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  1. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The World Economic Forum met in Davos, Switzerland. Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and John McCain were there, as well as many beautiful celebrities. What is the World Economic Forum? Here is a statement on their web site: Leaders partnering with industry to shape their agenda? That's socialism, specifically the form of socialism known as fascism. Here is another statement: What does all this vague, feel-good language mean? What does it mean to engage corporate members in global citizenship? I'm sure corporations are willing to sell their product to anyone in the world without the encouragement of the world's leaders at the WEF. But helping corporations pursue a profit is not behind such warm and fuzzy words as "collaborative framework" and "improving the state of the world." WEF is about some degree of state control of corporations to pursue altruist-statist-collectivist ends. Bill Clinton knew who he was talking to at the Forum. As Michelle Malkin put it, Good ol' Bill, still feeling our pain. But to people whose heads are full of mush, mush sounds profound. Reports Newsday: Clinton is pushing the scientifically dubious threat of another ice age to justify expanded state control over energy production. Then he laments the "growing concentration of wealth at the top." What could that be but the veiled threat of redistribution of wealth? In Davos, Switzerland, Bill Clinton spoke to those who would be the world's ruling clique.
  2. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Not too long ago, I discussed how the general consensus of the body politic can affect the psychoepistemology of our lawmakers. I made the following two observations at different points. On Saturday, the front page of the Houston Chronicle featured a report detailing the aftermath of the various murky compromises of countless public officials. It was headlined above the fold thus: N.O. GANG WARS SPILL INTO AREA. Next to the headline were a map of Houston showing the locations of nine fatal shootings related to the gang activity of Katrina refugees. Its caption notes that authorities have apprehended eight suspects and are looking for three more. The three are pictured. There are several things about the story I wish to discuss, but before I do so, I want to review another point I have made, the one I feared would come home to roost the day the buses crammed with refugees began heading to Houston amid reports of violence in New Orleans. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll again repeat just what it was that moved our officialdom down here to set a pack of wolves loose on the general public without at least the small courtesy of a warning. Let's take a brief look at the real-world consequences of the ivory tower theories that are gagging our public officials and, at least in Louisiana, were setting criminals free. We'll start by becoming a little bit better acquainted with a few of the helpless evacuees we welcomed to Houston after Katrina hit. Good thing Chief Hurtt et al. didn't fan the flames of racism in September by ratting out criminals like these who, as they used to say back in the sixties and seventies, "just happen to be black". Not all the news is bad, though. For example, I noted previously that while multiculturalism holds enough sway to make our officials reluctant to say that the refugees might pose a problem, it did not keep then from discussing such problems among themselves privately. Furthermore, our criminal justice system is not, thank goodness, as hobbled as the one in New Orleans apparently is. That would be me you hear in the "Amen corner". This is what I had hoped would be the response of Texas law enforcement way back when I titled a post "Next Stop: Jail?" It is also something that City Journal writer Nicole Gelinas anticipated when she issued this warning for New Orleans. If, that is, these miscreants escape from jail or survive at all after getting convicted for murder in Harris County, which our liberal newspaper calls "a pipeline to death row", and which has alone convicted more than a quarter of the 242 inmates Texas has executed since the death penalty was reinstated over 20 years ago. It is interesting to note the different reactions that have occurred at the different levels of officialdom. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement officials are most in tune, overall, with the proper purpose of a government. But even among police officers, there are distinctions. I have already noted that Chief Hurtt, who holds the most "political" position in the force, mouths multicultural pieties far too much while Captain Brown sounds like a real police officer. Ayn Rand often commented that a big difference between America and Europe was that in America, there is a significantly bigger gap between the beliefs espoused by the leftist intellectual elite and those of the man in the street than in Europe. I would add that among our political officials, those from the rank and file of the police force are much closer to the man in the street, and so are more prone to take individual rights seriously, at least on a non-intellectual, "gut" basis. Unfortunately, elected officials, who must pass muster, at least to a degree, with the liberal media, are more prone to not take individual rights seriously. These "gaps" (people vs. intellectuals and politicians vs intellectuals) also vary from one part of the country to another. This difference between New Orleans and Houston shows up on a national county-by-county map of the results of the 2004 presidential election. Orleans Parish went for Kerry whereas Harris County went for Bush, indicating that a least on a gross level, Houstonians are farther apart from the leftist elite than New Orleanians. At the level of officialdom, a reading between the lines of the first paragraphs of the story from the Houston Chronicle would indicate to me very lax courts and demoralized or corrupt police prevail in New Orleans. This does not seem to be the case in Houston. We are lucky here in Texas that, even if some public officials will loose wolves upon us, at least others are here to clean up after them.
  3. Originally from Myrhaf, Here's a chart of the cost of American wars as percentage of GDP. As Hard Starboard puts it, (No future war will ever compare to WWII in dollar cost and lives lost. 1,020 Marines died taking some piece of crap atoll in the Pacific called Tarawa. Today we'd drop a fuel-air bomb, suffocate all the Japs and take the island with no casualties.) (HT: Hard Starboard)
  4. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, In a Marine Corps veteran's forum in which I participate, it was recently asked what we would have done had we been president on 9/11. This was my answer:
  5. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The Chinese government wants to have its silicon chips and eat them, too. It wants to harness the vast promise of lightning-fast information exchange brought by the Internet while at the same time controlling the flow of information, something it admits it can't do without the Three Stooges. (No, not Larry, Curly, and Moe. The other Three Stooges: Larry, Sergey, and Bill.) In the meantime, the government's efforts at physical control of the Chinese populace ever more closely resemble a man trying to hold the lid of a boiling pot down with his bare hands, as I have blogged before. First, via Matt Drudge, I encountered a news story about China's admission that there is a problem which took the form, of course, of a threat to its own citizens. And then, in TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski pointed out an even better story on the situation there, from which I quote two paragraphs. It's always a good sign when a dictatorship has to start worrying about its own army. But something about the official terminology used to describe these protests that have the Chi-Comms worried jogged my memory. "Sudden incidents?" Reminds me of an old internet fad a few years back, the flash mob. And what's really ironic is that the lead paragraph in the Wired News article even evokes the Chinese peasant uprisings! I have been lucky enough not to have to fight for my freedom against a regime like that in Beijing, so I risk sounding both clueless and presumptuous in kibbitzing about how best to overthrow this regime. But flash mobs (or some variant thereof) sound like they'd be a good diversionary tactic in any upcoming revolution of the Chinese "proletariat". If similar methods aren't being employed already.... Here's hoping that the Chinese people show their slavemasters what "sudden" really can mean.
  6. Originally from Myrhaf, When I worked as a paralegal/legal proofreader, walking the halls of big law firms in Manhattan, I wondered why they had non-objective art on the walls. Is it just social metaphysics, going along with the art establishment because that impresses people? I’ve come to think that those law firms see a different value in non-objective art: interior decoration. A painting with colors, whether neat or sloppy, that do not represent something you would see in reality, is a high-priced patch of wallpaper. It’s pleasant and decorative, like the pattern in a bedspread. Non-objective art can be ignored; it doesn’t demand the attention of a harried paralegal scrambling to get documents in order for a billion dollar merger. Real art would be distracting in a fast paced business environment. Non-objective artists as interior decorators; it’s quite an insult, isn’t it? Let’s hope the con artists get plenty of dough from their Wall Street patrons. They need it to afford their psychotherapists.
  7. It's funny--the Northwestern fiasco reminds me of a lot the time I had taken from me in college by having to study under the professorial version of Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III. For example, I took this one class where the professor viewed all of existence though a feminist lens--that is, the Marxist theory that life is nothing more then a perpetual struggle between the genders for power and control. I was given an assignment where I had to review an essay written by a feminist author who maintained that the Columbine massacre was caused by "a crisis in masculinity"-that is, football. Huh? I thought it was because the shooters were friggin' moonbats. So here's what I wrote: My grade for this essay: Zero. Zip. Nada. Why? I was supposed to "review" the article (that is, agree with its arguments), not refute the author's claim with actual facts. Yeah, right. It was too late for me to drop, so I ended up with a C+ for the semester. Still graduated with honors though. :-) I'm glad that an individual like Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III is getting nuked while he is still in his embryonic stage. Hopefully it will be the slap to the head that will inspire him to get his "dope straight" as we would say in the Marines--or at least remain silent when confronted with his "less intelligent" peers. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,
  8. Originally from Myrhaf, Lately I have read a flurry of opinions that Hillary will never be president. Big Lizards says it’s time for Hillary to move on. Arianna Huffington is anti-Hillary, as is Andrew Sullivan and Molly Ivins. Democrats don’t like her much. I still think she is the one to beat, simply because she has the organization and fund raising might. But three years is a long time and anything could happen. John Hinderaker thinks Hillary can’t win. In that post he also writes some positive words about John McCain: Yesterday, I heard John McCain on Michael Medved's radio show. It was a reminder of how good McCain can be. And how conservative: the first caller said that McCain is regarded as a moderate Republican, and asked, what is the difference between a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat? McCain responded, "Well, first of all, I'm a conservative. I have a lifetime rating of 82% from the American Conservative Union, and the only reason it isn't higher is because a lot of conservatives disagree with me on campaign finance reform. So, I'm a proud conservative." Later, a caller asked McCain whether he was critical of President Bush's telephoning the anti-abortion demonstrators in Washington. McCain said not at all; this was a tradition that goes back to President Reagan. McCain said that he has a 27-year pro-life voting record. He was unapologetic and unequivocal. McCain's age is an issue, but not an insurmountable one if he comes across as mentally and physically vigorous in three years, as I'm pretty sure he will. We and other conservatives have parted company with McCain on several important issues, most notably taxes and regulation of political speech. But he will be a powerhouse Presidential candidate, and it may not take too much to win over conservative Republicans like me. Especially if the choice comes down to McCain or a Democrat like Hillary Clinton, whom I'm pretty sure McCain would trounce. This is depressing because it's a sign of how the Republican base will rally around McCain. Their loathing of Hillary Clinton is so great that they will easily forget his weaknesses. His popularity with the media, swing voters and the few moderate Democrats left makes him electorally attractive. He’d wipe out any Democrat. The Republicans, who care about power more than individual rights, will gladly back a sure winner. I’ve written about McCain here. In a Clinton-McCain contest I’d vote for the Democrat in a hearbeat. A return to gridlock would remind Republicans that they used to stand for smaller government, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I fear I am in a small, small minority among registered Republicans. I think the next President of the United States will be a man who exhorts Americans to “sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest.” And he means it. He has suffered greatly for America. He’ll make sure the rest of us suffer, too.
  9. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, NB: This essay is the first installment in a new op-ed program at CAC. ‘Intelligent design’ is not science; it is faith, and it must be treated as such Advocates of “intelligent design” are gearing up their fight to teach the controversial theory now that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III has ruled that the religious-based explanation for the formation of the universe and human evolution may not be taught in Pennsylvania public schools. The debate over intelligent design is important, because at root is the idea of “certainty” and the method by which scientific truths are established. Proponents of teaching intelligent design in the public schools argue that evolution is a “theory” and ask why shouldn’t their theory be allowed equal time in a science class. The problem with this position is that a scientific theory and an intelligent design theory are two very different things. To explain facts, scientific theories rely on observation for support. For example, to explain the origin of species, evolutionary biology draws upon field data from the ongoing changes that occur among populations of organisms, fossil data from plants and animals that no longer exist, data regarding the temporal and geographic distribution of genetic markers, and experiments that attempt to replicate the conditions of species-change in the laboratory. Some facts have yet to be explained fully. For example, we are not yet sure how some of the simplest parts of living things originated nor precisely how spoken language evolved. Admitting the unknown facts regarding human origins, however, doesn’t mean that the explanations aren’t out there, waiting to be identified. The unknown is the unfinished business of evolutionary biology, a business in which today’s most promising grade school students might one day play a part in completing. Properly speaking, evolution is a “theory,” but it is entirely based on evidence, and an important part of scientists’ jobs is to identify how what is known can be used to discover what is not yet known. Contrast the theory of evolution with the theory of intelligent design. The proponents of intelligent design argue that the world is simply too complex (or too “perfect,” implying that there could be an imperfect reality) to explain the origins of life and human intelligence. These proponents argue that ultimately only the intervention of a creator can explain man’s existence. Thereafter, there is no unfinished business for the researcher because an intelligent designer is not subject to further observation and experiment. To evaluate this idea, it is useful to draw a parallel: imagine a scientist trying to find a cure for cancer through such reasoning. Like the origins of life and language, cancer is complex; it behaves strangely, and its nature is hard to pin down. Should the scientist then conclude that only God’s intervention causes cancer? Obviously, no real scientist would draw that conclusion, and it would be absurd to teach an intelligent design theory of cancer. Instead, researchers assume that the cause of cancer is ultimately caused by the interaction of the materials that make up our observable physical world, and they are working to discover what those interactions are so that they can control them and thereby discover a cure for the disease. Philosophically, the proponents of intelligent design are wrong because they assume the existence or “primacy” of a consciousness that shapes the universe when no such evidence exists, or is even possible. None of the advocates of intelligent design can point to God and say, “Look there—you can see Him” and not rely upon faith to justify their claim. This is why intelligent design theory—whether applied to the origins of life or cancer—is not scientific. It eschews observation, experimentation and any kind of natural causality. What it attempts is to deny the essential process of science—explaining the complex and unknown by means of investigating the less complex and better understood. Because intelligent design theory is simply an article of faith, disconnected from the observation of reality, it should neither be taught in the science classes of public schools (which must maintain a separation of church and state) nor even in the science classes of religious schools that attempt to prepare the scientists of the next generation. The theory of creationism and intelligent design may be worthy of study, possibly in a class on intellectual history. History, the field of study that examines the ideas held by men and how they act upon those thoughts, might properly document the fate of the theory of intelligent design, its proponents and its cultural effects. However, this hypothetical curriculum must in no way change how science is taught. Competing faiths may belong in a history class, but in science class, only competing scientific theories deserve attention.
  10. Originally from Gus Van Horn, In the January 20 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education is an article by Daniel C. Dennett called "Common-Sense Religion", in which the author attempts to make a case for religious tolerance. The article is remarkable because its author makes a fundamental error that undercuts him every step of the way. Namely, he does not appeal to his reader's implicit (though perhaps delimited) acceptance of the idea that man's life is the standard of value by which to judge ethical decisions. I intend to quickly outline how one should approach the issue of promoting religious toleration, before moving on to explore a few of the many interesting ramifications of the particular form Dennett's error takes, which is to attempt to appeal to his reader's religious convictions after first implicitly challenging them. How to Promote Religious Tolerance The fundamental problems presented to society by religion are (1) that a religion offers ethical guidance for its followers, (2) part of that guidance very frequently includes orders to oppress or murder those who do not follow all the rules of that religion, and (3) that it is held on faith, without evidence or proof. In order, this means that religion (1) attempts to fill the need for human beings to have some sort of guidance for their actions, (2) makes its followers "other-directed", and (3) preempts rational debate when there is disagreement about whether some action is in accordance with its strictures or even about what those strictures say. In short, as thousands of bloody years of history have shown, there is never enough room for two religions (or sometimes even one) in one place -- unless enough followers from each value their "earthly" lives enough to set aside the requirements of their faith to enforce it on others. How do we promote religious tolerance (i.e., a respect for the rights of those whose opinions differ) among people who will not simply abandon religion? In the Christian West, where many sects have coexisted at once (but not always peacefully), the hard lesson that religious differences promoted bloodshed was gradually learned. Countless individuals, wishing to live their lives, even if only by the (remaining) lights of their respective faiths, agreed to lay off the murder and mayhem. This was because these men implicitly held their own lives as the standard of value, at least in matters pertaining to how they chose to react to the fact that someone did not agree with them on religious matters. The way to encourage and spread this attitude among the religious is not by appeals to religion, but by appeals to objective self-interest, namely, to the desire to remain alive and free. Such appeals would be educational in nature, and would focus on ensuring that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. This will not, of course, convince everyone who adheres to a given sect to practice religious tolerance, for some emphatically do not value their own lives. But I am not speaking of such lost causes here. And, of course, even though most religious people in the West implicitly value their own lives, many do not fully appreciate that certain laws they advocate based upon their religious beliefs violate the rights of others. Thus, so long as a a large portion of a population remains religious, there is always a danger posed to individual freedom. How NOT to Promote Religious Tolerance But Daniel Dennett does not appeal, even implicitly, to his (religious) reader's love of his life when he makes his argument for religious toleration. Instead, he goes to great lengths to outline his explicit position that one should not challenge religious beliefs at all (while smuggling in moral relativism), and then attempts to smuggle in his idea of an appeal to reason -- based on those religious beliefs and some other premises he smuggles in. Here is why Dennett argues as he does. So we are to smugly regard the beliefs of others as "life-enhancing illusions" and tiptoe around them! In fact, by considering the religions of others as illusory, the reader is basically told to play the game of treating his own religion as such. This, he says just before noting that (1) Mel Gibson believes his wife is going to hell because she is not Catholic and (2) many religious people do not accept their religions' own teachings about the fate of loved ones not of the same faith (let alone whether any religious differences merit persecution). At this point, I was wondering where Dennett could possibly be going. As it turns out, he is behaving much like a preacher setting up his congregation to accept his moral dictates by making them feel guilty. Here is what I would get from Dennett if I were religious (I am not.) and tolerant: (1) "Your religion is an illusion." (2) "You are a hypocrite because you are tolerant." And here is what I have not gotten: A good reason to be tolerant. In other words, Dennett has failed to appeal to his religious readers as rational adults, opting instead to focus on an unnecessary challenge to that person's deepest convictions and delivering an insult in return for what is really a virtue: love of one's life. Worse still, he has indicated that religious tolerance -- what he is trying to promote -- is immoral! (I am not saying that one must pretend to be religious or withold one's own views on religion. But I am saying that this issue is irrelevant and counterproductive in this context.) Dennett then pursues the "life-enhancing illusion" angle for quite some time, hoping to confuse the reader enough to get him to throw his hands up and agree that he can't be certain of the dictates of his own faith. He tries to have things both ways. He will not openly challenge anyone on his religion and yet he makes a big deal of the fact that it's a confusing world out there and others believe other things just as strongly as his reader, with the clear implication that his reader might just be wrong. Importantly, one must rely on others to interpret one's own religion. Dennett then seizes on this intellectual division of labor to make an argument I've never heard before. Basically, it goes along the lines of "Even if you have very good reasons to trust your own moral authorities, you should appreciate the fact that others may not see why you trust them." Applied: The first thing that one could say to this argument is: "Well, Dr. Dennett, don't blame me if I don't 'get' your argument." The second thing is: "God told both of us the same thing and you clearly didn't listen." The third thing is: "Who said we had a 'right' to withdraw from such an important discussion." As if all this weren't bad enough, Dennett then ends by smuggling in his own idea of what constitutes a God "worthy of worship". How does one know he can trust this stranger Dennett? And how does this potentially false prophet Dennett know what pleases God? If there is one thing that the religion I am most familiar with, Christianity, made abundantly clear, it was that mere mortals should not question the divine. If Dennett hasn't lost a Christian reader yet, this will probably do the trick. And if not, he was only preaching to the choir anyway, since no one who believes in a vengeful God is going to buy this. It is useless to attempt to base a rational argument on arbitrary premises. As we have seen, Dennett never offers his reader an earthly reason -- his continued existence -- to be tolerant. He promotes religious tolerance while making the point that it is hypocritical (at least for the reasons he claims people are tolerant). He thus comes across as something of a weasel, and as impugning his reader's character. He spends a huge amount of time pretending not to challenge his readers' beliefs while in fact doing just that. Having thus told his reader that his God is a "life-enhancing illusion", he then claims to speak for this illusion in order to get him to do something. If anyone comes off as the hypocrite, it is Dennett, and if anything bad, it is religious tolerance!
  11. Intellectual Activism: "Lost Liberty" Lunacy II Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo Logan Darrow Clements’ “brilliantly conceived public relations stunt” made the AP wire again: What? Clements new ideal for intellectual activism is an actual riot? The actions of an angry mob is now the tool of choice in order to communicate Objectivist principles to the mass of America? Amazing. It gets even better: So the state legislator who proposed the law New Hampshire residents need in order to be protected from the Kelo ruling also thinks Clements’ stunt is “improper”? What is it going to take for Clements to give his ridiculous anti-intellectual antics a rest? Nobody wants this—at least nobody with a rational clue about them.
  12. Originally from Myrhaf, 10. Bill Everett 9. Will Eisner 8. Barry Windsor-Smith 7. Frank Frazetta 6. Lou Fine 5. Jim Steranko 4. John Buscema 3. Steve Ditko 2. Jack Kirby 1. Alex Raymond Four on that list are exquisite draftsmen with flawless anatomy: Frank Frazetta, Lou Fine, John Buscema and Alex Raymond. The other six are more cartoony but possess the visual imagination that made comics what they are: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Will Eisner, Barry Windsor-Smith and Bill Everett. My absolute favorite is Alex Raymond. He drew the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1930's. I never saw his art until I was 30. Walking through a comic store, I came upon a picture of Flash Gordon fencing Ming the Merciless. It stopped me in my tracks. "That's the way it's supposed to look," I thought. Since then I've bought many reprint books of his strips. His bodies are tall, heroic and beautiful, as no other artist has quite been able to imitate, although in the '40s they all tried. His thick brushstrokes are enough to make a comic art lover swoon. The worlds he created in Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim are the most romantic in the history of comics. Alex Raymond created the superhero comic. His influence is all over Golden Age comics. Even in the Silver Age of the '60s you could see traces of his influence in Buscema, Kirby and Al Williamson. If he has a weakness, it would be that his characters are a bit too 19th century by the standards of what comics became with the great visionaries Kirby, Wally Wood, Ditko, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and others. Raymond's characters lounge around in beautiful, relaxed poses like you might see in classical paintings. Superheroes need more dynamic, powerful poses. One thing I regret about today's comics is that they have gotten away from the thick brushstroke style of Raymond, with deeply spotted blacks that give realistic shadows. Contemporary style uses a thin ink line instead. (Windsor-Smith is one of the pioneers of the thin line, along with Neal Adams and George Lopez, but I give him a pass because the world he created in Conan is a triumph of imagination.) And then there are those bleeping manga eyes that make comics look like Saturday morning cartoons. I can't stand that; it's un-American. Between the deterioration of the art and the influence of naturalism in the stories, the superhero comic is dead. Fortunately, we still have the product of comic art's efflorescence, around 1935-1975, in reprint.
  13. Originally posted by Felipe from d'Anconia Online, Attention all worthy debaters looking for some exposure. Bill O'Reilly is challenging anyone to come debate him on his show on any topic of their choosing! Do you want to expose some of his views?, say like that America is founded on the ten commandments? Email your debate topic and why you think you're a good debater to [email protected] Again, convince him why you think you're a good debater, and include a phone number, an address, and an age. Six contestants will be chosen. I can't help but think that this is an outstanding opportunity.
  14. Originally from Myrhaf, Cindy Sheehan has authored a statement of her ideology, called Matriotism. If I tried to explain it, you would think I was unfairly satirizing her position. You have to read it to believe it. Sheehan doesn’t think much of patriotism. Why Matriotism? Of course, everyone has a father too, but… never mind. Sheehan observes that we were on the path to Matriotism after 9/11, but something horrible happened. The important thing to remember here is that this new age drivel is not coming from some obscure crackpot, but from a crackpot who is a hero to the liberal-left. Last August the media kept busy during its slowest month (called by some the “silly season”) by shining its spotlights on Cindy Sheehan. She and people like her have a real influence on the Democrat Party, which is still one of the two major political parties in America. These people are forcing the party to the left, or at least forcing it to stop its centrist pretense. I have to think that the wiser hands in the MSM will soon realize, if they have not already, that giving this woman publicity hurts the Democrat Party. (HT: Little Green Footballs)
  15. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, I had a vision yesterday: it's awards season and the Center needs to do its share to honor the deserving. We're a small group though and we need to give credit in a way that stands out from the rest. Accordingly, I propose three new awards and ask for your help in finding worthy candidates. Award #1: The Tonya Harding Award for Achievement in the Advance of Antitrust. The "Tonya" should identify that special someone, perhaps a lawyer, politician, academic, or looting businessman who though their actions last year have busted up some knees in the name of "protecting competition." Had this tribute been around a few years back, US District Court Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of Microsoft fame or Timothy Murris of the FTC would most certainly been nominees. Award #2: The Hypocritical Capitalist Award for Making a Lot of Money While Undermining the System that Made it All Possible. The "Hippy-Capitalist" should bring attention to the businessman or woman who does the most to undercut (or perhaps misdirect) the moral case for capitalism, yet makes a pile of money for themselves regardless. For this honor, its going to be hard to beat Microsoft's Bill Gates, who along with his wife Melinda, have given millions of dollars in handouts to relieve African poverty while simultaneously ignoring the fact that Africa's woes are caused by dictatorship, tribalism and the absence of the rule of law. There are other businessmen and women out there who are at least deserving of Honorable Mentions, and I ask your help in finding them. Award #3: The Looting Politician Award for Unprecedented Generosity with Other People's Money. Lastly, the "Lootie" should honor the political leader whose leadership has been crucial to out-of-control government spending and outrageous government spending. Ex-majority whip Tom Delay is a strong contender for arguing that there was absolutely no fat in the federal budget, as well Alaska Senator Ted Stevens of the "Bridge to Nowhere" fame. I ask for ROR visitors to help me with this project by finding the most worthy candidates. Together, I think we could have a lot of fun with this. Nominations will close January 29th.
  16. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Those of us who advocate laissez-faire capitalism regard the proper function of the government as the protection of individual rights from abridgement by means of force. In a republic, whether this is what the government is all about is heavily dependent upon what the general public regards (rightly or not) as the proper role of the government, hence the importance of fighting the battle of ideas, and hence the famous saying, "A republic, if you can keep it." A republic whose citizenry does not regard the protection of its inalienable rights as the purpose of its government is doomed to get a government that violates those rights in some way. And, incidentally, the battle of ideas is inescapable for all who wish to be able to protect their own freedom in some way. For all non-republican forms of government place the protection of our rights at the whims of either unrestrained masses or small groups of men who cannot be held accountable. So what happens when a society forgets (or starts forgetting) about individual rights? Shortly after hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Robert Tracinski wrote an outstanding editorial about this very subject that gained wide circulation via the internet. In his editorial, he focused on the man-made disaster that primed New Orleans for the chaos that followed Katrina: the crippling of the poor residents of New Orleans by the welfare state. Tracinksi's focus was on the consequences of the theory of government that holds that it is okay to take money from some who do support themselves and give it to others who do not. Those consequences were, for the poor: a complete decoupling of one's actions and the judgement of one's mind from one's ability to survive. When one can, apparently, survive causelessly, one doesn't quibble about apparent trifles such as rights. In one sense, this story is old. Wide knowledge of the mechanism of the welfare state led to popular resentment at the taxation required to support the welfare state. This in turn led to the Reagan Revolution of 1980 and rollbacks of welfare programs since then. What was new about Tracinski's editorial is that it showed how the welfare state is arguably even more detrimental to those it is supposed to help. While the "rich" are merely robbed of their money, the poor are robbed of the incentive to learn how to make money, and thus are crippled psychologically. The one group at least still appreciates on some level that its rights are being violated; to the other, the concept of rights is, if anything, regarded as a threat: It's what might stop the government money from flowing in! This Sunday, I read a story in the Houston Chronicle that sheds light on yet another way in which the welfare state inexoribly leads to corruption. In a society where government officials are expected to protect individual rights, their actions will be guided by how well they protect those rights, or at least by how well they are regarded as protecting those rights. But what guides politicians in the welfare state? Anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged will have some ideas on this matter, but what of a society not so far gone? What of our society? Katrina, it turns out, has not only showed the psychoepistemological consequences of the welfare state for the poor, but for government officials, including those who, relatively speaking anyway, are not strong advocates of the welfare state! The news story I point to above shows that in the aftermath of Katrina, Texas government officials were nowhere near making a bold stand against the government assuming a huge role in disaster relief. Instead, knowing that their voters accepted the premise that somebody should be taxed for disaster relief, our government officials were concerned with striking some murky compromise between being not sacrificing enough for the refugees and sacrificing too much. In a more rational society where the proper function of the government is better understood, the "governor's image" would be damaged beyond repair if he raided the public coffers to do what private charity and personal foresight should have taken care of. In a rational society, government officials would not sit idly by, only quietly expressing alarm among themselves that another state might be sending its criminal element over. They would demand some proof that this was not happening and turn criminals back at the border, if possible. And they would give ample warning to their citizens about the problem! In a rational society, there would be no passing of the buck to the next higher level of the government because the constiuents would realize that they would still be subject to some of that taxation. The article is a fascinating read, but if there is one common strand that unites it, it is this: The government officials, all concerned that they could fall from power if they appeared to be insufficiently altruistic or too altruistic, placed their image as altruists above all other considerations, at the expense of the rights of their constituents. Consider an issue I raised here and here not too long ago. I think I see why we Houstonians were not warned about the criminal element among the Katrina refugees (nor were law-abiding New Orleanians warned about some of the seedier parts of Houston). It is because in our republic, people do not appreciate the importance of their individual rights enough to demand that their public officials protect them. Many people do not fully accept the idea that they own the fruits of their labors. And many people accept the absurd notion that it is somehow a symptom of bigotry to point out that some members of a demographic are, in fact, dangerous. Their elected officials are acting not wholly unreasonably and are giving the public what they deserve in the process. So long as most Americans continue to have little or no intellectual grasp of individual rights, our leaders will continue to regard other considerations as more important and, as I said about the Tsunami disaster some time ago: And so we have our own parallel here in Houston, in which the tragedy of Katrina was compounded by the atrocity of a preventable crime wave here.
  17. Posted by ARImedia Yaron Brook: As Iran removed UN seals at some of its atomic research sites and proceeded with its nuclear program, German newspapers report that the United States is coordinating with NATO for a possible military action against Iran. As the fatherland of Islamic totalitarianism, Iran should have been our main target in this war. In taking military action, our goal should not be to bring Iranians the vote, but to destroy the Iranian regime and the cause it fights for. We must instill fear in every person who aids or fights for Islamic totalitarianism. We have ignored the Iranian threat for far too long. When we did the same with Afghanistan and bin Laden, we lost the Twin Towers. We can't afford to keep appeasing Iran and risk losing New York.
  18. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason Like most of you, I was appalled at last summer's Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, where a 6-5 Supreme Court upheld a local government's authority to use eminent domain to size private property for economic development. In the face of a patently unjust ruling, the best tactic to adopt now would be to support efforts in the states to pass anti-eminent domain legislation and state constitutional reform. That is, unless you are former California gubernatorial candidate Logan Darrow Clements. A little bit of a Clements refresher: back in 2003, Clements ran for governor as part of California's notorious recall election. Clements ran on the Atlas Shrugged platform (as in Ayn Rand's epic novel was his literal electoral platform). Needless to say, Clements didn't do to well, placing 131st out of 135 candidates and earning exactly 274 votes (out of the nine million votes cast). Observing Clements' candidacy at the time prompted me to remark: After that post, Clements stopped by the Rule of Reason to denounce me as a “hater” and a “destructionist.” Oh well. One can try . . . So now back to the Kelo decision. Imagine then my utter amusement last summer when I heard about an attempt to seize one of United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter's New Hampshire properties and turn it into the "Lost Liberty" hotel. Who was the architect of such a devilish poly? None other then Logan Darrow Clements. Recognize for a moment that Clements has now taken his antics to a whole new level. First, Justice Souter didn’t even write the Court’s opinion. Justice Stevens did. Was Clements simply unable to locate Justice Stevens’ property holdings? Do the Court’s other eminent domain supporters get a pass from Clements’ wrath as well? Second, when did it ever become appropriate to threaten a justice in response to a decision of theirs that you disagree with? I don’t care how bad Kelo’s reasoning is: you don’t get to play ‘lynch the Justice’ because you don’t like the way they rule. Third, (and most importantly) Clements’ effort took attention away from the real fight, which is passing anti-eminent domain bills in the states. Clements’ visceral and mindless activism got him a heap of press—more in fact, that the Institute for Justice’s real effort to change the eminent domain laws. That’s not just bad—that’s disgusting. Yet even these problems did not stop nationally syndicated Objectivist newspaper columnist and Intellectual Activist editor Robert W. Tracinski from noting in his e-mail newsletter that despite Clements’ Libertarian groundings, the “Lost Liberty” hotel was a “brilliantly conceived public relations stunt.” Brilliantly conceived? Clements’ plan is an utter abomination. A strategy of “just deserts” doesn’t address larger philosophic problems—it evades them in the name of 'activism.' So now, a little more than half a year after the Kelo ruling, where does Clements’ “Lost Liberty” hotel stand? From what I was able to reconnoiter, it doesn’t stand at all. Clements’ seems to have been able to raise some money for his ploy, and he apparently has a thousand or so pledges from people promising to visit the “Lost Liberty” hotel should it be built. He’s sponsoring a ballot initiative to force the local New Hampshire town to give him Justice Souter’s property, and he even has a toady running for town council to help him along. Talk about taking a joke to its absurd extreme. That’s not to say that they thing will ever be built though. New Hampshire is the “live free or die” state, and I suspect the locals are not going to appreciate a California activist trying to loot their neighbor’s property—not one bit. In fact, a July 2005 University of New Hampshire poll finds 93% of New Hampshire residents oppose the Kelo decision. What, is Clements’ aiming to sway that last seven percent? Needless to say, I will not be visiting Clements’ “Lost Liberty” hotel if it ever gets constructed. Clements’ is misdirecting legitimate outrage over the Kelo decision toward what now is becoming an exercise in rank democracy. Yes, we all know that eminent domain abuse is outrageous. Those seeking justice don’t resolve the problem by joining in on the abuse though publicity stunts—they solve it by passing better laws.
  19. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, This gem of a quote appeared in Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein's article on the legacy of Alan Greenspan: Good grief. It sounds to me like Greenspan was a man who never filed his own tax return or ever had to comply with a government regulation. The real Greenspan legacy is the story of how a man went from someone who wrote an expose of antitrust in "Capitalism the Unknown Ideal" to a man who concluded that government intervention in the economy produces "a more civil but less stressful way of life."
  20. As I've mentioned before, Front Range Objectivism's Weekend Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial System will be held on March 4th and 5th in Denver. It promises to be a fantastic conference. Here is the full text from the online brochure, minus the online registration form:Weekend Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial SystemMarch 4-5, 2006, Denver, ColoradoIndividual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law. — Ayn RandThe American legal system is in real trouble. Many solutions have been offered–limitations on tort damage awards, restrictions of intellectual property rights, limits on class action suits, increases and decreases in various criminal penalties, and even changes in the Senate confirmation procedure for Supreme Court Justices. Many of the reforms sought do not address the fundamental issues involved, and therefore will ultimately fail. But how does one decide whether a particular reform is appropriate?To establish and... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000584.html
  21. Originally from Myrhaf, The left is in a lather because Chris Matthews on “Hardball” mentioned the fact that Osama bin Laden in his latest message sounds like Michael Moore. Daou writes: Tom Maguire has more on the flap. I must point out that leftists often compare Christian fundamentalists to the Islamic fundamentalists who are our enemies. They are right to make this comparison -- fundamentalists of the two religions do have similarities. Is it acceptable to compare the religious right to the enemy, but unacceptable to notice when Osama sounds like a leftist critic of Bush? Matt Stoller writes: Chris Matthews did not accuse Michael Moore of treason. He did not suggest that Moore does not have a right to express his anti-American opinions. All he did was point out that Osama sounds like Michael Moore. Stoller asks: Can we tolerate divergent views? We do tolerate them. Leftists are not persecuted by the state for expressing anti-Bush opinions. But that is not what they mean by toleration; they want the media to abstain from criticizing the left. The left holds toleration to mean freedom by the left from criticism of their criticism. When Clinton was president, many of his critics found themselves audited by the IRS. Also audited were: Coincidence? Or did Clinton use state power to persecute those who spoke out against him? And remember the White v. Lee case in Berkley, in which HUD threatened a $50,000 fine against citizens protesting a homeless shelter? The left is acutely aware of the importance of free speech because it is working against them. Now they use the banner of free speech to stifle speech they don't like. Any speech they cannot tolerate, they label as "intolerant." It's a neat trick. You want "Hardball"? If the Democrats ever get back in power, we can expect them to use the full panoply of government agencies -- FCC, SEC, HUD, IRS, EPA and countless others -- to crush dissent. Today's Democrats are to the left of what they were just 20 years ago. Leftists take to power like fish to water. They will see nothing wrong with using the power of the state to silence evil right-wingers. They'll make Clinton's use of the IRS look like softball.
  22. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Antirust law creates huge financial incentives-for the people who file antitrust suits. Consider the case of Lloyd Constantine's recent award of $220 million dollars as lead plaintiffs counsel in the Visa International Service Association/MasterCard Inc. antitrust suit. Constantine sought $609 million plus expenses, but had to settle for the smaller figure after Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York ruled that his request was "absurd." Don't feel too bad though-Constantine and his henchmen have found the will to carry on. What young law school student is going to read that article and conclude that they want to be a moral defender of capitalism? Precious few I suspect-and proof that of all the looting in the world, it's the legalized variety that offers the best incentives. So what to do? I doubt too many people who actually make money (that is, who actually create the thing of value that they later sell on the market, over looting it) will look at a case like the Visa/MasterCard antitrust case and conclude that it was a feat of justice. Yet by their inaction, they tacitly support its outcome. Why? Because these people do not grasp the moral basis of capitalism. I've been trying to think of a new name for this kind of thinking-the "anti-inductive mentality" comes to mind. It shouldn't be rocket science for someone to figure out that when a person creates something, they own it. Case closed, period. This is clearly not the situation today. So yet again, I am reminded that the tipping point in this battle is moral and epistemological. Look forward to some new campaigns out of CAC to help underscore this truth. After all, we have some incentives of our own we can put on the table . . .
  23. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way The Justice Department is suing Google after it refused to turn over “all Google queries for a week and for 1 million Internet addresses.” No warrant or reasonable cause was needed – this is for the state’s “research” needs. MSN, Yahoo, and AOL already capitulated without a fight. If there was ever a cause for a fight over due process, it’s this, not the anti-terrorism BS. Btw, Google permanently records all my search queries as part of my Google account, which includes a year of Gmail emails, my address book, and credit card info for my ad accounts. To hell with phone calls and letters – if there are any secrets about me, my Google accounts hold them. If this is up for grabs without a warrant, what isn’t?
  24. Posted by ARImedia... Maryland's lawmakers have acted arbitrarily and unjustly in passing a law designed to force a single company--Wal-Mart--to increase its health benefits. The government has no place dictating to companies what health benefits they offer, period--let alone targeting a single scapegoat company for punishment. This arbitrary exercise of power by Maryland's lawless lawmakers against one of America's best companies should be repudiated by everyone who believes in justice, rights, and the rule of law. Dr. Yaron Brook President of the Ayn Rand Institute Irvine, CA [Ed. note: also see Russell Roberts comments on the law.]
  25. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The news about the Houston crime wave caused by Katrina evacuees keeps getting worse, and the news reports more insulting to the intelligence. Today, the Houston Chronicle reports on the crime wave with the headline, "Police Chief Ties Evacuees to More Killings". We'll start with the headline. I know it's an evolving story and I don't read the paper every day, but the last time I checked, it sounded like the police chief here was doing his best to avoid tying evacuees to any crimes! But who am I to complain? At least Chief Hurtt is now openly discussing the crime wave the New Orleans office of the FBI warned him about months ago. Let's say half of the killings were caused by Katrina evacuees. That means that only about a dozen Houstonians had to die at the hands of another city's criminal element before the subject became a politically correct topic of conversation. Have the gods of multiculturalism finally been quenched of their bloodthirstiness? I doubt it, but let us read the tea leaves anyway.... According to recent estimates, Houston had about 2 million inhabitants before the 100,000 refugees arrived. This means that just shy of 5% of the current population accounts for nearly 20% of its murders. And here's another statistic matched blow for blow by the evasiveness of our Keystone Chief: Well, he got that bit right about our year being off to a bad start, but.... News flash: We were living in a city of more than 2 million people in 2005 as well. Please quit tiptoing around this, Chief Hurtt! This solicitousness towards the Katrina evacuees is simultaneously a shocking callousness towards their victims and the unprepared citizens of Houston, on whom this pack of wolves was released without warning and hiding among ordinary people. (And, come to think of it, isn't it presumptuous to assume that a New Orleanian of an honest bent would feel insulted by officials warning his host city about his less-honest fellows?) Are only criminals deserving of etiquette anymore? And then this takes the cake. First off, while I appreciate the fact that the bean counters in Washington want to know the whether Katrina evacuees committed the killings before they will help pay for the extra police work, it pays to remember two things: (1) This is not an either-or proposition. ("n HPD's district 17 ..., both the victims and suspects were from Louisiana in the three evacuee homicides.") (2) What of homicides resulting from Houstonians foiling crimes? ("A New Orleans evacuee was stabbed to death by a Texan who, police have determined, was defending himself from an attempted carjacking at the hands of the evacuee.") But what really gets me is Chief Hurtt patting himself on the back for keeping an eye on a bunch of people (who, he'd been warned, would include a higher-than-normal percentage of criminals) cooped up in a dome, while acting so nonchalantly about the fact that he apparently pretended the problem would go away after the refugees were relocated from the stadium! In an earlier post, I guesstimated that in the two months post-Astrodome, Houston should have seen, based on the influx of 100,000 evacuees and New Orleans's horrendous homicide rate, Houston should have seen about 9 additional deaths. In three months, this would be about 13. But it has been worse: We have seen "23 between September and December" (and many evacuees were not settled in Houston for most of September) and 7 "extra" homicides so far this month for a 50% increase over our normal homicide rate. So why is Chief Hurtt still walking on eggshells here? Anyone knows that linking the homicides to the evacuation is not a blanket condemnation of all New Orleanians as gangsters, nor of all blacks as criminals, nor Chief Hurtt, who is black, as an "Uncle Tom". It wouldn't have been when the evacuees arrived and it certainly isn't now. People's lives were in danger and no one would warn us (publicly anyway). So do the alleged sensibilities of a minority group supercede the safety of a city's citizens (about a third of whom belong to that same minority)? We were not warned. Why? It would be little exaggeration to say that our nation's state religion is multiculturalism, and that our public officials, far from being free of its grip, are offering us citizens up as sacrifices to its deities. Related Posts (earliest at top): Next Stop: Jail? Has Crime Taken Refuge in Houston? Two More Post-Katrina Murders The Feds knew all along.
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