dark Ages despite Christianity, not because of it.
AYN RAND INSTITUTE
May 21, 2008
The "Inner Jihad" and Islamic Totalitarianism
Who: Dr. John Lewis, Senior Research Scholar in History and Classics, Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University.
What: A talk explaining the real meaning of jihad: a war for the expansion of Islamic rule. A Q & A will follow.
Where: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, Israel
When: June 2, 2008, from 6 to 8 PM
Admission is FREE. The lecture will be open to the public and the media.
Description: This talk confronts claims that the real meaning of jihad is a benign "inner struggle," and not war for the expansion of Islamic rule. Such claims are contrary to history; even mystical orthodox philosophers such as Al-Ghazali confirmed the meaning of jihad as war. Claims that jihad is an "inner struggle" are best seen either as the apologetics of those who do not want to face the fact that jihad means war, or who wish to cover up this fact in order to achieve the ends of Islamic rule. What the claimants call an "inner jihad" is a process of internal intellectual evasion, in which facts and conclusions contrary to support for Islam are suppressed. The outward political manifestations of such deception are censorship and propaganda, which are used to further Islamic rule. Islamic totalitarianism remains an active, and dangerous, force in the world, which must be confronted intellectually and defeated militarily.
Bio: Dr. John Lewis is a research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University, and a visiting scholar for the year 20072008. He has been an associate professor of history at Ashland University. He holds a PhD in classics from the University of Cambridge, a BA in history from the University of Rhode Island. He has taught at the University of London, and was a visiting scholar at Rice University.
Dr. Lewis has published in classical journals such as Polis and Dikē.
For more information on this talk, please e-mail email@example.com
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Dr. John Lewis is available for interviews now and after his talk.
Contact: Larry Benson
Phone: 949-222-6550, ext. 213
“He was not the wisest man of his time. Erasmus was. Neither was he the most gifted. That, surely, was Leonardo. But Magellan became what, as a child, he had yearned to be – the era’s greatest hero. The reason is intricate, but important to understand. Heroism is often confused with physical courage. In fact the two are very different. There was nothing heroic about Magellan’s death. He went into that last darkness a seasoned campaigner, accompanied by his own men, and he was completely fearless because as he drew his last breath he believed – indeed knew – that paradise was imminent. Similarly, the soldier who throws himself on a live grenade, surrendering his life to save his comrades, may be awarded the medal of honor. Nevertheless his deed, being impulsive, is actually unheroic. Such acts, no more reflective than the swift withdrawal of a blistered hand from a red-hot stove, are involuntary. Heroism is the exact opposite – always deliberate, never mindless.
“Neither, if it is valor of the first water, may it be part of a group endeavor. All movements, including armies, provide their participants with such tremendous support that pursuit of common goals, despite great risk, is little more than ardent conformity. Indeed, the truly brave member is the man who repudiates the communal objective, challenging the rest of the group outright. Since no such discordant note was ever heard around the Round Table, young Magellan, in his enchantment with the tales of Arthur, Lancelot du Lac, and Gawain, was being gulled. It follows that generals, presidents – all leaders backed by blind masses – are seldom valiant, though interesting exceptions occasionally emerge. Politicians, who defy their constituents over matters of principle, knowing they will be driven from office, qualify as heroic. So, to cite a rare military instance, did General MacArthur when, protesting endless casualty lists with no prospect of an armistice, he sacrificed his career and courted disgrace.
“The hero acts alone, without encouragement, relying solely on conviction and his own inner resources. Shame does not discourage him; neither does obloquy. Indifferent to approval, reputation, wealth, or love, he cherishes only his personal sense of honor, which he permits no one else to judge. La Rochefoucauld, not always a cynic, wrote of him that he does ‘without witnesses what we would be capable of doing before everyone.’ Guided by an inner gyroscope, he pursues his vision single-mindedly, undiscouraged by rejections, defeat, or even the prospect of imminent death. Few men can even comprehend such fortitude. Virtually all crave some external incentive: the appreciation of peers, the possibility of exculpation, the promise of retroactive affection, the hope of rewards, applause, decorations – of emotional reparations in some form. Because these longings are completely normal, only a man with towering strength of character can suppress them.”
“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.”
Although it is old news now, I have a question inspired by that special congressional election in Mississippi that was the third special election in a row won by a Democrat.
Does not the unpopularity of Republicans show what a disaster George Bush's policies (supposedly thought up by Karl Rove) have been? Bush let Kennedy write the education bill; he passed the prescription drug bill, the biggest welfare state handout since Johnson's Great Society; he expanded government regulations, such as outlawing the incandescent light bulb; he increased steel tariffs; he sent spending through the roof. The theory behind all this is the very old mixed economy program of spending money to buy votes from various pressure groups. You might call it the Republican version of Clinton's "triangulation," or defeating the enemy by joining it.
What has this orgy of big government bought Bush and the Republicans? Bush is now hated by both the left and the right. Bush could have spared us the massive explosion in spending and regulations -- and who knows, he might have ended up more popular than he is today. I think even many Republicans will agree that Bush's presidency must count as a failure and a tremendous waste of treasure. His is not the template for future Republican presidents.
When a party spends money to buy votes, the least it should get is more votes. If they're too incompetent to get even that, then they deserve to lose. (So much for the myth of Karl Rove's genius.)
So why did Bush pursue a program so damaging to the Republican Party? Because it is a program of altruism. Bush, a committed Christian, thought all that government spending was the right thing to do. Bush was not primarily motivated by partisan advantage, but by morality. When people pursue their morality, they will follow it even it ends up destroying them.
This brings us to the lingering war, a huge factor in Bush's unpopularity. It took us four years to defeat the Germans and Japanese in WWII. Seven years after 9/11 we are still mired in the Middle East, as taxpayer money and military lives go to bring a state of semi-freedom to Muslims who have never known freedom. We are establishing a program of permanent American sacrifice in the Middle East because we no longer have the confidence and boldness to wage a serious war to destroy our enemies.
Politicians tend to take the easy way out instead of showing leadership and taking risks. It might be hard to understand at first, but Bush's war policy is the pragmatic, easy way out. Waging serious war in America's self-interest would incur the wrath of the world, the intellectuals, the media and the State Department. It would take a President with a spine of titanium to stand up to all that altruist opprobrium. More precisely, it would take a President with a philosophic understanding that America has the right to defend itself and to demolish its enemies. Poor little George Bush, who holds Jesus as his favorite political philosopher, is hopelessly incapable of such an understanding. Instead of waging serious war, he has package-dealed war with setting America up as the nanny state of the Middle East. Bush could not conceive of America reducing a nation to rubble without also spending trillions to clear the rubble and rebuild the buildings.
By the standards of altruism Bush is a moral, noble, great president. Unfortunately for America, the morality of sacrifice can lead only to failure and death in this world.
Simon Cowell announced today that Big Brown, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will be allowed to compete in tonight's "American Idol" final.
The decision to allow the horse to sing in the final competition is controversial, as Big Brown did not have to endure the entire process like the other two finalists, David Archuleta and David Cook.
"I decided to let Big Brown compete because he has a chance to make history," Simon explained. "Big Brown could win the Triple Crown and be the American Idol, which has never been done before. Plus, it's nice to have a final contestant not named David."
Big Brown is scheduled to sing a blues number, "Don't Take Me to the Glue Factory, Mama," and a reggae song, "I Shot Eight Belles (But I Didn't Shoot the Deputy)." The horse is reported to have a lively baritone that is fast out of the gate and closes well.
"The White House said Friday that Saudi Arabia's leaders are making clear they see no reason to increase oil production until customers demand it.Bush saw Abdullah in mid-January, made the same plea, and was also given the cold shoulder.
"The Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said there was no need to increase production now. 'Supply and demand are in balance today,' he told a news conference. 'How much does Saudi Arabia need to do to satisfy people who are questioning our oil practices and polices?'
"He said the kingdom decided on May 10 to raise production by 300,000 barrels, at the request of customers and that increase was sufficient."
"Bush's visit to Saudi Arabia [fresh from Israel, no less, and one may speculate if the Saudis secretly objected to the whiff of "ape" or "pig" Bush may have brought with him], which has the world's largest supply of oil, comes two days after Congress voted to temporarily halt daily shipments of 70,000 barrels of oil to the nation's emergency reserve. Bush has refused to stop pouring oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying the stockpile was meant for emergencies and that halting the shipments would have little or no impact on gasoline or crude oil prices."Actually, the world's largest supplies of oil are in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska, but they remain untapped because of environmental laws. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil production capacity, thanks also to environmental laws coupled with an irrational foreign policy of appeasement and accommodation with the Saudis and OPEC that dates back to the 1940's. This is aside from the issue of environmental law and other regulations that limit our ability to refine crude oil.
"The Saudi-American relationship began in the 1940s with a simple bargain: Saudi Arabia offered oil in return for U.S. protection. The United States became the kingdom's biggest trading partner and the Saudis became the biggest buyers of U.S. weapons."Thus the West, and in particular, the U.S. and its oil companies, ceded to medievalist tribalists a monopoly on oil production. Subsequent environmental law and industry regulation ensured that monopoly. The devil is collecting his due and sticking it to all Americans. Earlier in the article, a security analyst observed:
"U.S. influence over OPEC and Gulf oil production is diminished. It's not clear what the incentive is to Saudi Arabia. We can't deliver on (Mideast) peace. We can't deliver on arms transfers. We can't deliver on the Iraq that Saudi Arabia wants. We are raising problems in terms of Iran. And the reality is the market isn't being driven by us; it's being driven by China, by India, by rising Asian demand."No, the market is being driven by the U.S.'s irrational policies, in conjunction with the statist policies of Russia, Venezuela, China, India and other countries. If anyone claims that the global market is driven by free enterprise, he is living on the planet Xanadu. Bush's grasp of economics is as eclectically premised as his grasp of Islam, which, to him, is a "religion of peace."
"...[H]ere is another damning legacy being bequeathed to us by President Bush. He has claimed from the beginning that Islamic terrorism is perpetrated by people who have 'hijacked' a 'great religion.' But he himself has now hijacked and sabotaged language."On May 7, Jamie Glazov of FrontPageMagazine interviewed Bill Warner, director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. In "Kafir Dreams," Warner explicated the precise meanings of terms that have been carelessly bandied about since 9/11, such as "moderate Muslim," "kaffir," and "jihad." And, much to my surprise, Warner came to the same conclusion I have been emphasizing for years: that Islam cannot be "reformed" without turning it into something that is not Islam. This is a conclusion which not even Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, or Robert Spencer have endorsed. All three have stated or implied that Islam can be "reformed." Warner is especially stirred by the sloppy use of the term "moderate."
"So they think of Islam as only a religion and believe since Islam has so many members, it must be one of the great religions. And all religions are good, so Islam must be good....Since Islam has been defined as good, there must be an explanation [for today's terrorism and for Islam's history of conquest and slavery]. Those Muslims who kill must be 'extremist' Muslims. That leaves Islam as good with a few rotten apples."Glazov asked Warner if there was any hope or point in trying to "reform" Islam.
"The religion of Islam needs no reform. Who cares about how Muslims worship? All kaffirs must be concerned with Islamic politics or how Islam defines them. The Koran, the Sira and the Hadith determine the treatment of kaffirs."Neither Glazov nor Warner touched on the subject, but integral to Islam is not only how it is practiced in the mosque and at home, but what it requires of its adherents, such as honor-killings, female mutilation, the severing of hands for petty theft, dress codes, in some Islamic sects, self flagellation, and, in general, the whole "legal" universe of Shari law. For just a smidgen of the barbarity Islam imposes on its votaries, see this Voice of America article.
"To reform the Koran, all of the hateful, cruel, and bigoted references to kaffirs would have to be removed. If the kaffir material is removed, then only 39% of the Koran remains. The greatest part of the Koran, 61%, is devoted to negativity about kaffirs.....The Sira (the life of Mohammed) has about 75% of its material devoted to jihad. The Hadith [the teachings of Mohammad] has 20% of its material devoted to jihad. There is not one positive reference to kaffirs.To "reform" anything - whether it is a living room, a diet, a character, or a religion - means that the thing is no longer what it was. As for the "reformation" of a religion, one need only recall the history of the Catholic Church in the Renaissance. It was one of the most murderous, blood-soaked, chaotic periods of European history, in which uncounted tens of thousands died in religious wars, pogroms, church-conducted trials by Catholics and Protestants, the Inquisition, and just by barbarity in the guise of religious cleansing.
"If you delete 61% of the Koran, 75% of the Sira and 20% of the Hadith, you will have reformed Islam. You will also have destroyed it. There is a very good reason that Islam has never been reformed. It is impossible."
"The word kaffir is the worst word in the human language. It is far worse than the n-word, because the n-word is a personal opinion, whereas, kaffir is Allah's decree. Nearly two-thirds of the Koran is devoted to the kaffir. Islam is fixated on the kaffir and the moderate Muslim thinks that you are a kaffir. How moderate is that?"For a single, exemplary instance of how Sharia law in its political/religious mode is imposed on kaffirs, see this Associated Press report from February 20, 2007.
"In any case, the term moderate Muslim has two totally different meanings. The kaffir meaning is warm, fuzzy, and incorrect. The Islamic meaning is cruel, precise and correct."I do not know if George Orwell ever had anything to say about Islam (his contemporary, Winston Churchill, certainly had nothing good to say about "Moslems"), but Warner deftly describes Islamic doublethink:
"What is a radical Muslim? A radical Muslim is capable of harming kaffirs. A radical Muslim is a Medinan (or moderate) Muslim, but a Medinan Muslim follows Mohammad's actions. So killing kaffirs is not radical. Harming kaffirs follows Mohammad's example and is pure Islam, not a radical interpretation." (Italics mine.)Elsewhere, Warner says,
"The false names used by kaffirs [such as our policymakers and in the news media] are an attempt to humanize Islam or suggest that violence is a bizarre interpretation of Islamic doctrine. But Mohammad was involved in a violent episode on the average of every six weeks for his last nine years. Again, Mohammad defines moderation, and the violence is integral to Islam."
"Dualism is the key to understanding Islam. On the surface many parts of the Koran contradict each other. The usual explanation is that the older, nicer verses [purportedly composed in Mecca] are abrogated by the later verses [purportedly composed in Medina]. But in reality all of the Koran is true since it comes from the only god, Allah. Allah is perfection, and therefore, the contradictory statements in the Koran are all true. That violates Aristotelian kaffir logic, but it defines the Islamic dualistic logic. In Islam, two contradictory things can both be true at the same time....Contradictions are integral to Islamic logic.""Logic," wrote Ayn Rand in 1974, "is the art or skill of non-contradictory identification."1. Doubtless, Islamic scholars would dismiss that statement as an irrelevant kaffir-ism and possibly even an insult to Islam and Muslims for accusing them of illogic, and call for another round of riots, car burnings and killings.
"Kaffir-centric is the view of the victim...the kaffir-centric school is skeptical and analytic.Which school is President Bush a member of? Condoleezza Rice? The current presidential candidates? Most Republican and Democratic politicians? Even our highest-ranking military officers?
"The dhimmi-centric viewpoint is the academic school and is neither fish nor fowl. It is marked by political correctness and never refers to the deaths of the 270 million kaffirs [over 1,400 years of Islamic history], never talks about the suffering of the dhimmis. The dhimmi-centric school is actually believer-centric 'lite.' It rarely applies skepticism. The dhimmi-centric school is the predominate school in the universities, military, law enforcement, government and the media.
"One of the marks of the dhimmi-centric school is to ignore Islamic political theory."
"What are its advantages? It is better than any of the alternatives such as a 'good Muslim,' or a 'moderate Muslim' or my 'Muslim friend.' All of these names are an attempt to bring some good out of Islam. But, there is no good in Islam for kaffirs, only for Muslims....The goodness of your Muslim friend comes from the kaffir civilization, not Islam. Your friend is a kaffirized Muslim, but he is not a good or a moderate Muslim...."Warner claims that it is important to discriminate between Muslims and "kaffirized Muslims," for the latter should be judged as individuals and not as members of an entrapping "box." Orthodox Muslims do not regard "kaffirized Muslims" as true or actual Muslims. Kaffirized Muslims, he argues, in practicing the "ethical dualism" mentioned above, are nominal participants in what he calls "the shared reciprocity of altruism," that is, they observe the Golden Rule to "treat others as you want to be treated." ("Do unto others what you would have others done unto you.")
According to this AFP Google news story, Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party recently won 92% of the votes in the country’s municipal elections. Of course, the results were never in doubt as the NDP was able to “disqualify” opponents, resulting in a boycott by still others.
Who cares? Well, consider that the British installed a puppet monarchy in Iraq in 1921, and held a bogus referendum showing that the new king had the overwhelming support of the people. Then, in a slowly building crescendo, Iraqis scratched and clawed their way to the point where they overthrew this illegitimate government in 1958. This, by the way, set the stage for the eventual takeover of Iraq by the Ba’ath Party, and the takeover of the country by Saddam Hussein.
One important difference between the gradual shift taking place in Egyptian culture today and that of Iraq after 1921 is that it is being being driven not by nationalists working to displace a monarchy that collaborates with the West, but by Islamists working to displace a dictatorship that collaborates with the West.
Even more ominous though is that Egypt is definitely due for a revolution. It’s coming soon. It took Iraqis about 50 years to develop the political and institutional awareness during Ottoman constitutional rule and subsequent British control to the point where they could take over the government. Egypt’s Islamists have had to endure a secular dictatorship longer than that, and the Muslim Brotherhood has been in operation since 1928 — and has roots going back to the Urabist movement of the 1870s — meaning that is likely better positioned to take over the country than any Iraqi group would have been in 1958. What is more, the Mubarak regime allows Brotherhood members to hold office as “independents,” even though the party is banned.
The only reason Mubarak is still in power is his hold over the military, but one wonders how long that will last. I am convinced that Egypt will become one of the next Islamist theocracies, probably when Mubarak dies. (Here’s an interesting YouTube video from Al-Jazeera that shows the government’s intellectual bankruptcy, and gives you a flavor of the current political scene in Egypt.)
Readers interested in Egypt’s plight, may want to check out John Bradley’s Inside Egypt, which has been called “a blistering overview of what it’s like to live in this autocratic, hopelessly corrupt society.” (I’m currently reading Bradley’s book Saudi Arabia Exposed, and although I think he is too evenhanded in his presentation, the irony is that even when he’s trying to portray so-called dissidents in the The Kingdom in a positive light, to the astute observer he ends up condemning even that segment of the population. There is simply nothing redeeming about Saudi Arabia.) For my top reading recommendations on Egyptian and Middle Eastern history, be sure to join the Powell History mailing list. The next installment is coming this weekend.)
Albert Einstein described belief in God as "childish superstition" and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer said Tuesday. The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.That's definitely a refreshing blast of anti-religious air. Yet it doesn't go far enough. The Hebrew Bible not a collection of "collection of honourable, but still primitive legends." It is a collection of bloody, barbaric, and primitive legends. As a body of primitive literature, the Hebrew Bible is fascinating and often compelling -- but it's wholly unsuitable for moral instruction. The moral lesson of The Binding of Isaac, for example, is the absolute obligation of blind obedience to God's commands, even when those commands require morally abhorrent sacrifices of priceless treasures. Abraham must sacrifice his only beloved son Isaac to God simply because God demands it -- and he's rewarded by God because he's willing to do so without so much as a peep of protest. Such stories ought to be studied and enjoyed as historical curiosities, not as a foundation for modern life and morals.
As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they "have no different quality for me than all other people". "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this," he wrote in the letter written on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, cited by The Guardian newspaper.
The German-language letter is being sold Thursday by Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, said the auction house's managing director Rupert Powell. In it, the renowned scientist, who declined an invitation to become Israel's second president, rejected the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people. "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions," he said. "And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people." And he added: "As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."
Previously the great scientist's comments on religion -- such as "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind" -- have been the subject of much debate, used notably to back up arguments in favour of faith. Powell said the letter being sold this week gave a clear reflection of Einstein's real thoughts on the subject. "He's fairly unequivocal as to what he's saying. There's no beating about the bush," he told AFP.
Q. Religious people claim they derive their morality from religion. Where from an atheist derive his morality?Dawkins' answer to the first question unmasks him as a "mystic of muscle." His answer to the second unmasks him as a thoroughgoing skeptic. Which I guess is saying the same thing. I don't suppose it occurred to Dawkins to answer to the first question: "The choice to live in reality"; or to the second: "The law of identity and the validity of induction."
A. . . . We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. . . . An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.
Q. In your book, you've said that God 'almost certainly' does not exist. Why are you leaving open the possibility?
A. Any scientific people will leave open that possibility, that they cannot disprove whatever unlikely the event might be. I would be the first person to accept God once evidence comes in favour of it.
For all I know, McCain is in fine physical condition. If he appears older than his chronological age, that probably has something to do with the torture he endured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam; nine years ago the Arizona Republic reported that he continued to experience "orthopedic limitations" related to his imprisonment, including pain in his shoulders and right knee. But TV is unfair, as Richard Nixon learned when his perspiration and five o'clock shadow helped give John F. Kennedy the edge in the first-ever televised presidential debates. Had HDTV been available eight years later, I'm not sure Nixon could have won the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency.Only Hillary Clinton prevailing over Obama might keep us from the cold comfort of seeing, perhaps, McCain being killed by the monster he helped create. The man who so despises freedom of speech as to hinder it during elections would lose in part on appearances (not that his ideas have any merit or substantive difference from Obama's). The man who could not leave the world's most innovative and productive economy alone would succumb due to the very results of his meddling. The man who so likes giving out orders would be foiled by an army of too-obedient machines.
The prevailing cliche about 2008 is that it's the first YouTube election. But it may turn out to be, more saliently, the first high-definition election. If that's the case, then McCain -- more precisely, McCain's political ambition -- may play the unfortunate role of Dr. Frankenstein, whose lifeless body at the end of Mary Shelley's novel is wept over by the demon he created. ... But doesn't Obama look fabulous? [links dropped]
Five armed men burst into the small room and courtyard at dawn, just as 21-year-old, 22-week pregnant, Sunita was drying her face on a towel. They punched and kicked her stomach as she called out for her sleeping boyfriend "Jassa," 22-year-old Jasbir Singh, witnesses said. When he woke, both were dragged into waiting cars, driven away and strangled. Their bodies, half-stripped, were laid out on the dirt outside Sunita's father's house for all to see, a sign that the family's "honor" had been restored by her cold-blooded murder.This story reminds of me of Ayn Rand's notable comment on the essence of civilization: "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
A week later, the village of Balla, just a couple of hours drive from India's capital New Delhi, stands united behind the act, proud, defiant almost to a man. Among the Jat caste of the conservative northern state of Haryana, it is taboo for a man and woman of the same village to marry. Although the couple were not related, they were seen in this deeply traditional society as brother and sister. "From society's point of view, this is a very good thing," said 62-year-old farmer Balwan Arya, sitting smoking a hookah in the shade of a tree in a square with other elders from the village council or panchayat. "We have removed the blot."
Since the Republican Party and the conservatives gave up being a political faction that stands for limited government, what issues excite voters on the right? Abortion, immigration and gay marriage.
The Republicans have become a party of religion and bigotry. What genius thought up that?
I know I'm courting controversy by dismissing opposition to immigration and gay marriage as bigotry. Intelligent people have sophisticated arguments against both. But underneath the legalistic arguments lie ugly passions and irrationality.
Gay marriage has become an issue in California. (Since it is in the news, I will focus on this issue and set aside abortion and immigration.)
The California Supreme Court ruled yesterday that gays have a constitutional right to marry, striking down state laws that forbade it, in a decision that is likely to reenergize the election-year debate over same-sex marriages and gay rights.
Conservatives see this as the court "legislating" from the bench. If a majority of voters pass a law violating the individual rights of a minority, conservatives think the judicial branch should allow the unjust law to stand. Democracy over all!
Religious people oppose gay marriage because of anti-homosexual passages in a book written in ancient times called the Bible. Their opposition rests on superstition. (Religion is superstition widely held and therefore respectable.)
I can see nothing wrong with two people of the same sex marrying. How does their mutually consenting contract violate anyone else's right?
On what basis do we deny homosexuals the right of marriage? Because 2,500 years ago some semi-barbaric tribe wrote down its hatred of homosexuals in a group of writings that Christians and Jews today worship as the word of God? By that reasoning, we might as well start burning witches again.
I say gays have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us. Let them marry.
I realize that I am redefining the traditional concept of marriage. But note that capitalism has from the start been a revolutionary force redefining the traditional values of feudalism. Capitalism cares naught for tradition; it cast aside the values of God and king to give individual rights to man. In this respect, medievalist conservatives such as Richard Weaver and Hillaire Belloc are right in seeing capitalism as the enemy.
Some traditional values needed to go, such as primogeniture, serfdom and women as chattel. If we redefine marriage to include same sex unions, rights will only be expanded and strengthened. The marriages of heterosexuals will not be threatened in the least.
Abortion, immigration and gay marriage -- on all three issues, conservatives come down against individual rights. Liberals deny rights in the name of collectivism; conservatives deny rights in the name of mysticism. No wonder the right is on the losing side: who, aside from the deeply religious, wants to fight for a political agenda based on superstition?
Conservatism is as wrong, as foolish and as dangerous as liberalism. Let us cast aside these old standards and forge a new movement dedicated to individual rights in both the economic and the spiritual realms -- a movement of radical capitalism.
To these self-confident researchers, the idea that the spirit might exist apart from the body is just ridiculous. So far, so good.
In this materialist view, people perceive God's existence because their brains have evolved to confabulate belief systems. That does follow from materialism, if you mistake the widespread existence of religious belief for evidence that it confers an evolutionary advantage.
If they suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy, they will show signs of hyperreligiosity, an overexcitement of the brain tissue that leads sufferers to believe they are conversing with God. Religion is a tangled knot of horrible philosophical premises and legitimate aspirations -- and the emotions that go with them. Imagine the insights we could have if scientists better understood what religion and emotions were when they were studying them! Instead, we have determinists ignorant about both looking at this. Brooks' hero, Tom Wolfe saw where this would go.
The two sides have argued about whether it is reasonable to conceive of a soul that survives the death of the body and about whether understanding the brain explains away or merely adds to our appreciation of the entity that created it. The scientists are wasting their time here. Like I said, science does not set the terms of philosophical debates. It can eliminate some of the "gaps" in "god of the gaps" types of arguments, but this just proves my point.
And yet my guess is that the atheism debate is going to be a sideshow. The cognitive revolution is not going to end up undermining faith in God, it’s going to end up challenging faith in the Bible. This follows from the nature of faith and the beginning of that slippery slope was the original concession: to "debate" the faithful at all.
Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development. The false reason-emotion dichotomy pays off in spades for the religionists as scientists, disarmed in the face of (1) evidence that emotions might (gasp!) have a survival role for human beings, (2) their own ignorance of the nature of emotions, and (3) their own implicit acceptance of the reason-emotion dichotomy, find "evidence" of the supernatural.
Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment. If altruism is everywhere, and a material being cannot have free will, widespread philosophical errors and their consequences must be instinctual!
Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real. What did I say a while ago about having a grasp of the nature of emotions and of religion before attempting to study what goes on in the brain during religious-types of experiences?
If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion. Yeah. The beliefs that already saturate our culture like a sponge left to soak in a sewer.
The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It's going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.
I have a hypothesis though: even though the center-of-gravity remains unchanged in the middle, the more people there are crowding around the middle, the faster and more likely such policies will get enacted at all. As long as enough people from both sides are far from the middle, they will delay and fight changes, and government is slowed down a bit.I was reminded this morning of one important check against the irrational passions of the electorate that I haven't heard discussed much so far: The Supreme Court. (I just love how the short primary season has gutted what little deliberation was left from the process of vetting presidential candidates....) By the time our next President -- and we are all but guaranteed a horrible one this time around -- takes the helm, he will probably have the opportunity to appoint more than one new Supreme Court justice since five of the nine will be more than 70 years old. John Paul Stevens is 88 now.
The senator emphasized the importance of judicial modesty and deference to the elected branches of government, lamenting that "federal judges today issue rulings and opinions on policy questions that should be decided democratically." He criticized Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for not being concerned "when fundamental questions of social policy are preemptively decided by judges instead of by the people and their elected representatives." [bold added]Great. McCain already buys into the bipartisan Bad Idea of the Day, massive economic regulation inspired by global warming hysteria. He's too leftist (and eager to curry favor with a leftist media) for us to hope that he will reign in a Democratic Congress. He's too much of a Pragmatist to offer any real opposition to the Religious Right, if he isn't really one of them already.
Now, suppose that [California Governor Schwarzenneger] and I are wrong, and there's no such thing as climate change. And we adopt these green technologies, of which America and the innovative skills we have and the entrepreneurship and the free market, which is embodied by Senator Lieberman's and my cap-and-trade proposal, is enacted, and there's no such thing as climate change. Then all we've done is give our kids a cleaner world.Of course, McCain's argument omits the hundreds of billions of dollars of economic harm caused by implementing draconian policies that limit industry and commerce, as well as the countless harms done to individuals by prohibiting then from engaging in productive free enterprise.
But suppose we do nothing. Suppose we do nothing and we don't eliminate this $400 billion dependence we have on foreign oil. Some of that money goes to terrorist organizations and also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Then what kind of a world have we given our children?
And this anti-immigrant push is based on nothing more than hysteria. The only legitimate concern about immigration is a fear that the new immigrants will not assimilate into American society—not merely that they won't adopt our language, or dress like us, or eat our food (American cuisine is largely a combination of various immigrant cuisines, anyway), but that they won't adopt our ideals.
I don't think we have much to worry about on that score. I know too many immigrants who are more American in spirit than the average native-born American, and I have confidence that our culture is still so strong, so appealing, and so rewarding to those who adopt it that it will continue to propagate itself. (TIA Daily, 05/13/08.)
John McCain's worst enemy is John McCain. Both Obama and Clinton are so inadequate and weak that they don't pose much of a threat to McCain.
Obama, if he ends up the Democrat nominee as most people think probable, will be the least distinguished nominee of a major party in my lifetime, and perhaps in American history. He is the emptiest of suits, a mediocrity who ascended through Chicago politics by networking, going to a church shepherded by a raving leftist anti-American and socializing at the salon of aging radical terrorists. He is an effete liberal who views America as a foreign country and longs to transform it into France. An Obama presidency would look much like Jimmy Carter's, with a naive, appeasing President being bitch-slapped into reality by a mean world that wants to destroy America.
Clinton has high "negatives," the touch of death in a profession that lives on votes. Not only that, she has a way of energizing her enemies, who see her as the Wicked Witch of the West, Mussolini and their mother-in-law rolled into one woman.
All John McCain has to do is smile, kiss babies and stand tough on America's defense and he can waltz into the White House against either of these losers. Unfortunately, he seems determined to prove he is as bad as any Democrat.
McCain wants to take on the highly speculative, dubious problem of "global warming."
McCain's major solution is to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon-fuel emissions, like a similar program in the Clean Air Act that was used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that triggered acid rain.
Industries would be given emission targets, and those coming in under their limit could sell their surplus polluting capacity to companies unable to meet their target.
Now, for any reader who might think there is something to all this global warming talk, consider this from Walter Williams:
Over 95 percent of the greenhouse effect is the result of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth's average temperature would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. Most climate change is a result of the orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the sun's output. On top of that, natural wetlands produce more greenhouse gas contributions annually than all human sources combined.
Why is it that environmentalists never put global warming in the context that Dr. Williams provides? Could it be that they're trying to scare us with bad science? Could it be that their real goal is state control of the economy and the destruction of capitalism?
John McCain doesn't give a damn about capitalism and freedom. He loves state power; he holds sacrifice to the collective as the moral ideal. He thrills to the idea of mandating vast regulations on industry in the name of "saving the planet." As a man who has confessed his ignorance of economics, it doesn't matter what the actual, practical effects of his regulations will be; all that matters is his feel good fantasy and massive sacrifice. To altruists the gesture of sacrifice is an end in itself unconnected to any practical benefits. Nay, practical benefits would make sacrifice more of a selfish long-term trade, and where is the morality in that?
But McCain being McCain, he has to take the dishonesty of his proposal a little further by calling his massive regulations a "free market" solution. (In reality his "cap and trade" policies will amount to K Street lobbyists buying off politicians to get favors for their clients.) He does not understand that a market dictated and controlled by the state is not free. Laissez-faire capitalism is the separation of state and economy. The word for McCain's vision of private industry dictated by the state is fascism.
On the heels of this environmentalist nonsense, as if McCain were on a mission to rub the nose of small government Republicans in shit, the word comes out that he is considering Huckabee as his Vice President running mate. Could he make a worse choice than a religious nanny-stater? (Maybe he wants Huckabee at his side because the Arkansan is the only prominent Republican who makes McCain look smart about economics.)
No Bailouts for Borrowers or Lenders
By David Holcberg (U.S.News & World Report, May 7, 2008; Orange County Register, August 27, 2007)
Government should not intervene in the housing market with bailouts.
Any government bailout of either homeowners or lenders would have to be financed with money taxed from other people--and that would be utterly unjust.
Lenders knew--or should have known--the risks of making loans to individuals who had shaky finances and deserved little, if any, credit. And borrowers knew--or should have known--the risks of taking loans that they might not be able to repay.
In either case, lenders and borrowers are responsible for their decisions and should bear the consequences of their mistakes (or misfortunes) on their own.
Why should responsible, hard-working individuals who pay their mortgages and rents on time, or who already paid for their homes, be forced to pay also for the mortgage of others who defaulted on their obligations?
"The game will continue, and the bandwagon-riders will destroy James Bond, as they have destroyed Mike Hammer, as they have destroyed Eliot Ness, then look for another victim to 'parody'..." 1Next fall the twenty-second "official" James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace," will be released, first in Britain, then around the world, starring Daniel Craig as Bond in his second appearance in the role. This number does not include two "unofficial" Bond movies, "Casino Royale" (1967), which was a spoof of the novel, and "Never Say Never Again" (1983), which starred Sean Connery.
"...is so appealing a hero, so amply endowed with those values and virtues we ought to want to see in any character, real or imaginary, that he has become the special target of those whose 'creativity' is limited to smears, parodies and innumerable pasticcios. James Bond was killed long ago - by movie producers, directors, ham actors, scriptwriters, stuntmen, gadget masters, tongues in many cheeks and, last but not least, by the artistic 'license' to kill."Ironically, The Wall Street Journal twenty-seven years later ran this story on May 8, "Doubleday, Penguin Try to Revive Bond Series with New Author." It recounts the trials and tribulations of the bogus Bond novels and the overall diminished interest in Bond as a hero. There have been five "new authors" of Fleming's character, not including Samantha Weinberg, who published three "diaries" by M's secretary, Miss Moneypenney, and not including the "graphic" novels. Faulks is the fifth to try his hand.
"Partners, a unit of WPP Group PLC that specializes in corporate branding, took two months to come up with a cover [for Devil May Care] that satisfied Penguin....One challenge: portraying sex and violence without being too graphic for teenagers, a target audience. 'We're trying to appeal to older Bond readers and bring along a new audience,' Mr. Renwick says."A Daily Telegraph (London) article of May 11, "It's hell being a superhero," comes closer to an explanation. Many recent "superhero" movies are based on comic books. In remarking about the "Golden Age" of comics, the article says,
"This was the period between 1938, when Superman was invented, and the post-War late-Forties, when the public had an understandably voracious appetite for the exploits of strong, decent, super-endowed men and women triumphing over evil.
"But then came a backlash, in which superheroes fell out of favor, accused of everything from fostering juvenile delinquency to promoting deviant sex....The adoption in response by the comics industry of a stringent new Comics Code resulted in story lines so blandly inoffensive that no one wanted to read them.The DT article elaborates on that "sophisticated" taste. Commenting on a 1986 graphic novel, Watchmen, that helped to pioneer the "humanized" superhero, the article goes on to say
"What the disillusioned Seventies crowd wanted were more socially conscious types like the Green Arrow...and antiheroes like the savage Wolverine and dark and tormented The Punisher....Today, audiences are far too sophisticated to take at face value the plain, honest, good-versus-evil simplicity of the Golden Age superheroes."
"This portrayed superheroes not as magnificent, selfless, crime-fighting role models, but as warped, sexually confused sociopaths whose powers had brought them little but misery and psychological damage."
"Hence the popularity of the increasingly dark Batman movies, based not on the original caped crusader but on the much edgier, more angst-ridden and morally compromised figure in Frank Miller's 1980s Dark Knight graphic novels."The assumption in the WSJ and DT articles that contemporary readers have grown as corrupted and malevolent as the culture is properly the subject of separate commentary. But the CommanderBond.net site, in its coverage of "Quantum of Solace," features an interview with Daniel Craig, and what he says is in sync with the effort to "humanize" Bond.
"The way we finished up in 'Casino Royale' [Craig's first Bond film] was with a man who'd lost something that was taken away from him. The woman that he loved killed herself because he thought she was guilty because she was double-crossing him. And he never had the chance to go: 'Why?' said Daniel Craig during a roundtable interview. 'That's where we start the story and he's looking for that quantum of solace. He's looking for that little bit, but he can't be open about it because it's a sign of weakness.'"The actor who plays the chief villain in "Quantum of Solace" dwelt on the "intricate mix of reality and fantasy that make up the film."
"If it was realistic the evil would win because that's what would happen today. That's why I think it's called Quantum of Solace. It's quite ironic. It's as if Bond was saying, 'Please, can I stop running? Maybe if the evil wins I can have some peace and go home and just sleep.'"Obviously, this actor has never read the original story; I doubt if a single member of the cast has read any of the original novels or stories. Rand, in "Bootleg Romanticism," discusses the epistemological disintegration of intellectuals who approve of the reverse-bowdlerization of good literature. This actor had no epistemology that could disintegrate.
"'License Renewed' points up the futility of faithful imitation. No matter how well a writer - or any artist, for that matter - manages to capture the style or content of an original idea or work of art, something will always be missing: originality."Writers should not be so hungry for distinction, fame and fortune that they would treat resorting to robbing the graves of their betters as a "realistic," pragmatic option, and to hell with originality and the chance to create something of which they could say: This is mine. (Consequently, the authors of bogus Bond novels are paragons of selflessness, as are the authors of bogus Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe novels.) And readers should not be so hungry for any kind of "hero" that they reward them. Their lack of discrimination in what they seek and accept earns them what they deserve: literary cadavers.
The first man married a woman from Georgia and told her that she was going to do dishes and house cleaning. It took a couple days, but on the third day he came home to a clean house and dishes washed and put away.I am in fact much more "domestic" than my wife.
The second man married a woman from South Carolina. He gave his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking. The first day he didn't see any results but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done and there was a huge dinner on the table.
The third man married a girl from Louisiana. He told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye, enough to fix himself a bite to eat and load the dishwasher.
Many, if not most, people would have said, "Do what you want" and mean "Do what I want," but she didn't. She told him precisely and plainly without hint of manipulation that she wanted him to do what he wanted.Yes. "He" is oncologist James Wilson, but you don't need to be a House fan to get Flibbert's point.
Don't worry about changing the politicians. The politicians will wear their fingers to the bone sticking them in the air to test which way the wind is blowing. Instead, work on changing the wind. If you change the wind, the politicians will follow.And stop by there, if you haven't already, to see what "changing the wind" looks like.
The attacks [on Obama] are just name calling? This is the kind of self-serving delusion that keeps the left from realistically assessing the American electorate. Voters are smarter than the Democrats think they are; they understand that there are ideas behind the names and the labels.And on top of his terrible ideas, there is either a remarkable lack of sophistication or an incredible degree of cynicism going on in his head:
CNN showed a clip of Barack Obama this morning in which he said that the Gas Tax holiday is a sham because -- and I'm paraphrasing -- "every time we've tried to do that, the oil companies just raise the price to where it was with the tax." [minor edit]Hmmm. Before I read the whole post, I would have leaned towards the former, but now it's at least equally the latter.
When they left the White House in utter disgrace over their ethical lapses and greed [sic], they were under attack from even the friendliest of liberal media. But years of keeping their heads low, working hard at getting along with people in the Senate, turning to charitable works (with a little help from George W. Bush) and helping the party regulars erased the sordid images. Memories of pardons sold for campaign and library contributions, their scoundrel lobbyist brothers, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of 'gifts' that were solicited from people who wanted favors from the White House disappeared. Once again, time healed all. [bold added]This aspect of the Clintons' thought process seems irrelevant to the current situation, but I see it as highly relevant. Without pragmatism to make Americans dismiss principles enough to regard the Clintons' criminal behavior as not that important after a time, and without the insurance of their altruistic "good deeds", Hillary wouldn't even be around at this point.
Life And Taxes
By Yaron Brook (Forbes.com, April 17, 2008)
Your taxes are overdue, if you're just reading this now. But the fact is that every day is April 15 for Jane and John Smith, America's most tax-savvy couple.
Ayn Rand Institute Press Release
Fish vs. Men in the Supreme Court
May 12, 2008
Irvine, CA--Forty percent of America's energy comes from 550 electric power plants whose massive turbines and reactor cores are cooled with billions of gallons of water from nearby rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans.
The Clean Water Act requires these plants to use "the best technology available" to safeguard fish and other aquatic organisms swept up in the water flow. The Supreme Court recently agreed to decide, in the case of Entergy v. EPA, whether the Environmental Protection Agency can lawfully allow power companies to avoid hugely expensive "closed-cycle" cooling systems in favor of cheaper "once-through" systems that save fewer fish.
"This case requires the Supreme Court to pretend that the welfare of wildlife can be incorporated into a legal system designed to protect the rights of man," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. "The 'best technology'--for whom? Fish or men? There is no rational way for a court to 'balance' a fish's interest in living against man's interest in producing electricity.
"The Founding Fathers gave us a constitutional structure of checks and balances, including judicial review by the Supreme Court. But for such review to be rational, the court must apply an objective standard in each case. The highest such standard--the individual human being's right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness--is implicit in the Founders' recognition that 'to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.'
"By the standard of individual rights, any law purporting to protect wildlife from men would be struck down immediately, as a violation of man's right to sustain his life by exploiting nature. But America's lawmakers have sunk to a level unthinkable to the Founders. Through such statutes as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a variety of other environmental protection laws, Congress has conferred upon wildlife a legal status equal to men.
"This creates an impossible dilemma for judges. If fish and men are equal before the law, whose welfare should prevail when their interests conflict? There can be no rational answer.
"With standards out the window, it's impossible to predict which irrational or subjective factors will end up controlling the outcome--the judges' sentiments, their personal political views, or random outside pressures. All we can know for sure is that the result will be neither rational nor consistent with America's founding ideals."
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Mr. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, focusing on legal issues. A former lawyer and law school instructor, who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland, his op-eds have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and many other newspapers. Mr. Bowden has given dozens of radio interviews and has appeared on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.
Thomas Bowden is available for interviews.
Contact: Larry Benson
Phone: (949) 222-6550 ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism's unique point of view, go to ARI's Web site. Founded in 1985, the Ayn Rand Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead."
Two, Three, Four and All ThatAccording to the Ayn Rand Bookstore, the course is a 6-CD set, selling for $61.95. Total run time is 4 hrs., 29 min., including Q & A.
Number, though ubiquitous, is widely misunderstood. Drawing on Objectivist epistemology, this course sheds new light on the subject by sketching a reduction of the key ideas behind the modern number system and by showing their connection to cognition in general. Recognizing the objectivity of number provides a new framework for resolving historical and modern debates, and yields a heightened appreciation for the science of mathematics as a whole.
This course uses a detailed examination of the ideas behind counting, negative numbers, and area-measurement as concretes on which to illustrate wider conclusions about the nature of number. While not strictly a prerequisite, this material provides context for Dr. Corvini's course on modern ideas of number and infinity ("The Sequel," to be delivered at Objectivist Summer Conference 2008), and is highly recommended for those planning to attend.
Whether you are new to Rand or a veteran student of Objectivism, our sessions will be valuable to you: we'll go through the entire system, with the experienced folks refining their understanding and ability to articulate and apply the ideas, while the newer folks grapple with the ideas and ask all the right questions. So please don't be shy about jumping in -- the reading and meeting load is light, and you'll be working with a great group of people!For more information, please visit the www.ObjectivismSeminar.com site!
We'll begin the weekly sessions for OPAR on Sunday May 18, 7:30pm Mountain time, reviewing and discussing two or three sections per meeting. I'll almost always be moderating to keep us on track. And as we go, each section will have two volunteers at the helm of the discussion (maybe you!): one reviewing the material, and one playing Devil's Advocate to stimulate productive engagement. Everyone else can join in as desired to flesh out our picture of important elements and connections, explanations and applications, and to bring questions and concerns for us all to grapple with.
In my historical research on the Islamist Entanglement, I have been examining the intellectual undercurrent that runs through Middle Eastern history during the Western Ascendancy of 1683-1839 and subsequent Western Supremacy over the region. It has been a fascinating project, with far greater rewards that I had suspected. Among the most interesting characters I have found on this journey has been an Islamic intellectual named Jamal ad-Din “Al-Afghani.”
Al-Afghani, so called because he claimed Afghan lineage at one point in his life, though historians are quite convinced he was actually of Persian descent, is one of the wellspring intellectuals of modern Islamic reaction against the West.
Jamal ad-Din, known as “Al-Afghani”
Predictably, Al-Afghani’s intellectual work contains primarily denunciations of Western imperialism and various calls to Muslims to build a proper apparatus to match the West’s superior power, such as through the creation of a Pan-Islamic union. As a reactionary and Pan-Islamist, Al-Afghani occupies a unique place in the intellectual history of Islam as a mentor of key Islamists, such as the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and through them to Osama Bin Laden.
It is thus especially surprising to find in his writings passages that would thrill the most rational among us and show incredible insight into reality. For instance:
“It is philosophy that makes man understandable to man, explains human nobility, and shows man the proper road. The first defect appearing in any nation that is headed toward decline is in the philosophic spirit. After that deficiencies spread into the other sciences, arts, and associations.”
What is so striking about this statement is that it is true and profoundly insightful, especially when you consider that Al-Afghani would have learned about scientific history from the West when the science of history was devolving into Marxist materialism and Rankean antiquarianism. How many modern Western philosophers uphold such a conviction?
Why does philosophy have such power? Al-Afghani explains:
“Philosophy is the escape from the narrow sensations of animality into the wide arena of human feelings…In general, it is man’s becoming man and living the life of sacred rationality. Its aim is human perfection in reason, mind, soul, and way of life….It is the foremost cause of the production of knowledge, the creation of sciences, the invention of industries, and the initiation of the crafts.” (emphasis mine)
This are some of the most eloquent passages I’ve read from any philosopher, including Nietzsche (when he’s exalting the individual) and Ayn Rand.
If only these were the answers Al-Afghani had stuck with, and the message he had transmitted exclusively to his progeny!
AYN RAND INSTITUTE
May 8, 2008
The Morality of Capitalism
Who: Eric Daniels, research assistant professor at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism and speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute
What: A talk explaining why capitalism is the only moral social system. A Q&A will follow.
Where: Hilton Costa Mesa, 3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
When: Thursday, May 22, 2008, at 7:30 PM
Admission is FREE.
Description: Despite capitalism's enormous success in producing material abundance and political freedom, it faces a crisis--one that may lead to its demise. Capitalism is perishing because its supposed defenders lack a real defense.
In this lecture, Eric Daniels explores the most common arguments in favor of capitalism. He finds that they all break down in the face of the popular argument that capitalism is immoral and destructive--because it is selfish. Dr. Daniels explains that only Ayn Rand's crucial insight--that capitalism is the only moral social system because it is based on "the virtue of selfishness"--can truly defend capitalism. He illustrates the need for a moral, and not just an economic, defense of capitalism.
Bio: Eric Daniels is a research assistant professor at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He has lectured internationally on American ethics, on American business and legal history, and on the American Enlightenment. Dr. Daniels's publications include a chapter in The Abolition of Antitrust and five entries in the Oxford Companion to United States History.
For more information on this talk, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Eric Daniels is available for interviews now and after his talk.
Contact: Larry Benson
Phone: (949) 222-6550, ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism's unique point of view, go to ARI's Web site at www.aynrand.org. Founded in 1985, the Ayn Rand Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
Looking for Allies
By Elan Journo (Commentary magazine, May 2008)
Joshua Muravchik and Charles P. Szrom would have us court "moderate" Islamists. But is their notion of moderate coherent? Consider the two sub-groups offered as our most promising "assets" within the larger category of moderate Muslims--secular liberals and moderate Islamists.
The secular liberals, we are told, stand for a "belief in the separation of mosque and state analogous to the practice in most of the West." This presumably means some form of society in which government upholds individual rights to liberty. The moderate Islamists, by contrast, are Muslims who "hope and pray for the eventual recognition by all mankind of the truth of Muhammad's message" but who wish (so they say) to achieve this by non-violent means.
What, however, can the latter ideal mean politically, if not a society shaped by the tenets of Islam and a government informed by Islamic law? Whatever the authors' two groups of "moderates" have in common, they seek entirely different political ends, and are fundamentally dissimilar. To include the second group among the moderates is to blur a crucial distinction between advocates of a basically free society and those sharing the jihadist aim of wielding power in the name of Islam.
The United States is currently engaged in an effort to elevate Afghanistan to the status of exemplary moderate Islamic state. What exactly are the prospects for accomplishing this mission based on Afghanistan’s history and culture?
The first thing to realize when broaching this question is that Afghanistan is not a nation, and barely a country. Historically, Afghanistan served as a corridor for the rampaging armies of the East moving west, of the West headed east, and of central Asia moving north or south. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Timur (a.k.a. Tamerlane) are only the most famous of foreign rulers who used this geopolitical thoroughfare to fulfill their imperial ambitions. For all recorded history, Afghanistan has either been occupied by a foreign power in full or in part, or subsisted through some interim in which foreign powers were repositioning themselves for another move.
It’s for this reason that historians and those who accept the moniker “Afghan” place such great emphasis on the formation of the “Durrani Empire” in 1747. At this point, one of the region’s tribal leaders was elected King of Afghanistan by an assembly of notables. Even at this point, however, it would be an exaggeration to say that Afghanistan existed as anything other than a primitive feudal amalgam.
I liken the situation in Afghanistan to France in the Dark Ages. In 987, Hugh Capet was selected by the various lords of France as king. He was elevated to the nominal role of king precisely because it served the interests of the lords, who didn’t want centralized rule. Capet’s own land holdings around Paris were insignificant compared to those of the Duke of Normandy or Duke of Aquitaine. As king he would have no real power. Ahmad Shah Durrani, chosen in 1747 as “king” of Afghanistan was in a similar position, except one could argue that Afghanistan in 1747 was quite far behind France of 987. The region had not even coalesced into permanent feudal holdings under major “dukes” or “counts”. The relationships to which Afghans adhered (and many still do adhere) were tribal, like those of the Germanic tribes out of which the Frankish kingdom first came together as Rome fell.
Unlike France, however, Afghanistan never managed to experience the dynastic stability out of which a centralized monarchy could arise. Although Ahmad Shah was succeeded by his son, as Robert II succeeded Hugh Capet in France, the Durrani dynasty never experienced that long string of successes that gave the Capetian dynasty its storied place in French history. Even as the Durrani Empire was in the process of crystallizing, external events swamped its progress.
In 1798, Napoleon demonstrated his intention to move on India by conquering Egypt. Then France allied with Russia in a move that might yield an overland expedition to the nascent British Empire in Asia. Because of this threat the British began to keep a close eye on developments in central Asia, and the “Great Game” was initiated. Woe be to the Afghans, who had no idea their little corner of world was viewed as a pawn in a continental chess match between world powers.
The Shah of Afghanistan and his Suitors in the “Great Game”
They would learn quickly enough, as the British–who judged Afghanistan to be an unworthy state–initiated the Anglo-Afghan Wars in order to achieve regime change in India’s backward neighbor. First in 1839, and then again in 1878, British armies invaded to try to transform Afghanistan into a useful buffer state.
When the region proved too backward to use, but not backward enough to dismiss entirely, the British decided to strike a deal with the Russians, whose empire by 1875 had reached the Amu Darya (the river which now forms part of Afghanistan’s northern boundary. The two empires drew Afghanistan’s borders themselves, including the hated Durand Line which now bisects key Afghan tribes, imposing Pakistani citizenship on some and Afghan rule on others. (A strange result of this imperial boundary tracing exercise is that Afghanistan shares a border with China, and anyone who crosses that line headed East loses both freedom and 3.5 hours of their lives!)
Afghanistan’s present borders were largely imposed upon it by Russia and Britain.
Strangely, Afghanistan got off pretty easy when it came to the World Wars. In 1907, with the Anglo-Russian Entente, the Great Game came to an end. Its two contestants agreed to work together against a common threat instead. Then, as the World Wars consumed the West’s attention, Afghanistan slipped under the radar. It was so backward that nobody really bothered.
Things changed however in 1947, when Pakistan was formed and the Cold War turned the region into a battleground once again. The partitioning of the region by Britain was given permanence when the United States chose to view Pakistan as a key ally of the “Northern Tier” to contain Communism. It armed that country while largely ignoring Afghanistan.
The Soviets, not surprisingly, saw Afghanistan as ripe for the picking. Gradually, as the country moved from having one school in 1904, to two, three, four by WWII, “Western” ideas–including Marxism–began to percolate through the educated elite. With Soviet help, a Communist party staged a coup in 1978 and the primitive Islamic region was catapulted into the era of “scientific socialism.” Not surprisingly, the dissonance between old and new was too great, and the Soviet were forced to move in to prop up the Communist regime, lest it fail for all the world to see. From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan.
As Communism collapsed, a power vacuum was created, into which all the pent up Islamic tribal energies of the various peoples of Afghanistan were sucked. The country fell into Civil War, and gradually fell under the control of the Taliban.
From this point onward, the story is familiar to most Americans. The Taliban regime that hosted Osama Bin Laden was displaced by Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 after the 9-11 attacks. And US forces have been there ever since.
What is the relevance of this background to the present? Afghanistan has never become a true state, and it has constantly lived in subordinacy to outside powers. As a result of its history as a “highway of conquest,” as one historian put it, and its recent subordination to Britain and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan really only exhibits one cultural constant: a desire for independence. You often hear people say that the Afghans are “freedom lovers.” This is a misrepresentation. The people who live in Afghanistan are “self-determination lovers”–and with good reason! But these are not the same thing.
Left to their own devices, the Afghans would make war on each other long into the foreseeable future. Their loyalties remain to the tribe, above all, and to Islam. They would not embrace political freedom and create republican institutions; they would seek to dominate each other on the basis of traditional ideas about tribal and religious life. If threatened by outside interference, they would come together, but revert to internecine feuding as soon as the threat receded. They simply don’t know how to live any differently.
Can this be changed by an extended US presence? It’s possible, but not likely. Certainly, the timescale of the requisite cultural change is much longer than anyone in the Bush administration would care to fathom. First, Afghan tribalism is alive and well, and there are simply too many parts of the country that the US-supported government does not control. Second, Afghanistan is not being injected with a sufficiently deep Western outlook. Afghanistan’s so-called universities don’t teach humanities like history and philosophy. They teach computers, engineering, medicine–and Islamic Law. The intellectual framework needed to sustain free institutions is thus not being erected. The minute the US ceases to prop up the country, the weight of Afghanistan’s history and culture will cause the whole apparatus to collapse.
To learn more about the story of Afghanistan, try my lecture on the History of Afghanistan as part of the Islamist Entanglement. For the most accessible reading on the subject, I recommend the Greenwood History of Afghanistan by Meredith Runion. It’s not as thorough as Martin Ewans’s Short History of Afghanistan, which is also useful, but it’s a better introduction.
Open Letter to Denver Media: The information blackout by the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News regarding Single Payer health care reform - their bias toward 'free-market' solutionsOur opposition definitely knows that we are out there. And they are clearly feeling a bit on the defensive.
Throughout the process of the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform, the two large Denver newspapers have consistently failed to present factual information about the Colorado Health Services Single Payer Proposal -- the one that was most favorably evaluated by the Lewin Group.
Since March of 2007 both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have each printed a number of commentaries by 'free-market' health care advocates Brian T. Schwartz and Paul Hsieh, as well as commentaries by Sen. Andy McElhany and ex-Senator Mark Hillman. Only Rep. Claire Levy was granted a commentary in the Post that dissented from the predominant 'free market' view.
At least five commentaries since the Spring of 2007 have been submitted by myself and others about the advantages of the Single Payer proposal, as well as the broken system of third-party multi-payer commercial health insurances. The information has been ignored by the Post and the News. Only out-state papers like the Pueblo Chieftain and some northern Colorado papers, including the Fort Collins Coloradoan and the Northern Colorado Business Report, have consistently printed different perspectives of health care reform, including the Single Payer perspective...
To the Editor:
The skyrocketing costs of health insurance are the result of onerous government regulations, such as mandatory benefits.
Many states require insurance plans to include benefits like chiropractor care or in vitro fertilization. Such mandatory benefits raise insurance costs by about 20 percent to 50 percent, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.
More fundamentally, mandated benefits violate an individual’s right to contract freely with insurers and providers according to his rational judgment for his best interest. Instead, a bureaucrat decides how the individual must spend his own money.
Eliminating these mandates would make health insurance available to millions of Americans who desperately want it but cannot now afford it.
The proper solution to the health insurance crisis is not more government, but a free market.
Sedalia, Colo., May 4, 2008
The writer, a doctor, is co-founder, Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.
I am struck by how blind the left is to Obama's weakness as a candidate. They have their usual rationalizations for every criticism from the right.
Obama's father was a communist? McCarthyism!
Obama is not electable? Electability is a code word used by racists!
Obama has terrorist friends? Ayers is a distinguished academic. So what if he had a radical youth -- who didn't?
Obama's preacher is an anti-American conspiracy theorist? White America cannot understand black rage!
It seems that Obama himself does not understand the criticism against him.
Obama denounced what he called the Republican campaign plan: "Yes, we know what's coming. ... We've already seen it, the same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn't agree with all their ideas."
The attacks are just name calling? This is the kind of self-serving delusion that keeps the left from realistically assessing the American electorate. Voters are smarter than the Democrats think they are; they understand that there are ideas behind the names and the labels.
If Obama is surrounded by far-left anti-Americans, is it not logical to wonder if maybe Obama agrees with them? Is he trying to BS his way to the presidency without revealing what he really thinks?
His wife raises even more suspicions in the minds of voters who are of the far left. She has some sense of humor:
"Asked how she feels about Bill Clinton's use of the phrase "fairytale" to describe her husband's characterization of his position on the Iraq war, (Michelle Obama) first responded: "No."
But, after a few seconds of contemplation, and gesturing with her fingernails, she told the reporter: "I want to rip his eyes out!"
Noticing an aide giving her a nervous look, she added: "Kidding! See, this is what gets me into trouble."
This unpleasantness comes on top of her anti-American statements and her altruist-statist-collectivist vision of widespread sacrifice:
...Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your division. That you come out of your isolation. That you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual; uninvolved, uninformed.
There are profound ideas involved here, and questioning them is not name-calling or McCarthyism. People are justified in wondering just how Barack Obama intends to make them work.
It looks to me like we are in for a dreary autumn season of the left demonizing anyone who criticizes Obama as they strive to shift the focus from his ideas -- anything but an honest examination of what he really believes -- to the evil character of those who would oppose him. The left is projecting its own postmodern contempt of reason onto its enemies. This is the road to defeat for Obama, as I must not believe the American people are yet so dumbed down and corrupted that they cannot see beyond names and labels to the abstract ideas that words denote.
Currently, the federal government does not allow people to carry concealed weapons in National Parks. The Dept of the Interior is considering changing that rule so that if you have a valid permit to carry in your state, then you can also carry in a National Park located within that state.Here's the comment I submitted:
(Currently, one can do so in a National Forest but not a National Park.)
The Fed Gov is currently requesting public comments in support or opposition of this measure.
The proposed rule change can be found here: General Regulations for Areas Administered by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
You can leave a comment in support of those rule changes.
As a concealed carry permit holder in Colorado, I strongly support this change in rules to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks as state law allows.After I wrote that, I saw that others noted that the rule should allow a concealed carry permit holder from any state to carry in any national park. That's right, and I wish I had thought of that!
The ban on firearms in national parks disarms honest, law abiding citizens, thereby preventing them from protecting themselves if attacked. Meanwhile, the criminals know that park visitors are easy pickings, precisely because they are disarmed.
The standard claim that allowing concealed carry will result in more violence and crime is plainly false -- as empirical data from the 36 states with shall-issue concealed carry laws proves. Morally, the government ought to allow people to protect themselves from criminals in emergency situations when the police are not on hand.
Please do implement this change in rules.
American decline is far from inevitable. America rose to greatness because it was founded on the principle of individual rights for all men (albeit imperfectly implemented). The resultant boom in American prosperity and power was the result of a capitalist system that allowed men and women to freely use their reason to better their lives. China and India are prospering because they are starting to allow partial capitalism into their economies as well.Obviously, much more could be written on this subject. And Objectivists have a number of important and unique ideas to contribute to this discussion.
If America wants to remain a vibrant, prosperous country, we need to abandon our current path towards European-style welfare statism and return to laissez-faire capitalism. The government should confine itself to protecting the individual's right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and barring the initiation of force between men. If we reaffirm that basic principle, America can continue to remain a shining example of freedom and prosperity for the rest of the world.
Paul Hsieh, MD
How's that for everyday philosophy.
I hate adjectives. I don't want to hear that one of the company founders is a "fantastic sales exec." I want to hear that she was Presidents Club the last twelve years running.
I don't want to hear that the product is "revolutionary and paradigm-shifting." I want to hear about the specific features of the product that are differentiated and how.
I don't want to hear that the company has "massive market traction." I want to see a graph of progressive quarterly sales and a giant sales pipeline.
Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.And if that story astounds you, just wait until you read this (hat tip: Noodlefood):
Twyman - a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs - staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.
Yes, it's come to that.
"God is the only one we can turn to at this point," said Twyman, 59. "Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring." [David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle]
Jim Porter, chief technical analyst for one of the UK's largest banks . . . uses heliocentric magi astrology to predict the direction of the international financial markets. Millions of pounds worth of commodities, shares and currencies are traded on his command. His decisions may affect the value of your pension, your home, and perhaps decide whether or not you have a job tomorrow.Wow. If I had my money in a UK bank, I'd be searching high and low to make sure it wasn't in this guy's bank.
When I spoke to him late last year, he told me that the position of the planets indicated a 3.2 percent fall in the American markets. The following week they duly fell 3.5 percent.
"My attitude is that if you can test it, and it works, then it's just another tool that you can use to predict the direction of the markets," he says.
"I have tested it and astrology works. Used with other techniques it can give you confidence, and the more confidence you have, the bigger the risks you can take." [Danny Penman - www.newsmonster.co.uk]
"You see that?" Richard H. Thaler asks as we ride down picturesque Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Thaler knows the route well. He travels it every day on his commute home from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where he is a professor of behavioral science and economics. At the moment, he is excitedly jabbing his finger toward an approaching curve in the road, telling me that it is the scene of numerous accidents caused by drivers who fail to sufficiently reduce their speed. Then he directs my attention to a grid of lines that appear on the road ahead of us: Evenly spaced at first, as we near the apex of the curve, the lines begin to bunch closer together, which makes us feel like we are speeding up.For the sake of argument, I merely note before going on with this that man does not possess instincts and that the notion of "benefit" cannot apply to "society", except as a collection of individual men.
As Thaler taps the brakes and gently steers into the bend, he explains how the tightly spaced lines trigger an instinct [sic] that causes drivers to slow down. With evident glee, he notes that Chicago is effectively exploiting -- to society's [sic] benefit -- one of the many ways in which human perception is flawed. Or, as Thaler puts it, drivers are being "nudged" toward safety. [bold added]
[Libertarian paternalism] is a corrective to the longstanding assumption of policy makers that the average person is capable of thinking like Albert Einstein, storing as much memory as IBM's Big Blue, and exercising the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi. That is simply not how people are, they say. In reality human beings are lazy, busy, impulsive, inert, and irrational creatures highly susceptible to predictable biases and errors. That's why they can be nudged in socially desirable directions. [bold added]This is even more insulting than an argument Ayn Rand rightfully slammed some "pro-capitalists" for making in "defense" of capitalism: that we aren't good enough for a dictatorship!
This leads us to the third -- and the worst -- argument, used by some "conservatives": the attempt to defend capitalism on the ground of man's depravity.Whatever the libertarian paternalists think -- if they do -- of man's moral stature, they clearly regard man as too stupid for freedom.
This argument runs as follows: since men are weak, fallible, non-omniscient and innately depraved, no man may be entrusted with the responsibility of being a dictator and of ruling everybody else; therefore, a free society is the proper way of life for imperfect creatures. Please grasp fully the implications of this argument: since men are depraved, they are not good enough for a dictatorship; freedom is all that they deserve; if they were perfect, they would be worthy of a totalitarian state. ("Conservatism: An Obituary", in Capitalism:The Unknown Ideal, pp. 198-199)
What does a peculiar pattern on the road have to do with fixing the nation's health-care woes, protecting the environment, ... and increasing donations to charity?Ideally, nothing. Except that the premise that the government should run everything is taken as an unquestioned axiom by so many today. In other words, these velvet-gloved pragmatists are helping the Left achieve what they have been trying to do for decades, but have failed to accomplish every time they have been open about it: Have the government run every aspect of our lives. This is made to look good by such things as the road-striping cited above, which distracts many from the fact -- if they have an inkling of it -- that the government running everything is, ultimately, detrimental to the survival of man as the rational animal.
Just as the government has no right to dictate what foods we ingest or what books we read, it should have no right to dictate what drugs anyone takes, even if the user is acting irrationally, so long as he does not violate the rights of others.
And in the case of people with terminal diseases, where the use is eminently rational, forcefully preventing them from using drugs that might alleviate their pain and improve their well-being is unconscionably immoral.
"Trash is just trash," says Vinay Prakash, a young businessman who is helping create one of India's first waste-recycling companies, EcoWise Waste Management. "Primarily, we don't have any, any sense of category of waste. It's just waste with us."Completely unmentioned in the short summary page at the NPR website, however, was something from the audio report (available at the above link) that sounded like music to my ears -- a native Indian woman who wouldn't have any of the doomsday global warming hysteria spouted by the "ABCDs", as the American do-gooders are known over there.
But young Indians who grew up in Britain, Australia and America are now arriving here, hanging out with Indian friends, and important conversations about climate change and the [environment] are starting. [bold added]
"I am just back from Central America," proclaimed James Matlack last April on the steps of the Capitol as he tried to get arrested for protesting Contra aid. "I feel we have to keep faith with those who struggle." He is not alone: each year some 15,000 to 20,000 Sandalistas (a name that pays tribute to their footwear) fly south to Managua and then flock to Washington, D.C., claiming spiritual solidarity with the Nicaraguan people.The biggest differences between the Sandalistas and the ABCDs appear to be that the Sandalistas were, as a group, far less productive than the ABCD's, and that the privileges the Sandalistas enjoyed came much more from the government of the country they were descending upon than those of the ABCDs.
"The Bush administration has launched a new front in the war on terrorism, this time targeting language.So, here is another damning legacy being bequeathed to us by President Bush. He has claimed from the beginning that Islamic terrorism is perpetrated by people who have "hijacked" a "great religion." But he himself has now hijacked and sabotaged language.
"Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as 'jihadists' or 'mujahedeen,' according to documents obtained by [or "leaked" to] The Associated Press. Lingo like 'Islamofascism' is out, too."
"Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.A Homeland Security report, called "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims," claims that
"For example, while Americans may understand 'jihad' to mean 'holy war,' it is in fact a broader concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, 'mujahedeen,' which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.'"
"U.S. officials may be 'unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.'"
"Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates."Islam is radical. It means submission, specifically, to Allah's will. It is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year creed, with no allowance for slackers or sabbaticals from it. Every Muslim is either a passive, rank-and-file adherent, or an active one engaged in applying Islam's tenets in one of two ways: in Arab societies or in insinuating Sharia in Western or non-Muslim societies - or by bomb. The radical activists already have a veneer of moral and religious credibility, which is based on the religion itself. They possess such credibility in the eyes and minds of all Muslims.
"We should offer only minimal, if any, response to their messages. When we respond loudly, we raise their prestige in the Muslim world."Which means that instead of expressing moral condemnation of terrorists and their murderous acts, we should whimper quietly in a corner, perhaps in the company of a grief counselor. The enhanced "prestige" of the jihadists and Islamofascists is guaranteed if that is to be our "response" to terrorist acts.
"Regarding 'jihad,' even if it is accurate to reference the term, it may not be strategic because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world."
"Apparently the report does not say which American Muslims offered the recommendations. But it is virtually identical to a long campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamist groups....So the U.S. government is taking its cues from a group that emanated from a secret Muslim Brotherhood operation in America, one with a stated goal of being 'a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.'""'Don't compromise our credibility,'" quotes the AP article from the Counter Terrorism Center memo, "by using words and phrases that may ascribe benign motives to terrorists."
"Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahedeen' in conversation to describe the terrorists...Calling our enemies 'jihadis' and their movement a global 'jihad' unintentionally legitimizes their actions....Use the terms 'violent extremist' or 'terrorist.' Both are widely understood terms that define our enemies appropriately and simultaneously deny them any level of legitimacy." [Note that the term 'violent extremist" implicitly concedes that Islamic terrorists are acting in the name of Islam, in its most "extreme" interpretation. Apparently the term is widely understood by everyone but the State Department and Homeland Security.]
"Accepting assurances from moderate Muslims that Islam had nothing to do with the events of 11 September 2001, President Bush made policy statements holding Islam harmless for the actions done by 'extremists.'...As it turns out, the jihadis are able to find a doctrinal basis for their notions of jihad in Islamic law....This legal definition of jihad remains consistent through the 1,400 year span that incorporates the contributions of the authorities relied on in the thesis....Because of our inability to understand the enemy stems from a decision not to know him, this thesis recommends the return to a threat analysis process as the methodology to analyze the enemy's stated doctrine...." [Italics mine, to underscore the epistemological corruption of our policymakers]One thing that will be learned if that doctrine is ever analyzed is that Islam is a pernicious, evil ideology that cannot be "reformed" without rendering it something other than Islam. Another thing that will be learned is that it must be defeated root and branch, militarily with retaliatory force, and philosophically, through reason.
The HistoryAtOurHouse blog, home to news about the world’s premier homeschooling history curriculum for children, features the following recent articles:
A Classic Tribute to the American Sense of Life — Ruggles of Red Gap: a “must see” movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
In Defense of Heroification: Leutze’s “Crossing the Delaware” — Modern critic James Loewen claims history is subject to a degenerative process called “heroification.” Leutze’s Crossing, however, is entirely justified hero worship.
Jefferson Outsmarts Napoleon — HistoryAtOurHouse students Dane and Hayden van Slooten present “Kid Komics.” There first rendering offers a new take on the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase!
Secular Homeschooling — What is it exactly? And what does secular history instruction look like?