Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Meta Blog

  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Meta Blog

  1. Dear students and Undercurrent supporters, After publishing over 20,000 copies of our fifth issue--and distributing it on 34 campuses across North America--we are excited to begin work on our sixth. The next deadline for submissions is March 1st. At present, we are anticipating that the next issue, due out in April, will focus mainly on foreign policy. As usual, however, we are interested in looking at submissions on all topics, so please feel free to submit anything you think may be of general interest to a college audience unfamiliar with Objectivism. Whatever your idea, it also helps to email an abstract of your topic in advance of the deadline. This way we can let you know if yours is the kind of piece we're interested in running. Best, The Undercurrent Staff http://www.the-undercurrent.com [email protected] http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000646.html
  2. Originally from Myrhaf, I've always looked at Valentine's Day with a jaundiced eye. It's silly. Cupid flying around shooting people with arrows? Chocolates in a red heart-shaped box? "Be my valentine"? Do these things celebrate passionate love or trivialize it? Valentine's Day is for people who are not in love. They can compartmentalize their love to February 14, get it out of the way and return to their gray, passionless existence the other 364 days of the year. Now I see that Islamic fundamentalists are attacking Valentine's Day. Damn them. They'll make me defend the holiday. If they hate Valentine's Day, then it must have some merit.
  3. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Today's Houston Chronicle details a plan to build a federally-funded megachurch whose congregants won't be able to skip -- or even leave -- on Sunday -- or any other time. This would not be not our nation's first "faith-based" prison. While I don't want my tax money being spent to proseletyze for any religion, I still find myself saying, "Scientology and Wicca?!?!" And I know our prisons are probably already hotbeds of Islam, but if this keeps going, we'll be training terrorists with federal money at a prison with a "strictly Islamic bent". And how do the redoubtable Mr. Robinson and his marks -- I mean supporters -- answer the charge that this violates separation of church and state? First, the "voluntary" aspect of this program in no way alters the fact that my money is being confiscated from me to support an ideology I oppose and that our Constitution clearly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Second, the "voluntary" aspect of the program can only be said with any degree of certainty to apply to admission into such a prison. What if an inmate changes his mind and what if the warden wants to make him reconsider by threatening to send him to the worst prison in the state? Will corrections officials trust a warden who says that this inmate has serious behavioral problems that constitute a threat to the safety of other prisoners? Or the prisoner, who is saying that he doesn't accept Christianity after giving it a try? Or whose "worship practices" don't happen conform to what this "Christian believer" thinks they should? Third, such programs are bound to simply become a new way to release prisoners early, and that sets aside the question, which I have, of whether Christianity with its intrinsicist ethics is going to help a criminal reform. We are, after all, talking about prisoners here. What is the one thing a prisoner wants? Does it take a rocket scientist to wonder why a prisoner might volunteer for such a prison? The article provides a little clue: (The obvious joke here is that we've finally found a reason to parole a criminal that a leftist doesn't like!) This is interesting because it flies in the face of the rationale people like Robinson give for what another similar prison calls, more accurately, its "24-hour per day Christ-centered, Bible-based programming." Will recidivism be reduced, though, if parole boards reward criminals who learn the right pieties to mouth at their reviews? Whether or not this "works", it will be a well-established practice, and thus much harder to get rid of, by the time its effectiveness has been studied decades from now. I have a saying that comes from years of seeing criminals hiding behind Christianity to duck questions about their past misdeeds: Christianity is the last refuge of a scoundrel. (Amusingly, the print edition of the Chronicle shows Robinson, an ex-con, seated behind a Bible.) And Andrew Dalton's old blog gives a particularly good example (You may need to search "Duncan" to reach the post.), of a prisoner-blogger whose archives are full of stuff that people who think this is a good idea will lap up. Dalton quotes the prisoner, serial child molester Joseph Edward Duncan III: Joe has seen the light! What a happy coincidence! I was just thinking about how I needed a baby sitter. Please let him out of prison. "Faith-based" prisons are a terrible idea on many levels, and I have barely scratched the surface. This is definitely a part of the "Bush legacy" to which I am completely opposed.
  4. Originally from Myrhaf, In my day job I listen to FM radio all day. There are worse ways to earn a living. It keeps this 49-year old in touch with the current music. Were it not for this job, Black Eyed Peas would just be beans to me. Kelly Clarkson won a grammy. She deserves it. Of all the artists currently big in the Hits format (or ?Top 40?), she most consistently chooses good songs to sing. ?Breakaway? is a nice song in 6/8 time. ?Since U Been Gone,? despite the trendy ignorance in the spelling, is good. The melody of ?Walk Away? is almost as good as the pop hits of the ?60s. ?Because of You? is too much of a boring ballad with a stock melody for my taste. In addition to picking songs with good music, she manages to avoid the vulgar lyrics that plague a lot of pop artists today. I hate to sound like a prude, but I cringe when I hear songs with explicitly sexual lyrics on stations that kids listen to. She has a remarkable voice with a huge range, although she does get a bit screechy on the high notes. I heard on the radio once that she was asked what she thinks of Bo Bice. She replied, "Who?" That made me laugh. The sweet Texan is getting in touch with her inner diva. Gotta love it! I?m risking my credibility with the rockers I used to jam with in my youth, but congratulations, Kelly Clarkson!
  5. We must uncompromisingly defend the right to freedom of speech. By Christian Beenfeldt and Onkar Ghate A battle for Western freedom is being fought overseas. The specific object of the battle is merely a handful of cartoons. The outcome of the struggle, however, will reverberate for years. The conflict began when the leading Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed twelve cartoons of Mohammed to expose and challenge the country's existing climate of fear of criticizing Islam. Confirming the newspaper's nightmares, the response was the deluge of Islamic rage, death threats and violence now sweeping the world. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000639.html
  6. Originally posted by Martin Lindeskog from EGO, Glenn Reynolds says: Here is an excerpt from the article (Sweden looks to fuel growth via economic, market reforms) Glenn Reynolds is linking to. I would be happy if this is really the case, but I think it is a long way to go... It is soon election time in Sweden and the debate is heating up between the politicians in power and business leaders. IdeaTank will organize lectures and meetings on how to change the business climate. This week we had a meeting with the real estate owner, signing the contract. We will have the keys to the premises on March 1. We want to open for the public as soon as possible, but it takes time to deal with different agencies. The Companies Registration Office has taken about a month to handle our application. After we have got our "organization number," we have to send the blue print and a detailed list of the place to a similar agency (environment and food) like FDA. We are not allowed to start our business until a bureaucrat has come on a visit, checking our place. This procedure could take several weeks. We have to come up with our own "critical control point" program. There are new rules in the EU since January 1, 2006.
  7. The West's current failure to staunchly defend our freedom to speak and criticize is explained by the injunction to love our enemies. By Onkar Ghate To fathom our government's contemptible treatment of a handful of unbowed journalists, you must see the roots of that treatment in the moral ideal Christianity bequeathed the West. In the face of the intimidation and murder of European authors, film makers and politicians by Islamic militants, a few European newspapers have the courage to defend their freedom of speech: they publish twelve cartoons to test whether it's still possible to criticize Islam. They discover it isn't. Muslims riot, burn embassies, and demand the censorship and death of infidels. The Danish cartoonists go into hiding; if they weren't afraid to speak before, they are now. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000636.html
  8. Dear Editor: Our State Department's condemnation of European newspapers for printing cartoons of Mohammad--in the face of Muslim death threats against this act of free speech--is a low point in American diplomatic history. When Muslim groups threaten the West for "un-Islamic" content, it is irrelevant whether the content in question is in bad taste. The only proper response is to condemn the militant enemies of free speech, and to do whatever is necessary to make sure that they do not act on their threats. The idea that freedom of the press must be "coupled with press responsibility" means that we are only free to say things that don't offend Muslims--which means that free speech is not a right, but a fleeting permission. Dr. Yaron Brook Ayn Rand Institute executive director http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000635.html
  9. If you are interested in today's politics, it is important to understand the power of ideas. It is extremely helpful to have concrete examples of how ideas drive actions. That is the realm of the history of ideas. How cultures have viewed reality, how men know things, and how men should act have driven history. Competing philosophies have dominated in various eras. At the bottom of this post is a listing of Wilhelm Windelband's eras. The following list of books cover some or all of the eras. 1. Start here... "A History Of Knowledge" by Charles Van Doren: Though the latter part of the book gets into some suspect ideas, the majority of the book provides a simple and clear review of ideas and their impact on history from the ancients to today. Highly recommended. His eras are very similar to Windelband's. National Geographic: Milestones Of Science: Which eras produced the greatest scientific advances? Which eras had limited advances? This is a beautiful illustrated coffee table book which covers in an integrated manner scientific advances through the eras. Similiar eras to Windelband and Van Doren. The Aristotle Adventure by Burgess Laughlin: What ideas were almost lost completely and drove Man into the Dark Ages? How were those ideas kept alive to pull Man out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance? Like a detective story! A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester: A fascinating look at the sliver of time covering the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance -- some of the ideas and men who drove the change. The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein. The historic, economic, and philosophic ideas which released Man from the final chains of Dark Age feudalism to freedom and wealth. These are the ideas of the Enlightenment. 2. Going Deeper: Same eras, just a deeper look A History Of Philosophy by Wilhelm Windelband: 1. The Philosophy of the Greeks: from the beginnings of scientific thought to the death of Aristotle, -- from about 600 to 322 B.C. 2. Hellenistic-Roman Philosophy: from the death of Aristotle to the passing away of Neo-Platonism, -- from 322 B.C. to about 500 A.D. 3. Mediaeval Philosophy: from Augustine to Nicolaus Cusanus, -- from the fifth to the fifteenth century. 4. The Philosophy of the Renaissance: from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. 5. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment: from Locke to the death of Lessing, -- 1689-1781. 6. The German Philosophy: from Kant to Hegel and Herbart, -- 1781-1820. 7. The Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century. Objectivism: The Philosophy Of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff. The epilogue is "The Duel Between Plato and Aristotle": a short review of the history of ideas. For The New Intellectual by Ayn Rand. A review of the history of ideas from Ancient Greece to the present using her unique concepts of type of men (and the ideas they held) who drove history. Various recorded lectures by Dr. John Ridpath and others on the history of ideas. The Sleepwalkers : A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe is an in-depth look at how Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton broke out of medieval thinking and discovered the truth about the universe. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000629.html
  10. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, The interracial romantic comedy, Something New, is like a cocktail party with several juicy moments. Taking on an affair between a black woman and a white man, director Sanaa Hamri and writer Kriss Truner have carefully navigated the minefield of black middle class guilt, and that they make it through alive is some sort of miracle. From Scott Holleran at Box Office Mojo
  11. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Christopher Hitchens has a magnificent column up at Slate that makes a few points that need making, as incredible at that may seem in the country that Thomas Jefferson helped found. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I've excerpted my favorite parts here. He pretty much nails the medievalists of Islam and the cowards of our State Department to the wall. And he puts together a lot of things that have been floating around in my head lately much better than I have here. Thank you! So he covers the difference between free speech and slander, and the fact that the government's job is to protect the former. And here, he echoes a sentiment I have often expressed here, applicable not merely to Islamists, but to any religionist who would force me to live by the dictates of his faith. And then, on the matter of allowing other people to put words in our mouths (and, I suppose, deeds on our shoulders)... Amen. And then he gets to the nut of the matter, which is the desire by the Moslems to preempt debate, always a confession, in my book, of the inability of a system of beliefs to withstand critical examination. I have often expressed my support, reluctant though it has often been, for the Bush administration. But if there is one thing that it is unforgivable not to support unstintingly, it is freedom of speech, the very basis of our Republic, and on which its life and progress ultimately depend. Now is not the time for weasel-words, Mr. President.
  12. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, It seems the "Lost Liberty" Hotel has reached the end of the line: Um, wouldn't a lack of turnout indicate a lack of support? Face the facts, New Hampshire residents don't like eminent domain for private gain and they aren't going to support it--even against an eminent domain proponent like Souter. The "Lost Liberty" hotel plan was out of line from the start--simple Libertarian mindlessness. You don't meet outrage with outrage--you meet it with a moral argument.
  13. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Note: In a CAC exclusive, novelist Edward Cline talks about why he wrote his epic Sparrowhawk series. When I first pondered the task of researching writing the Sparrowhawk series of novels, I asked myself: What was it that I wanted to accomplish, aside from recreating 18th century Britain and America and the conflict between them? What would be the primary purpose of the story? And how could that purpose best be dramatized? My purpose was to make real the caliber of men who made the Revolution possible. It was as simple as that. What needed to be dramatized was a stature conspicuously absent in most men today. Ideally, a writer writes for his own pleasure, for his own ends. My pleasure and my end were to recreate such men as an exercise in sanity, to escape the droning, enervating miasma of today's culture and politics and recreate a world, to paraphrase Ayn Rand on the value of Romantic fiction, populated by men who should have been my neighbors. Read more...
  14. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, In 72 hours, a private company did what South Carolina's government schools could not do in over 12 years. See what John Stossel has to say about that.
  15. Originally from Myrhaf, Is blogging good for a writer? Don Watkins considered this in the last post to his blog, Anger Management: I have found blogging to be an informal type of journalism. It’s not essay writing, but more like writing an open letter to a friend. The last few months of blogging have helped my writing in a few ways. I’ve gotten faster. When I’m unclear or over my head, warning bells go off quicker and louder than they did before I started this blog. I can see the potential for bad writing habits to develop from banging out these posts every day. Blog writing is not as ambitious as essay writing. Instead of thinking through something deeply and “writing the last word” on a subject, I just try to make one point as clearly and as cleverly as I can. After a few years of writing on this level, I can imagine that a writer would no longer be capable of writing better or deeper. The opposite of blogstyle would be someone like Northrop Frye. In his literary criticism he wrote long, erudite paragraphs that were sometimes hard to understand. After a few years of blogging, one can probably forget about ever writing like Frye. As Don Watkins notes, the lack of editing is a real problem. When you let writing sit for a few days, you gain perspective on it; your writing becomes richer and more polished. Blogging, at least the way I do it, is more immediate: write it, post it and move on. I’m lucky if I catch the typos. The best thing about blogging is that it forces me to write. Before this I was not writing non-fiction at all in any form. Now I’m writing something, which is better than nothing. I have no aspirations to write non-fiction professionally, so this is good enough for me.
  16. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Do you know that it is becoming illegal to poke fun at religion in England? Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted to make it a criminal offense to incite religious hatred through threatening words or actions, insults and abuse. [The Jawa Report] What bothers me is the mix here. What actions? What abuse? Of course one may not initiate force against anyone. But laws for battery have been on the books for years -- no matter the issue. But weaving "words" and "insults" into this is pure evil. And in Denmark: Last month I wrote about assaults on the principle of free speech in Denmark as people assail the right of a newspaper to print editorial cartoons critical of Islam. Jordan has called for the cartoonist to be punished and international organizations continue to display a complete lack of respect for basic liberty. More from Austin Cline here. So Islamists go around for the last two decades blowing up ships, World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and so on and their religion, which is the basis of their violence, gets a free pass on criticism. Hmmmmm... More.. BEIRUT: Hizbullah's Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Europe and the world late Wednesday millions of Muslims would "escalate the situation if the humiliation of Prophet Mohammad was not dealt with decisively and strictly" by the appropriate countries. [Daily Star, Lebanon] Good news. European newspapers are fighting back: PARIS - Newspapers in France, Germany and Spain reprinted Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday, saying press freedom was more important than protests and boycotts the cartoons have sparked across the Muslim world. The Danish embassy in Damascus was evacuated after a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax and Syria recalled its ambassador from Denmark in protest at the cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Peaceful religion?
  17. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, A few days ago, Saddam Hussein got upset with the judge and marched out of the court. If you or I were on trial and upset with the proceedings, would we be able to just stop the trial by marching out? I don't think so. Doesn't seem right. Elan Journo doesn't think so either: I agree. They should have shot the rat while he was in the rat hole.
  18. Originally from Myrhaf, Capitol Police apologize for doing their job: WASHINGTON (AP) — Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages. "The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday. "The policy and procedures were too vague," he added. "The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine." What should the Police Chief have told his officers? “Our long-standing tradition prohibits t-shirts with messages on them, but tonight if any congressman’s wife or famous leftist wears one, give them a pass because we don’t want the bad publicity.” The worst comment came from a Republican, Congressman Bill Young, whose wife wore a t-shirt to a State of the Union Speech. "My wife was humiliated," he told reporters. He suggested that "sensitivity training" may be in order for Capitol Police. Yes, this Republican wants to waste policemen’s time with sensitivity training because they did their job and his wife was humiliated.
  19. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I like the way Jennifer Snow puts it when she considers the importance of one's own effort in effecting a personal transformation. Nuke Detection I'm not talking about bombs here, but people. (Nuclear-trained submariners are often called "nukes".) Every once in awhile, Bothenook writes up a post about his Navy days that makes me wish I were back, and that's not even accounting for the decade younger I'd be. That one made me chuckle. Naval Research is Discriminatory?!?! Grant Jones reports on the threat posed by leftist academics to military research at the University of Hawaii. *** This week, I have two pairs of posts that mention the same subject. One of each pair is serious, the other not. I like all four posts, so I offer... A Study in Contrasts I: The State of the Union Nick Provenzo pointed out that Bush's State of the Union Address might drive one to drink ... ... while Bubblehead proposed a way to at least have fun doing it. As it turns out, Mother Sheehan was absent, but the microinitiatives were allowed in. The absence of Mother Sheehan, mentioned before beginning of the speech by the crew at Fox News was its high point, but things quickly went downhill from there. I was especially unhappy when Bush came to within an inch of ripping Iran a new one, only to induce cognitive whiplash with his sudden shift into HIV/AIDS. But would we, as Provenzo would have us ponder, necessarily be better off, in terms of the battle of ideas, with John Kerry in office? That's an interesting question. A Study in Contrasts II: Copyright Law I discussed a fantastically bad "defense" of copyright law I ran into recently... ... while at Save the Humans, Jason Roth demonstrates fair use. He then photoblogs on the possible consequences of posing for stock photo companies. In my post, one William Rees-Mogg compares copyright law to censorship -- with a straight face -- as his argument for Google, now that it has shown support for censorship, to respect copyright law. Try again, Mr. Rees-Mogg. Coincidentally, my employer exercises its property rights to bar access to "pornographic" sites like Save the Humans, meaning that I can't access Roth's handiwork from ... work. A Russian Answer to Anti-Missile Defenses? Vigilis discusses Bulava missiles at Molten Eagle. Apply the Thirteenth Amendment to Me! Andy over at the Charlotte Capitalist makes the following excellent point about the income tax. Diana Got Fan Mail! Diana Hsieh over at Noodle Food shares with us an email with an interesting list of reading recommendations. The sender's general tone showed that he is as well-versed in the art of persuasion as he is in Middle Eastern affairs. He recommends, not just with a straight face, but with an angry scowl: 1) The Zionist Connection by Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal 2) The Question of Palestine by Edward Said 3) The Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky 4) The Great War For Civilization: The Conquest of The Middle East by Robert Fisk 5) What Price Israel ? by Alfred M. Lilienthal 6) The Other Side of The Coin by Alfred M. Lilienthal 7) Pity The Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon by Robert Fisk I particularly recommend also perusing the reader comments. (e.g. "What, no "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? A careless oversight by Mr. Hardesty, I'm sure." Hee hee!) I don't get such quality hate mail, but I do occasionally get a comment that makes up for that fact. The Meme Game Elizabeth at Hence, the Elizabethan has joined the Meme Game I played recently. She even answered the Beer Question I added as an improvement. She is a fellow guest blogger at Ego, where she does some memorable cat blogging from time to time. Joined in Progress: Just after I composed this post (but before publication), Lubber's Line threw his hat in the ring, including the Beer Question and following Alex's lead with "Four Cars I Have Owned". Stop by and visit the other players, listed here and here.
  20. Originally from Myrhaf, Don Boudreaux compares today's Sears prices with the 1975 Sears catalog and finds that the average worker has to work fewer hours to buy many things. (HT: PrestoPundit)
  21. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, . . . and why Objectivists need to think long and hard about it. Tonight is President Bush's State of the Union address, where the president will lay out his agenda for the next year. According to Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, it won't be the "ownership society." So not unlike President Clinton's State of the Union addresses, President Bush is expected to rely upon the "micro-initiative" to sell his agenda. How pathetic. The State of the Union address offers a president a unique opportunity to communicate directly with the American people. It gives a president the chance to explain the reasoning for his political agenda in as much detail as the strength of his voice will permit. So why not use it to make a case for private ownership that would otherwise go unheard? Why not use it to elevate the argument against statism? Why not? Because that is not what this President believes. President Bush has had two major policy thrusts in his administration: the "ownership society" and the "forward strategy for freedom." Both on their face sound noble, yet both have proven to be utter disasters in execution. Despite the nice title--the "ownership society" died before it even went public. By failing to directly challenge the altruistic moral premise of programs like Social Security and government-controlled healthcare, the case for the "ownership society" was never able overcome the inertia these programs enjoy. For goodness sake, Bush has created new entitlements--not repealed them. You can't defeat your enemy by adapting his arguments--especially his moral arguments. The "forward strategy for freedom" has also come to be a miserable failure. The base premise made sense: free nations don't attack one another. In execution, it has relied upon a fantasy. The president's "forward strategy for freedom" holds the Middle East can be transformed by democratic elections made possible by the blood of American solders. Never mind that nowhere in human history did open election precede the protection of individual rights by a people. Never mind that not nearly enough jihadists have died to discredit militant Islam as a cultural force. And never mind that Hamas was just democratically elected by the Palestinians and that the Iraqis voted themselves into a theocracy. These are just inconvenient facts to be belied by true believing neo-conservatives-and unfortunately, more than a few Objectivists. Yet despite the outrage of many of us, there is little we can do about our nation's flawed strategy in the near term. The reason President Bush is in power and we are not is because President Bush's views reflect the dominant philosophy, and we (as of yet) do not. So just what then can Objectivists do in the realm of politics? Perhaps first would be to admit the utter failure in "Anti-Bushies for Bush" as an Objectivist mantra. There was a lot of debate during the last presidential election in Objectivist circles over who to vote for. The spread went 80%-20% pro-Bush, dominated mostly by "Anti-Bushies for Bush" who could not stomach Kerry as a leader. I always thought it ironic though that Objectivists who could not abide a Kerry White House nevertheless adopted a key component of Kerry's political philosophy: the position of supporting a thing while simultaneously opposing it. I think one would be hard-pressed to found anyone open to receiving Objectivism who would be taken in by such a position. If Kerry didn't deserve our support, neither does Bush-he is an intellectual nightmare and a proponent of new bad ideas. And if ideas matter, Bush's ideas ought to exclude him from receiving anything from us, whatever it may be in our power to give. And I'm not saying I don't understand who some people get taken in by Bush. I've been taken in by the man in the past and if you read some of my writings, you'll see just how many times I responded to something he said in a speech only to be let down with him again and again and again. It's been five years now. I'm sick of it. I think the far more successful stance for Objectivists to take would be to position themselves as what we truly are: uncompromising intellectual radicals for a new philosophy of reason and individual rights. It's that simple. Objectivists reject the status-quo of sacrifice and self-abnegation, both as individuals and as a nation. Communicate that effectively and we will swell our ranks--get sidetracked and we will fail as a movement.
  22. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I occasionally read an article that makes me especially grateful that Ayn Rand was so dedicated to the cause of individual rights. I wonder, with the education I had up to the point I encountered her writings, whether I would have been able to untie the following tangle of contradictions so easily without having made her acquaintance. If it sounds to you like that the author, William Rees-Mogg, has just equated censorship with copyright, you have a good ear. That is exactly what he did! Let's see how he got there. We will see, in the process, what is wrong with the above paragraph. You will notice that as I go along, I will frequently refer to the concept of "individual rights". This concept is conspicuously absent from Rees-Mogg's argument, and if you aren't used to thinking about individual rights, his argument will therefore sound semi-plausible. Rees-Mogg starts out with an admission: He claims that current efforts by Google to index scholarly texts as threatening the whole notion of copyright, and that his business depends on copyright being protected. Since copyright is protected by the government, if Google actually does violate copyrights, there is a remedy already in place to any predations Google may undertake. Given that Rees-Mogg has just noted (in his title) that Google accepts censorship, I would be suspicious of his motives. Very suspicious. The businessman doth protest too much. Rees-Mogg prevaricates. The Chi-Comms did not "force" Google to do anything. Google willingly submitted to government censorship without a fight. Note that Rees-Mogg slips in the qualifiers "political" and "social" for censorship. He has a reason for this, as we shall see soon enough. The issue of what is appropriate for children to see on television is certainly a valid concern -- for their parents. Efforts to get the government involved in the infringement of free speech are often done in the name of the "welfare" of children. Just ask the news media in Venezuela some time. But we can cut Rees-Mogg some slack for the moment. There is nothing wrong with a private group doing something like rating the appropriateness of shows for young audiences in an effort to help busy parents. Indeed, a private broadcasting corporation would be entirely within its rights to "censor" the shows it airs since it is not obligated to show anything. Furthermore, unlike the government, which can legally use force against citizens, such a corporation is unable to prevent someone from seeing whatever it chooses not to show. That is the essential difference between private censorship, which derives from property rights and violates no one's right to free speech, and government censorship, which always violates the right to freedom of speech and can often violate property rights as well. Surely, all Rees-Mogg wants is private censorship, isn't it? "Editing in the public interest", eh? The hallmark of anything being done in "the public interest" is that it is manifestly not being done in someone's self-interest. Oh. So Rees-Mogg does accept government censorship for "social protections", as if the ability to speak freely is not the greatest "social protection" we have against tyranny, and so long as "liberal-minded people" like himself are doing the censoring! (Those who support tyranny would do well to stop indulging in the fantasy of themselves as benevolent dictator. The body- and spirit-crushing realities of dictatorship always have an ugly way of conforming to some thug's most perverse desires.) By what standard is government censorship to be judged "necessary"? So is shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater no longer an "obvious" example of something not protected as free speech? Or does pedophilia make it easier to equivocate between legitimate restrictions on what can be said (i.e., things that violate someone's rights) and theTrojan Horse of "social censorship"? Child pornography at some point involves violating the rights of a child, who cannot give informed consent to pose in pornography. Snuff films, as documentaries of murders, by their nature can serve only as evidence in a trial, involving as they do, the violation of someone's right to live. To refer to the fact that child pornography and snuff films are illegal as "social censorship" is doubly wrong. (1) It ignores the fact that one man's rights do not supercede another's. And (2), it uses the name of a violation of the rights of one man to refer to what is actually a protection of the rights of another! This would be like pointing out that policemen sometimes have to kill criminals, and saying that sometimes it is necessary to have "social murder". And where does Rees-Mogg go in his Trojan Horse? Note that he said nothing about "rights", which exist whether or not "most of us agree" that they do, and whether or not a government chooses to protect them. If Google truly "regretted" its "compromise", it would have stopped doing business in China or at least done something about renegotiating the terms under which it operated there. No. Google feels like making a quick buck at the expense of its independence and in direct contradiction to its stated, older policies of not censoring search results or "do[ing] evil". "Attempts at this sort of censorship are bound to fail." And if they do, the tanks will roll. The inability of an oppressive regime to wage a successful war against the reality that it cannot control everybody all the time will not stop it from trying. This is so much pap designed to soothe the reader. Here's a translation you won't get at google.cn: "Even those evil Chinese censors won't really work, so why not let a 'liberal-minded' 'quasi-censor' like me have my say over Google in the realm of what I feel to be copyright?" And, now that "social censorship" has been equated with the banning of child pornography and "political censorship" dismissed as so much harmless fluff, Rees-Mogg cashes in on the confusion. (In fact, now that "social censorship" has served to smuggle in the notion that governmental censorship is OK, Rees-Mogg admits that he sees it and "political censorship" as merely different points on a morally grey continuum!) Yes. Our government collecting information to prevent terrorists from blowing us to bits is, in Rees-Mogg's mind, not so different than what the Chinese are doing when they seek to stifle political dissent. He does throw the term "liberty" in twice, but this is not because he relates it to copyright. The first time is just to cause panic in the audience long enough, he hopes, to make us not see this crucial difference. And the second time, he insinuates that a proper response of our government somehow "attacks" liberty" with the implication being that little "attacks on liberty" (e.g., censorship) are a normal function of the government. Again, the CIA is protecting individual rights. The Chi-Comms are violating them. Even if the technology employed by both were identical, that would mean nothing. Why each did this would be what is important. This is a black-and-white difference. There is no continuum of moral grayness between the actions of the CIA and those of the Chi-Comms. And, for the final cashing in: Rees-Mogg, who either fails to understand the concept of rights entirely or hopes no one else does, paints a portrait of dire doom should Google -- not a government entity -- somehow "abolish" copyright. But how would Google end copyright? This scenario is absurd. I assume that British law has some species of "fair use" for short passages of books. For longer passages or entire books, that can get very inconvenient and very expensive very quickly. Who wants to sit around while the printer -- if it doesn't jam, run out of paper or ink, or otherwise malfunction -- spits out the 900 pages of his "free copy" of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? And who wants to read that thing in loose-leaf form? Furthermore, I am sure that even a country that can produce someone as befuddled as Rees-Mogg has legal provisions to stop some publishing house from mass-producing books from Google results. I haven't even addressed the flip side of Rees-Mogg's argument: That the ease of finding and sampling from some otherwise obscure books might even increase their sales. This is not to pooh-pooh the idea that there could be legal issues raised by Google's penetration into and potential mastery of Rees-Mogg's domain, but I think his concerns are overblown. And worse, by equating copyright with censorship, he has injured his own cause: If copyright is to survive, people like Mr Rees-Mogg need understand the reality of China. And to do that, they must first rediscover individual rights. A society that confuses censorship and copyright will soon not have to worry too much about copyright -- and I don't mean that in the way Rees-Mogg hopes.
  23. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, As half the nation eagerly awaits the kickoff of the Super Bowl, the other half looks on in wonderment at what could be so enthralling about grown men running up and down a field carrying an oblong ball. Football fans who cannot articulate why they feel such passion for the game may retreat to their television sets feeling a vague sense of guilt that, perhaps, they are wasting their...
  24. Originally from Myrhaf, John Fund wrote a remarkable piece, “The Republican Soul,” that looks at why spending has skyrocketed under Republican government. So these geniuses, the Republicans, put through the biggest entitlement program since LBJ’s Great Society just so that Medicare would not be an issue in the 2004 election? Here’s some more of their brilliant strategery: Let me get their plan straight. They decided to increase spending so they could have a “secure majority,” then once they were “secure” they would decrease spending? But if increased spending is necessary for these titans of leadership to feel secure, you are asking them to feel less secure with subsequent spending decreases -- and how many politicians will vote in ways that threaten their power? This is how the vaunted Republican revolution of 1994 ended up, with timid politicians expanding the welfare state in order to buy votes. It’s further evidence, if any was needed, that politics is the last place to effect meaningful change. First a culture’s philosophy must be changed; only then will politicians feel secure enough to vote for freedom instead of power. (HT: Right Wing News)
  25. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, I sent this letter to the Daily Northwestern in response to the article on "less intelligent" service members. (And yes, I crib a little from a piece I wrote three years ago. My goodness, I've now become self-referential!) TO THE EDITOR: According to college opinion writer Henry M. Bowles, III ("Military has no place at universities," January 24, 2006) the military should not seek to fill its ranks with men and women of intelligence and ability because "less intelligent people are better equipped for most military positions, and have far less to lose." By his essay, Bowles has revealed what many leftists think, but choose to keep close to their chests: those in the forces that defend our country and our way of life are cretins, not heroes. The irony of this position is that the left that has consistently relied upon appeals to mindless obedience as part of its ideology. Consider for example the 19th century socialist ideal espoused by Elbert Hubbard in his famous pamphlet "A Message to Garcia." There, Hubbard cast the perfect man as one who acts without any question toward the goals he has been given by his superiors. Yet have such individuals ever thrived in our nation's military? Is an effective solider mostly muscle and little mind? Not if the history of the fighting men and women Bowles smears in his essay is examined. Consider for example the difference between the US Marine Corps and the Japanese Army during WWII. The men of Japanese Army were literal serfs, duty bound to sacrifice their lives for their racial collective and God-man emperor, where the ranks of the Marines were composed of free men acting in defense of their own liberty. The ultimate reason the Marine fought was his own self-interest. The ultimate reason a Japanese fought was the renunciation of his self-interest. This distinction guided every aspect of how the war was fought and who prevailed. The American fighting man, then and now, is not just someone who unquestionably does what he is told ala the "Message to Garcia" ideal. Instead, he understands the larger threats to his well-being, appreciates the need to work in concert with other men to defend his values, follows the lawful orders of the team he voluntarily joins, and acts independently when the situation demands. The American military man is at his best when he understands first and then acts appropriately. This model, when adhered to, has allowed the US military to endure every hardship, overcome every obstacle and prevail over every enemy. So far from the mindless drones Bowles seeks to caricature, an armed force that wins victories is comprised of people of both intelligence and independence. That Bowles does not find these men and women when he looks at the ranks of America's military can only speak to his intelligence--or lack thereof.
  • Create New...