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  1. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who themselves admitted two years ago that Iran has an "impressive" nuclear power infrastructure, still haven't adjusted the silly "Doomsday Clock" by which they profess to gauge the threat of nuclear war. Nevertheless, the world has today moved much closer to a nuclear weapon being used offensively by a totalitarian regime. Iran's messianic President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that his nation has successfully enriched uranium, a crucial step towards building a bomb. Being a scientist, I am unfortunately very familiar with the products of our modern higher education system, many of whom seem to know more and more about less and less as they "progress" in their quest for greater knowledge. Yes. Some very intelligent people can somehow tell when a country is nearly ready to build a bomb, but can't decide that such a development is a threat to civilized human beings! Such people are nearly beyond hope. I am not writing for them, but for anyone who is open to the idea that we might have to act militarily against Iran. We'll start by reviewing some well-documented things Iran's elected (and undeposed) leader is known to have said. About September of last year, Madman Mahmoud made quite a stir at the United Nations. Ahmadinejad wasn't drugged, or joking, or hamming it up for the world stage. In fact, he has indulged and acted upon such fantasies at home as well. Oh yeah, and more recently, the news reported a bit more on what he and his pals have said. How's all that for "impressive"? Oh yeah. And I haven't even touched that whole "Holocaust never happened but the Jews would have deserved it so let's make it happen" schtick. Really. Just what does it take for those bozos at the Bulletin to reset their silly clock? I suggest we keep time for ourselves instead. And, being a scientist, I spend my working days surrounded by liberals and leftists. The latter are definitely sympathetic to the enemy, but a few of the former are belatedly realizing what's going on. Hearing "We might have to drop something on them," recently from a Kerry voter was music to my ears, except that we need to bump up the volume just a bit. Many liberals, who would agree with my caution about the political goals of the religious right seem oddly unconvinced -- despite the near-daily occurrence of violent acts by Moslems -- that Islam might be even half the threat that fundamentalist Christianity is! So let's put the Iranian theocracy into context by considering Islam's historical record in additon to its current state. (HT: TIA Daily) They not only have a religion that preaches violence over there, but the Iranians also actually believe it. In fact, they believe it to the point that their leader openly talks about seeing lights and feeling auras without fear of being removed from office and sent to an asylum, where he arguably belongs. This is a people with a medieval mindset who will soon have nuclear weapons at their disposal unless WE stop them. What we eventually had to do to to rid ourselves of Saddam Hussein might be an accurate gauge of the value of protracted diplomatic efforts. These are the facts, and yet, as Robert Tracinski of TIA Daily recently pointed out: If considering the above facts has convinced you that attacking Iran is necessary, or if you were in no need of convincing, I think that Tracinski offers some sound advice for you. Let's roll.
  2. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Massachusetts has, unfortunately for its citizens, decided to force them to buy overpriced health insurance for themselves and subsidize it for those who cannot afford it outright. The Ayn Rand Institute correctly pointed out today in a press release that the new plan is a massive violation of individual rights. Even the most superficial amount of consideration reveals that this is a prescription for massive failure -- consistent with the nature of any systematic violation of individual rights. Let's take a quick look for ourselves. The program will be very expensive at the outset because it fails, of course, to address any of the problems (all caused by government regulations) that have caused medical insurance rates to skyrocket in the first place. One fawning article basically admits as much. This means that, unassisted by the feds, Massachusetts, with a population of about 6,350,000 will have had about $115.00 of additional per capita tax burden, on top of its $2,815 per year (already the nation's seventh-highest) -- for just the low-income subsidies! If costs remain steady. But remember: This plan does absolutely nothing about why these costs are rising! Another writer, Sally Pipes, notes that this plan has already been tried and has already failed. And part of why this will happen occurs earlier in the first article. In her article, Sally Pipes cuts through the left-wing feel-good rhetoric to explain what "share the risk" really means. In other words, if you live in Massachusetts and are healthy, if you are stupid enough to buy health insurance, you will basically pay the premiums of someone who is sick. No wonder they're having to force people to buy such plans! The plan sounds -- except for some unimportant details about its funding and implementation -- very similar to a plan, for "Universal Health Care Vouchers" (UHVs), I blogged long ago. Most of the criticism I leveled at that plan applies to the Massachusetts plan. For example, such plans, by promising government subsidies, remove the restraint prices place on demand and inevitably lead to government rationing. (Fellow Objectivists may entertain themselves by glancing back at my old blog entry and seeing that I have been able to simply substitute new terms (bracketted) into the same argument I made then. UHVs and this plan are, after all, simply two specific examples of the same general concept. I am merely supplying a new set of specific measurements.) Now that I think of it, there is no essential difference between the plan in Massachusetts and that of Emanuel and Fuchs. The chief differences are merely: (1) exactly when and how you are to part with your money to pay for what the government says you should get for health insurance, and (2) what the bureaucratic agency that decides whether you will get treated for something will be called. Ironically, just as our nation seems ever closer to nationalizing the medical industry, "the poor", always the supposed "beneficiaries" of such programs, can be seen voting -- with their feet -- against another massive, failed attempt by the government to provide a necessity to all. Blacks and Hispanics across the country are taking advantage of voucher programs whenever they can to flee public schools! The ultimate answer to our failing educational sector would be, not vouchers, but outright privatization. However, the mass defection of black customers from "free" schools ought to serve as a lesson to those who think the government should run all hospitals as well. If, after decades of trying, our government still can't magically provide a good education to many of our children, what makes advocates of socialized medicine believe the government can magically provide medical services? Do they really care? And why should we believe them?
  3. By Debi Ghate: By withdrawing proposed legislation designed to grant French employers slightly more freedom to hire and fire employees--a right that in a truly free society employers would possess without the blessing of special legislation--France has more fully subjugated itself to mob rule. Governments of free nations are supposed to protect the individual rights of their citizens--no matter whether ten people or a million threaten to trample them. By caving in to the protestors' cries and screams, the French government has completely abandoned its key function and declared that, if you can be loud and demanding enough, you can decide what the laws of France should be, no matter whose rights are violated. France continues to abandon individual rights, and as result, it can expect more riots, protests and violence as the mob learns that it rules. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000770.html
  4. Politicians and ideologues insist that illegal immigrants should be deported because they broke the law. But some laws ought to be broken. In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act as part of a compromise between Southern slave-owners and Northern abolitionists. The law made it a duty for every law enforcement official to arrest runaway slaves. A suspected slave had no right to a jury trial or any kind of legal defense. In addition, the act of aiding a runaway slave became a criminal offense subject to six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. I bring up this historical episode because of a similar injustice is occurring today. Escaped slaves who risk life and limb to come to the free states of America are captured and returned to face severe punishment (and sometimes immediate execution) from their masters. I am referring primarily to the Cuban, but also the Chinese, Haitian, and many other immigrants who are denied entry or forced to return to dictatorships. Some are political activists seeking freedom of expression, but most simply do not wish to live as property of the state, and will do anything to live as free men and women. These would-be immigrants have shown by their actions than they are far better Americans than most people born in the U.S. While most Americans don't even bother to vote, they abandon their entire life and culture and often risk everything to embrace the American dream. Upon coming to America, they are usually far more successful than their native born-counterparts. By any rational standard of justice, these immigrants deserve to be here far more than the millions of welfare slobs, America-hating hippies and intellectuals, and all the union workers and assorted privileged moochers who believe that their livelihood comes from a divine birthright rather than the unbridled genius and hard work of self-made men. And yet, I see news stories in the "qurkies" section of the paper about Cubans trying to float to America in a car, or squeeze in the seat cushions of a car, as if there is something humorous about people so desperate to live in freedom that they float in open ocean in a car--twice. Or people who cross a desert with barely enough food and water to escape the crushing poverty of Mexico or Guatemala. Or people who sell their life savings and suffocate in a shipping crate for months for a chance to wash dishes in California and send a few dollars back home. I would like to ask all the native-born American citizens whether they would be courageous enough to take those kinds of risks to provide for their family. Whether they come here to escape political oppression or simply the pervasive poverty and idleness of welfare socialist states, the immigrants who come here seeking a free, productive life are Americans-in-spirit, regardless of what some bureaucrat or politician says. Any law that claims otherwise is an abomination, a gross injustice, and should be treated in the same way that moral men regarded the Fugitive Slave Act or the Nazi Nuremberg Laws. I do not believe the facts I mention -- the plight of oppressed peoples, the risks they take, and the productive lives they lead here are in dispute. I cannot understand what sort of irrationality, what bigotry, what idiocy would make Americans deny the very legacy their nation is founded on. As an immigrant, I sympathize with Frederick Douglass, who, like me, was a persecuted minority who escaped a slave state to embrace American values and pursue the American Dream. Unlike him, I came here legally -- but I'll be damned if any "law" was going to keep my out. I conclude with his words: http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000769.html
  5. From the Ayn Rand Institute: The Massachusetts bill mandating universal health insurance is a massive violation of rights: (1) It violates the rights of individuals, who will be forced to buy health insurance even if they don't want to. (2) It violates the rights of employers, who will be forced to offer health insurance to their employees or pay them a $295 annual fee. (3) It violates the rights of taxpayers, who will be forced to foot the bill for other people's health insurance. The Massachusetts bill should be repealed--not emulated by other states considering similar legislation. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000768.html
  6. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Wal-Mart wants to provide banking services and the usual suspects are in an uproar. Yet again, the anti-business mentality threatens to squelch the rights of the productive. Just how does Wal-Mart "ruthlessly wip[e] out important community businesses"? By finding efficiencies and providing its customers with better values. The only question in my mind is how has Wal-Mart been able to avoid antitrust. After all, in his famous 1945 antitrust ruling against aluminum giant ALCOA, Judge Learned Hand wrote that he could ?think of no more effective exclusion than progressively to embrace each new opportunity as it opened, and to face every newcomer with new capacity already geared into a great organization, having the advantage of experience, trade connections and the elite of personnel." How could one better describe Wal-Mart's proposed entry into banking? I predict not to far in the future, Wal-Mart will become ext Microsoft, and in this context, that will not be a good thing.
  7. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I am all for spectator sports as a celebration of excellence, but often find myself annoyed with sports coverage in the media. On the one hand, the facts of a sporting event are usually far more straightforward than those of, say, the war or the economy, and so biased reporting is usually not a problem that keeps important facts away from the audience. On the other hand, since sports concretize various human virtues, like discipline, hard work, or tenacity, they lend themselves easily to bad commentary about the virtues these athletes supposedly embody. Given the predominance of irrationality and altruism in our society's intellectual mainstream, this means that bad philosophical ideas will often get undeserved "credit" for the spectacular achievements of sports figures. Almost every week, one will hear about one athlete or another whose achievements are made possible by -- oh, I don't know hard work maybe -- who instead credits something like his religious faith or his superstitious practice of eating only chicken every other Wednesday. Sports reporters routinely make a big deal of such assertions. Sometimes, they'll even misappropriate displays of excellence on their own as examples of their own altruistic morality put into practice. My "favorite" is the common mistake of calling a particularly good example of team play "unselfish" -- as if defeating one's opponent is anything but a selfish act. Having said all that, the sports section is the least intellectual part of the paper. This makes its ideological content, for all its faults, both the least corrupted by the pernicious influence of modern philosophy and the closest to what the American man on the street is likely to think. One consequence of this is that you will, from time to time, find a gem of common sense buried in Sports. The following short editorial appeared in the print edition of today's Houston Chronicle. Too bad our newsrooms confine such reasoning to the sports section! I recall no such commentary being made by a newspaper about Iraq's repeated violations of the various UN resolutions leading up to the American invasion three years ago, and I see none such now regarding the Hamastanis. The Hamastanis are a "nation" whose sole cultural "contribution" to the world seems to be murder by blowing oneself to bits, an act that has been carried out repeatedly by Hamastanis in Israel. Their leadership has in the past consistently broken promises that were supposed to lead to peace with Israel. (I leave aside whether any ever negotiated any of these in good faith.) Most importantly, the people themselves demonstrated their overwhelming approval of such behavior by electing a terrorist organization, Hamas, to lead their government. And so, we see reports like the following. [This is similar to a recent story in the Chronicle. --ed] And yet there is no tough talk. There is not one peep of criticism of the Bush Administration for failing to cut off all aid to these brutes, so they can see for themselves what their devotion to violence would mean if implemented consistently. Does Rasheed Wallace deserve the consequences for acting like a child more than the Hamastanis deserve to be ostracized for supporting murder? Or does the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle feel that the notion of justice is the stuff of childish games, to be confined to the sports section or the funnies?
  8. Originally posted by Martin Lindeskog from EGO, What's going on with the debate on immigration reform? Could it be true that the majority of Americans want closed borders? If this is really the case, I hope the situation will change in the near future. Both Pat Buchanan and "Gustav W. Bush" have ancestors from foreign countries... I recommend you to read Harry Binswanger's white paper (Immigration Quotas vs. Individual Rights: The Moral and Practical Case for Open Immigration) on open immigration. Related: My posts, IMMIGRATION, GREEN CARD LOTTERY, THE BUSINESS ASPECT OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, FORBES ON IMMIGRATION and THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY. Here is an excerpt from Nicholas Provenzo's post, Welcome to the Second Carnival of the Objectivists! [Editor's note to Nicholas Provenzo: Thank you! ] Mucho Caliente
  9. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Until Google decided to aid tyranny in China, it was my favorite company by far. Now, every technological marvel of their creation is also a potential tool for despots the world over, America included. I wonder, for example, how the Chi-Comms might choose to employ Google's ability to track wi-fi customers? That question might have answered itself already. The rulers of China, as it turns out, maintain an extensive database on a huge majority of its citizens. Now, not only could Google conceivably help a bureaucrat over there get the goods on a political enemy, it might also help the police apprehend him! It's bad enough that Google helps the Chi-Comms and it's worse that Google grandstands against the United States. But consider that the first story above is about wi-fi being installed in San Francisco. And consider the dangerous precedent being set by our lack of a war declaration today. What if Hillary wins in 2008? Will Google still see America as the epitome of all evil to be opposed to the end of time? Or will Google gladly "comply with the law" as it now does in China, to allow Mizz Clinton and her minions to do whatever snooping she wants in the name of "national security"? If so, it was George Bush, a pliant Congress, and a Google indifferent to freedom that made it all possible. Google's actions in China pertain to us. The need to maintain checks and balances, especially in a time of war is not -- or should not be -- a "partisan" issue. The freedom that made Google possible at all, and which our elected officials are sworn to protect is being put in danger by Google and by these officials. It is up to the rest of us to protect it, then.
  10. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Last week, I blogged about the UK-based "Muslim Action Committee's" attempt to shut down the NYU Objectivist club's panel discussion on the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Over the weekend, Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi, one of the group's spokesmen visited CAC's website and sent us some questions that he wants the Center to answer. After searching his name on the Internet, I found that Hijazi apparently presents his laundry list of questions to many of his opponents, seemingly to show that the right to free speech is not absolute and he and his fellow Muslims are just in their attempts to forbid the public display of images that blaspheme the prophet Muhammad. Of course, such a position is wicked. The right to free speech is absolute. Life requires the mind and ideas are the currency of one's mind; no government may come between a man and his ideas. Yet by his questions, Hijazi seemingly seeks to conflate the expression of an idea with the initiation of force. That's why he puts "divulge[ing] state secrets," "slander" and "incit[ing] religious hatred" on his list of questions, even though each are plainly very different things. For example, if one divulges state secrets, such as when the notorious spy John Walker gave Soviet agents the keys to decrypt US military codes in the 1970s and '80s, one is hampering the government's ability to carry out its mission of protecting its citizens. If one slanders another individual, one is telling deliberate lies for the purpose of impugning another's reputation. Both are acts of force against the undeserving. Yet if one "incite religious hatred" (as Hijazi puts his question) because one holds religion to be a philosophically bankrupt means of defining one's place in the universe and one's moral code for living, how has one harmed the rights of the religious? The religious are still free to practice their faith without any fear of anyone else. But by Hijazi and his Muslim Action Committee's reasoning, no one should be free to impugn the mystical beliefs of others. Hijazi and his committee ignore that free debate over the validity of religion and the conduct of its adherents is of vital importance to one's life. If a person is not free to assess religion's impact upon their life and the larger culture for the mere reason that some people's sacred cows are tipped in the process, the religious are literally forcing their creed upon all our minds. The religious, nor anyone else has a right to coerce anyone's mind, yet at root, this is what the Islamists (and by definition, all mystical creeds) seek. So now we can expose Hijazi's gimmick for what it is: an attempt to hide his ultimate aim by equating mere criticism of Islam with the use of actual force against its adherents. No one is the US has been convicted of "glorying terror" but they have been convicted of using terror to destroy lives and advance their benighted cause. No one has been convicted of "promot[ing] communism" although communists have been convicted for attempting to overthrow the government and instill a communist dictatorship. No one has been convicted for "incit[ing] racial hatred" but there have been convictions for lynching and cross-burning on private property. One can freely "insult the Queen," yet no one is free to kill her or make believe their choice of religions. And one can deny the Holocaust, but they do not have the right to inflict a new one upon anyone. The difference in each of these comparisons is the difference between advocating an idea and the initiation of force-a distinction Hijazi and his Muslim Action Committee seeks to dissolve. Will the West let Islamists like Hijazi succeed? I am deeply concerned for the future. No American politician has made a statement unequivocally defending free speech in the face of the Mohammad cartoon controversy. This failure to defend our fundamental rights is unacceptable, and if our government won't take a stand, we must. Accordingly, it is my intention to give a speech showing the Mohammad cartoons and discussing their larger implications at a Washington, DC-area university within the next 30 days. If freedom of speech falls, America falls, and none of us can afford to allow that to happen. More to follow on my activism ideas in the next day or two.
  11. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, In an op-ed in the Statesman Journal, Tom Chamberlain, the president of the Oregon AFL-CIO uses the 1911 Triangle shirt factory fire to claim we owe our lives to unions and government regulations. Here?s the setup: Here?s the cashing-in: Consider for a moment how Chamberlain joins his progressive ancestors in hijacking an appalling tragedy to smear the free market and justify government regulation. Chamberlain argues that Triangle?s owners were so obsessed about loss that they locked all the doors of their factory in order to secure it from theft, but the loss caused by the fire and the death of 146 employees--well, that?s just another day at the office. Chamberlain argues that the Triangle refused to negotiate with its worker?s union, yet he fails to mention the massive 1909 union strike that first began at the Triangle factory and that came to include 20,000 garment workers never made workplace safety an issue, or that the union itself elected to drop the issue of worker representation. If the "invisible hand" failed to compel Triangle?s owners to protect for fire, it also failed to compel the worker?s union to make a point of it. Might the Triangle fire have more to do with the simple fact that an industrial accident on the scale of such a disaster had never occurred before? After all, the Triangle factory was state of the art for its era, with its high ceilings, well-lit workspace, modern plumbing and electric-powered machinery. In fact, the building itself was repaired and is still in use today as part of the campus of New York University. I propose a different interpretation of the Triangle disaster. The Triangle fire was one of the first of a new breed of accidents--the industrial accident--and defending against it required a new type of thinking to protect both lives and investments. Chamberlain argues that subsequent safety laws protect workers, but he forgets that at best these laws create minimum standards and provide a false sense of security. It is businessmen themselves and the engineers they employ--specifically safety engineers--that helped to create the safe workspaces we enjoy today. Why? Because safety is in one?s self-interest. By failing to foresee that textiles are flammable and that a basic respect for their investment and the lives of their employees demanded they take certain steps to mitigate the risk of fire, Triangle?s owners allowed their factory to be destroyed and exposed themselves to both criminal and civil liability from their negligence. How many other businessmen got the message after the Triangle fire and took their own steps to protect themselves and their employees from fire? We?ll probably never know, because the Triangle case has been hijacked by the left as means to justify everything from the minimum wage to the number of hours an employee may work in a week, as Chamberlain plainly evidences in his op-ed. Yet Chamberlain forgets that if the government can miracle a zero-harm environment, why have two space shuttles been destroyed under its management? Why have medicines that have been approved by the FDA later been recalled while effective medicines sit stalled in the FDA?s regulatory queue? Why does Chamberlain seem to endow government regulators with omniscience, yet fail to recognize the incentive a businessman has to protect his own investment, or the incentive an employee has to quit an unsafe workplace and find another job? Why? Because union leaders like Chamberlain want power--and not the power one gets by economic negotiation, but the power one gets from political pull. That?s why, almost 100 years after the fact, this union boss still sings the Triangle song.
  12. Originally from Gus Van Horn, While I understand why some of my fellow Objectivists, including none other than Robert Tracinski of TIA Daily seem so enamored of this Wall Street Journal article about Anaheim, California's relatively laissez-faire approach to revitalization, I submit that this doesn't hold a candle to what has been happening in Houston, Texas, for at least the past decade. That's right. Our nation's fourth largest city has no zoning! And Lanier is not exactly a capitalist. The Democrat admits being conflicted about unbridled regentrification in his next breath. Amusingly, politicians of the "civil rights" establishment are on the defensive, looking for political means that would -- ahem -- "keep black neighborhoods black". Restrictive covenents, eh? Makes me think of the ones I heard about growing up that were used to keep blacks from buying in white neighborhoods! Aside from possibly interfering with the property rights of his own constituents, who may well want to sell to the well-to-do, Coleman is dishonoring his own city's history of excellent race relations. Many blacks left the Third Ward for white neighborhoods ages ago. Why in the world can't non-blacks move to the Third Ward? -- CAV Related: This six-part series in defense of property rights in Houston at Capitalism Magazine.
  13. Originally from Gus Van Horn, A New York Times op-ed I encountered today starts out like this ... Needless to say, my immediate reaction was: "The hell we should use the takings clause!" The op-ed continues meandering drunkenly through the mixed-economy quagmire that is the debate over what to do with the World Trade Center site, now vacant going on five years. Until, that is, the end, when it names, without knowing it, one of the major causes of the inordinate delay. A query at Jeeves reveals that the current "owner" of the site is the Port Authority, and that Larry Silverstein holds a 99-year lease on the land worth $3.2 billion. No wonder things are such a mess! And since it's public property, every Tom, Dick, and Harry -- meaning every special interest group with lots of cash and every busybody with too much time on his hands -- gets to have a say in what happens at the WTC site. This is how a multiculturalist tribute to our enemies nearly got built -- by people with no stake in the property -- on the grave site of our countrymen in the first place! And this is, in part, why office space at least equal to what was lost isn't already under construction now. The other part of why the towers haven't been built back taller than ever is because of the uncertainty caused by our President's halting and tentative prosecution of the current war. Are we safe enough to rebuild yet? It is the task of our government to protect the lives and rights of American citizens. It will not do this by not fighting the Islamists, or by paying to rebuild the site with confiscated money (which would be better spent on our defense), or by continuing to hold the land. The solution to this dilemma involves no "government-business-real estate coalition". It involves our government doing what it is supposed to do and butting out of what it isn't supposed to do. You, Uncle Sam, guard the perimeter, and let the Larry Silversteins and Donald Trumps decide what to do with the billion-dollar commercial real estate. They want to make money, so I'm sure that things won't be stalled for long. Just get out of their way. Rather than being seized by the government -- again -- the World Trade Center site should be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It should become private property whose owner can do with it as he sees fit. If George Soros buys it, let him try to lease out whatever office space he builds there after desecrating the site with whatever "culture complex" he decides to build. (He would make it clear once and for all where the left stands in the war, inadvertently doing us patriots a great service. And there would be no lasting damage because the site would still be private property when he sells or dies.) If someone decent wins the auction, he won't have to listen to all the multiculturalists and other Islamofascist sympathizers before he rebuilds. And he would have every incentive to build goodwill by accepting input from the families of the victims for a proper memorial. I fully agree with Michael Hurd when he, too calls for privatization of the site in a very good article at Capitalism Magazine. And I fully agree with Diane Duarte that the proper way to memorialize the dead would be for life to return to the site in the form of commercial development. The quickest way to achieve this end is not, as Dennis Smith proposes, the same mixed-economy shenanigans as usual -- you know, that got us into this predicament in the first place. It is a return to the much freer America we used to be. It is not a plot of land we need to "take back", but our respect for life, liberty, and property. When we do that, the rebuilding will take care of itself.
  14. The website is having temporary DNS problems for all non-default domains. This should be resolved later today, but in the meantime, the forum's URL has been temporarily changed to http://ObjectivismOnline.com/forum/ http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000758.html
  15. by Felipe Sediles In recent months, Congress has raised concerns over the president's use of warrantless wiretaps and his approval of a proposed take-over of major U.S. sea ports by a U.A.E.-owned company. In the case of warrantless wiretaps, the president is criticized for the excessive use of power. In the case of his permissive handling of the ports deal, the president is criticized for the failure to use power. The president's critics never seem to be satisfied, yet they never identify a principle that should guide his use of power: Should his powers to protect our security be open-ended, or should they be restricted? If restricted, restricted by what principle? This question needs to be answered to settle any of the ongoing post-9/11 debates about the proper use of the homeland security department, the Patriot Act, immigration restrictions, border security, airport security, cockpit security, intelligence reform, etc. Furthermore, while it is important to define the president's proper powers concerning domestic security, it is even more important to realize that domestic security measures are not our best means of securing our freedom against foreign terrorists. What is needed is a foreign policy that aggressively pursues them and their state-sponsors. In practice, the strategy of securing our freedom with domestic security has led to an unprecedented growth in the state's policing powers. The president enjoys the freedom to grant warrantless wiretaps, to use secret military tribunals with lower standards of proof to try suspects of his own choosing, to indefinitely detain immigrants, and to limit intelligence briefings to Congress by exercising greater secrecy. With the recent renewal of the Patriot Act, law enforcement agencies will continue to enjoy the freedom to conduct espionage with impunity and to conduct secret, essentially warrantless records searches, physical searches, among many other things. The president often justifies his powers by citing the Congressional authorization given to him on September 18th, 2001 authorizing the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Furthermore, the Patriot Act authorizes the FBI to engage in certain investigative activities provided that they are "for purposes of protecting against terrorism." Many have raised concerns over the threat these new law-enforcement powers pose to the very freedom they are intended to secure. Some of these concerns are not legitimate, but some are. The legitimate concerns demonstrate that, in the long-run, no amount of police-state powers will prove adequate for preserving our freedom. Some fear that these police-state powers unjustifiably infringe on our civil liberties. Posing as defenders of freedom, these critics confound civil liberties with fundamental rights, demanding that civil liberties be preserved at all cost. But civil liberties are derivatives of fundamental rights--they are not fundamental themselves. Take trial by jury as an example. The principle underlying trial by jury is procedural: because man has a fundamental right to life and liberty, the state cannot punish him for a crime until objective evidence of his crime has been identified. This is because under normal, peacetime circumstances, trial by jury improves the chances that a suspect's fate will be reviewed by at least one objective observer. Under normal circumstances, high standards of evidence are required because it is worse to punish an innocent man that to fail to punish a guilty one. In order for the state to be able to implement these procedures, it must have the time to find people that are able to be jurists, the time to collect high levels of evidence, the time to present every shred of relevant evidence in trial, etc. In a time of war, however, such extensive procedures become a threat to the freedom they are meant to uphold in a time of peace. When the loss of a single second of time could result in the loss of many lives, governmental actions must be expedited, for the sake of protecting the fundamental rights to life and liberty that civil rights are designed to protect. This same consideration justified warrantless searches and wiretaps, secret trials, and any number of emergency powers--provided that these powers are temporary and their purpose is clearly defined. But are the president's current powers temporary or delimited to a clearly defined purpose? The answer is "no," and it is here that critics of the president raise a legitimate concern. The president's powers allegedly deriving from the September 18th, 2001 resolution exist "in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States." It does not specify which terrorists must be stopped or how many of them must be stopped until their threat has been removed with satisfaction. In essence, it leaves open the possibility of an open-ended, ongoing "War on Terrorism," motivated by little more than the potential for attacks. Without a clear objective, the "War on Terrorism" will become permanent and the president's emergency powers will become dictatorial. Of more pressing concern, however, is that any genuine threat these new police-state powers pose to our freedom pales in comparison to the danger of relying on such powers for the preservation of our freedom from foreign threats. Consider what the guaranteed long-term success of such a policy requires. In a world where there are major foreign governments such as those of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, supporting those who are plotting to circumvent these measures (to say nothing of Iran's attempt to acquire nuclear weapons), America is simply too big and too free for police-state powers to prevent every possible attack. The state would have to have everyone wiretapped, check every single container that enters our ports, detain every single person at our borders, have cameras on every street corner, etc. The continuance of this policy, while foreign threats are allowed to exist, will most certainly fail to prevent all future attacks. In order to end the threat of future attacks and to delimit the life and scope of new police-state powers, we must therefore demand a war declaration, not further open-ended law-enforcement measures. Rather than worrying about how and when we place individual terrorists on trial, Congress must place regimes who support terrorists "on trial," declare them to be enemies of the United States, and demand their unconditional surrender as the objective of war. At this point the proceedings would be a mere formality: we are already in a de facto state of war with multiple regimes, so Congress has the duty to make it a speedy trial. If we declare war, some emergency domestic security measures will be required. But we will have no legitimate reason to fear them, as long as they do not violate fundamental rights and as long as we know when the emergency will come to an end. Congressional critics of the president should realize that our Constitution gives them the power to rein in the president through a war declaration. Thus, if we are to protect our liberty from an unlimited, ever-encroaching police-state--and from foreign enemies who would impose their own police state on us--nothing short of a clear, confident declaration of war will suffice. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000757.html
  16. A person's switch from subjectivism to religious dogmatism is no paradox, because the two are an expression of the same basic philosophy. By Christian Beenfeldt Like the 2002 case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, the current case of Australian "Jihad Jack" Thomas--who was charged with being a terrorist "sleeper" agent, convicted of having received money from al-Qaeda and sentenced to five years imprisonment--raises the same question that baffled the world during the Lindh trial: How can a freewheeling Westerner morph into a fanatical Islamist? Like Lindh, Thomas started out at what appears to be the opposite end of the spectrum from a hard-line religionist--he was a beer-loving punk rocker--and then, like Lindh, he deliberately sought out radical Islam, travelling to a far-away terrorist training camp where he embraced religious dogmatism and obtained instruction in suicide bomb tactics. How is this transformation possible? The freewheeling, "anything goes" type and the religious dogmatist are of course both familiar in today's culture--and they are generally considered to be diametrically opposed. But are they really? Consider the typical "progressive" leftist, with his non-judgmental relativism. He is the embodiment of subjectivism: he holds that there are no absolute principles, that truth is "in the eye of the beholder," and that "what's right for you might not be right for me." He is the exponent of the belief that nobody can have objective knowledge or objective grounds for evaluating another person's beliefs or actions. On the premise that moral values are merely subjective preferences, he feels that there is no factual basis for moral judgment. Thomas betrayed a residue of this sentiment when he stated that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." And Lindh's Marin County parents certainly typified this philosophy with their non-judgmental attitude towards his early affinity for nasty rap music and his later conversion to radical Islam. The religious dogmatist, on the other hand, dismisses the "truth is relative" chorus of the subjectivists and has no qualms about making moral judgments. His philosophy, he says, espouses the unquestionable truth and advocates absolute standards of right and wrong. It is only on the surface, however, that the dogmatist is opposed to the subjectivist; at root, the two share a fundamental similarity. In denying that there are any objective standards by which to choose how to think or act, the subjectivist makes clear that his choices are ruled by blind feelings. This is precisely also the basic policy of the religious dogmatist. There are an infinite number of opposing religious sects. How does the religionist decide which faith to embrace, which revelations to follow and which authority to obey? Does he scientifically gather the evidence, carefully weigh it, and then adopt the conclusion to which reason and logic point? Obviously not. He feels it. He feels that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, astrology or whatever, is the right faith for him. As Thomas himself describes his conversion to Islam, after agreeing to fast for the month of Ramadan: "I just felt a link from all the prophets of Adam and Noah and Moses and Abraham and all the prophets coming from one God and Confucius and Buddha and all the people being messengers and all my whole world came together." He continued to follow his feelings to radical Islam, to terrorist training, and to the adoption of "Jihad" as his first name. So while the religionist may claim to uphold absolute truths, his beliefs are as arbitrary and baseless as those of the subjectivist. Thus, the paradoxical conversions of Jack Thomas and Walker Lindh--from subjectivist to religious dogmatist--aren't so paradoxical after all; in both cases, the switch was merely from one form of emotionalism to another. What neither the subjectivist nor the dogmatist can fathom is the need for an objective approach--a method of seeking truth, acquiring knowledge, and defining moral standards, not by indulgence in emotions, but by a process of reasoning based on factual evidence alone. In every issue and area of its life, a mind on this premise is moved not by arbitrary whims, but by logical arguments that are grounded in directly perceivable facts. What is needed, then, to avoid raising the "Jihad Jacks" and "American Talibans" of the future, is for our culture to reject emotionalism in all of its varieties--whether in the form of anything-goes subjectivism or of emotion-driven faith in mystical dogmas--in favor of the rational alternative: objectivity. Christian Beenfeldt, MA in philosophy, is a guest writer for the Ayn Rand Institute. Posted by ARImedia
  17. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, The editorial board of the McAllen Texas Monitor takes a stand against the so-called "eco-capitalists." Because they are not. "Eco-capitalists" is a misnomer--"eco-looters" and "pull-profiteers" would be a better description of this new incarnation of a very old idea.
  18. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Remember the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footlose, the movie about the big-city kid in a small town who was forbidden from dancing like a white boy by the powers that be. Well, it seems a similar story has taken a big-city twist. It never ceases to amaze me the power that we have given our government to control the mundane. Must we really regulate swing dancers? Who's next, jitterbugers? Lindy hoppers? Are we going to permit our goverment to add a whole new dimension to the Lambada?
  19. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Recall awhile back how Google simultaneously caved in to China's demand that it censor its search engine results, while it made a big deal out of refusing to permit the U.S. government to have access to its customers' search records? Note the parallel between how this company, founded by leftists, chose its battles, and the stands pertaining to academic freedom taken recently by two American universities. We have seen (1) New York University submit to dhimmitude rather than permit the infamous (but still largely unseen) Danish cartoons to be shown at a recent event; and (2) Yale University striking a blow for "academic freedom" by admitting an official of a hostile regime as a student. (And I agree with Deroy Murdoch that he should be sent to Gitmo post haste. And: Does this man read my blog? Heh.) In the cases of Google and the modern American university, we had defiance of the freest nation in the world, the United States, in the name of "freedom" -- and kowtowing to totalitarians for the flimsiest excuses and contrary to explicit statements regarding the value of free inquiry. While I am not necessarily saying that Google should hand over search records to the feds, I have to wonder at what appears to be an emerging pattern among the allegedly pro-freedom of expression left. Is the pattern of continual opposition to the American government coupled with abject surrender to tyranny simple cowardice? Or is it treachery? I bring these examples up not because they are the first examples of their kind, but because they show just how deeply this pattern of behavior runs in our culture. Many leftists, after all, opposed even the war in Afghanistan. More, the war in Iraq (and not because it was "the wrong war", or was otherwise not a good enough way for America to defend herself). In the meantime, we have heard nothing but pleas for "consideration" of Islamic "sensibilities" that amount to abject dhimmitude. This is very discouraging in and of itself, but more so when I realize that so many people are so used to such things that these daily surrenders seem as unremarkable as breathing. A major part of winning the current war is to help people realize sooner than they would otherwise that this is not the normal behavior of a defender of freedom.
  20. By David Holcberg: In another victory for the Islamic totalitarians, Borders and Waldenbooks stores decided not to stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine, which contains the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. The motive for their decision is clear. "For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority," Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said. Borders' capitulation is a powerful reminder of the Islamist threat under which we live. It is also an ominous sign of a pervasive fear taking hold of our society: the fear that Muslims will lash out violently against those who criticize or ridicule Islam. Our right to free speech is under attack by our enemies and they are succeeding in silencing our writers, editors, publishers, artists and bookstores. Our government must do everything in its power to make sure we are safe to exercise our right to speak, denounce and offend anyone, especially those who today seek to subjugate us to Islam and its taboos. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000751.html
  21. You can't make this stuff up: Dr. Eric R. Pianka, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Texas and lizard expert, gave as speech at the University of Texas in Arlington to the Texas Academy of Science in which he endorsed airborne Ebola as an efficient means for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population. Pianka received an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation. Later he received more applause from a banquet hall filled with more than 400 people when the president of the Texas Academy of Science presented him with a plaque naming him 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist. I quote here an eyewitness account of the speech, but I suggest you read the whole thing: .... Professor Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us.... One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, "What good are you?" Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, "We're no better than bacteria!" Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. ..He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late. Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number. ... War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved. ...AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs. After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that." When Pianka finished his remarks, the audience applauded. It wasn't merely a smattering of polite clapping that audiences diplomatically reserve for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous and enthusiastic applause. I live in Arlington, and judging by the glowing reviews of his students, I am rather worried that one of them might decide to implement his scheme. I can only hope that they will volunteer to be first in the extinction. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000750.html (Edit: a number of people have reported that the story is inaccurate – Dr Pianka does not advocate killing 90% of the planets population – he merely states that it would be a “good thing for the planet.” Sorry - I didn’t mean to give the impression that environmentalists are some kind of man-hating terrorists, trying to destroy industrial civilization.)
  22. By Dr. Yaron Brook: The Harvard medical study showing that prayer has no effect on recovery from heart surgery is shocking," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "It is not shocking that prayer has no medical effects--what's shocking is that scientists at Harvard Medical School are wasting their time studying the medical effects of prayer. Science is a method of gaining knowledge by systematically studying things that actually exist and have real effects. The notion that someone's health can be affected by the prayers or wishes of strangers is based on nothing but imagination and faith. Such blind belief represents the rejection of reason and science, and is not worthy of serious, rational consideration. What's next? A study of the medical effects of blowing out birthday candles? Every minute these doctors spend conducting this sort of faith-based study is one minute less spent on reality-based research--research that actually has hope of leading to real medical cures. Copyright © 2006 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000749.html
  23. Originally posted by Paul from NoodleFood, Every so often, folks who learn about the political positions of Objectivists and Libertarians will ask why Objectivists are so careful to distance themselves from Libertarians, despite the seeming similarity of the political views they advocate. Objectivists respond that the political positions they advocate are grounded on an entire philosophical system (starting with metaphysics and epistemology, then working up to ethics and politics), whereas Libertarians in general start from an entirely incompatible philosophical base (or bases). Hence, Objectivists will not gain any real benefit from an alliance with Libertarians, despite their apparent agreement in the derivative field of politics because of their profound disagreement on fundamental philosophy. Although I've already discussed this issue at length in a different essay, I recently ran across a concrete non-political example of the same principle in action. Yesterday at the medical conference I'm attending here in Hawaii, we discussed a case of a woman from a small village in Guatemala who had been suffering from rapidly worsening seizures. The superstitious villagers wanted to "make a hole in her head and let the evil out". Since she didn't especially relish that idea, she fled Guatemala and escaped to the US. The first thing she did after landing at the airport in New York City was to make her way to the NYU Medical Center. The hospital arranged some emergency funding for her case, and after a series of tests including a brain MRI scan, they found the source of a problem -- a certain type of benign brain tumor. The neurosurgeons treated her appropriately and she has done well since. Some might argue that the NYU neurosurgeons and the villagers agreed in their recommended course of action -- after all, both parties wanted to "make a hole in her head and let the evil out". But of course, this seeming agreement on the derivative issue is totally undercut by their radical disagreement in fundamentals, including their respective metaphysics and epistemology on the nature of seizures, health, human biology, and (ultimately) in the nature of the world. Certainly, the NYU neurosurgeons had nothing to gain by working with the medicine man from the Guatemalan village. And that's why it's important to agree on the fundamentals. (As always, there are the usual interesting side issues on the merits of ad hoc alliances, etc., but I'll save those for a different time.)
  24. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Austin Cline runs a blog entitled Agnosticism/Atheism. Austin kindly highlighted my notes on "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren. It was a ten part series. I still get hits from Austin's site. Amazingly, a very high percentage of readers go through all ten parts. I thank you Austin. I also disagree with Austin. Recently he had some unkind things to say about Ayn Rand. Austin offended... ...
  25. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, "Of Living Death" from Ayn Rand: There is a widespread popular notion to the effect that the Catholic church's motive in opposing birth control is the desire to enlarge the Catholic population of the world. This may be superficially true of some people's motives, but it is not the full truth. If it were, the Catholic church would forbid the "rhythm method" along with all other forms of ... ...
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