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:: The Rule of Reason ::

:: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 ::

Score yet another 'ease of compliance' victory for the income tax 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:12 AM

This story is too much:

H&R Block Inc., which provides tax advice to millions of Americans, made an embarrassing confession on Thursday. It goofed on its own taxes.

The company, which is in the middle of its make-or-break season preparing other people's tax returns, said it had underestimated its own "state effective income tax rate" in previous quarters -- meaning it owes another $32 million in back taxes.

As a result, H&R Block said it would restate previously reported earnings going all the way back to 2004. [James Kelleher, Reuters] [Hat tip: NoodleFood]
The article goes on to describe problems H&R Block has had with its tax software and clients who seek early refunds.

So here we have a tax giant -- a veritable American icon of the tax-filing season -- waylaid by the difficulty inherent in complying with the income tax laws.

I would like to understand why people tolerate such a system. The complexity of the income tax and the billions of dollars in wasted resources spent every year in the impossible attempt to adhere to the internal revenue code ought to make the need for fundamental tax reform plainly obvious to almost anyone. Yet in the face of all this waste and needles anxiety, we still endure the income tax to pay for the cost of our government, with no hope of a respite in sight.

My theory: Washington knows that the power to tax is the power to destroy and that any tax reform which makes the real cost of government plain to the average citizen would be the death-knell of the welfare state. It's that simple. The income tax simply hides the cost of government though its smokescreen of rules and deductions. Our tax laws are a boondoggle dedicated to obfuscation, not efficiency, and the majority is too ignorant to do anything but suffer though it.

So much for a nation whose founders dumped tea in Boston Harbor rather than abide an unjust tax.

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Kipling's Remonstrance: 'An Imperial Rescript' 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:35 AM

Rudyard Kipling's verse is little known today. The wisdom one can find in it would not fit into the modern pedagogical philosophy of unreason, political correctness, and conformity. After all, he was an unapologetic champion of the West, of the second British Empire, in particular, an unabashed but not uncritical "cultural imperialist." Most students -- indeed, most writers and thinkers today -- are ignorant of Kipling, if not hostile to him. He died in January, 1936, when the world he had known had changed for the worse, and was marching toward war and collectivism and horrors unimaginable to him in the 19th century.

But, as early as 1890, at the age of 25, in "An Imperial Rescript," he took a marvelously adept poetic swipe at consensual collectivism, which, before he could imagine it ever happening in his lifetime, would impoverish his own country and many more nations in the next century. The opus begins:

Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed,
To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need.
He sent word to the peoples, who struggle, and pant, and sweat,
That the straw might be counted fairly and the tally of bricks be set.
In short, representatives of all the productive men from around the globe -- the "Lords of Their Hands" -- were summoned to wait upon the Kaiser's Council and hear a master plan for eliminating exploitation, injustice, unregulated commerce and labor, and other alleged social ills throughout the world. It is implied in the second stanza that men were crying out against those ills, and that the Kaiser heard their complaints.

The third stanza goes:

And the young King said -- "I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
"The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak:
"With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
"Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood -- sign!"
But, the productive men pause before they sign the document that would fetter each man to the next. Just as they are about to indenture themselves to mutual servitude, someone laughs. Not Howard Roark. Not John Galt. In 1890, it was too early for that particular literary "No!" to be flung out at the world.

A hand was stretched to the goose-quill, a fist was cramped to scrawl,
When -- the laugh of a blue-eyed maiden ran clear through the Council-hall.
What did this maiden represent? Was she laughing at the foolishness of what the men were submitting to? Why did the productive men pause?

And the Spirit of Man that is in Him to the light of the vision woke;
And the men drew back from the paper, as the Yankee delegate spoke: --
Each man has second thoughts about what he is about to agree to. Kipling allows an American the first objection:

"There's a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone;
"We're going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own,
"With gas and water connections, and steam heat through to the top;
"And. W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop."
Then a Briton proudly reiterates the ownership of one's life and purpose:

And an English delegate thundered: -- "The weak an' the lame be blowed!
"I've a berth in the Sou'-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road;
"And till the 'sociation has footed my buryin' bill,
"I work for the kids an' the missus. Pull up! I'll be damned if I will!"
By the ninth stanza, the Kaiser's Council goes into consultation about what to do about this revolt of the men they only want to help by relieving them of the "burden" of freedom. Here Kipling permits himself a kind of humor possible only to a man who takes ideas seriously. The Council passes a resolution:

"But till we are built like angels -- with hammer and chisel and pen,
"We will work for ourselves and a woman, for ever and ever, amen."
Modern "free verse" is replete with random concretes connected to no abstractions, not even esthetic ones. Kipling's poem here contains many concretes that express a pair of metaphysical and political abstractions: individualism and collectivism.

Kipling was on to something: A glimmer of mutual slavery, of true democracy, of chain gangs, and unions -- of the nature and consequences of collectivism. And he offered an antidote to it: a reminder to men of the purpose of life. The laughing maiden represents, as far as one can tell, the joy of life. The benevolent rays of the early sunset of reason in his time permitted him to champion independence and individualism. His productive men remember why they work and live, and refuse to become slaves or to enslave each other.

What an overture! What wisdom! And what a literary ancestor of Ayn Rand was Rudyard Kipling! She was our own laughing maiden, who reminded us all!

Notes:

  1. Rescript -- a sovereign's or government edict or announcement.
  2. Hohenzollern -- a German dynasty that ruled from 1192 to 1918.
  3. 'sociation -- An association, or voluntary, private mutual aid or welfare organization, to which workers paid a small subscription, and which acted much like an insurance company.

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:: Monday, February 27, 2006 ::

File this under 'impressive' 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:57 AM

I just read this excellent letter to the editor in the Bismarck Tribune from Adam Twardowski to an op-ed that claimed that one needs money first before one can overcome poverty.

Please note, according to the paper, Twardowski is a middle school student.

This is in response to Jim Lein’s Feb. 20 column, "Helping the rich accumulate wealth."

Lein writes that "some degree of wealth is required to overcome poverty” but that “the dispute is over who should receive this degree of wealth — the poor or the already wealthy."

Lein, like so many others, fails to understand that wealth is not a static entity that exists in a fixed amount in the world. Production, which Ayn Rand defined as "the application of reason to the problem of survival," is the means by which wealth is created. Businessmen such as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and others possessed an extraordinary virtue: the ability to create wealth on an unprecedented scale.

Before it can be redistributed, wealth must be created. For that reason, it is the producers of wealth, not the dispensers of charity, who should be morally praised for advancing the human standard of living.

America did not become rich by the selfless giving of charity workers or the incessant taxation of the Internal Revenue Service, but by the profoundly selfish work of businessmen who, while pursuing their own profit, created jobs, raised salaries, reduced the working day and produced cheap and useful products that have advanced the average person’s standard of living more than any other period of human history prior to the birth of capitalism in the 18th century was able to.

Why are business executives rich? The amount of thought, planning and coordination a brilliant CEO requires to operate a profitable company can be compared to the amount of training an athlete such as Michael Jordan needs to compete in sports or the amount of creativity a musician such as Mozart needs to compose an inspiring symphony. CEOs are indispensable components of their companies and, for that reason, deserve every penny of their incomes.

Because every individual has the right to property, the wealth produced by businessmen cannot be expropriated from them against their own will. If Lein wants to see the problem of poverty resolved, he should support the principle of laissez-faire, so that productive geniuses will be free to create extraordinary amounts of wealth while pursuing their own selfish interests.

Wow--that's an fine letter--a taut defense of the productive mind. Bravo Adam!

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A Strategy of Sacrifice, a Reply of Scorn 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 6:20 AM

"The irony of fate," states one literary reference work, means "a strange fatality which has brought about something quite the reverse of what might have been expected." Or might have been intended. Irony in politics is uniquely and intimately linked to the law of unintended consequences. The term irony itself is rooted in the Greek eiron, or "a dissembler," or liar.

Altruism, or the moral code of sacrifice and living for others, has produced a larger number of ironies or unintended consequences than any other species of good intention. Its ironies cannot be fathomed except by reason coupled with a questioning of its morality. They become evident only after honest and extended questioning of altruism's practicality. The irony of altruist policies leaves some of their practitioners and observers baffled and ultimately discouraged. Others learn nothing from the failure of altruism; they just try harder to make it work.

Let us cite a few of the most recent and notable ironies.

The democratic election by Palestinians of HAMAS, a terrorist gang dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel, is an irony of the first rank. The election results received the blessing of our own Pope of Humility and Sacrifice, ex-president Jimmy Carter. However, even if it could be proved that the election was rigged in HAMAS's favor, it would not make a difference. American and European observers had hoped, in fact, had intended, that one of two things would emerge from those elections: a mellowed HAMAS that yearned for "peace" and was committed to negotiating with Israel; or, a slate of "moderate" Palestinians who wouldn't be as terrifying as the Koran-sanctioned, ski-masked gunmen behind them. After all, if they wear three-piece suits and pass a frisk for weapons before entering negotiations, then they must be civilized and open to a peacekeeping deal.

Or so our pragmatic policymakers believe. The White House has sworn never to deal with HAMAS, but pledged to continue "humanitarian" aid to the Palestinian government for schools, medical services, and food, even though little of it in the past has ever been used for those purposes. Our State Department and intelligence services know this. But altruism trumps reality and truth every time. HAMAS is synonymous with homicide. "Democracy" was supposed to work like alchemy and render the homicidal benign. HAMAS burst that illusion immediately upon being elected to power.

Competing for first rank in terms of bringing democracy to tribalist barbarians is the election of a nascent theocracy in Iraq itself. President Bush intended that Iraqis discover the blessings of liberty, and thousands of Americans have paid the price for his good intentions. The horrible truth is that he has accepted the verdict that it is a theocracy most Iraqis have chosen to govern them.

The U.S. military, particularly the Navy, has been sent by the White House to help victims of recent natural catastrophes: the tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake, and the Philippine mudslide. This meant the expenditure of manpower, time, and billions in aid matériel in repeated bids for goodwill. However, such "humanitarian" generosity is not purchasing the U.S. the love of either the stricken populations or their governments, as is intended. To earn their love, the U.S. must show evidence of pain. The U.S. to date has shown no pain in giving. The generosity earns us no merit or credit. How Kantian! Those ragged-looking mobs on our TV screens, accepting our bottled water, blankets, and bags of grain one day, will the next demonstrate against us with curses and flag-burnings. This suggests that they are wiser to the irony of altruism than is George Bush or Tony Blair.

It is another kind of fatal irony that while Third World countries (remember that derogatory but apt term?), including all Arab countries, are exercising their "self-determination," the nations of Europe are surrendering their own to the super bureaucracy of the European Union. What began long ago as the "Common Market," ostensively dedicated to lowering or eliminating protectionist trade barriers for the sake of increasing every nation's prosperity and well-being, has morphed into a bizarre, wealth and sovereignty consuming alliance of the inept against the able and the still prosperous. Particular animosity is reserved for Britain, which has one foot inside the Union and one out of it.

Now a new surrender of sovereignty is in the making: obeisance to the sensitivities of Muslims residing in Europe. Franco Frattini, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, remarked in response to the anger against the Danish cartoons, that Europe "was aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression." Which is as much as saying: We are willing to gag our press in exchange for your not burning more cars, killing cartoonists, or going on a rampage.

But, there is hope for Europe yet. The French shot down the lumbering, politically correct EU constitution, probably to the relief of most Europeans. What would sentence the bureaucracy in Brussels to sure death would be an act of secession by one or two of the more prosperous members of the Union. This welcome development may occur. But those countries must first reject altruism and its partner in politics, collectivism. They must first learn that individualism and free speech cannot coexist with their antipodes within or without their borders.

Daniel Pipes, one of the most intransigent and prodigious sources of information about Islam, terrorism and the jihadist agenda, and whose knowledge of the creed and its blood-thirsty players is encyclopedic, denies that the "cartoon" war is "clash of civilizations" or a "war of cultures." Ironically, he claims that Arabs should realize that "disengagement" from the West in the form of boycotts against Danish or Scandinavian products will only cause the Arabs to suffer and experience further alienation from the West and its values, which could be said to ensure happiness on earth for the living.

The irony here is that most Arabs -- of "the street," of the diplomatic, of jihadist suasion -- place happiness on earth last in the list of their means and goals. Muslims are forbidden to make moral judgments of their creed. Period. Their acceptance of the whole cloth of the Koran and Hadith -- Shi'ite, Sunni, it little matters the sectarian version of the creed -- must be total and without reservation. Most of them are willing to sacrifice lives, wealth, and liberty to achieve Islamic hegemony on earth, or at least see the more activist among them achieve it in their name with beheadings, IEDs, suicide bombings, and fatwahs on Western cartoonists. They never grow tired of the U.S. saying it is sorry, and derive obvious, unspeakable pleasure in seeing a giant grovel, stumble and stammer.

We must thank Western news services for rushing to show us just how angry the "Arab street" is and how joyful it can be when the West offends it or suffers a setback. All those televised forays into Cairo coffee houses, alongside Iraqi funerals, and in the midst of gunfire-punctuated Palestinian demonstrations to solicit and broadcast the average Arab's opinion of the U.S. are intended to drive home to Western viewers lessons in moral equivalence.

Actually, they work to achieve just the opposite: a contempt for maliciously medieval minds, regardless of whether their owners wear traditional garb or Nike baseball caps. The average American must ask himself, when he sees Arab men and boys beating themselves on their heads with swords, or dying by the hundreds in stampedes to throw pebbles at a rock: Is this what we're sending our troops to protect? For whose country or what values are our troops dying and being maimed for life? This is what we're supposed to respect? Why aren't we doing something about Iran, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia? Aren't they our real enemies? What are we waiting for? Another 9/11?

Americans do not realize that President Bush and his ilk are waiting for tolerance and altruism to work their "magic."

The multiculturalist philosophy that denies the West any degree of superiority over demonstrably inferior cultures is not advancing the gospel of "equality" in the pestholes of the world, which include Iraq and Afghanistan. One may include Pakistan and any other nation with a Muslim majority. Quite the opposite. It has given those pestholes, each ruled by a tripartite philosophy of mysticism, stagnation and corruption, leave to declare war on the West.

Of course, the latest irony is President Bush's stubborn, reason-defying defence of a plan to hand over management of American ports to an Arab firm based in Dubai. Would FDR have proposed handing over management of American ports to a German firm during World War II, because it was more "efficient"? Don't worry about it, say the press secretary and the news anchors. Look at Dubai's skyline, it's so modern! They're even planning on building the world's tallest skyscraper here. And the U.S. Navy calls on Dubai hundreds of times. But, one wonders how much all that is costing the U.S. taxpayer in oil prices and expenditures to maintain our military in a war the White House refuses to prosecute.

However, if we can't trust the Pakistani intelligence and military to hunt down the Taliban and bin Laden, or the Iraqi government not to turn against its sponsor, the U.S., why should we trust the interlocking Arab connections that would profit from Bush's folly to not let Al Quada or the Muslim Brotherhood or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to sneak a WMD into the U.S.?

Didn't Dubai only last week agree, at the behest of Adolf Ahmadinejad, to stop anti-Iranian broadcasts? With allies in the "war on terror" like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- whose president planted a Judas kiss on Bush by demanding that the Mohammed cartoons cease -- who needs enemies?

Altruism delivers a Judas kiss every time it is embraced in foreign policy. All we need do is turn the other cheek to receive it. It has been the premier liar and traitor of Western history. Sometimes the unintended consequences are immediate; at other times, long in fruition. We are witnessing a soufflé of both. But its practitioners have never been the ones to pay the price. When men begin to tire of being lied to and betrayed and sacrificed in the name of an unearthly ideal, when reason rules men's means, ends and values, that will be the end of altruist irony.

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:: Friday, February 24, 2006 ::

Truck-driving judge loses position due to bigamy 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:41 PM

File this under Friday goofiness:

A small-town judge with three wives was ordered removed from the bench by the Utah Supreme Court on Friday. The court unanimously agreed with the findings of the state's Judicial Conduct Commission, which recommended the removal of Judge Walter Steed for violating the state's bigamy law.

Steed has served for 25 years on the Justice Court in the polygamist community of Hildale in southern Utah, where he ruled on misdemeanor crimes such as drunken driving and domestic violence cases.

"[W]hen the law is violated or ignored by those charged by society with the fair and impartial enforcement of the law, the stability of our society is placed at undue risk," the court's ruling said.

Steed, who also works as a truck driver, scheduled a news conference for later Friday to discuss the ruling. He was paid a few hundred dollars monthly for serving in the part-time judicial position. [AP]
It’s like this: if a man wants more than one wife, he clearly seeks to suffer. Who am I to stand in his path? That said, I would like to fill the now-vacant judgeship position. I promise that I will take no more than one wife at any one time.

Unfortunately, I am not licensed to drive a commercial vehicle . . .

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South Dakota House Approves Abortion Ban Bill 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:25 PM

This just in from the AP:

The Legislature on Friday approved a ban on nearly all abortions in South Dakota, setting up a direct legal assault on Roe v. Wade.

Republican Gov. Mike Rounds said he was inclined to sign the bill, which would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman's life. The measure would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Many opponents and supporters of abortion rights believe the U.S. Supreme Court is more likely to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion now that Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito are on the bench.

Planned Parenthood, which operates the only abortion clinic in South Dakota, has pledged to sue over the measure, which would become law July 1. The clinic does about 800 abortions a year.

The House passed the bill 50-18 on Friday. The Senate approved the measure 23-12 earlier this week.

Under the measure, doctors could get up to five years in prison for performing an illegal abortion.

The governor said he believes it would be better to eliminate abortion in a series of steps, but some abortion opponents want a court challenge that could wipe out abortion in one fell swoop.

"I've indicated I'm pro-life and I do believe abortion is wrong, and that we should do everything we can to save lives," Rounds said. "If this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into law."

During debate on the measure, lawmakers were told that an anonymous donor has pledged to give the state $1 million to defend the abortion ban in court. The Legislature is setting up a special account to accept donations for the legal fight.

"I can tell you first-hand we've had people stopping in our office trying to drop off checks to promote the defense of this legislation already," Rounds said.
And I sincerely hope that Objectivists will take the initiative and support the Center’s amicus program and not leave it to other voices to defend our fundamental freedoms.

If not, I don't know what we think we are fighting for.

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The scope of the conflict 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:06 PM

Gus Van Horn is following the West’s response to the real problem behind the Muslim cartoon riots—and notes the West’s unwillingness to forcefully stand up for individual rights:

While [Bush] sounds like he understands the importance of freedom of speech here, his failure to morally condemn the deadly rioting reeks of weakness to these animals. "What will this man do to us if he is afraid even to state his mind about what we are doing?" they will rightly ask.

The man in charge of protecting our sacred rights has no business walking on eggshells just because some followers of the religion that inspired the deaths of 3,000 Americans in a single morning claim to be "offended." Until terrorism, rioting, and murder committed in Allah's name become newsworthy again, no Moslem has a right to be offended about anything coming from a Westerner.
Indeed. After Gus examines a recent Vatican statement on the cartoon riots, he observes:

Both Washington and the Vatican have vigorously denounced acts against religion, but sound almost indifferent by comparison concerning acts against men. Moslems demonstrate so frequently with suicide bombings the consequences of placing a higher value on religion than on man's life that there is no excuse for a failure on anyone's part to appreciate the point. This makes the statements of both Bush and the Vatican completely unacceptable.
That's a crucial point--this conflict is not about religion--it is about individual rights.

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John Lewis to appear on WMFD regarding ports controversy 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:32 PM

I just received this note from John Lewis:

I was interviewed today by WMFD Television, Mansfield, Ohio. The subject was the Port Operations issue.

It will be broadcast ON THE WEB, at www.wmfd.com later today, probably around 5:00 PM and after.

It was done in my office. As always, I have no idea how well I did. I wanted to make three points:

1. This is an issue because fanatics with government support want to kill us, with nuclear bombs. Remember this context.

2. We cannot protect our borders, and to try is the wrong approach. Let the UAE have the port operations contract; this is minor.

3. The issue is the center of the insurgency, Iran. The real story is the growing power of Iran. Until we take out Iran, there is no security. Just last week Iran pressured the UAE to stop broadcasting radio programs that use offensive words, such as "freedom." Every country in the area will be forced to cave to Iranian demands, if we do not stand up to them. The result will be a catastrophe on America.
UPDATE: Online video here, and here's the blurb that appeared on WMFD describing Lewis's position:

Ashland Professor Examines U.S. Port Issue

Nationwide, Americans are worrying that the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) takeover of six major U.S. ports is opening the door to another terrorist attack. The Bush Administration now appears to be slowing down the process after overwhelming criticism. While many are focusing on the port issue in and of itself, Dr. John Lewis, Assistant History Professor at Ashland University, says America must not look at this issue apart from everything else going on in the world. He says our greatest concern should be the rising power of the Iranian Islamic state. He says Iran continues to gain more power, is a solid enemy and that problem needs to be ended if we are really going to be safe in America.
Sounds right to me--bravo, Dr. Lewis.

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A young Ellsworth Toohey? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:10 PM

Do you remember Henry M. Bowles III, that kid I bloged about from Northwestern University who wrote in his campus paper that less intelligent people are better equipped for the military positions because they have "less to lose." Well, he's at it again, this time claiming Ayn Rand as an early influence--that is, before he turned on to religion and then on to postmodernism. [Hat Tip: Randex]

According to a wonderfully self-absorbed young Henry,

My sources were primitive-Internet news, think tank sites, Ayn Rand-and I argued in clumsy strokes. Still, I was the only political dissident at the school, and before long I was having nasty fights with the admissions director over affirmative action, and with just about everybody on abortion. Debate consumed my life.
That's of course before young Henry went to college and really learned how to think.

By the time I started at Northwestern, my interest [in evangelical Christianity] ceased to be purely academic, and I was experimenting routinely with these people: Bible studies, prayer groups, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Evanston Bible Fellowship on Sunday mornings. However fascinating I found them, though, the appeal of radical Protestantism was ultimately limited. I like my religious experimentation best alone. I've only reached points of spiritual ecstasy in solitude and am more a mystic than anything else.
OK, so young Henry makes it up as he goes along. Despite his spiritual conflict, his conservative zenith was soon to be:

I had been elected president of the College Republicans at a time when campus conservatism was anemic. . . . [T]he only speakers that conservative groups would help bankroll were flaccid party insiders like Ken Starr and Ralph Reed.
OK, young Henry has read Ayn Rand, so is he going to figure out that conservatism is dead and instead turn to a rational philosophy. No!

If any principle underlies my attitude toward politics and, yes, sex, it is my rejection of the notion that identity is something that needs defining and resolution. Identity should be conflicted, fluid, and even painful-postmodern. And is there such a thing as a "postmodern conservative?" Of course not.
In short, young Henry is totally unprincipled, but nevertheless sought to be chairman of the College Republicans and lead his fellow students toward their political goals. Young Henry claimed Ayn Rand as a source of inspiration, yet he embraced mysticism and utterly rejected Rand's case for reason.

"Identity should be conflicted, fluid, and even painful-postmodern." Ah, identity should be non-identifiable. So while young Henry has a personal relationship with "spiritual ecstasy," he's not quite on speaking terms with verbs of being. And somewhere in the processes of young Henry's "conflicted, fluid, and even painful" brain, he insulted members of the armed forces and became notorious.

Ladies and gentleman, I think we might have the makings of a young Ellsworth Toohey. All our young friend need do is name his campus newspaper column "One Small Voice" to make his journey complete.

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Binswanger on the ports controversy 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:55 AM

Harry Binswanger gets to the heart of the issue:

[I] refuse to get embroiled in the discussion of the pros and cons of who operates our ports--as I refuse to get embroiled in the discussion of whether wire-tapping of phone calls is or isn't a legitimate means of "homeland defense." These things are a diversion of the issue.

You fear a nuclear bomb going off in New York Harbor? Then crush the enemy. End the mullahs regime in Iran. Crush Syria. Whip the Saudis into line. And tell the world that self-sacrifice is evil and religion is a lie. Which means: tell the world that man is an end in himself, that his life on this earth is the only thing that is sacred, that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, and that reason, not faith or force, is man's only means of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

It's either/or. The forces of literal barbarism are rising around the world. And here in America, as well--on the left and the right. There is not much time left, but we have to act on the premise that there is still time to change the intellectual climate.
Exactly. And have I mentioned that you ought to subscribe to HBL recently?

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:: Thursday, February 23, 2006 ::

Carnival of the Objectivists! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:29 PM

You know what Objectivist bloggers need: a blog carnival of their own. I propose the Rule of Reason host the first "Carnival of the Objectivists" Saturday, March 4th. After that, we can pass on the hosting to other Objectivist blogs, say once every two weeks or so.

Drop a line in the comments box if you want to include your blog or website and be a future host. Let's have some fun this--it's carnival-time!

Update: So here's the plan: participants (you) should let the host know (me) what's hot on your respective blogs. As host, I’ll put it all together in one article, add a festive atmosphere and publish it all on the 4th.

The only caveat: This carnival will be an Objectivist carnival, and Objectivishes are not allowed.

And if you want to sign up to host the next Objectivist carnival (every two weeks should be enough to encourage good content on the smaller blogs), let me know, and I'll administer that process as well (well, I’ll just put your blog on the list). Think the competition to be the host city for the Olympics, only with the bribery being heartily encouraged. :-P

That’s it. Let’s have some fun!

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University of Washington-Boyington Update 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:55 AM

This snip from the University of Washington campus newspaper . . .

After hearing from several students the night of the meeting, KVI-Seattle radio host Kirby Wilbur criticized the senate's decision on the air.

"As an alum, a member of the media, a taxpayer and a citizen, I had every right to get involved," Wilbur said in an e-mail. "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen, or stop making stupid comments."

As word spread about the Senate's vote, commentary appeared on hundreds of conservative Web sites bashing and threatening certain senate members.

The debate made it onto national television and news stations, including Fox News and MSNBC's Scarborough Country. More than 115 Marine Corps veterans signed a letter expressing their disapproval to the Board of Regents.

Criticism was primarily directed at ASUW Vice President Ashley Miller and sophomore Jill Edwards. Both said they received hundreds of hateful messages during the last two weeks.

Online blogs reported Miller said the UW already has enough memorials honoring rich, white men. The meeting minutes recorded "many monuments at the UW already commemorate rich white men."

"It's not that rich, white men don't deserve to be honored," Miller said yesterday. "We continue to overlook leaders of color and those who are women."
Like Pappy Boyington himself, who was of Sioux heritage--and as if a person's race or gender should ever be allowed to qualify or disqualify them for being recognized for their heroic deeds. Good to see that the open letter received a mention though.

This other snip from "Expose the Left" features a Scarborough Country interview with Nicholas Baptiste, a University of Washington student senator who opposed the memorial [Hat tip: The Dougout]. Baptiste comes off has virulently anti-American, arguing that US corporations were somehow to blame for Nazi fascism.

The disappointment I had with this piece was that Scarborough did not ask Baptiste if he would have been free to hold his position had the Axis powers prevailed and Baptiste was as critical of the Axis powers as he is of America. Even if an opponent's views are shocking and seemingly unconscionable on their face, I still think it is nevertheless critical to show that they are acting against their own self-interest in holding them. Rather then treat America and Boyington's legacy as a Platonic ideal, I would have preferred that Scarborough treat Boyington's legacy as something essential to Baptiste's own life. This way, Baptiste would not have been reveled as an unappreciative buffoon in a bad suit, he would have been reveled as a self-renouncing, unappreciative buffoon--and that's the only way the left can be defeated.

As a relativist, Baptiste simply holds that all things are equal (except the US, which is lower than low because its people consider themselves free and great). The end result is Baptiste and his ilk evade the need to recognize evil for what it is and act accordingly--and thus champion those who are instrumental in evil’s defeat. They demand America commit suicide, but (to paraphrase Harry Binswanger) the only life they have a right to take is their own.

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:: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 ::

United Arab Emirates port purchase to be blocked? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:43 PM

So some folks from the United Arab Emirates want to buy six American ports. No big deal—unless the purchase is blocked by the government—and that looks quite threatening.

So here's my question to the anti-free ownership advocates (it’s a three-fer):

1.) What does American ownership of the ports give law enforcement that they don’t already have given that the ports are already foreign controlled? (The ports in question are owned by a British firm).

2.) If you support American-based ports being repatriated by law, what would your reaction be if a foreign government repatriated American-owned property that rest on its shores?

3.) Do you disagree with the claim that repatriating foreign-owned property would have negative economic implications for the US? Do you think foreigners would still feel secure investing capital in the US?

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Toonophobia! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:33 AM

From the brilliant brush of Cox and Forkum:

B-B-B-B-B-B-B-Blasphemy!

Who better to lead the charge against the Jihadists and their threats of brutal retaliation for Mohammad blasphemy then Cox and Forkum—the cleverest (and now the most courageous) editorial cartoonists in all America. Bravo!

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:: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 ::

Crunchy-Cons: the new face of conservatism 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:20 PM

This snip by George H. Nash in today's Wall Street Journal describes the "crunchy-cons," a new aspect to the conservative movement:

Rod Dreher, a columnist and editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a self-confessed member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. As a lapsed Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism several years ago, he is an unabashed religious and social conservative. He has little use for the morally relativist and libertine tendencies of modern liberalism. Too often, he says, "the Democrats act like the Party of Lust."

But Mr. Dreher is also a passionate environmentalist, a devotee of organic farming and a proponent of the New Urbanism, an anti-sprawl movement aimed at making residential neighborhoods more like pre-suburban small towns. He dislikes industrial agriculture, shopping malls, television, McMansions and mass consumerism. Efficiency--the guiding principle of free markets--is an "idol," he says, that must be "smashed." Too often, he claims, Republicans act like "the Party of Greed."
Ready to punch in the wall? It gets better:

In Mr. Dreher's view, consumer-crazed capitalism makes a fetish of individual choice and, if left unchecked, "tends to pull families and communities apart." Thus consumerism and conservatism are, for him, incompatible, a fact that mainstream conservatives, he says, simply do not grasp. He warns that capitalism must be reined in by "the moral and spiritual energies of the people." It is not politics and economics that will save us, he declares. It is adherence to the "eternal moral norms" known as the Permanent Things.

And the most permanent thing of all is God. At the heart of Mr. Dreher's family-centered crunchy conservatism is an unwavering commitment to religious faith. And not just any religious faith but rigorous, old-fashioned orthodoxy. Only a firm grounding in religious commitment, he believes, can sustain crunchy conservatives in their struggle against the radical individualism and materialism he decries. Nearly all the crunchy cons he interviews are devoutly Christian or orthodox Jewish believers who are deliberately ordering their lives toward the ultimate end of "serving God, not the self"--often at considerable financial sacrifice.
What a hero, sacrificing himself to old-fashioned transcendent ideals and how brave the stand to "smash" the free market. I guess I should be all happy, because underneath these monstrous and wicked ideas stands the vibrant American sense of life.

Yet as the chestnut goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies? Will this new subset of the conservatives once and for all kill the notion that conservatives have anything to do with capitalism? I sure as hell hope so, because I for one get sick and tired of being even remotely lumped in with the likes of Mr. Rod Dreher.

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:: Monday, February 20, 2006 ::

A memorial . . . scholarship fund 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:30 PM

It seems the University of Washington has now created a special Gregory "Pappy" Boyington Memorial Scholarship Fund in answer to the recent outcry over UW student government's decision to squelch a memorial on campus. This from the university fundraising website:

[This] scholarship fund honor[s] World War II Fighter Pilot Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and UW alumnus. Boyington was a 1934 UW aeronautics & astronautics engineering graduate. This fund provides scholarships to undergraduate students who are either a U.S Marine Corps veteran or are the child of a U.S Marine Corps veteran.
I have to hand it to the university. They have turned the controversy around into something that will bring them money. Still, the good news it that the funds will go to Marine veterans and their children, and not the kind of goofballs and mooks that sparked the outrage in the first place.

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The Capitalist's Amicus Curiae 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:56 AM

Since its inception, the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism has filed several amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs with American courts, including briefs on the Microsoft antitrust case, the Nike commercial speech case, the University of Michigan affirmative action cases and a case involving the application of the antitrust laws to the US Postal Service.

The reason that the Center elected to file the briefs is academic: the decisions of the US Supreme Court and lower courts affect the freedom and prosperity of every American. Additionally, as the most intellectual branch of our government, the courts are the realm where Objectivists are particularly well-suited toward having a positive impact.

Building upon CAC's groundbreaking legal advocacy, I propose a new effort to submit amicus curiae briefs on every key case before the Supreme Court that impacts the right of Americans to live for their own sake and to profit from their own work. I solicit the financial support of Objectivists who believe in fighting for their freedom—and who want to help to find and empower new Objectivists in the process.

My proposal and my call for financial support will be met with controversy by some. It will be argued that individual legal arguments alone cannot change the direction in which our nation is headed. Those who demand quick results often find easy disappointment.

Yet as a stream of principled answers to important questions of our day, coupled with law-review essays, newspaper op-eds, and other elements of a well-constructed campaign of Objectivist intellectual activism, CAC's legal advocacy will have a significant impact—if one is willing to think and fight for the long-term.

The principle governing my optimism is straightforward: to be heard by others, one must speak to their interests. To attract new adherents to our philosophy, I believe that one must constantly demonstrate that Objectivism provides practical answers to the problems that we face as a people and that Objectivism's proponents consistently act from a reasoned base. While spreading knowledge of Ayn Rand’s written works is the proper foundation of any campaign to advance Objectivism, it is not the only means of advancing Objectivism. Ayn Rand provided powerful analyses of the trials of her day—it is for us to analyze and answer the trials of ours.

Ayn Rand’s genius created a tool that will allow man to reach summits that today we can only imagine. Will you join me and help to expand her legacy? Will you help to support the Center and be a part of its new effort to expand the fight for reason, egoism and individual rights in our most important institutions?

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:: Saturday, February 18, 2006 ::

Marine veterans appalled by University of Washington attempt to spin Boyington controversy 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:11 AM

Below is the Marine veterans' answer the University of Washington administration's weasel-like response to the Boyington open letter.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A group of Marine Corps veterans remain dismayed by the University of Washington's response to the national outrage surrounding a decision by the university's student government to quash a proposal that would have honored university alumnus and Medal of Honor recipient Gregory "Pappy" Boyington with a small memorial.

Angered by reports that the student government's action was animated by the view that Boyington was a "white male" who killed other people and thus was not a role model worthy of emulation, a group of one-hundred-fourteen Marine Corps veterans wrote an open letter to the university community defending Boyington and calling on the university community to reconsider its decision. Yet instead of a thoughtful response to an upsetting controversy, the veterans received a form letter reply that denied that any of the outrageous statements reported in the media took place.

According to Nicholas Provenzo, author of the open letter and a Marine veteran, the university is attempting to spin the controversy away rather than take ownership of the appalling statements made against the memory a great American hero.

"This controversy didn't miracle itself into existence," says Provenzo. "What did happen was members of the public examined the posted minutes of the student senate meeting where the monument proposal was voted down. When they read the offensive and incendiary statements made by some of the students, that was enough to ignite the firestorm."

"It's the students own record of their meeting that sparked this national outrage," says Provenzo. "Yet the university nevertheless has the gall to accuse the public of misconstruing the very words the students used to describe their own debate."

"This issue is about more than just a monument to one man," says David Williams, another veteran signatory of the open-letter. "It is about recognizing that the actions by certain people in history were essential toward protecting the freedoms that are the basis of our nation and civilization."

"The irony of this debate is that the students are now spiting on the memory of a man whose very deeds allow them to speak their minds without fear of repercussion from police, church, or government," says Williams.

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:: Friday, February 17, 2006 ::

It's official--we're evil! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:31 PM

Imagine my pride when scanning the website server logs, I found that CAC has been listed at the "Portal of Evil," a leftist website seemingly run by the kind of people who set fire to McDonalds because Big Mac's oppress the proletariat. They didn’t like our review of Craig Biddle’s “Loving Life” (so I wager his Objective Standard Google ad that shows up in their site will leave them foaming at the bit) and they didn’t like some other stuff so boring I can’t even make myself recall what they said.

I did rate my own mention from an anonymous classmate at George Mason who didn't like the fact that I'm not as handsome as him and that I mentioned my ex-wife the opera singer in--get this--a class that looked at opera and politics. The goofball was also upset that I wrote a column in the campus paper and set up a table to sell Atlas Shrugged (He didn’t mention the Rachel Corrie posters though). Hey, what can I say? I’M EVIL!!! Muuuuhahahaha!!!

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University of Washington spins "Pappy" Boyington outrage 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:55 PM

I received the following form letter reply from the University of Washington for the Marine veteran’s letter that was sent out this morning:


President Emmert asked me to respond on his behalf to your message about the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) Senate debate regarding a memorial to honor Col. Boyington.

The ASUW Senate, an arm of student government on campus, is a forum in which students discuss a wide range of issues, including the proposal for the memorial. After considerable debate, the resolution failed by a tiebreaker vote. As ASUW Senate Chair Alex Kim described in the message below, students thought long and hard about their decision and cast their votes for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons that have been publicized are addressed in Mr. Kim's report.

According to Mr. Kim and ASUW President Lee Dunbar, who co-sponsored the resolution, many students felt that we should honor all veterans appropriately, and not single out one, even though Col. Boyington was a Medal of Honor winner. It should also be noted that thanks to the work of Dean Emeritus Brewster Denny and the contributions of many UW alumni, several years ago the University erected a fitting memorial to UW students, faculty and staff who lost their lives in World War II.

Different versions of what transpired during the debate have circulated through the electronic media. I hope you will take a moment to read Mr. Kim's account. I also hope that regardless of one's point of view on this issue, the exercise of democracy that occurred at the Senate meeting can be seen as a meaningful learning opportunity for the students engaged in the debate.

Sincerely,

Eric S. Godfrey
Acting Vice President for Student Affairs

________________________________________________________________________

It has recently come to our attention that the actions of the ASUW Student Senate last night have been greatly misrepresented to the student body and the general public. As such I wanted to clarify what actually occurred.

The Student Senate exists to create official student opinion by bringing together student representatives from all across campus. The resolution concerning Colonel Boyington (available online at http://senate.asuw.org/legislation/12/R/R-12-18.html) cited the Colonel's exemplary service record, including the fact that he was awarded the Medal of Honor for service in World War II. The resolution called for the creation of a memorial in his honor. Passage of the resolution would not have necessarily resulted in the creation such a memorial, but would have recommended it to the University of Washington.

The debate within the Senate was fair, balanced, and respectful. Senators representing a diverse array of viewpoints spoke on the resolution, raising numerous points as to the merits and demerits of the resolution.

1.) The ASUW Student Senate declined to support the construction of a memorial for an individual. This in no way indicates a lack of respect for the individual or the cause, merely that the Senate did not support the construction of a memorial. The Senate weighed factors such as financial viability, the logistics of implementation, which historical points are relevant, and the difficulty in assessing which veterans should be memorialized over others. Questions regarding these factors were not addressed in the legislation itself and thus became points of debate during the meeting.

2.) Senators speak on behalf of the opinions of their constituents. This legislation has been posted publicly for nearly a month and senators have used that time to discuss the issues with their constituents. There is no way to distill a central argument of the Senate for or against any piece of legislation the Senate discusses. While the vote itself is a yes or no decision, the reasons senators choose to vote in a particular manner vary widely. Therefore, it is inappropriate to represent a decision by the Therefore, it is inappropriate to represent a decision by the Senate as resulting from any single statement or point-of-view.

3.) No senator speaking in opposition to the resolution suggested that deaths in war are the equivalent of murder. One senator, in making a motion to remove references to the number of Japanese planes shot down, suggested the focus of the resolution should be on the man's service to his country. The sponsor of the amendment suggested that death in war was sometimes a "necessary evil" and that the focus of the honor should not be on the necessary evil, but rather on the service. That motion passed overwhelmingly. A further amendment to remove the text of the inscription of the Medal of Honor from the legislation subsequently failed overwhelmingly.

4.) No senator stated that we should not pass the resolution on the grounds that Colonel Boyington was a "white male." One senator stated that we have many monuments and memorials to white males, but did not suggest this was a reason to not support the resolution.

Throughout the debate in the Student Senate, the tone was very respectful.

If you have any additional questions, please contact:
ASUW President Lee Dunbar (asuwpres@u.washington.edu),
Student Senate Chair Alex Kim (asuwssch@u.washington.edu),
Student Senate Vice-Chair Erin Shields (asuwssvc@u.washington.edu)
or Director of Operations Karl Smith (asuwbdop@u.washington.edu)

Alex Kim
Student Senate Chair
Associated Students of the University of Washington
206.543.1780(office)
206.669.9562 (mobile)
http://senate.asuw.org/

Office of the President
University of Washington
Room 301, Gerberding Hall
Box 351230
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone: (206) 543-5010
Fax: (206) 616-1784
This is what one calls spin. “Oh we didn’t to this, we did that—Oh, we didn’t mean this, we meant that.”

This story didn't just miracle itself into existence. What did happen was someone read the posted minutes of the student senate meeting that nixed the monument proposal with all its incendiary quotes, and that was enough to ignite the firestorm.

It's their own minuets—how can the university accuse the public of misconstruing the very words the students themselves used to memorialize their senate meeting?

My spin detector is signaling red hot here. Time to get thinking about the next steps . . .

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A Leaden Silence on the Islamic Threat to Free Speech 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 12:08 PM

An ominous silence has followed the initial uproar over the Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. The silence is deafening, emanating from two quarters that properly should be the most concerned: the news media and the government. They are either oblivious or indifferent to the crucial issue of the inviolability of the First Amendment.

Instead, they are obsessed with issues far removed from the question of whether or not anyone has the right to mock an idea or an icon or simply express thoughtful criticism of it. New Orleans and the Katrina victims, Vice President Cheney's hunting accident, videos of state policemen hit by passing cars while writing speeding tickets, obese children, and truth in multi-grain cereal labels, comprise just a fraction of the myopic fare offered on primetime news. So many deserving scrub pines obscure the redwoods in the distance.

The continuing destructive and deadly riots against the cartoons in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other locales now only merit incidental reportage, if any at all. Our politicians as well have tiptoed around the cartoon subject with a pusillanimity hard to credit them. They are otherwise so voluble about everything else, such as the necessity of smoking bans, gun control, reducing high cholesterol, punishing oil companies for their profits, and simpler Medicare prescription drug guidelines.

One should not blame semi-clueless, photogenic news anchors too much; they are just highly paid teleprompter readers posing as reporters cum entertainers. They read whatever their highly paid, politically correct house news writers churn out on orders from their editors. Who are they to initiate a probe into the speech restrictions of the Campaign Finance Law?

One can, however, charge a heavier responsibility to our politicians. Every one of them is sworn to uphold the Constitution, but not one has dared say much about the Danish cartoonists and how their predicament and jeopardy might just as easily be imported to the U.S. and experienced by American cartoonists. A veritable "clash of civilizations" is underway. Not one governor, senator, or representative has shown the least inclination to enter the fray on behalf of his electorate or constituents, or even demonstrated awareness of the clash.

One might be tempted to think they are exercising discretion as the better part of valor; after all, they could very well be targeted for Islamic violence or at least a noisy demonstration by Muslims if they publicly took the side of free speech and never minded anyone's offended feelings. But that temptation would be brief, given the venal and pragmatic character of most politicians. Their philosophy of serving and protecting productive Americans is to manage and regulate their lives for their own good, in exchange for handsome salaries, generous medical benefits, bountiful retirement plans, and innumerable perquisites. All paid for by fettered and yoked tax cows.

The realm of ideas and rights seems too frightening for most politicians to venture into. They fear it for one of two reasons: they might discover principles which they might otherwise feel compelled to champion, but would not want to for various reasons ranging from party loyalty to careerist inconvenience; or because they might anticipate the shame of ignorance and a sense of inferiority that can only be assuaged by a pragmatic disdain projecting a sense of superiority. As one Oxford don, a professor of logic, remarked: "Philosophy teaches you how to detect bad arguments, so it is no surprise when politicians are not keen for it to be studied." Nor keen to study it, either.

Silence is golden, goes the proverb. Golden, perhaps, for a spell of contemplation and cogitation. Silence can be leaden, too, signaling a baleful ignorance or a pernicious turpitude when the times demand the knowledge, courage and character of our Founders. Listen carefully; you might in time hear the dull thud of the First Amendment as it falls behind a diverting forest of the pedestrian and mundane, unheralded by our pseudo-Solons and unnoticed by the news media.

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:: Thursday, February 16, 2006 ::

"Pappy" Boyington letter update 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:05 PM

Below is the final draft of the open letter I wrote in answer to the recent decision of the University of Washington's student government to quash a proposal to erect a small monument to Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a beloved Marine Corps legend.

One-hundred-fourteen Marine veterans have signed the letter which I will submit to the university president, student government president and campus newspaper at first business tomorrow.

The letter and its signatories are below. Please note that participation in the letter should not be taken as a sign of support for CAC.

An open letter to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Washington:

According to the University of Washington student government, university alumnus Gregory "Pappy" Boyington is not a person university students should strive to emulate and he should not be honored with a memorial on campus because as a Marine Corps officer, he was a "rich white man" who killed the enemies he fought.

As veterans of the Marine Corps who have dedicated our lives to the defense of America, we find the student government's position deeply offensive and hypocritical. The exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of an American academic institution is the product of America's protection of the freedom of the mind. Without that freedom, the university itself ceases to exist.

Yet during the Second World War, the freedom of the mind was under deliberate attack by the forces of fascism and military dictatorship. American victory was only achieved because of the great courage, skill, and commitment of those who fought-a group of men and women who often won their battles at a great personal cost.

Few better personify the history of this struggle than Colonel "Pappy" Boyington. A maverick leader, Boyington assembled one of the most effective air wings in the Pacific theater of battle and was personally responsible for twenty-eight aerial victories over Japanese fighters. As commander of the famous "Black Sheep" squadron, Boyington led a formation of twenty-four Marine fighters over a Japanese airbase where sixty hostile aircraft were grounded. There, Boyington and his men persistently circled the airdrome and shot down twenty Japanese fighters without the loss of a single American aircraft. Later shot down himself and captured by the Japanese, Boyington endured twenty harrowing months as a prisoner of war.

Yet in final victory, Boyington bore no hatred toward his former enemy, and even credited a Japanese woman for saving him from death by starvation while he was a prisoner. A grateful nation chose to honor Boyington with the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, America's two top awards for heroism and valor under fire.

In the face of such achievement, it is inconceivable to us that the students of today's University of Washington would throttle an attempt to honor one of their university's most famous and illustrious alumni. The university community stands in part due to the deeds of this giant, yet today it seems all Boyington's memory receives from the university is malice and false witness.

Worse, these curses against Boyington's name come at a time when a new generation of Americans are locked in a life-and-death struggle with an enemy no less as tyrannical than the one Boyington had to face. Will this new generation of American servicemen and women be denied the inspiration of the University of Washington's great alumnus because a handful of students blanch at the thought of killing an enemy who is trying to kill us and are wedded to a pet ideology that slanders courage?

We, the undersigned hope not. We urge our fellow Americans to remember Boyington as a unique American hero, worthy of emulation, and we urge the students of the University of Washington to redress the injustice its student government has committed against a great hero's memory.

Andrew G. Adams, Sergeant '77-'91
Robert Adao, Chief Warrant Officer 3 '73-'97
Daniel Bailey, Corporal '67-'68
Dr. Andrew S. Berry, PhD, Private '82
Robert J. Bennett, Master Sergeant '66-'92
Gregory J. Bertling, Lance Corporal '74-'80
Cassandra D. Bieber, Lance Corporal, '98-'02
Karl T. Bischof, Corporal '51-'53
Bruce Bley, Lance Corporal '67-'70
Michael J. Bogle, Lance Corporal '93-'97
C. F. Brockman, Sergeant, '47-'51
Dane Brown, Lance Corporal '64-'69
Wilbert Browning. Jr. Sergeant '76-'82
William Buck, Master Sergeant '56-'80
Gary Budd, Staff Sergeant '66-'72
Don Bumgarner, Lance Corporal '66-'68
Joseph P Carey, Corporal '64-'67
John M. Chaffee, Sergeant '63-'67
Mike Cheramie, Gunnery Sergeant '83-'03
Lloyd H. Cole, Staff Sergeant '72-'86
John J DePrimo, Sergeant '81-'94
Paul A. Dexter, Sergeant '71-'78
Paul W. Doolittle, Sergeant '81-'91
J. Russ Dufresne, Corporal '83-'88
Kevin A. Dunwoody, Staff Sergeant '82-'98
Lynann Eckhoff, Corporal '90-'94
John R. Edwards, Lance Corporal '81-'84
Ken Elliott, Sergeant '63-'67
Don Faria, Staff Sergeant '45-'52
Nick Feder, Sergeant '65-'68, '83-'89
Jack Fitzgerald, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class, USN '66-'69
Andrew Fletcher, Sergeant '81 -'91
Julie G. Foreman, Lance Corporal '90-'93
Roy E. Fulmer, Corporal '73-'77
Ricky Gagnon, Sergeant '77-'81
Ralph J. Gallagher, Lance Corporal '66-'68
Tim J. Gawry, Corporal, '81-'85
Joseph Galvan, Sergeant '94-'04
Sylvia Gonzalez-Miller, Sergeant '91-'04
Robert Grocholski, Sergeant '54-'64
David Halik, Staff Sergeant '72-'78
Dennis L. Healy, Corporal '66-'70
Philip L Hickman, Private First Class, '65-'68
Eric C. Holt, Staff Sergeant, '88-Present
Eric R. Howard, Sergeant, '91-'95
James C. Hues, Sergeant '64-'68
Wayne Humphrey, Staff Sergeant, '60-'70
Gerald A. Humphrey, Corporal '55-'63
Larry D. Imus, Staff Sergeant '65-'73
Mark Jackson, Corporal, '70-'72
Jannina Johnson, Lance Corporal '88-'90
Ray Jones, Staff Sergeant '58-'70
Floyd Kay, Staff Sergeant '48-'52
Glenn K. Kellar, Lance Corporal '73-'75
William Kereluk, Corporal '86-'92
Robert J. Koceja, Sergeant '68-'72
Bart Kohler, Corporal '92-'98
William G. Lang, Lance Corporal '64-'67
Jack Lahrman, Corporal '56-'58
Sean Leach, Sergeant '92-'00
John Lewis, Master Gunnery Sergeant '65-'92
J.J. Lovett, Staff Sergeant '90-Present
Brian W. Lusebrink, Sergeant '68-'72
Kelly T Mallory, Lance Corporal '87-'90
William G. Marciniak, Staff Sergeant '66-'72
Loyde Mcillwain, Sergeant '85-'91
Michael D. McFarland, Lance Corporal, '67-'73
Mark A. Medina, Staff Sergeant, '86-'95
Rondi Miller, Sergeant '86-'92
David M. Nelson, Sergeant '89-'95
Nathan C. Nickerson, III, Sergeant '80-'83
Dick Overton, Staff Sergeant, '69-'71
Jason M. Paul, Corporal '96-Present
Donald R. Parkins, Corporal '63-'69
Gene Pelletier, Sergeant '68-'72
Jon Pelletier, Lance Corporal '03-Present
Maria Pelletier, Lance Corporal '71-'73
Antonio Pineiro, Sergeant '83-'92
Nicholas P. Provenzo, Corporal '88-'93
Frank V. Rago, Corporal '81-'89
George Reilly, Corporal '60-'64
Carlos R. Rickman, Corporal '89-'96
Martin Rochelle, Gunnery Sergeant '84-'04
Donald W. Roland, Private First Class, '49-'52
Andrew M. Rubio, Sr., Corporal '90-'94
Edward D. Schmidt, Private '70-'76
Andrew Schwake, Staff Sergeant '81-'94
Aren W. Self, Corporal '71-'75
Ronald C. Shaw, Gunnery Sergeant '66-'87
J. J. Shaver, Sergeant, '66-'74
Robert J Silva, Sergeant '77-'87
Michael D. Snell, Gunnery Sergeant, '76-'98
Kenneth W. Soto, Sr., Gunnery Sergeant '78-'96
James Stedman, Corporal '60-'64
Chris Stergos, Corporal '00-'05
James C. Swinarton, Sergeant '99-'03
Brent Talbot, Staff Sergeant '81-'90
Charles B. Terven, Jr., Sergeant '63-'68
Robert B. Thompson, Private First Class '47-'51
William Tipton, Private First Class '68-'70
John A. Trusewicz, Lance Corporal, '60-'66
Anthony R. Villa, Master Sergeant, '81-'04
Amy M. Vorndran, Corporal '98-'01
David K. Wardley, Corporal '80-'84
Ronald Wicker, Master Sergeant '57-'78
Keith Windsor, Staff Sergeant '93-Present
Kevin Winters, Gunnery Sergeant '81-'01
David R. Williams, Sergeant '96-'05
David A. Wilson, Sergeant '65-'73
James A. Wilson, Corporal, '78-'82
Cindy Witham, Corporal, '80-'86
Cpl Perry Woolsey, Corporal '70-'79
Robert J. Yanacek, Master Sergeant '78-01
Jason Zug, Lance Corporal '87-'90

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:: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 ::

University of Washington should honor 'Pappy' Boyington 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:58 PM

Below is the text of an open letter I am composing in regards to the recent decision by the University of Washington's student government to quash a proposal to erect a small monument to Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a WWII Marine Corps legend.

My goal is to get marine veterans to sign the letter which I will submit to the university president, student government president and campus newspaper. [Hat tip: Grant Jones at the Dougout]

An open letter to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Washington:

According to the University of Washington student government, university alumnus Gregory "Pappy" Boyington should not be honored with a memorial on campus because as a Marine Corps officer, he was a "rich white man" who killed the enemies he fought, and was not a person university students should strive to emulate.

As veterans of the Marine Corps who have dedicated our lives to the defense of America, we find the student government's position deeply offensive and hypocritical. The exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of an American academic institution is the product of America's protection of the freedom of the mind. Without that freedom, the university itself ceases to exist.

Yet during the Second World War, the freedom of the mind was under deliberate attack by the forces of fascism and military dictatorship. American victory was only achieved because of the great courage, skill, and commitment of those who fought-a group of men and women who often won their battles at a great personal cost.

Few better personify the history of this struggle than Colonel "Pappy" Boyington. A maverick leader, Boyington assembled one of the most effective air wings in the Pacific theater of battle and was personally responsible for twenty-eight aerial victories over Japanese fighters. As commander of the famous "Black Sheep" squadron, Boyington led a formation of twenty-four Marine fighters over a Japanese airbase where sixty hostile aircraft were grounded. There, Boyington and his men persistently circled the airdrome and shot down twenty Japanese fighters without the loss of a single American aircraft. Later shot down himself and captured by the Japanese, Boyington endured twenty harrowing months as a prisoner of war.

Yet in final victory, Boyington bore no hatred toward his former enemy, and even credited a Japanese woman for saving him from death by starvation while he was a prisoner. A grateful nation choose to honor Boyington with the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, America's two top awards for heroism and valor under fire.

In the face of such achievement, it is inconceivable to us that the students of today's University of Washington would throttle an attempt to honor one of their university's most famous and illustrious alumni. The university community stands in part due to the deeds of this giant, yet today it seems all Boyington's memory receives from the university is malice and false witness.

Worse, these curses against Boyington's name come at a time when a new generation of Americans are locked in a life-and-death struggle with an enemy no less as tyrannical then the one Boyington had to face. Will this new generation of American servicemen and women be denied the inspiration of the University of Washington's great alumnus because a handful of students blanch at the thought of killing an enemy who is trying to kill us and are wedded to a pet ideology that slanders courage?

We, the undersigned hope not. We urge our fellow Americans to remember Boyington as a unique American hero, worthy of emulation, and we urge the students of the University of Washington to redress the injustice its student government has committed against a great hero's memory.

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Atlas on UPN? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:59 AM

I had heard from several sources about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged being used as a prop device for the UPN sitcom One on One, but it wasn't until I saw this clip [Hat Tip: NoodleFood and CyberNet] that I realized just how utterly remarkable the presentation was. The Atlas Shrugged reference is exact, informative and precisely what one might say if they were to offer a brief explanation of Objectivism to a friend.

The story goes like this: an 18-something Breanna is stressed out while preparing for a college philosophy test on Objectivism the next day. Her friends enter and explain to her that Objectivism is an integrated philosophy that Ayn Rand developed to show man as he is-and ought to be. After a quip about the cover of the book (Breanna's boyfriend Arnaz notes that if Atlas is holding up the world, what then is he standing on), they all get to studying.

And that's the clip. Incredible!

Now I can just imagine someone saying that's not how you present philosophy and the portrayal was on UPN, so it can't be any good. Oh, spare me. The fact is a 5th season sitcom ran a positive portrayal of Objectivism that featured attractive young people treating the philosophy as something a person with high aspirations ought to know. That's fantastic.

Hell, I wish I would have had that to watch when I was a Marine on sea duty instead of all those tapes of Family Matters my platoon-mate's mother had sent him.

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:: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 ::

Islam makes 'Freedom of Speech' the new Ground Zero 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:31 AM

A reader who read "The Myth of the 'Moderate' Muslim," and agreed with most of my main points in it, remarked: "I still can't bring myself to close the door on Islamic reformation, as you apparently have."

I've closed the door on such a reformation, unless, as I state in my "Moderate Muslim" article, someone steps forward to eviscerate the creed. Now, as far as the "taming" of Christianity is concerned, one should keep in mind the Old Testament and the New. The Old is as bloody-minded as the Koran is now; the New, dominated by Christ, the code of self-sacrifice, indiscriminate forgiveness, and so on. There is no such division in the Koran, and won't be, until and unless someone creates one, lifting out and rendering "benign" the least belligerent elements of the existing Koran to create a "New Koran," one that is as "passive" and un-in-your-face as the New Testament is, as an alternative to the "Old Koran."

However, it beggars the imagination how anyone could ever give Mohammed, the central figure and chief prophet of Islam, a moral "make-over" that approximated Christ's persona as a humble, kindly, passive savior and preacher of neighborly love. Mohammed is the Attila of Allah, all fire and sword. It would be as absurd to attempt such a transformation as to attempt to recast Hitler as an exemplar of St. Francis of Assisi. The instances of Mohammed's examples of "tolerance" and "peaceful coexistence" are practically nil.

That is the only way Islam can be salvaged and "tamed." However, as I remark in my article, it would no longer be "Islam," but instead an insipid, watered-down shadow of its former self. It is unlikely to happen any time soon. The man who would propose it probably would invite a fatwah and the attentions of the Islamic religious police.

Islam now is both a theocratic system and a political goal. Its proponents refuse to separate the two agendas; in fact, cannot separate them without committing apostasy. The religion and the politics are one and the same. This explains their push to have Sharia law "coexist" with secular law in Western countries. If Western judges and legal philosophers concede that Sharia is just as legitimate a legal system as the secular, we are doomed.

Imagine the disaster if agents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, managed to sneak a nuclear device into midtown Manhattan and explode it. That would be the physical destruction of the city and its inhabitants. Now imagine the disaster if loyalty to value-negating multiculturalism permitted our courts and the legal profession to proclaim that Sharia law must be "respected" and granted supreme authority over all American Muslims. That would be a philosophical disaster and a greater mortal blow.

Sharia law is a primitive, anti-conceptual, concrete-bound religious system of Islamic jurisprudence, weighted heavily in favor of the Muslim male. What is permitted by it? Murder, rape, assault, mutilation, blood feuds, looting, and slavery -- all crimes that can be allowed or mitigated by Muslim judges, mystical "experts" who rely in their adjudication on the Koran, the Sunna from the Hadith, the ijima, and other murky sources and authorities. Virtually everything that Western law treats as a crime against individuals is not a crime in Islamic law. Westerners who do not believe in Sharia law, or more likely have never even head of it, have been judged and executed by both Muslim judges (the "witch doctors") and their counterparts, the terrorists (the "Attilas").

Omar Ahmad, an official of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the leading Islamic organization in the U.S. and an advocate of "respect" for all things Islamic, once stated, "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." The website containing that statement, violent quotations from the Koran, and particulars of the Islamic agenda of conquest (not assimilation), has been taken down, very likely because it was too blatant a confession of Islamic means and ends.

This is a disaster waiting to happen, and multiculturalism has prepared the new "Ground Zero." The twin towers of freedom of speech and free minds are smoldering. Will they collapse? It is certainly a "clash of civilizations" we are witnessing today. Only our political leaders, the news media, and most of our intellectuals are oblivious to it. Most of them are too busy advocating their own brands of totalitarian submission.

Onkar Ghate, a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, in an Op-Ed deftly connected the principal dots between the Christian injunction to "love our enemies" (that is, not pass moral judgments on them, and to speak no evil of evil men and evil ideas) and the failure of our government and news media to come to the defense of the Danish cartoonists. ("The Twilight of Freedom of Speech").

Aiding and abetting in that betrayal of the Danes and of America itself is the not-to-be-questioned "faith" of multiculturalism, which imbues its religious and secularist adherents with the "virtue" of turning the other cheek. Since the cartoons that mocked Mohammed were claimed to be offensive to Muslims, the White House and State Department with abject humility practically apologized for them, while the news media issued grave disclaimers and ostensively took no sides on an issue that not only affects them, but the efficacy and meaning of the First Amendment. "Your most cherished beliefs have been insulted and ridiculed by irresponsible persons, and we are sorry for that. Please accept our apologies. We beg your forgiveness."

Self-censorship of that kind will ultimately foment a move for the overt censorship of those who refuse to turn the other cheek and exercise their right to speak out.

The reader also wondered about the "more secular Muslims living and working in capitalistic Western countries" who "probably fall into a non-fundamentalist category." These are the very same "silent" Muslims who let the killers "misrepresent" their creed. They are silent either from fear of retaliation or because they agree with the killers but are too timid to say it outloud. Their brothers in Paterson, New Jersey and in Brooklyn danced in the streets and passed out candy when the WTC was attacked, celebrating the event with the same gleeful fervor as their brothers in the Arab countries.

If one wanted to witness a grotesque instance of men celebrating the destruction of the good because it is good, the "Arab street" here and abroad provided it on 9/11. One needn't be a fundamentalist to be a mute follower or silent sanctioner.

I contend that the more civil, "secularized" Muslims are between that rock and a hard place I mention in the article. It's either/or for them. They either discover reason, individualism and genuine freedom, and repudiate Islam, or they remain passive ciphers and objects of suspicion by the rest of the population. Just as Christians cannot remain loyal to reality and ghosts at the same time, and must ultimately choose between them (but most of them don't), so it is for Muslims.

I'm sure there are many former Muslims who left the mosque, but we won't hear much from them for the reasons I cite in my article: they would become the targets of death squads or some other form of persecution. Salman Rushdie is the most notable example. There are no alternatives for them. All one can do at present is introduce Muslims to Objectivism, but what would that accomplish, if they fear reason, dismiss it as "godless", or claim it is a handmaiden of faith? Most Christians do. And most Muslims sense better than many Christians that God and reason are antithetical.

The reader asked: "If there are no and can be no moderate Muslims, what do you propose doing about the Muslims who do exist?"

I don't think it's a question now of what we do with them. It's a question of what they're doing about us. They know the nature of their enemy, our own leaders and intellectuals. They're determined to push this clash of civilizations to its limits. If we had the power to "do something about them," the first step would be to proclaim without apology or hesitation that this is a Western country that upholds reason, individual rights, freedom of speech, and capitalism, and plays no favorites in religion. Obey our laws, or face prosecution.

You would tell them: If you conspire to overthrow our government, you will be charged with treason and made to bear the consequences. If you do not like those terms, then relocate to a country that is more conducive to your philosophy of existence, such as it is. Just don't attempt to impose it on free men, who will fight back if they are not disarmed by censorship, ignored or excoriated by the news media, or made sitting ducks by the likes of our contemptible State Department.

Muslims, or those among them who secretly doubt the morality of their creed, must consider becoming independent individuals who hold reason as man's only means of survival and happiness. I don't say it's impossible, but at the present, the odds are against it. Islam is scoring victory after victory -- by default. Islam seems to be efficacious; why shouldn't the rank-and-file Muslim side with the odds-on winner? What could ignite a magnum of introspection and questioning among Muslims would be a resounding defeat at the hands of the West (such as nuking Iran's nuclear facilities now). At the current pace of events, and given the cowardice and virtual submission to Islam of our political leaders, that isn't much in the cards, either.

Many Objectivists have had religious backgrounds. But they discovered the value of free minds, individualism, and freedom of speech -- or the right to challenge any idea or belief -- and made a break with their past. The key element was in their valuing these things as attributes of living happily and successfully on earth.

Imagine how much more oppressive and thought-suffocating Islam and a Muslim household in a Muslim "ghetto" (and a self-created ghetto, at that) must be compared with the average Catholic (or Protestant or Jewish) household, and try to project the level of independence and commitment necessary to abandon that environment. A Muslim wrestling with his honesty and secret convictions would risk ostracism, banishment, or much worse, murder or mutilation, if he let them be known. No doubt everyone has heard of the Mafia "code of silence" and "loyalty to the family," which is supposed to be an ethical guide to good gangster behavior. Break the code, betray the "family," and you die.

Islam is one humongous moral Mafia that relies on submission, faith, fear and force to keep its followers in line and to prosecute its jihad. And its "godfather" is Mohammed. It was not a coincidence that in my original article I drew an analogy using Coppola's Don Corleone and the obsequious mortician. It concretized the essential relationship between Islam and its followers.

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:: Monday, February 13, 2006 ::

Woohoo! CAC's new website goes live! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:39 PM

Well, the new site is up and humming. Let me know if you bump into any problems. And now I can focus on the good stuff--the strategic plan for the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism!

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Book Review: The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:00 PM

NB: This review is by Gideon Reich and is the first installment of CAC's new "Capitalist Book Club" series.

As recently as the late 1980s, intellectuals were still discussing the supposed approaching convergence between communism and capitalism. It was claimed that the capitalist United States was suffering from an inadequacy of social services, while the Soviet Union failed to protect personal freedom. Faced with such problems, it was argued that the US and Soviet systems would eventually meet halfway, with the US becoming more socialist and the Soviet Union less totalitarian.

It wasn’t until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the absurd notion of "convergence" was finally discredited along with most remaining hopes of establishing a so-called socialist paradise. Partly as a result, there was a resurgence of interest in capitalism and the reasons for its success, and a host of books have since been published seeking to explain various aspects of the capitalist system.

What was missing, however, was a single volume that presented the historical origins, moral justification, and practical success of capitalism. Such a volume would correct the misconceptions most people still have of capitalism’s origins and early history, and answer their misgivings over the justice of laissez-faire. Andrew Bernstein’s The Capitalist Manifesto succeeds admirably as such a book.

The Capitalist Manifesto covers the history of the pre-capitalist era, the dramatic positive effects of the industrial revolution and its origins from within the Enlightenment ideas of the 18th century. Describing the American Enlightenment, Bernstein observes:

..[T]he essence of the Enlightenment, and of its influence on the new nation, was its uncompromising commitment to man's faculty of reason. For this, the 18th century philosophes owed much to Newton. It is not merely the birth of the principle of individual rights during this period that is important. As will be seen, capitalism rests upon the reverence for the reasoning mind that is the hallmark of Enlightenment thought and culture. (p.42)
The identification of reason as the primary tool of production is an important theme of the book and this identification serves to integrate its various parts. Relying on the philosophy of Ayn Rand in the excerpt below, Bernstein explains that reason is man’s only means of survival and he ties its use to the historical facts:

The goods and services that men must produce to sustain their lives are myriad. From pens and pads, to rich agricultural harvests, to skyscrapers and cities, to a multitude of others, man's productive activities are fundamentally reliant on one human faculty: his reasoning mind.

Human beings come on earth unarmed. Whereas animals survive by means of a physicalistic characteristics as size, strength, footspeed, wings, etc., man has no similar abilities. His brain is his only weapon. To build shelter, he must know at least the rudimentary principles of architecture. To cure diseases, he must study medicine. To grow crops and to domesticate livestock, he must understand the basics of agricultural science. All of this, indeed, every advance and creation on which human survival depends, requires rational thought.

This central truth of human life was illustrated by the glorious achievements of the Scientific, Technological and Industrial Revolutions described above. (p. 188)
Among the various historical episodes in the book, Bernstein depicts the Scottish Enlightenment, which he views as having taking the lead in applying reason and science to material problems. In the 18th century, Scotland

…aspired to the Enlightenment ideal, upholding secular rationalism and the rights of the individual….It stood for capitalism, the rising middle class, an emphasis of education and enlightenment, an industrious work ethic and repudiation of the warrior-plunderer code—and as a consequence, growing urbanization and prosperity. (p. 77)
It is through its detailed and extensive moral defense of capitalism that The Capitalist Manifesto stands out from among books on capitalism. In addition to chronicling the beneficial practical results of capitalism, Bernstein identifies the nature of value and moral principles and explains how capitalism is the only social system that supports the principles consistent with man’s nature and the requirements of his life. While familiar to readers of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, the ideas within the Manifesto’s philosophical chapters provide a perfect complement to Bernstein’s detailed coverage of the history and origins of capitalism.

There are numerous other gems in the book, including an extensive polemics section in which Bernstein demolishes the arguments that capitalism is the cause of slavery, imperialism, and war.

Unfortunately, in this age when most history texts are still under the influence of modern variants of Marxism, people receive profoundly misleading ideas about capitalism’s history, practice, and morality. The Capitalist Manifesto is the ideal antidote to the kind of education most people are receiving today. It deserves to have the widest possible readership.

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:: Sunday, February 12, 2006 ::

Mohammed, prophet of Islam and the face of jihad 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:33 PM


It hadn't dawned on me the CAC should be showing one of the "forbidden" images of Mohammed on our website until I was shoveling snow last night. So here it is--feel free to place on your website as well.

Alternate image here.

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:: Saturday, February 11, 2006 ::

Faith and the Freedom of Religion 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:22 PM

This issue has been bothering me for awhile. I have heard it reported several times now that two to three of the 9/11 hijackers attended a Christian college here in the US, where they were ridiculed and taunted by their Christian classmates for their Islamic beliefs. That's to be expected--religion and persuasion do not go hand-in-hand.

I wonder though what would have happened if in contrast, the Christian students had told these future mass-murders that if they respected the students' right to hold their Christian beliefs, the students would in turn respect their right to hold their Muslim faith--in effect, that "I'll respect your mind, if you respect mine."

Could one honestly expect such a statement from either side? Or are different faiths, by definition, irreconcilable?

I of course pull for the latter explanation. No truly consistent advocate for religion is going to turn around and say that, "well, I think sinners are an affront to God and they are all going to hell, but we still need religious freedom." The support for religious freedom is the exception to one's religious creed--not the product of it.

But how then does one explain America, where we have religion, and religious freedom? I think part of explanation can be found in the lingering embers of the Enlightenment-a time when reason and persuasion were held in high regard.

Yet I think a more honest (and disturbing) explanation is that many of religious engage in the following calculus: there may be widespread support for religion as such, but not for their particular faith. In the battle to establish a national religion for America, they would simply loose, so America must preserve its religious freedom.

Consider as evidence the passion by which the religious seek to impose the more ecumenical statements of faith though our government, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, school prayer and the national motto. The just position would be to have a government that makes no statement of faith and that is neutral toward the private beliefs of all its citizens. Yet the religious argue otherwise, saying that since the majority holds religious beliefs, these beliefs ought to be reflected in the government.

We have the neo-conservatives to thank for this new development. It is the neo-cons who have emboldened the religious wing of the Republican party and who have argued for majoritarianism and the erosion of judicial checks on the whims of the majority.

So mark my words: the most important--and most dangerous effect of the Bush presidency is the rise of religion as a political force in America.

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:: Friday, February 10, 2006 ::

Another wet-eye moment for the fallen 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:10 PM

The Rocky Mountain News is offering a very moving photo slide show of the funeral of Marine Corporal Brett Lundstrom.

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:: Thursday, February 09, 2006 ::

The Myth of the 'Moderate' Muslim 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 4:03 PM

An acquaintance asked me recently, in response to a statement of mine in a past article on the Danish cartoon crisis, if it was not possible for Islam to undergo the same "taming" process that Christianity underwent. Wouldn't most Muslims see the differences between the freedom of Western nations and the tyranny of Islamic nations? I had written: "Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a 'moderate' Muslim or a 'civilized' Islam, not when the core beliefs of the Koran and commands of the Hadith sanction the murder and enslavement of non-Muslims in an on-going jihad that will end only with the establishment of a global caliphate."

My answer was two-fold: In dozens of injunctive instances, the Koran sanctions murder and conquest. For example, the Koran 2:191 commands, "And slay them wherever ye catch them" -- "them" being any and all unbelievers in Allah. It is not necessary to cite any of dozens of similar commands to be found in the Koran and Hadith; they are all equally homicidal in nature, competing in lunacy with the ravings of a Charles Manson. To believe they can be interpreted as non-belligerent and pacific modes of serene tolerance is a gross evasion of the fact that words mean what they mean. No prism of interpretation, not by Western non-believers, not by Islamic scholars, can change the literal meanings of "slay," "kill," "terror," "smite," "cut off" and all the other gory verbs and nouns.

The second part of my answer addressed my acquaintance's concern with the "moderate" Muslims. Surely they outnumber the "extremists" and "fanatics" among them, and could play a role in taming Islam.

My answer was that this was unlikely, given the nature of the creed and what it demands of its rank-and-file adherents, which is intellectual torpor and unquestioning "submission." I replied that every Muslim I had encountered personally, or had observed in the press and the news media, did not seem to care about the differences between the West and Islam; that, in fact, it was the wealth and freedoms enjoyed in the West that are regularly condemned as "decadent" by their mullahs and imams.

"Moderate" Muslims choose not to question that official estimate of the secular West. They are taught from day one never to question the wisdom or statements of their "experts" or "holy men," that to do so would amount to questioning or doubting Mohammed himself. Depending on the mood of a Muslim judge, this could be deemed either blasphemy or apostasy. Either way, it would earn the transgressor the death penalty, the loss of some of his limbs, or some other bestial retribution, with no chance of repentance. Here I cite the Koran 2:39: "But those who reject Faith and belie our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire." That is, murdered or banished, and presumably destined for Hell.

I wrote to my acquaintance: "This is an instance of being caught between a rock and a hard place. The man who would extricate himself from that dilemma would no longer be a Muslim. He would be quite extraordinary." Not to mention brave. He would have earned and deserve our respect for such a soul-wrenching feat. I ended my answer with the observation that it took Christianity about 1,500 years to leave barbarism behind, dating, say, from the murder in 415 of Hypatia, the pagan philosopher and mathematician by Christian monks outside the Alexandrian Library in Egypt. The instigator of that atrocity was St. Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria. How long would it take Islam to abandon its jihadist agenda and relegate its saints and prophets to the dustbin? Could the West survive such a wait?

Islam can be "reformed" only by surgically removing its homicidal injunctions. What, then, would be left of Islam? Perhaps a "belief system" that would be as truly pacific as that of the Amish or Quakers. But then it would no longer be Islam.

The foregoing is in the way of broaching the subject of the craven behavior of the Western press in its frantic scramble to hide behind the aprons of "moderate" Muslims to wiggle out of its responsibility to unequivocally and proudly assert the paramount importance of the freedom of speech.

To date, only two American newspapers have published one of the cartoons, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Austin, Texas American-Statesman. Of the broadcast giants, ABC showed the Mohammed in a bomb turban cartoon once, then pleaded "sensitivity" and refrained from further display of any of the cartoons. CBS and NBC anchors reported on the cartoons and demonstrations, as well, but with unconvincing sanctimony announced they would not show the cartoons out of "respect" for the beliefs of Muslims. Fox News, however, had the moral spine to show some of the cartoons. About two dozen American Muslims picketed outside the offices of the Inquirer. Editor and Publisher on February 8th reported an imam claiming that the cartoon run by the Inquirer was "disrespectful to us as a people. It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence."

That assertion, certainly not as suavely fork-tongued in delivery as the protestations of some Islamic scholars and Mideast studies professors in American and European universities, surely deserves an award for dissemblance. First, it stresses the equation of Islam with race; second, it ignores the homicidal injunctions that pepper the Koran.

Editor & Publisher also quoted USA Today deputy foreign editor Jim Michaels's denial that it was fear that was stopping his paper from running the cartoons. "It was made clear that it is offensive," he said, neglecting to mention by whom. "I don't know if fear is the right word. But we came down on the side that we could serve readers well without a depiction that is offensive."

Why have other newspapers and broadcast media refrained from running any of the cartoons? A better question is: Why have they not upheld their First Amendment right to run them and proclaimed loudly and clearly that they would assert such a right, and not be browbeaten by Muslim bellicosity and threats?

In my original article on this subject, "The Muslims' New Program for Thought Control," I named the reason: fear of retribution, of the kind of threats of violence that are rife in Europe and the Arab world. But no news organization is going to concede such cowardice. Instead, they have retreated behind the apron of the "moderates," and claimed "sensitivity" to their beliefs. But even that is not substantive enough an excuse. They would need some authoritative reference for not defending their right to free speech.

Daniel Pipes provided it on February 7th in a National Review Online article, "The Clash to End All Clashes? Making sense of the cartoon jihad." The NRO solicited the views of some experts on Islam and the Mideast on if it was "a clash of civilizations." Pipes, a respected authority on Islam who has condemned its jihadists and who is certainly no mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden, answered in his article, "It certainly feels like a clash of civilizations. But it is not."

After citing a handful of Muslims who condemned the fatwah on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses in 1989, he concluded his article with this statement:

"It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succor and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world."

So, where are these "enlightened, free-thinking" Muslims? A Muslim by definition can be neither "enlightened" nor "free-thinking," not if he conscientiously subscribes to the tenets of Islam and is not inclined to risk losing the approbation of his fellow Muslims. If he attends Muslim services and practices the required rituals, but plays golf and the stock market, drinks alcohol, lingers over Victoria's Secret ads, reads Shakespeare and is fascinated by the longevity of the Mars rovers, then he must be a counterfeit Muslim, as counterfeit as are many model Christians. Fire-breathing mullahs and imams would be the first to point that out. So, how much of a "crucial role" then could he have in "modernizing" the Muslim world?

None. Rank-and-file Muslims do not "interpret" or "sanitize" the Koran and Hadith. Their duty is to discuss its contents, seek clarification, and obey. Interpretations and meanings are left to their ordained holy men. More "liberal" interpretations might surface if it were not for the existence of the equivalent of Mafia hit squads and enforcers: Hamas, the Glory Brigade, and other gangs of theocratic killers. What average, law-abiding Muslim or imam is going to risk their wrath by committing what the "faith police" would regard as blasphemy or apostasy?

In short, how much "reforming" influence can we expect of a cowed congregation of Muslims? Has any American newspaper troubled itself with these questions, or made these observations? It is doubtful. Political correctness, that poisonous mantra of non-judgmental egalitarianism, has enfeebled the minds of most editors and journalists.

Britain has a more vitriolic population of Muslims than has the U.S. To date, no British newspaper has reprinted the Danish cartoons. Again, fear of retribution has caused the British press to take cover behind the apron of "respect" for Muslim beliefs.

In the London Sunday Telegraph story of February 2nd, 2006, it was reported, "Muslim protests are incitement to murder, say Tories." Many of the placards carried by Muslim protestors outside the Danish embassy read, "Whoever insults a prophet, kill him," "Massacre those who insult Islam," and "Behead those who insult Islam." Can anyone credibly claim these injunctions are open to "interpretation"?

The question is: Who, hypothetically, is being incited to murder? The sign-carriers? Those who are the intended victims of massacres, beheadings, and killings? Or are the sign-carriers guilty of "inciting" others to commit those crimes? The concept of incitement as it is used in this circumstance is ambiguous.

David Davis, the British shadow home secretary, stated in the article, "Clearly some of these placards are incitement to violence and, indeed, incitement to murder -- an extremely serious offence which the police must deal with and deal with quickly....Certainly there can be no tolerance of incitement to murder."

The authorities are trying to pin the blame for the inflammatory placards on "extremists" among the Muslim demonstrators, while excusing the rest of the chanting mob as their right of legitimate protest. However, just how blameless are those "moderate" chanters? They where there, and if by chance the "extremists" broke through the police cordon and set fire to the Danish embassy, would not the "moderates" have joined in the destruction and arson or shouted "God is Great" in encouragement, celebration, and triumph?

If "law-abiding" moderate Muslims are so "peaceful," why are they so silent when their brethren promise death, destruction and vengeance? Is not such a silence a sanction of the violent actions of the "extremists"? Who gives leave to the "extremists" to speak and act in their name? Those "moderates." They are not as guiltless as one might suppose. Their creed demands mental passivity, and they comply.

The same London Daily Telegraph, in an editorial on February 6th, under the heading, "Why extremists treat us with contempt," posed the question after recounting the London demonstrations and questioning the wisdom of the police in arresting two men who counter-protested with placards bearing cartoons of Mohammed, but did not raise to finger to arrest Muslims carrying the inflammatory signs. "Might there be a connection between this cowardice and the contempt some Muslims feel for us?"

Good question, but the Telegraph itself provides the grounds for Muslim contempt. Three paragraphs later, it "submits" to Islam with this cowardly, craven genuflection to the West's mortal enemy:

"This newspaper has a deep regard for Islam, that purest and most abstract of the monotheistic faiths, to whose tenets we recently dedicated a series of color supplements. We share the admiration of Rousseau, Carlyle and Gibbon for the Prophet, which is why, on grounds of courtesy, we have chosen not to cause gratuitous offence to his followers by reproducing the cartoons at the center of this row."
The Telegraph prepared the reader for that kowtowing in another article on February 5th:

"This newspaper would not have published the cartoons of Mohammed at the center of this controversy, images which we regard as vulgar and fatuously insulting."
If freedom of speech is abridged in deference to religious "sensibilities," it will be implemented or enforced for the sake of the sacrosanct "moderates," in this instance, "moderate" Muslims. They are the ones climbing into the belly of this Trojan horse of censorship by degree. The answer is not to open the gates and pander to their emotional, non-reasoning "sensitivities." But the Western press is opening them, and we shall all suffer the consequences.

The only solution to "modernizing" the Muslim world is its complete collapse, and the first thing in it to be discredited and discarded is Islam as a "religion of peace." It is, after all, the "moral" basis of that culture. Where is the "Muslim" intellectual who would light the fuse that would demolish Islam? He might possibly step forward if the Western press, as well as Western politicians, displayed the Churchillian courage to speak out against our latter day Hitlers. It is indeed a clash of civilizations, and the one with the most confidence in its own value will be the one to triumph.

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