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Thoughts on litmus tests for new acquaintances?

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I was born in 1968, but I read the article.  As I remember, I think Miss Rand wrote that there should have been a court martial for those who watched a defector beaten up on an American ship, which is the same as American soil, no matter where it is.  What came of it?

She suggested dishonorable discharge for those responsible for the incident, but that did not occur.

I remember thinking at the time I read it, that it would make a good film adaptation( I was at Cal. State Northridge in '92 taking some screenwriting courses).  My professor said that Alan Alda was in a TV movie about it, but I've never seen it.
Alan Arkin (not Alda) played Kurdirka in a really excellent TV movie made in 1978. It was called The Defection of Simas Kurdirka and it won several awards.

Also, do you know what has become of Simas?

I know a few things. Kurdirka wrote a book (along with a writer) titled For Those Still at Sea: The Defection of a Lithuanian Sailor which was published the same year as when the movie was made. The book was moderately successful. He lived back East for a while and eventually made it out here to California. For many years he continued to be a spokeman for freedom through Church groups and others who would hear him. Interestingly, after my posting ARI wanted to have Kurdirka attend their rally in defense of Elian, and I tracked Kurdirka down through the years to where he lived in Santa Monica, CA. I spoke with his wife and she felt rather sad that her husband was out of the country at the time, because she was absolutely sure he would have been delighted to lend his support. Had Simas Kurdirka not been away at that time he would have attended the rally, and that would have brought full circle Miss Rand's concern for Kurdirka at the time of his abduction, with Objectivism bringing Kurdirka to express his concern for the abduction of Elian.

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What about TOC?? Do you know where any of its proponents stand on Waco??  It's bad enough that they are tolerance-mongers, but if any of them come out for Koresh, it's even more evidence of lack of proper foundations.

I do not recall what the "official" spokespeople for the TOC had to say, but Waco became an intellectual battleground for the many libertarian-type supporters he attracts to his group. There were endless "debates" on the several internet forums (loosely) associated with Objectivism at that time, and many of the Kelleyites supported Kuresh and condemned the FBI, and cursed out Peikoff and the ARI for their uncompromising stance against the militias and those who support it. Basically, the usual utterly confused and contrary-to-Objectivism libertarian-type position by many of the Kelleyites.

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What if you had a son under the age of 18, who escaped with your wife to a communist country (hypothetically), the wife died in the process (as Elian's mother did), and the communist country thus refused to send him back on the grounds that he'd be better off in their communist state rather than in the capitalist state?

You really need to learn how to think in terms of principles. I outlined in my previous post that this is an issue of rights, and no one, neither an individual nor a governement can claim the right to enslave another. I don't give a damn what the communist country thinks, I only care for what is objectively right.

When you want him back you'll come to realize that no personal family values have any significance in this?  What is the point in having custody over your child, then?

Custody of child is dependent on not violating the rights of that child in a fundamental way. If the child was made to have sexual intercourse by the parent, a proper government would have every right -- nay, obligation -- to remove that child from that horrible environment because of such a violation of the child's rights. The enslavement of a child in a communist country is a worse infraction that sexual molestation, so you can be certain that if it is right to free the child in the former case, it is even more right to free the child in the latter. If you think otherwise, I certainly hope that you never have children. :)

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This thread raises an interesting issue: how do we judge the extent of a crime? Suppose I consider the following crimes:

1) Robbery

2) Rape

3) Murder

4) Slavery

Is there a way to rank them from least evil to most evil?

If it is possible, but not with just this limited information, then what other information is required to make the judgement? If we base the extent of evil on the extent to which rights are violated, then how to we measure the extent to which rights are violated?

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If the child was made to have sexual intercourse by the parent, a proper government would have every right -- nay, obligation -- to remove that child from that horrible environment because of such a violation of the child's rights. The enslavement of a child in a communist country is a worse infraction that sexual molestation, so you can be certain that if it is right to free the child in the former case, it is even more right to free the child in the latter. If you think otherwise, I certainly hope that you never have children.   :ninja:

If we were to be consistent, then we would invade each and every communist nation and 'free' the people who are there - there would be no middleground of political status. Are you sure that Cuba is the 'prison' that everyone makes it out to be? because most of the folks who live there support the regime, the same as in Iraq. If we are not going to invade Cuba and free the people, then we cannot pretend to be doing other things which would undermine their sovereignty. remember the Civil War? It wasn't enough to continue the abolition movement and the Underground Railroad and all that. Lincoln decided that if we were really going to free the Slaves, then we were going to force the South to respect the Emancipation Proclamation. Elian's father and Cuban family wanted him back. His mother was dead. And do we need to ignore what Castro would have done to Elian's family back in Cuba were he to stay here? If we're to really believe that Elian should be freed, then the only course of action, as I see it, is to invade Cuba and free him, not play games like using him as a symbol for Castro's oppression. I say send him back, or invade Cuba. Or at least do something so that the regime may crumble.

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If we were to be consistent, then we would invade each and every communist nation and 'free' the people who are there

I do not know who the "we" is you are referring to, but we Objectivists are consistent. We have every right to invade any slave-state, communist or otherwise, but whether or not we do so is solely a matter of our self-interest.

Are you sure that Cuba is the 'prison' that everyone makes it out to be?
Yes, I am certain. And, if you want to argue against that fact, then do it with someone else. I have had my fill of apologists for totalitarian regimes over the years, whether they be liberals, relativists, the misguided, or whatever.

I say send him back, or invade Cuba. 

That's utterly confused. One has nothing to do with the other. We have every right to invade Cuba -- it is disgraceful that we did not do so for our own self-interest forty years ago -- but that is an entirely different issue than protecting Elian's rights once he was here. This package deal you are concocting is just senseless.

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The closest thing I have to a litmus test is the stance on Affirmative Action. I have some friends who are pretty liberal and I won't cut people off for having views that are wrong, but they lose any intellectual respect that I might otherwise give them.

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I have been using the same system since High School and it has worked very well for me. It is a passive system so it takes little work and actually helps me out in other areas. My system is simple. I wear Black. I wear black every day and every night. I don't dress up like a Goth or anything, i don't have piercings or tattoos or anything else. I just wear black.

Most people will make a quick judgment about somebody based on how they look (prejudge). They then splice this with all the stereotypes that they have heard and then treat accordingly.

I don't want to talk to those people, anybody shallow or vapid enough to judge me based on the color of my clothes is not worth 5 minutes of my time.

Another up side to this is that getting dressed in the morning is very easy. But it does have a down side to. As with any other powerful filter, every now and again it filters out a person that may be worth some time.

But with any system you have to take the good with the bad. Anyway just throwing in my two cents.

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I would like to know if anyone else here has this type of system.  And what issue is it that you would use?  (Aside from asking someone' "Do you like Ayn Rand?)  I think that is is much better to save Ayn Rand and Objectivism for a later point in relationships or friendships.

I disagree, especially concerning romantic relationships. The biggest mistake I made in dating was continuing to see and waste time on women who didn't take ideas seriously, and had no view, or the wrong view, on fundamental philosophical issues like the existence of God, the validity of the senses, and the primacy of self-interest.

I quickly learned that I would not be happy with someone who didn't share my core philosophical beliefs. This doesn't mean they have to read Ayn Rand or be an Objectivist. But they certainly can't believe in God. They certainly can't be a skeptic who's unsure whether the chair in front of them exists. And they certainly can't be thinking and acting on the altruistic moral premise.

If they aren't with me on even that much, I consider it a waste of my time to see them again. And the sooner I learn about their beliefs the better. In fact, when I was still dating, I often asked women about their philosophical beliefs before deciding on whether to ask them out.

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This thread raises an interesting issue: how do we judge the extent of a crime? Suppose I consider the following crimes:

1) Robbery

2) Rape

3) Murder

4) Slavery

Is there a way to rank them from least evil to most evil?

I think crimes should be ranked according to the extent or amount of actual damage done to your life, which is the basis for your rights. Given that standard, I would rank them thus:

1. Murder (most evil)

2. Slavery

3. Rape

4. Robbery (least evil)

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But it does have a down side to.  As with any other powerful filter, every now and again it filters out a person that may be worth some time.

It's time you got a new filter, then. :santa:

Now that you know more about ideas and about Objectivism, I would say you're in the position where you can know a lot more about a person from a quick conversation then you once could. (Or, if not, you'll soon be there)

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I was unknowing subjected to some sort of Litmus test some years ago: during my first date with my now husband, the first thing I told him about myself was "I like eating the most". We were married six months later. Now he claims that what I told him first was the main reason that he married me, because he deduced from it that 1). I enjoy life; 2). he would never go hungry if he marries me; and 3). His children would never go hungry either.

I wonder has anybody else tried similar line?

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It will be very difficult to come-up with questions to find an Objectivist. The best thing to do is...you have to stretch your criteria a bit. An individual does not necessarily have to be an Objectivist or has read Ayn Rand's books, a potential Objectivist could be a good prospect too. How to spot one will be a difficult task. Some individuals will disagree with you at first or on your succeeding arguments but later on will correct their mistakes. The best ones are the ones who had lived up their life as an Objectivist but they are not aware of such philosophy.

Each individual needs a mind ally. There will be very rare instances that you will find someone with exactly the same ideas as yours. The most important is… as long as you move on with your relationship… both of you should keep an active mind as to what issues that both of you might agree or disagree with.

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What was David Koresh guilty of?

In brief: child molestation, forming a private militia, and not allowing those who have a legal warrant to enter the premises, opening fire on the agents, setting fire to and executing those still in the compound, endangering the welfare of children. Just to name a few things. Areal infra-red photography shows that the fires started in three places in the compound at the same time, and the investigation afterwards confirms the use of accelerants. (Koresh had the the place burned - and everyone inside sacrificed) Women and children were shot execution style.

Ex members reported of his affairs with 11 year olds and also stern physical punishment for children. He was human garbage, and by saying that I believe I am insulting garbage - as garbage at one time had a use.

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In brief: child molestation, forming a private militia, and not allowing those who have a legal warrant to enter the premises, opening fire on the agents, setting fire to and executing those still in the compound, endangering the welfare of children.  Just to name a few things.  Areal infra-red photography shows that the fires started in three places in the compound at the same time, and the investigation afterwards confirms the use of accelerants. (Koresh had the the place burned - and everyone inside sacrificed) Women and children were shot execution style.

Ex members reported of his affairs with 11 year olds and also stern physical punishment for children.  He was human garbage, and by saying that I believe I am insulting garbage - as garbage at one time had a use.

This is interesting as many libertarian types use Waco as some sort of rallying cry against the government.

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This is interesting as many libertarian types use Waco as some sort of rallying cry against the government.

Yes, indeed, that is true. It was especially apparent when the Waco event occurred, because it openly revealed quite a number of libertarians hiding in Objectivist clothing.

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An individual does not necessarily have to be an Objectivist or has read Ayn Rand's books, a potential Objectivist could be a good prospect too. How to spot one will be a difficult task. Some individuals will disagree with you at first or on your succeeding arguments but later on will correct their mistakes. The best ones are the ones who had lived up their life as an Objectivist but they are not aware of such philosophy.

I look for what I call Good Objectivist Material (GOM), people who have the makings of a good Objectivist regardless of what their current philosophy is.

The two main characteristics of GOM are

1) "Working Rationality" - everyday realism, practicality, common sense, a "prove it to me" attitude, curiosity, intolerance for contradictions, lack of intellectual pretention in most areas of their life -- particularly their work.

2) Passionate Valuing - Constant evaluation and value-seeking as evidenced by having a complex personal hierarchy of values, strong preferences FOR certain things, and a "favorite everything."

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I don't have any "litmus test" questions for new acquanitances. I have found that people are too compartmentalized for this to work well. That is, there are people who I've found I can be friends with who disagree with me on some significant question.

If I were to have a litmus test, I suppose the Elian Gonzales case would be a good one, but I have to admit that I have a friend (who's not an Objectivist) who agrees with the government on this. Advocating sending an innocent person back to a slave state like Cuba is a very bad thing, but I nevertheless find that I share quite a few significant values with this friend, so our disagreement on this has not ended our friendship.

A problem is that an Objectivist could come up with a whole list of "litmus test" questions. Abortion would be a good one. Or one could pick some environmentalist position that's obviously very destructive of human values and use it as a litmus test. If I asked an acquanitance all of these questions, I'd end up not associating with anybody but other Objectivists.

So, how do you decide which question should be used as a litmus test? Why would it be OK for an Objectivist to associate with an anti-abortionist, but not OK to associate with somebody who thought it was OK for Elian to get sent back to Cuba? Or why would it be OK to associate with an environmentalist who advocates the sacrifice of Man to the bugs and weeds, but not OK to associate with an anti-abortionist? Does it just come down to personal preference? (That is, there might be one particular bad position that especially disgusts you.)

I think that the best way to choose friends or others with whom one can comfortably deal, is to look for the values in the other person. What about him is good?

...

(As for the Waco incident, I would never use that as a litmus test, since I know Objectivists on both sides of the question of whether the government acted appropriately. And I'm sure the people I'm thinking of are not libertarians.)

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I have a fairly simple litmus test that I use to determine who are proper intellectual aquitances;

1) The person must have an interest in discovering the nature of reality- the truth.

2) The person must use accurate epistimelogical tools (reason) when determining what is true.

Even if the person is not already an Objectivist, I've found that I can prove the validity of Objectivism to anybody who falls into both of those categories. Usually, if those two things truly describe the person, then the only reason he isn't already an Objectivist is because he hasn't been exposed to the proper ideas or arguments.

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Sorry for jumping in so late in this discussion, but I have to say this: Thanks to Steven Speicher for his very interesting comments on this topic. I googled on Simas Kudirka and came upon this REPORT ON THE TRIAL TESTIMONY OF SIMAS KUDIRKA — LITHUANIAN SAILOR* by Washington Post journalist Anatole Shub. The testimony is well worth reading, what a drama and what a courage Kudirka displayed under immense pressure. The link is:

http://www.lituanus.org/1972/72_3_02.htm

------

Best,

Harald Waage

Oslo, Norway

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Sorry for jumping in so late in this discussion, but I have to say this: Thanks to Steven Speicher for his very interesting comments on this topic. I googled on Simas Kudirka and came upon this REPORT ON THE TRIAL TESTIMONY OF SIMAS KUDIRKA — LITHUANIAN SAILOR* by Washington Post journalist Anatole Shub. The testimony is well worth reading, what a drama and what a courage Kudirka displayed under immense pressure. The link is:

http://www.lituanus.org/1972/72_3_02.htm

There were, of course, no free reporters present at Kudirka's trial, and his testimony was handed down mouth to mouth to the Lithuanian people. Kudirka was a true hero to them, but, alas, not enough of a hero to the United States authorities at the time. A truly shameful act in our history.

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... The testimony is well worth reading, what a drama and what a courage Kudirka displayed under immense pressure. ...

Thank you for posting that link. It sure is worth reading! Kudirka was not only very courageous, but his words show that he also had a good understanding of the fact that the Soviet Union was evil, some reasons why it was evil, and the fact that his trial was a rigged show-trial.

In particular, I'm impressed how his observations led him to conclude that what he was seeing in Lithuania was not consistent with the propaganda he was hearing. For example, he understood the implication of the fact that his trial was not open to the public, and was attended by KGB thugs and also guards who couldn't understand the language. He understood that it would have been open if the charges of "treason" had any merit, and wider than that: he had a good grasp of what the government of a free country would be like.

Grasping these facts and their implications requires very independent thinking if all one has been exposed to is a slave state.

Notice how all during the trial, he was always ready to name the issue at hand. Even though he had reason to believe he faced death, he was not afraid to clearly state the nature of the injustice he was facing.

......

Courageously naming the issue and refusing to accept the legitimacy of his persecutors remind me of Rearden's actions at his trial in Atlas Shrugged. And I think that if we saw this kind of righteously informed courage at, for instance, anti-trust trials in America today, it would have a very positive effect on the culture.

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"You really need to learn how to think in terms of principles. I outlined in my previous post that this is an issue of rights, and no one, neither an individual nor a governement can claim the right to enslave another. I don't give a damn what the communist country thinks, I only care for what is objectively right."

"Custody of child is dependent on not violating the rights of that child in a fundamental way. If the child was made to have sexual intercourse by the parent, a proper government would have every right -- nay, obligation -- to remove that child from that horrible environment because of such a violation of the child's rights. The enslavement of a child in a communist country is a worse infraction that sexual molestation, so you can be certain that if it is right to free the child in the former case, it is even more right to free the child in the latter. If you think otherwise, I certainly hope that you never have children.   :angry:"

you have to set your priorities: a) the nation of Cuba, B) the father's right as primary custodian of Elian, c) Elian's rights, the d) the rights of his extended family in Miami.

Cuba may be *technically* a totalitarian state, but until and unless they are 'charged' with a crime (as we did with Afghanistan and Iraq), then they are officially a sovereign nation and the citizens of that nation's rights are recognized as legitmate by all other nations. Just as the rule of law applies to an individual, so it does to a nation.

Try to imagine a deadbeat father facing the State and the State says,"You are an a**hole, so we are taking your children away from you." The dad says, "You cannot do that because you have not tried and convicted me of anything." A crime is a crime if and only if a recognized state says that it is so. Ethics, however, is different.

If you murder someone and the state decides not to prosecute you, then you are free and able to retain all of the rights that you would have normally. Remember O.J.? Everyone in the world knows that he did that crime and he is a deadbeat, but he retains his rights.

There are many times when upholding a principle results in 'unfairness' and other idiosyncracies, but this is what we must do in the name of freedom and order.

You can see what we have done with our wishyy-washy tactics of inconsistent imperialism in the court of world opinion.

As long as we respect Cuba as a nation and do nothing (even now with it's supporter the USSR out of the way), we must respect the rights of its citizens. No one has a 'right' not to be in a totalitarian state without the political context that accompanies it.

There are many libertarians (and O'ists) who believe that the US is a totalitarian state because of the controls and taxes - should we overthrow the government? Is it our right to do as we please to a sovereign nation?

--Brian

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