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:: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 ::

Hope for a 'Do-Nothing' Congress 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:52 AM

After Dr. Leonard Peikoff issued his position earlier this month on the fall Congressional elections and how Objectivists ought to vote (which was straight Democratic, regardless of the venality and agendas of the candidates, in order to oust the religious, theocracy-prone Republicans), I drew up a check-off list to compare the two parties' records and aspirations, in order to see which party was the more inimical to the survival of the U.S.

The measure of the comparison being the country's survival and capacity to recover from over one hundred years of statist folly, neither party, in my estimate, wins an advantage over the other. Both are gravely and morally culpable. My comparison takes into account C. Bradley Thompson's brilliant essay, "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism." Aside from its many noteworthy points, Thompson elucidates that while many "compassionate" and "neocon" Republicans base their agendas on religion, others are the moral heirs of a more secular Rousseau.

First, I focused on the welfare state. Today's Republicans wish to expand it, on the dual premise that it is the duty of the country and its most successful citizens to "share" the bounty, coupled with the "neocon" policy, that, since it exists, and since reducing or abolishing it would cause civil upheaval, it is best to just "deal with it" (and never mind the Republican record of abetting its growth over the last half century or more). The Republicans see capitalism and private property as the most efficient means to serve altruist ends. Possibly the most prominent examples of this policy in practice are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who are "giving back" their fortunes (in defiance of the logic, I might add, that they created wealth that didn't exist before they "took" it).

The Democrats, on the other hand, also wish to expand the welfare state to encompass every aspect of American life. The Republicans may not hate America, but the Democrats do. They wish to inflate the welfare state out of sheer nihilistic malice for the haves, whether they are middle class or wealthy.

So, one must ask oneself: Which is worse - being impoverished from motives of Christian, altruistic duty, or from hatred and undisguised thuggery?

Second, I focused on international relations. The Republicans wish the U.S. to be a partner in a "community" of nations that care, and to defer to the standards of the majority (a.k.a., the United Nations), provided those standards are altruist. The Democrats wish the U.S. to demote itself to just another nation among dozens of indistinguishable nations. They wish to see the U.S. humbled before the court of international opinion.

Next, I focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. The Republicans, in their campaign to "democratize" these two backwater pestholes at the expense of American blood and treasure, have more or less succeeded. Both countries have attained "democracy," and voted themselves nominal theocracies, and wish the U.S. to leave. The "war on terror" focuses on Islamic "extremists," and thus rules out dealing with states that sponsor terrorism and attacks on the U.S. and the West.

The Democrats wish the U.S. to throw in the towel, as it did in Vietnam. It did so under a Republican president, Nixon, even though it was a Democratic president who took us into Vietnam, John F. Kennedy, a war prosecuted disastrously by another Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. Today's Democrats have always wished the U.S. to fail in its military matters. They despise efficacy and strength in all matters, especially military ones.

Next, I focused on Iran. The Republican policy has been to negotiate, bribe, and hope Iran's getting the bomb isn't as serious as the evidence indicates. That goes for North Korea, as well. The Democrats do not wish to contemplate the matter at all, and act as though they were oblivious to the Iranian threat. They would probably be more submissive and traitorous in any dealings with aggressive tyrannies than have been Bush and Secretary of State Rice, as their record has shown.

So, in the end, I don't see that the Republicans have a single leg up on the Democrats, except possibly that they don't wish to destroy the country, just see it transformed into "Christian" nation in contravention of the Constitution. Both parties are in effect elective oligarchies that wish to remain in power in order to "run" the country, the Republicans, out of "compassionate" expediency, the Democrats, out of malice for the country's origins and existence now as a semi-free nation.

Lest anyone doubt that the Democrats regard free Americans as a greater enemy than Iran, Syria or North Korea, consider an article on the agenda of Representative Henry Waxman of California, "Waxman Plans Tougher Oversight of Companies" in The Wall Street Journal (October 28), which reports that a Democratic victory in the House would see Waxman head a committee that "would aggressively expand oversight of many large industries - with the focus on drug prices, oil company profits and Halliburton Co.'s contracting work in Iraq." Waxman was the pit bull who attacked the tobacco companies and subjected them to a Congressional auto-da-fé, and sponsored and helped to write numerous coercive, nanny state federal laws.

An editorial in the same issue of the WSJ focuses on another power-luster, Representative Nancy Pelosi, also of California. "The Pelosi Democrats favor a 'windfall' profits tax on oil companies and a virtual moratorium on drilling for more domestic oil in Alaska and on the outer continental shelf (where the U.S. may have more energy than Saudi Arabia)." The editorial goes on to state that the Democrats would also mandate higher fuel efficiency standards and campaign to have the U.S. sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

It has always been clear that the Democrats' first priority is to bring the U.S. to its knees and convert it into Marxist paradise buoyed by the wealth produced in the country's past, regardless of what predators lurk beyond its borders. The Democrats smell blood this fall, and are already assembling their leashes, cattle prods, and Mace.

On the Republican side, The Washington Post on October 29 reported that "a Harvard University curriculum committee proposed that, since a poll indicated that most college students believe in God, graduates be required...to take one course in an area that the committee styled 'reason and faith.'" Such a course "would deal not so much with the relationship between reason and faith as with reasoning about faith, religion and religious institutions and their impact on the world."

Odd. I had always regarded the fundamental relationship as one of reason versus faith - as one of mutual hostility.

The article, written by the provost of University of Notre Dame, argues that all universities should implement programs that emulate his school's program, "to create classes that convey the intellectual riches of a religious tradition and help students engage in reasoned reflection from within the perspective of faith." Among other things, such a course requirement would help students counter the religious fanaticism of Muslims and that of other religious "extremists" and contribute to "social cohesion and civic culture."

The article reflects a domestic consequence of the Republican campaign to Christianize America, and certainly anticipates by at least a year, if such a program is already in place at Notre Dame, Pope Benedict's call for "dialogue" between Christianity and Islam. It is a form of Bush's faith-based initiative that completely conforms to courses and programs in middle and secondary public schools that indoctrinate children, multiculturally, about the alleged benevolence of the Islamic creed.

Another form of that initiative is reflected in our foreign policy, which rests on the belief that reaching out to Islam in out-of-the-trenches and over-the-top sorties of blubbering tolerance will win the U.S. friends, allies and generous reciprocity. But, as evidence of the utter air-headedness of such a policy, Cal Thomas, a writer for Jewish World Review, on October 25th interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (The interview was published on October 28th.) It came out during the interview that Rice apparently bases her diplomacy on polls and wishful thinking, chiefly wishful thinking.

"The great majority of Palestinian people...they just want a better life," Rice told Thomas. "This is an educated population....I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you create the right conditions, that's what people are going to do."

What a fantasy! Firstly, women do not call the shots in Muslim society; men do. And the frequent stories and news footage of Palestinian and Muslim women elsewhere who boast that their sons or daughters died as suicide bombers burst that balloon, as well. And the barbarians who breed and kill each other in Gaza and the West Bank (besides in Iraq and Afghanistan) can hardly be called an "educated" population. I don't doubt that the Palestinians want "a better life," which, going by their actions, would mean one in which all Jews were exterminated and the Islamic crescent fixed atop the Washington Monument, Big Ben, and the Arc de Triomphe.

"I don't believe that most people in the Middle East really want to blow themselves up," said Rice, "and believe in this ["extremist"] ideology....There are always extremists who are going to do that...always ideologues who are going to believe and they are always going to recruit from a pool of disaffected people. So you have to lessen the pool of disaffected people, give them alternatives, and people choose other paths...."

If there were a grain of truth or the slimmest link to reality in that "belief," I would like to ask Madame Secretary: So, where are all the Muslim tap-dancers? The Muslim Garbos? The Muslim Edisons and Salks? Am I mistaken, and those two Rovers on Mars are actually Saudi probes in a quest for knowledge? But, since there isn't the least fealty to reality in any of Rice's statements, one can only conclude that she is blind to the fundamental nature of Islam and Muslim life, which is a cult of death. Islam breeds disaffection with life, and the "disaffected" practice their creed fully and consistently.

Do the Palestinians really want "a better life"? John Galt had an answer to that, and if Rice were any kind of reputable "ideologue," she would know how to quote him to any Arab's face: "I know that I want to live much more intensely than you do....I know that you, in fact, do not want to live at all." (Atlas Shrugged, p. 1104, said to Mr. Thompson, Head of State)

Rice is not likely to "offend" any Arab with such wisdom, nor is any Democratic envoy. Cal Thomas believes she is "utopian and rather naïve"; I think that is too generous an appraisal of her character. But the Democrats are nearly as nihilistic as Islamists in their hatred of men and are in a state of criminal denial; they see too much of themselves in parasitical Saudi princes and looting Muslim tyrants.

(My thanks to two individuals for alerting me to this illuminating and revealing interview, John Lewis and Robb LeChevalier).

A key issue governing next week's elections will be Iraq and its endless cost in American lives and fortunes. Is either party - or, for that matter, any commentator or pundit - observing that it is the wrong war, and that it is a signal instance of the philosophy of sacrifice and duty that both parties advocate and practice? No. Both parties have a stake in one form or another of the same morality.

To Objectivists, therefore, I can only recommend that they hope for the creation of gridlock in Congress, a state that would neutralize or minimize, for a time, the capacity of either party to further damage the country.

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:: Saturday, October 28, 2006 ::

The Atlas Shrugged movie challenge 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:52 PM

Most Objectivists are aware by now that a movie version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is in production, featuring Randall Wallace ("Braveheart," "Pearl Harbor") as screenwriter, Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart, and tolerationist-in-chief David Kelley as consultant. While hope springs eternal, I wager the movie will be a disaster on the terms that are most important to us, and that it will likely be attacked in the press as a vanity project for a bunch of egotistical Hollywood types.

There's a big silver lining in all this, no matter how awful the movie proves to be, or just how vicious the denunciations of Objectivism that result from it are, and that’s the simple fact that Atlas Shrugged will be in the news, and there is no way that can be a bad thing.

In fact, there are a lot of things that we can do to capitalize on an Atlas movie, and here's just one idea. Since one of the elements that will greatly impact the quality of the movie will be how well Ayn Rand's ideas are brought to screen (including the challenging job of culling Galt’s radio address), why not create a "Galt's challenge" for film students. Say for a top prize of $50,000, we run a competition that would have film students present excerpts from Galt's speech totaling no more that five minuets, but with the goal of dramatizing the presentation of Galt's speech in film.

This way, if the movie makes a muck of it because of the inherent challenges in encapsulating a climax that takes the shape of a three hour radio address, one could point to the film contest winners to show examples of how the various entrants worked to get the presentation right. Put the best on YouTube, and let the world beat a path to your door.

To pull the contest off, one would have to hire an IP expert to make sure that student’s use of Atlas snippets falls under fair use. Beyond that, I think it would be a fantastic way to present Ayn Rand's ideas, and good way to counter any weakness in the Atlas Shrugged movie.

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:: Friday, October 27, 2006 ::

Objectivists and Politics 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:01 AM

Yes, I've read Leonard Peikoff's latest on the election, and I've read Robert W. Tracinski's sundry articles on it as well. I side with Peikoff on his larger point about the nature of the right these days, but I do not support the manner which he used to make his argument, which was weak at best. The parties do a lot to camouflage their agendas, and it does not follow that a person is ignorant of the role of philosophy in man's life to be taken in by it—but only to a point.

Getting that out of the way, I do not understand why some Objectivists get tied up in knots over general elections. If we had a parliamentary system of government, it would pay to care about elections, if only to place a dissenting voice in the government. But under our "winner take all" system, our vote is only worth the chance that it can swing an election. In most cases, that isn't much of a chance.

Furthermore, there will always be two parties in our system, and until we grow our numbers sufficient to set the national agenda, these parties will be unworthy of much support. We deserve a rational government--and nothing less, and thus I refuse to tolerate the current machinations of partisans from either party. If they want to support me on a single-issue project, fine, and if they propose a rational policy, I'll support it in turn--but nothing more.

And this is not to say that there aren't important evaluations that need to be made about which forces in our culture are the more present threat--but only as a means to determine what topics we talk about when we offer Objectivism as the alternative. My view is that while the religious pitchmen who come to my door look more like CEO's and less like they live under a bridge (in contrast to many of the leftists I run into), they are the deeper threat. If the skeptic-bound, nihilistic left seeks to hijack science in the name of environmentalism, the religious-bound right seeks to abandon it outright whenever it infringes upon its mystical creed--and it does so under the ostensive mantel of individualism, laissez-faire and concern for morality. That's unacceptable. It is taking away people who should side with us.

Lastly, I'll simply note my disagreement with Objectivists who have criticized efforts to confront the courts. I think the courts are the one branch of government where presenting Objectivist ideas creates a practical voice of dissent--given a consistent stream of arguments on the legal questions of the day. In my experience, there's no negative side to presenting principled arguments before a serious forum.

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:: Thursday, October 26, 2006 ::

Is Founders Floundering?, Part Deux 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:57 AM

This is bad news:

Plans for another college in the Lynchburg area hit a roadblock Monday when the Campbell County Planning Commission voted unanimously against a sweeping proposal for a campus in Lynch Station.

"What it really comes down to, to me in the long run, is that it's too much, too soon," said commissioner William Calohan.

Founders College Education Inc., a for-profit company planning to construct a college along with a retirement community and other amenities, has contracted to purchase the 1,125-acre Merritt Hutchinson Conference Center and Resort in Lynch Station . . .

The Founders plan proposed moving the land-use boundary so the college would be in an area designated for growth. However, planning commission staff recommended "they either leave the boundary alone or change the entire area to a transitional growth area," Harvey said.

There needs to be a valid reason to change the comprehensive plan, said Robert Nixon, commissioner from Timberlake. "At this point in time they haven't given me a valid reason to change" the plan, he said.

"For something as large and intense as Founders College, for it to be anywhere near a rural area you need to plan the after-effects," Harvey said before the meeting. "Just moving the boundary doesn't take into account the other things that will try to locate near it."

"It's a big impact," said Patrick Tweedy, commissioner from Altavista. "This would change the rural character of that part of the county." [Sarah Watson, The News & Advance]
I was utterly unimpressed with the positioning Founders took with the planning commission at an earlier hearing, where it was reported that the Founders lawyer said that the project would "increase tax revenue" amoung other things and and that therefore Founders plans should be approved. Increase tax revenue? Hell, I was 16, had never even heard of Ayn Rand, and was in attendance at a city counsel meeting back home in Buffalo when I heard a line like that and felt compelled to take the stand during public comments to condemn such a craven justification for doing anything worthwhile. What's this guy's excuse? And sure, I get that regulators demand to have their rings kissed from time to time, but to kiss their asses . . . that I just don't get.

All nitpicking aside, I seriously hope Founders can turn this setback around. I wonder why they didn't feel the need to lobby the community for support prior to this vote. From what I read, they had no allies speak on their behalf other than a few random people. Was the Chamber of Commerce too busy that night? Don’t they know that Virginia is experiencing a full-on no-growth frenzy that has to be explicitly confronted if they expect to be able to move ahead with projects such as theirs?

Fortunately, the final decision for Founders zoning approval rests with the county Board of Supervisors on Nov. 16th, so that will certainly be the red-letter day to watch. Here's to hoping that they do better with the supervisors than they did with the planning commission.

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:: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 ::

The Failure of 'Flags of Our Fathers' 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:53 PM

I've been in Internet hell yesterday and today with problems with both Blogger and my ISP, but I'm pleased to finally be able to post my review of the new Clint Eastwood film "Flags of Our Fathers." Oh, and that "one scholar" I quote is none other than Andy Bernstein in his essay "The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism".

The Failure of 'Flags of Our Fathers'
Hollywood's most famous anti-hero turns valor into tragedy.

Taking the high ground in battle is often a precondition of victory; it allows an army to project force upon its enemies at greater range and with greater effect than from other, less advantageous positions. It is not surprising then that AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's stirring photograph of six Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima would become the most duplicated image from World War II. Not only did Rosenthal's image mark the Marines' achievement in that particular battle, it also signaled a larger, more important truth: that our men had the power to overcome ruthless enemies who were suicidal in their determination not to yield—that our men could win the war.

Yet in one of the accidents of history, the scene that Rosenthal captured was of men replacing the first flag that had been raised on Suribachi's peak a half-hour earlier, and not of the original scene that had so buoyed the Marines in the heat of their battle. Rosenthal's act was to create a monumental image of a minor moment—but a moment that nevertheless inspired a nation. It is this historical footnote that director Clint Eastwood chose to bring to the forefront in his film adaptation of James Bradley and Ron Powers's bestselling book Flags of Our Fathers.

Eastwood centers his lens on the lives of the participants of the second flag-raising, flashing back and forth between the combat at Iwo Jima and the victory-bond tour that the three surviving flag-raisers participated in after the battle to raise money for the war effort. Throughout the movie, it is often hard to discern which scenes Eastwood intends to be more troubling: those of the savage hell of the battlefield of Iwo Jima, or those of the banal aftereffects of a celebrity seemingly earned more by dumb luck than by heroism.

And that's not to say that the men Eastwood depicts aren't heroes (although he repeatedly has them deny it far beyond humble self-effacement). Each of them display bravery, ranging from the Navy corpsman and flag-raiser who saves the life a wounded marine despite a hail of bullets (and is subsequently awarded the Navy Cross for his actions), to the men who showed their courage simply by their mere presence on the battlefield and their refusal to turn around and flee.

Yet in presenting the heroes-turned-celebrities of the second flag-raising of Iwo Jima, Eastwood repeats a disturbing mantra throughout his film: the "true" heroes of Iwo Jima were the men who died, and not those who survived the battle. This premise is underscored by Eastwood's depiction the lives of the surviving flag-raisers after the war. One of the men would just as soon forget the battle (and even his own acts of bravery) and move on with both his nightmares and the rest of his life in quiet privacy. Another attempts to collect on the promises made to him during the height of his celebrity, only to discover frustration when these promises are left unfulfilled.

The last man, Marine PFC Ira Hayes, is torn apart by guilt, unable to reconcile that he survived and was made famous for an unessential act while his squad-mates on Iwo Jima died, and he puts himself to death through the slow poison of alcoholism. In his effort to portray the battle's complex dilemmas and conflicted heroes, Eastwood ultimately reduces the story of Iwo Jima to that of confused tragedy.

The real heroes of Iwo Jima—both those who died on the battlefield and those who lived though it—deserve a better telling of their story. A hero, as defined by one scholar, is a person of "elevated moral stature and superior ability, who pursues his goals indefatigably in the face of powerful antagonists." A hero need not necessarily achieve practical victory in order for his deeds to have spiritual meaning, but only a culture that enshrines altruism and self-sacrifice would demand a hero's outright immolation before it allowed him to recognize that he is truly worthy of the title.

And if "uncommon valor was a common virtue" of the Marines of Iwo Jima, isn't it important to depict how so many men came to discover such virtue? Isn't it important to depict not just the suffering and deaths of these heroes, but also the principles that defined their lives and brought them and their nation victory in the face of so many obstacles? Even the tragedy of Ira Hayes deserves a better telling, if only so those in similar straights can come to learn from his story and avoid his end.

It is in this light that "Flags of Our Fathers" is exactly the opposite from what it should be. What good is heroism if a hero cannot live to enjoy the fruits of his victory without guilt? Yes, some heroes endure hell, risk death, and even die in pursuit of their ends, but death is not their aim—life is. We ought to remind our living heroes of it, for today we posses a far greater understanding of the psychological pains that can afflict even the most stout-hearted of combat veterans.

We can (and must) tell our new generation of war heroes that for many of them, the act of returning to fulfilling and guilt-free lives may prove just as challenging as their trials on the battlefield, but that they have a moral right to every happiness. Clint Eastwood, a man who helped to depict cowboys as existentialist anti-heroes, has proven by "Flags of Our Fathers" that he is too enthralled by tragedy and irony to be of much help in such an endeavor.

It is shameful that to make a positive, life-affirming statement about our men and women in uniform becomes its own act of heroism, but the veterans of Iwo Jima—and the other veterans of our nation's battles deserve as much.

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:: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 ::

Sparrowhawk: Wings of Praise 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 11:11 AM

There comes a time when the praised should return the favor. As a belated birthday present to myself, I will dwell, for a change, on a pleasant subject, which in this instance is the quality of fan mail my Sparrowhawk novels have generated.

The catalyst for this diversion is a letter I found in my post office box last Friday the 20th, from a reader who apparently had galloped through the first four titles in the series.

"Your books have opened my mind to a new world, a wonderful world. I am a third grader at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach [California] and I checked out the Sparrowhawk novels from my school library. Although I did not know it, the day I checked your books out was one of the greatest days of my life."
So wrote Benjamin Most, in a genuine, handwritten letter, with complete, well-constructed sentences and in a legible, cursive style (better than my own). I will not quote the rest of his letter here (it contains "plot spoilers"), but will say that it represents two important things: that he is a prodigy who has received some encouragement from his parents and teachers to think, and to think independently; and that he is obviously being taught to form his own values and express them. Not a hint of self-consciousness or apology is in the letter. What Benjamin likes about the novels he comments on in a lengthy postscript; the main body of the letter, however, is reserved for observing why the novels are important to him.

For me, the letter is further evidence that there are individuals "out there" who are receptive to heroes like Jack Frake and Hugh Kenrick (and their ages are irrelevant). As a "fan" letter, Benjamin's is nonpareil, given his age (probably eight or nine years). It is the kind of letter that justifies the dedication in Books Four through Six, which is a quotation from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: "To hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started."

Which is what Jack and Hugh achieve by the end of Book Six: War, the last in the series, debuting in December. In this instance, it is a vision Benjamin shares with Jack and Hugh when they were his approximate age in Books One and Two, a vision they never relinquished or allowed to be corrupted or abridged.

When one considers the state of education today and the obscene fare that passes for children's literature and entertainment, together with the unrelenting pressures imposed on children to conform, give up, and become "multicultural" and semi-literate, selfless, value-deprived or value-repressing ciphers of their "communities," Benjamin's letter is an unusual and spectacular exception to the norm. Jack and Hugh as young boys are role models I intended them to be, and Benjamin has proven that this was a successful experiment in "good intentions."

Needless to say, I am honored that the novels inspired Benjamin, and his letter will have a special place in my collection of fan mail. He is my kind of reader - a hero of his own making.

Also heartening for me is the mail I receive from teenagers and adults, who are no less immune to Sparrowhawk's appeal. The notes of appreciation, astonishment, and honest enchantment from teens and college students are rarer, but they are sent. Titles from the series are being used in college and high school literature courses, a development I dared not dream of while writing the novels. (Often I will remark to interested browsers at booksignings that the series is becoming a classic, and I'm not even a "dead white male.") Teachers are ebullient that the series provides an alternative to the deficient, always politically correct history textbooks available to them, or to the multicultural, value-negating (and boring) literary fiction recommended or mandated by school boards.

Parents, especially, are grateful that Sparrowhawk exists, not only for their own "entertainment" and edification, but because it serves as an antidote to what their children are exposed to in school. A goodly number of them are home-schooling their children. Most of them email me their thanks and their hopes that I will continue the series.

Occasionally, however, a parent will go beyond praise, as in this excerpt from a long email sent to me by Peggy, a mother in Ruckersville, Virginia. After making some very perceptive observations about the political state of the country and the apathy or ambivalence of many Americans, she asked:

"...Are we so far removed that we don't care any more? Where are all the heroes when you need them - or perhaps more to my point - are there any people now who have the courage and knowledge to forge a new government or at least a modification of the one we have for the better?....There are many nights I lay awake thinking of these things when I hear my children rustle in their beds. I know you don't have the answers to all my questions, but I was hoping you might have a more learned opinion of how this country might be able to go forward from what we have learned from the past....."
That letter earned a two-page reply from me, in which, among other points, I stressed that politics would be the last field of human action to be affected by a renaissance of rationality and individual rights. I also assured her that there were many besides her who cared, who responded to the novels in exactly the way she did, and that Sparrowhawk was intended, besides being an epic on the moral revolution necessary in men before a Declaration of Independence could ever be written, to be an allegory on our own time.

I also pointed out that in virtually every instance, regardless of the nature of the response, whether it was just a brief thanks or an enthusiastic encomium, the novels caused people to think, to acknowledge the differences between 18th century America and Americans and their 21st century counterparts, and to wonder what they might be able to do about it.

Peggy's letter is evidence of the success of another "good intention" of mine.

I have received fan mail for Sparrowhawk from virtually every European country but France. I won't attempt here to explain why not; it would require a lengthy cultural critique. Perhaps the French are still under the collective spell of Jerry Lewis, Tati, Sartre, Beckett, Ionesco, and other comic and not-so-comic absurdists and existentialists. Heroes who revolt against tyranny and don't make a mess of it, as historically the French have repeatedly done, must not exude that peculiar Gallic élan that seems to appeal to the French. I earnestly wish to be proven wrong.

If only the French would rediscover the value of great French writers and artists such as Hugo, Rostand, and Ingres (the roll call of French "greats," most of them of the 19th century, is quite long), I would not presume that their Tricolor is destined to sport the Islamic crescent and star.

But, here is an excerpt from Mike Kindler, a British fan from Selsdon, Surrey:

"I have been spellbound by the Sparrowhawk series, not just by the way you make me feel as if I'm a fly on the wall during the events of those momentous times, but also by the parallels we Brits face now with our absorption by the EU. Thank you on both counts...."
The biggest volume of "foreign" fan mail comes from Britain, followed closely by Scandinavia.

Fan mail also comes from readers with a religious bent, or from readers who have bought the erroneous notion that America was founded on Christian principles. To wit, from Thad Jahns, in response to a remark of mine on the Rule of Reason site, in which I said, "The 'Spirit of '76' is not in evidence in America today, except in a minority of individuals marginalized by the dual phenomena of collectivism in politics and the revival of religion."

Mr. Jahns asked: "How would you define 'collectivism in politics'? Are you implying that the 'Spirit of '76' and religion are mutually exclusive?"

After citing Ayn Rand's commentaries on collectivism from the Lexicon, I more or less answered his second question (though in a more civil tongue): "You're damned right they were mutually exclusive! How else would you explain the Constitution, and the fact that it does not permit the establishment of a theocracy? See John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, et al."

Objectivists (a minority becoming less and less "marginalized") can be counted among my fans, and they have sent me mail, as well. Some compare the Sparrowhawk novels with Ayn Rand's, and some have the perspicacity not to make such a comparison. The first group are forgiven their enthusiasm, but I must side with the second group. It was never my intention or purpose to emulate Rand or her novels. I have always been my "own writer," and if literary critics and literature professors wish to place the Romantic epic of Jack Frake, Hugh Kenrick, and America in the same class with Rand's novels, so be it.

Personally, I don't think the jury is still out with that verdict, but it isn't for me to read it to the court. However, I cannot recall Rand ever comparing her novels with Victor Hugo's or anyone else's. In that respect, I must emulate her absence of vanity.

The last two excerpts help to substantiate my claim and my purpose. Marnee wrote that she has

"...fallen in love with Jack and Hugh. I never thought I would find novels with characters and stories that I could cherish as much as I do Ayn Rand's novels...I would like to thank you for doing justice to our American Founders, our heroes, giving them the moral character and putting their fight and achievements into the philosophical context that they deserve...."
And, Erskine wrote:

"What did I like best about the stories? The heroes. You succeeded in making them both real and heroic. They are not weak imitations of John Galt, and they don't stand in his shadow. Jack Frake and Hugh Kenrick are distinct heroes with their own existence, and their own claim to my admiration. They are fully alive."
So, I thank Benjamin, Peggy, Mike, Marnee, Erskine, and their countless discriminating fellows for contributing to Sparrowhawk's success as a contemporary literary phenomenon, for valuing the series as I had envisioned it would be valued, and for demonstrating their own "unchanging youth." They, too, are fully alive.

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:: Saturday, October 21, 2006 ::

Rachel Corrie--the play 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:22 AM


Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout writes about "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," Alan Rickman's play about the 23-year-old left-wing activist who was run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer in 2003. Teachout leads his article with the trenchant observation that "Politics makes artists stupid." While there is a certain truth to his claim, a more accurate observation would be that spate of obnoxious political tracts in art is more the fault of the artist's philosophy than of his politics, and here Rickman's play is a prime example. In fact, Teachout almost says as much when he writes:

"My Name Is Rachel Corrie," [is] a scrappy, one-sided monologue consisting of nothing but the fugitive observations of a young woman who, like so many idealists, treated her emotions as facts. "I am disappointed," she declares, "that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world." To mistake such jejune disillusion for profundity and turn it into the climax of a full-length play is an act of piety, not artistry. [emphasis added]
Indeed. When a person (or an artist) enshrines emotions as self-evident primaries, the end result is always irrational. Rachel Corrie was an ignorant young woman who stood for a reprehensible cause. Who cares how she "felt" about it.

I argue that if Rickman would have been willing to turn the tables on Corrie and dramatize just how and why she developed the core ideas that led her to so foolishly impale herself upon the blade of an Israeli bulldozer, that might have made for interesting drama. Corrie was a self-conscripted pawn in a far larger war, and the ideas behind it have yet to be explored artistically. Such is the shame of the art world today, for in the massive conflict of civilizations, all it elects to offer us is some vapid activist's personal diaries.

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:: Friday, October 20, 2006 ::

Totally Unjustified Antitrust Suit of the Day, No. 1 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:26 AM

By definition, every antitrust suit is unjustified. By criminalizing the actions of a businessman in the free market, the antitrust laws equate everyday enterprise with outright coercion. That said, some antitrust suits are more unjustified than others. Take this one for example:

A Russian hockey club filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins, saying rookie Evgeni Malkin shouldn't be allowed to play in the league because he remains under contract in his native country.

The Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey club, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also demanded unspecified damages from the NHL and the Penguins over Malkin's deal to jump teams this summer. [AP via the St. Petersburg Times]
If the Russian hockey club has a legal case, why isn't it against Evgeni Malkin, for alleged breach of contract, rather than against the NHL and the Penguins for "restraint of trade" under antitrust?

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Made in China 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:52 AM

Here's shocking video from a mountain-climbing trip to Mount Everest that reveals the Chinese to be as murderous as ever. In it, Chinese soldiers shoot Tibetan pilgrims without seeming provocation or due process. Here's a link to The New York Times’ coverage of the episode.


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:: Thursday, October 19, 2006 ::

The root of all evil 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:48 AM

Gus Van Horn is trying out Google ads, and in the process, one of his ads inadvertently linked to this pro-Islam site run by the "Cooperative Office for Dawah in Rawdah," whatever that may be. Needless to say, my curiosity got the best of me and I'm glad for it, because the website provides a crystal clear example of how the religionists exploit philosophic skepticism in defense of their creed. For example, there is this article on the "purpose of life."

How, then, do you discover the purpose of life? We basically have two options. The first is to let 'human reason' - the celebrated achievement of the Enlightenment - guide us. After all, the Enlightenment gave us modern science based on careful observation of the natural world. But have post-Enlightenment philosophers figured it out? Camus described life as "absurd"; Sartre spoke of "anguish, abandonment and despair." To these Existentialists, life has no meaning. Darwinians thought the meaning of life was to reproduce. Will Durant, capturing the predicament of postmodern man, wrote, "Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day... it is not our homes and our treasuries that are empty, it is our 'hearts'." When it comes to meaning of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing. Will Durant, the most noted philosopher of the last century, and Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, both wrote separate books titled 'The Meaning of Life.' They wrote to the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals of their time in the world, asking them, "What is the meaning of life?" Then they published their responses. Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless. In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked the authors to write back and tell them if the purpose of life was discovered!
So, according to this author, reason equals uncertainty and a world "anguish, abandonment and despair," even if it did give us our modern science.

What then of an alternative to reason's alleged blindness? The anonymous author maintains that:

When we read a book, we accept that an author exists. When we see a house, we accept that a builder exists. Both of these things were made with a purpose by those who made them. The design, order, and complexity of the universe as well as the world around us are evidence of the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, a Perfect Designer. All the heavenly bodies are controlled by precise laws of physics. Can there be laws without a lawmaker? . . .

This brings us to the second option: the alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life is revelation. The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor. To discover the purpose of your life, ask God. [emphasis added]
Notice that the author does not even say "ask Allah," for his God and the Christian God are one in the same. And notice how the author makes the classic Kantian argument—attempting to make room for faith by attacking reason (or more specifically, skepticism held out in the place of reason).

Articles such as this one underscore that it is the philosophic corruption in the West that most undermines us, and the pressing need for Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism as an antidote. The author makes no reference to Islamic philosophy—his every argument came from the heads of Western minds. It is the West's faults that give our enemies power, and this essay underscores that the real fight for civilization is in our universities, where irrational ideas like the ones it presents continue to run all but unchecked.

:: Permalink | 5 Comments ::

 

God told me to skin you alive 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:04 AM

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute's (MEMRI) translation of an October 14th speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian strongman is claiming he has a connection with God and that Iran will continue to develop nuclear technology regardless of the West's demands.

"On the nuclear issue, I have said to my friends on many occasions, 'Don't worry. They [i.e. the Westerners] are only making noise.' But my friends don't believe [me], and say, 'You are connected to some place!' I always say: 'Now the West is disarmed vis-à-vis Iran [on the nuclear issue], and does not know how to end this matter [with us].' But my friends say: 'You are uttering divine words! Then they will laugh at us!'

"Believe [me], legally speaking, and in the eyes of public opinion, we have absolutely succeeded. I say this out of knowledge. Someone asked me: 'So and so said that you have a connection.' I said: 'Yes, I have.' He asked me: 'Really, you have a connection? With whom?' I answered: 'I have a connection with God,' since God said that the infidels will have no way to harm the believers. Well, [but] only if we are believers, because God said: You [will be] the victors. But the same friends say that Ahmadinejad says strange things.

"If we are [really] believers, God will show us victory, and this miracle. Is it necessary today for a female camel to emerge from the heart of the mountain* so that my friends will accept the miracle? Wasn't the [Islamic] Revolution [enough of] a miracle? Wasn't the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] a miracle?... "

"They (Westerners) did two ugly things. First, they attacked Lebanon in order to extract concessions from us [i.e. Iran]. Second, they took the [nuclear] issue to the [U.N.] Security Council. Of course, now they are sunk in a quagmire, and don't know what to do with us. We, for our part, did not retreat one millimeter. First, because if we retreat [even] a little, that is, if we agree to suspend [uranium enrichment even] for a single day, they will say that the Iranians retreat under pressure. And second, if we do this, they will tell the entire world that the Iranians have finally stopped their [uranium] enrichment. Didn't we stop the enrichment in the previous round [of talks]? What did we gain by that?...

"I say that now, by the grace of God, we have gone most of the way; be confident that they will not dare to attack us."
Remember these quotes the next time you hear of the Libertarians' claims that the conflict in the Middle East is caused by American imperialism, and not a far deeper clash of philosophies. Any individual who claims the caprice of God and acts in a threatening way to prove it needs to have all doubt removed—he needs to be defeated. Iran claims that it is blessed among nations, yet Iran's every action is a curse upon the world.

Will America ever stand up to Iran? Judging by the North Korean nuclear fiasco, this administration will not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Rather then end a regime that is the fountainhead of militant Islam and holy war, America has instead adopted a policy which will only embolden those who deeply believe that God seeks America's destruction.

And thus one can't escape the nagging question: how can we ever hope to win the war against jihad if Iran is allowed to become a nuclear power—and a permanent jihadist state?

* According to MEMRI, the line about the female camel was a reference to the Islamic belief that Muslim prophet performed a miracle by extracting a female camel from inside a mountain in order to prove the truth of his prophecy (Koran 7:73).

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:: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 ::

SCOTUS refuses to hear Boy Scout discrimination case 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:26 AM

Here's a story on the Supreme Court's decision not to hear a case involving a local government’s refusal to allow the Boy Scouts free use of public property because of the Scouts policy of refusing membership to homosexuals and atheists.

Six years after the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts could ban gay leaders, the group is fighting and losing legal battles with state and local governments over its discriminatory policies.

The latest setback came Monday when the high court without comment refused to take a case out of Berkeley, Calif., in which a Scouts sailing group lost free use of a public marina because the Boy Scouts bar atheists and gays.

The action let stand a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling that the city of Berkeley may treat the Berkeley Sea Scouts differently from other nonprofit organizations because of the Scouts' membership policies.

Two years ago, the court similarly rejected a Boy Scouts appeal of a case from Connecticut, where officials dropped the group from a list of charities that receive donations from state employees through a payroll deduction plan.

And in Philadelphia, the city is threatening to evict a Boy Scout council from the group's publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay rent unless it changes its policy on gays. [By MARK SHERMAN The Associated Press]
I agree with the various local government's refusing to subsidize the Boy Scouts and with the Supreme Court's decision to not hear the Berkeley case. The Scouts claim a right to free association and that is their proper right. The Scouts do not have the right to demand that I and other taxpayers subsidize them for it. As the California Supreme Court noted in the Berkley case (Evans v. Berkeley 38 Cal. 4th 1):

"[A] government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA's discriminatory policies."
This is true, and it will be refreshing when we can expand this logic to government-supported institutions that discriminate via affirmative action.

Ultimately, while the proper position would be to prohibit government from sponsoring or subsidizing any group outside of its legitimate rights-protecting mission, in the interim, government must not be allowed to support any private organization with patently discriminatory polices. The Scouts' ban on atheists and gays is their own private choice, and it has no place being supported in the public realm.

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An Islamic Newsreel 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:32 AM

While Bo Derek is persuading U.S senators to co-sponsor a bill to ban the export of horsemeat for human consumption, as the country recovers from the Great Spinach Scare, as Madonna returns from Malawi with her $3 million dollar baby, and as the news media continues its obsession with American obesity and trans fats in food and simultaneously celebrates the confounding of the Republicans over the Foley Congressional page scandal, the Islamists are marching onward, here and overseas.

I have often wondered what it was like to sit in a movie theater in the 1930's and 1940's and watch the Movie Tone newsreels that preceded the short subjects and double features. Would I have been able to distinguish between the important news and the trivial and human interest? Probably. In the latter '30's and throughout the '40's the Nazis would have dominated much of the news, their rise to power in Europe and their imminent fall at the hands of men who weren't afraid of identifying them as evil and not the least hesitant to dispatching them General George Patton-style.

Ah, yes. General Patton, who didn't believe in "holding one's position," but of advancing and forcing the Hun to "hold" his position, if he could. And when he defeated the Hun, he wanted to draft the German army into the Allied side to fight those fine friends of Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, the looting, raping Soviets before they swallowed half of Europe. The Germans wouldn't have needed much convincing to fight under American and British commanders to defend their country from those human locusts. Patton would have found in ally in Churchill, but not in the White House.

That development, however, was never seen in the newsreels. Instead, Americans saw American, British and Soviet soldiers hugging each other as laughing chums and drinking to the defeat of the Nazis.

Patton doubtless would be censored today, just as he was censored during the war, for asking why the West, and in particular the U.S., was fighting a "holding position" against Islam. If that indeed is what we are doing. It is difficult to tell anymore.

My red flags of suspicion would have gone up if the Associated Press had run a newsreel titled, "Bush Honors Muslims Aiding in Terror War" (October 16). After a mental "Huh?" I would have asked my seatmate: "Does that mean our president is helping the terrorists in their war against us, or vice versa?"

"He's a born-again Christian," she would have replied, "and he can't help it. What do you expect?"

Someone sitting in back of me leaned forward and whispered into my ear, "It's easy to be confused by Bush. He's either a closet Al-Qada, or an Amish Democrat."

"How are they helping?" I would have asked, as I watched our smiling president dine with ambassadors from Islamic nations, U.S. Muslim leaders, and administration officials to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, adding, "Their clerics are preaching jihad against us everywhere. Their Koran permits and encourages it." I would have winced when I heard Bush say to his guests as the cameras rolled, "You know that the majority of the victims of terrorists have been innocent Muslims, and many of you have seen terrorist violence in your own cities and your streets." And I would have said out loud, ignoring the shushing of the audience, "But doesn't that say something about Islam? A lot about Islam?"

"Hey, mister," the guy in the seat on my other side would have chimed, "there are moderate Muslims. Don't be so intolerant. He's against extremists."

"Like, there were moderate Nazis?" I would have countered. And, in the privacy of my thoughts, I would have heeded the logic that both Islam and Christianity, followed and practiced to their moral extremes, meant death. Did it matter if a Muslim was a fundamentalist or a hanger-on?

An image of Patrick Henry speaking in the General Assembly against submitting to Parliamentary authority popped into my mind. On the floor next to him was a moderate Muslim, bowing repeatedly to Mecca in submission to Allah. "There is no reconciliation between Parliamentary tyranny and liberty," Henry was saying. "Nor between that," he went on, pointing to the Muslim, "and this," he concluded, pointing to his forehead. "Would the sergeant-at-arms please eject this odious, cowering...dog from our temple of liberty? He offends mine sight."

That was just a fleeting daydream. The next newsreel featured Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abd al-Aziz, looking up from beneath his headdress with a malevolence I'd only seen in the faces of street thugs, warning his listeners about dealing with "moderate" Muslims. I recalled seeing a still of this creature in The Objective Standard on October 4th. "We are familiar with their relations with foreign elements," the translator was saying. "We are fighting them and will continue to fight them, and we will cut off their tongues." Well, that would be enough to silence any "moderate" Muslims, if they existed. So much for "reforming" the Koran. Then I asked myself: How would one reform or tone down Mein Kampf? It couldn't be done. Both tracts would need to be discarded.

The Saudis were our allies in the war on terror, we are told.

What eludes everyone worried about the "demonization" of Muslims and Islam is that Islam contains a political agenda as well as a religious one. They are woven closely together in Sharia law and cannot be divorced. Christianity was tamed when its political power was neutered, and that was after a hard fight from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. The fiery Old Testament took a back seat to the relatively pacific New. Islam is a different animal; it can be defeated only if it is repudiated in its entirety. A big step in that direction would be the vaporization of the Kaaba and the Black Stone of Mecca. Nazism commanded the irrational zeal of a religion; it lost its millions of believers and collapsed when its "paper-hanging" Messiah perished in his bunker in 1945. The same would happen to Islam if Mecca were rendered radioactive gas.

The next newsreel was an "info-mercial" advertising the merits of a new book, the Guide for Individual Jihad, written by Al-Hakaymah. It first appeared on an Islamist website and was reviewed by Geostrategy. Several photogenic Muslims demonstrated on live, illegal Mexicans how a conscientious warrior could contribute to the cause of defeating the West, even in his own backyard, whether in Jihad Alley in Virginia, Des Moines, Iowa, or San Francisco.

These well-groomed, well-dressed gentlemen - not one sporting a ski mask! - showed how infidel Americans, assimilation-resistant Brits, and recalcitrant Frenchmen could be stabbed, fed overdoses of cocaine or heroin, injected with air by needles, burned alive in their homes, blown up in their cars or with roadside IEDs, run over with Saudi-oil fueled SUV's, and even lured to their deaths via the Internet. Do-it-yourself assassination kits were available for only $9.95, not including shipping, and would be sent in plain brown wrapping so as not to alert the authorities.

Al-Hakaymah's book featured a blurb from the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari, who boasted that the book contributed to a "positive" image of Muslims, who lately were being "stigmatized. What is happening...has been a barrage of demonization of the Muslim community to such an extent that the community is now scared and feels vulnerable."

As I watched him promote the book up on the big screen, I wondered who was actually feeling scared and vulnerable: Muslims or Tube riders. And the Muslims I saw demonstrating in London in the next newsreel didn't look very scared or vulnerable to me, particularly the ones carrying signs that read "Behead the Insulters of the Prophet," "Kill Arrogant Infidels." One of their spokesmen, addressing a BBC reporter, promised that there would be hell to pay if the 2012 summer Olympics were scheduled during Ramadan that year.

The double feature finally unreeled, "His Girl Friday," and the original British film version of Patrick Hamilton's play, "Gaslight," about a woman driven mad by lamps that kept dimming and brightening (engineered by her scheming husband), much like the assurances of Muslims that they were committed to Western values of freedom of speech and the separation of church and state.

When I got home, I listened to the radio. That was full of depressing news, too. British Airways planned to introduce a special uniform for its Muslim ground staff, and British hospitals had already introduced special burkah gowns for Muslims patients. And some Muslim speech teacher was suspended for insisting on wearing her veil in class, especially if men were present. What was she afraid of? Men would start hitting on her? Or maybe all Muslim women had halitosis, a condition that came with the creed. And that scarf, or hajib, or whatever it was called that went over the hair: Was that to hide lice? Never could believe the "modesty" explanation.

As I prepared to retire, I remembered my seatmate's suggestion that I should write a satire on Islam and the West's incremental submission to it. I wondered now how one could pen a satire about an ongoing tragedy. Perhaps I could begin with President Roosevelt hosting a White House dinner for his moderate Nazi guests, the ones who deplored "extremism" and claimed Mein Kampf was blueprint for peace and coexistence. But, I'd have to combine that with the incremental turn to fascism in the country itself. It was going to be a tough satire to put together, especially if I wanted to make the point that it was no laughing matter.

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The North Korean cult of human sacrifice 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:20 AM

This article presents yet another chilling appraisal of the mindset of the North Koreans:

Faced with a starving population, an economy that is a shambles and its longtime Communist allies tripping over themselves to embrace free-market capitalism, North Korea's leadership long ago turned weakness into strength by steeling its population for permanent war.

The years of spadework have paid off, experts say. With tighter restrictions on oil, food and other goods a near-certainty after Monday's announced nuclear test, Pyongyang seems confident that its long-suffering people -- battered by famine, floods and economic mismanagement -- will bow their heads and continue to suffer in silence. This is an important surety in the regime's decision to detonate what it said was a nuclear device, a major gamble.

Many of the intimidation tactics employed in North Korea to keep its population in line are common to totalitarian regimes elsewhere. But North Korea has taken them to the extreme, analysts say, maintaining a tighter lid on its society than East Germany in its darkest days.

For decades, North Korea has subjected its population to a propaganda assault centered around the concept of juche, roughly translated as "self-reliance." In recent years, scholars say, the term has also come to connote unquestioned trust in the "living god" leadership of national founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current ruler Kim Jong Il.

This link between sacrifice, national glory and the near-divine leadership is evident in the smallest details. During a tour of Pyongyang's Tower of the Juche Idea last year, guide Park Gyong Nam explained that the 560-foot-high monument was built in 1982, the year of the 70th birthday of Kim Il Sung, using 25,500 granite blocks. Do the math, and that works out to one block for every day of Mr. Kim's life, he said.

The truth is that socialist North Korea has never been self-reliant, depending since its formation on the Soviet Union, then China and the United Nations and other international donors to feed itself. But this myth is part of the glue that binds North Koreans to the regime.

"This has a huge impact on people's ability to withstand hardship," said Cui Yingjiu, honorary director of Peking University's Institute for Korean Culture Studies. "For most of the past 100 years North Koreans haven't had enough to eat or wear. This gives them enormous tolerance for hardship," added Mr. Cui, who attended university with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in the early 1960s. [Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times]
They don't have enough to eat or wear, they are convinced the world persecutes them, they enshrine sacrifice, they think their leader is a god—and now they have the bomb. Brilliant.

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:: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 ::

The Senator Robert Byrd Center for Pork 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:54 PM

This video of Senator Robert Byrd passing out the pork (HT: Club for Growth) takes the cake.

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File under 'You don't say' 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:49 PM

Teen's tongue piercing linked to pain

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The continuing saga of Microsoft and DOJ-ware 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:02 PM

This story by By Aaron Ricadela at InformationWeek on the upcoming release of Microsoft Vista caught my eye:


The simmering battle between Microsoft and the two biggest security software vendors is boiling over as Microsoft finalizes changes to the Windows Vista operating system that Symantec and McAfee say impede their products

. . . [I]n addition to bundling antivirus and anti-spyware software into Windows and limiting users' ability to install software, Microsoft has closed a loophole that gave products from Symantec, McAfee, and other makers of security software access to the Windows kernel, which controls the operating system's most basic functions. The vendors use that access to detect and block rootkits, keystroke-logging software, and worms.

Trouble is, malware writers exploit the same interfaces to access Windows' kernel, a threat that Microsoft says outweighs the benefits. Modifying the kernel also compromises Windows' performance, according to the company. Versions of Vista for 64- bit PCs will include technology called PatchGuard that prevents kernel modification. "Either everybody has access to the kernel," says Microsoft senior product manager Stephen Toulouse, "or nobody does."

Symantec and McAfee say the move undercuts their products at the very moment Microsoft is entering the $4 billion market for desktop security software. Microsoft "is putting the core of the operating system in a lock box," says a Symantec spokesman. Security vendors also are asking Microsoft to make it easier for users to uninstall Windows Security Center, a dashboard that controls security settings in Vista. "You almost need an IT help desk" to change the controls, a McAfee spokeswoman says.
Or an antitrust regulator.

Here we have a case of a business working to improve a long-standing problem with its product. Yes, the improvement would put third-party software providers in a spot. Yet how is it that Microsoft owes them their position? Where do they draw the moral right to access the Window's kernel, if Microsoft chooses that its interest lies in not granting them access?

Of course, Microsoft has long surrendered the moral high ground on antitrust, and in my book, the firm gets what it deserves for not attacking the premise behind antitrust itself. By Microsoft's implicit concession, it allows Symantec and McAfee to argue that they simply need access to the Window's kernel, and that their need takes precedence over any of Microsoft's rights, or the desire of Microsoft's customers for a more secure OS.

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DOJ launches antitrust investigation of Cypress Semiconductor 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:56 PM

This could get interesting . . .

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The incentives for climate-change doom and gloom 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:15 PM

I subscribe to a global climate change news feed. In it, I get stories such as this one, that is, stories that treat global warming as a self-evident tale of impending death and despair. Yet I wonder what the spin would be if it was alleged that human existence was leading to global cooling instead of global warming (as it was maintained as recently as the 1970's).

Would we be hearing tales of an impeding ice age? Would we be hearing tales of cooling that will lead to subsequent warming (the inverse of what I recently saw on a climate change TV special on the Discovery Channel)? Would anyone argue that the weather is the weather, it changes, and we should treat it as a metaphysically given?

Of the three options, it's the last scenario that is the most implausible. After all, what incentive is there to publish research that says that the sky is not falling? Honesty? Integrity? One would hope, but it would be interesting to track which climatologists receive the most government funding: those who predict disaster, or those who say the evidence argues against disaster.

After all, government is by-and-far the prime supporter of climate research. If the motives of anyone who speaks from a pro-technology perspective can be questioned, why can't we equally examine the motives of someone whose lifeblood depends on government largess? Shouldn't we understand how these researchers respond to incentives that they have been given—and how those incentives might skew their focus and findings? In fact, when has there ever been massive government funding of science, and a verdict of "nothing to see here, please go about your business"? Science demands independence and objectivity, yet that is precisely what science lacks today.

The same can be said for economics. Consider this report, paid for by Shell Oil, that argues that climate-control regulation will be a boon to business.

Combating global warming won't bankrupt Britain's economy and could be worth billions for business, says an oil company-sponsored report released Thursday.

The cost of action will amount to 0.3 percent of Britain's economic output, but that works out to business opportunities worth $55 billion over the next decade, said the report published by Shell UK, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, as part of its Springboard project to encourage business action on global warming.

Globally, the report said the market could be worth a trillion dollars in the next five years, the report said.

The report said business opportunities were mainly in developing products and systems to comply with regulations designed to cut energy use. That includes tighter building standards, supplying biofuels for road transport and renewable energy generation.

"The cost-benefit equation of action to tackle climate change is favorable. That's true not just for the U.K. but internationally as well," Shell UK Chairman James Smith said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

To encourage innovation, the report proposed that the government offer prizes -- as it did in 1714 when it offered a reward to the person who solved the problem of measuring longitude. [AP]
Let's make sure we have this right. The expense of climate-control regulation will be offset by all the profits to be had from developing pro-green technologies. Sure, the same way all the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was offset by the profits to be had in post-hurricane reconstruction. Shell UK is trying to spin a regulatory disaster—rather then admit the hard truth that regulations do not create wealth. After all, why does Shell call for a "government prize" to the creator of pro-green technologies? Aren't these innovators going to get wealthy enough on their own, without a handout or a government imprimatur?

At root, we are faced with the mind-numbing philosophic conformity that simply declares that the market is broken and that human beings are a blight on this Earth. If the climate changes on its own, so be it-but if our existence changes it, then that existence must be regulated and squelched. Again, how much funding and support goes to those who see the free human mind as the "ultimate resource," in contrast to those who favor a coerced reduction of the "footprint" of humanity?

I expect highly skewed numbers in favor of man's destroyers-and that, my friends, is the crisis of our age.

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:: Friday, October 13, 2006 ::

Switching over to Blogger comments 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:19 PM

Now that we've upgraded RoR's blog comments function to Blogger's proprietary system, the perennial problem we had with a low text-limit on reader comments has been erased. Unfortunately, we are not able to import archived comments into Blogger at this time, so at least for now, old comments will be inaccessible.

Nevertheless, I think the new "unshackled" comments are a useful improvement, and I eagerly look forward to even greater audience participation at RoR.

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A re-invigorated 'Family Circus'? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:05 PM

Indeed. (HT: Noodlefood)

Update: here's another one that had me in tears.

:: Permalink | 2 Comments ::

 

Golden Genes 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:49 AM

Out of the suffocating bureaucratic morass that is the European Union - suffocating because of its campaign to homogenize its members and emasculate their sovereignties, even to the extent of subverting their individual legal systems - stands a Frenchman who defies the gray and flaunts his gold. The gold is that of genetically modified corn.

On October 12, The Wall Street Journal ran a story, "Stalk-Raving Mad," about this crop featuring a French farmer near Bordeaux, Claude Menara, who experimented with the "alien" corn, planting a mere seventeen acres of the Monsanto-patented seed in 2005. He was so impressed with the results that this year he planted 250 acres, and next year he plans 500.

I do not believe the French are wild about corn-on-the-cob. It is, after all, an American favorite. Most of the corn grown in France and in the rest of Europe is destined to be consumed by cattle, in M. Menara's case, by Spanish cattle. According to the WSJ, in fact, Spain is the biggest producer of GM (genetically modified) corn with 148,200 acres devoted to its production, followed by France, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Germany. GM corn is the only "man-made" crop permitted by the EU to be grown in all that it surveys and regulates, although the bureaucrats of Brussels do allow a few GM crops to be imported. They are mulling over what other GM crops they will allow their worker ants to grow.

Like the French butter industry, the French corn industry is subsidized by the EU. M. Menara receives about $225,000 annually, a subsidy which will be phased out by 2013. It would be easy to gainsay M. Menara on the point of the subsidy, but his recognition that GM crops are a value is a quantum of redemption. He is looking ahead to when he can make a profit sans subsidies, thanks to the "alien" corn. A great portion of his expenses in damage control goes to using pesticides to protect his traditionally grown corn. The GM corn requires none.

The most telling part of the article was a picture of M. Menara holding two ears of corn: the perfectly golden GM one, and one grown by "traditional" methods, a quarter its kernels gone, the remaining ones with mottled brown spots, evidence of rot and parasites. Only cattle might have found it appetizing.

The culprits were mainly borer worms, which destroyed half of M. Menara's crop in 1988 and which continue to consume significant percentages of his traditionally grown corn even with the use of pesticides.

"On a recent morning, he shows off an ear of GM corn, full and yellow, alongside an unaltered ear that was withered and ruined. Transgenic corn had added genes, which produce a protein that makes the borer's stomach explode. Cracking open the stalk of the non-GM ear revealed a squad of pink worms."

I was reminded of the season at Colonial Williamsburg when, in the course of researching the Sparrowhawk novels, I worked in costume in the "rural trades" section, growing tobacco, corn, beans and other colonial fare by 18th century methods. Just as disgusting and labor-intensive as picking hornworms from tobacco leaves and ridding the plants of equally destructive aphids, was inspecting and harvesting the corn, which crawled with pests that consumed entire ears. The only "pesticides" available in the 18th century were various kinds of domestic fowl that would be let loose in the tobacco fields to eat the hornworms. Raising a good corn crop, however, was a matter of chance.

A worse threat to M. Menara's crop are environmental jihadists, reports the WSJ - although the article referred to them as "activists," too benign a term to identify criminals and terrorists. Even though GM-produced food crops have not been proven to jeopardize human or livestock health, French environmentalists have mounted a campaign to ban the growth of GM crops not only in France, but also in the rest of Europe. Using modern technology such as the GPS, the Internet, and testing techniques perfected in the U.S., anti-technology Greenpeace jihadists randomly identify farms and send "detectives" to them to determine whether or not a farmer is growing GM corn. If he is, then gangs of environmentalists descend on the farm and trash his crop, or as much of it as they can before the police arrive.

M. Menara has the right perspective on these bipedal pests. "They are thugs," he told the WSJ. He sued Greenpeace to force them to remove his GPS-located farm from its website, and won. "A few days later, Greenpeace activists traced a cross in his field by knocking down corn stalks," reports the WSJ. Later, a notorious French environmentalist, Jose Bové, who was jailed for destroying a McDonald's, led a mob of his ilk to M. Menara's farm and destroyed 30 acres of GM corn. Three of the mob were arrested and face jail time. Menara plans to go ahead with planting his 500 acres of GM corn. It is encouraging to read of a Frenchmen who doesn't wave the white flag of surrender.

Environmentalists opposed to GM crops claim they are concerned about their spread to, well, the environment. Environmentalism is their mystical calling. In this instance, their ostensive, short-range goal is to force farmers to grow crops by "traditional" methods, methods used in the 18th and 19th centuries until technology was brought into the business.

Their long-range goal is, frankly, man's extinction, since even fields of crops are "intrusive" and replace whatever grew wild on the land before men came to make it productive. Never believe an environmentalist when he asserts a concern for humanity; it is humanity he hates and wants to erase from existence for the sake of an "unaltered" earth. The same motive that prompts terrorists to destroy a dealership's SUV's or to booby-trap trees to protest forestry companies, prompts them to sabotage farms.

For my money, M. Menara is a true "friend of the earth" and of human life.

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 ::

Smearing a fallen Marine hero 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:59 AM

Last week the LA Times ran an article titled "His Corps Value Was Bravery" about Marine PFC Christopher Adlesperger, who was killed in battle with Iraqi jihadists and had been nominated to receive the Medal of Honor. Today I read the letters the Times printed in response to the article, letters that plainly reveal the contempt some have for our military and its heroes. These letters are reprinted below:

Re "His Corps Value Was Bravery," Column One, Oct. 3

If an individual were to kill 11 people in house-to-house gang warfare in South Los Angeles, we wouldn't call him a hero; we'd call him a bloodthirsty, homicidal maniac. We would fear for the future of our city.

But when it's war, we nominate these individuals for one of the nation's highest honors. We spend several hundred billion dollars to send thousands of our young adults overseas so they can engage in this kind of behavior in someone else's country.

The 11 people we dismiss as insurgents are mourned by their own families, some of whom consider their actions a logical response to a foreign power occupying their land, while others grieve at the senselessness of it all.

The Times has shown its support for the troops, like we're all expected to do. But if Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger had been a street gang member, we would have been subjected to articles explaining how we needed to provide alternatives to murderous organizations that provide a sense of belonging to its members.

T.C. PETERSON

Los Angeles

Reading about Adlesperger's valor, while compelling, left me with an overwhelming sadness. We are apparently hard-wired to kill each other over land or oil or our gods. Imagine what a man with the passion of Adlesperger could have done for his family and for the world in the next 60 years had he lived. I admire his bravery and loyalty to his friends. But I condemn those who required this of him and more than 2,000 of his brothers. I only wish his bravery could have been spent as a firefighter or a police officer, at home, where we need him more than ever.

GEORGE WATERS

Pasadena

I was repulsed by the tone of The Times' article. How dare you glorify the obscenity of killing, with descriptions of gurgling blood. Maybe the so-called Iraqi insurgents are not the enemy but in fact are freedom fighters, valiantly attempting to rid their country of a repugnant foreign presence fighting not for freedom and democracy but for America's insatiable appetite for oil. The United States must end this senseless war, sooner rather than later, and articles like this espousing flag-waving patriotism are only perpetuating the myth that modern war, and this one in particular, can be won.

RUSS RODDERBACK

Las Vegas
When Marine Corps Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was smeared by students at the University of Washington last spring, many RoR readers stood up for him and his legacy. I say we need a similar response to the above letters today. Here is the Times’ contact information:

Letters should be brief (250 words or less) and are subject to condensation. They must include a full name (initials and pseudonyms will not be used) and a valid mailing address and telephone number. Unpublished letters cannot be acknowledged.

Call: (213) 237-4511.
Fax: (213) 237-7679.
E-mail:letters@latimes.com
Here is my letter in response:

If we are to believe the letters printed in response to "His Corps Value Was Bravery," (Oct. 3), Marine PFC Christopher Adlesperger was a “homicidal maniac” squelching the lives of “freedom fighters” in order to satiate America’s “appetite for oil.” One marvels at such a trenchant response to the death of this young man, yet the tone expressed reveals the tremendous disconnect between the role our fighting men and women fulfill and their public perception by the critics of this war. If men like PFC Adlesperger are in the wrong for fighting in Iraq, Saddam Hussain and the Islamic jihadists who compose today’s insurgency must be in the right.

Yet before we enshrine nerve gas, rape rooms and religious-inspired decapitation as legitimate tools of governance, we would do well to remember that no one has a right to a dictatorship, and no government that violates the rights of its own people can be trusted to respect the rights of its neighbors. PFC Adlesperger fought gallantly against the forces of brutality and ignorance in Iraq, and the effort by some to attack his memory here in America recoils upon them. Adlesperger’s sense of purpose speaks for itself—and so does that of his critics.

Nicholas Provenzo
Chairman
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism

USMC 1988-1993

:: Permalink | 2 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 ::

Nobel Prizes in Nullity 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:51 PM

Even more than the roster of activists for statism and collectivism discussed in my commentary on the Medal of Freedom ("Medals for Mendacity," October 7), the roll call of activists for "peace" is a grab bag of the foolish, the subversive, the charlatan, and the insidious. And, like most of the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, most of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize reveal an ignorance of the requirements for peace among nations, or an overt hostility to those requirements.

For about sixty years in the 19th century, after the last Napoleonic War, peace reigned among the civilized nations of Europe and North America, chiefly because most of these countries had governments limited in their power to abrogate individual rights and which nominally fostered free trade. The harbinger of statism and of things to come in the twentieth century was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, when Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who established a comprehensive, universal welfare state in Germany, maneuvered France into a diplomatic impasse over a possible alliance of Spain and Prussia against France, and then handily defeated the French army at Sedan.

Emperor Napoleon the Third (Victor Hugo's "Napoleon the Little") was deposed by his countrymen, while Germany annexed Alsace and part of Lorraine and occupied France until an indemnity was paid. The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine remained a point of conflict from 1871 to the time of Hitler's blitzkrieg aggressions. Under Bismarck's leadership, all the German states, until then a loose confederation, were consolidated under one government and one emperor, William the First of Prussia. From that point on Germany was governed by Prussian militaristic and imperialistic policies up through the end of World War Two.

At the same time, "peace" became an obsession of diplomats and social activists. As a desired relationship between nations, they viewed it as an ideal state of affairs regardless of cause or consequence, without any thought to the political nature of the governments that were expected to observe the peace.

On the other hand, dictators have terms of peace. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his Islamic imperialist cohorts promise "peace" on earth once a global caliphate is established, by force if necessary. Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and even Napoleon promised "peace" under their ideologies once other nations had been conquered or forced to submit to their hegemony.

But the exigencies of peace have been ignored by both aggressors and pacifists. Aggressors believe that "peace" can be achieved by force; pacifists believe that it can be achieved by compromise. Both force and compromise are antipodes of reason, which men need to consistently employ as individuals in nature and in their relationships with one another. And because reason has rarely played a role in the conflicts between nations, the record of peace movements has been largely one of repeated failure. In fact, most peace movements and diplomatic strategies to prevent war have almost consistently caused or led to war. Efforts by diplomats and pacifists, who eschew violence, to persuade those who live by and for force to refrain from coercion, only encouraged the use of force by those unconcerned with peace.

Ayn Rand observed in her essay "The Roots of War," that:

"[T]hese same peace movements do not oppose dictatorships; the political views of their members range through all shades of the statist spectrum, from welfare statism to socialism to fascism to communism. This means that they are opposed to the use of coercion by one nation against another, but not by the government of a nation against its own citizens; it means that they are opposed to the use of force against armed adversaries, but not against the disarmed." (From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
It is interesting to note that as statism and collectivism grew in the West in the 20th century, peace movements grew shriller and less rational, to the advantage of the blatantly irrational. And the efforts of pacifists have been fundamentally to reconcile either the rational with the irrational, or the irrational with the irrational, with no thought devoted to the necessary preconditions of peace. No one has thought to ask: Why haven't the U.S. and Canada gone to war? Or the U.S. and Britain? Or the U.S. and Mexico (the Mexican-American War of the 1840's was caused by a Mexican dictator's aggression). For example, historically, of all the peace treaties ever signed by former combatants, the oldest still in effect is between the U.S. and Britain, implemented in 1815 at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812.

The shortest-lived treaties have been those signed between nominally "liberal" nations and dictatorships, such as the Neville Chamberlain and Hitler "peace in our time" paper, and between dictatorships, such as the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.

In its long history of awarding Peace Prizes, the Nobel committee has demonstrated a penchant for picking failures, effectively giving recipients a mere "E" for effort. Let's look at the record.

In 2005, the Prize was awarded to the International Atomic Energy Agency "for its efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes...." With North Korea having exploded a nuclear device this week, and Iran determined to enrich uranium to produce its own weapons to use against the West, the failure of the Agency to prevent the spread of nuclear technology is obvious.

In 2002, the Prize was given to former president Jimmy Carter "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts...." Obviously, he has never found those solutions, his effort frustrated by his refusal to distinguish between freedom and tyranny.

In 1994, the Prize was awarded jointly to Shimon Perez and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and terrorist chief Yasir Arafat "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East." Yet, the Middle East is still in turmoil, as Israel struggles to remain in existence, while the Arab campaign to extinguish it has never abated.

In 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho of Communist Vietnam received the Prize for having negotiated a peace and the defeat of the U.S.

In 1960, Albert John Lutuli, president of the African National Congress, the political arm of black terrorists, received the Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela, also a leader of the ANC, received it in 1993.

Austen Chamberlain, British foreign secretary and half-brother of Neville, received the Prize in 1925 for having negotiated the Locarno Treaty, which established Germany's borders with France and Belgium. These "inviolable" borders later meant nothing to Hitler. Chamberlain shared that Prize with Charles Dawes, vice president of the U.S. and chairman of the Allied Reparation Commission, who drew up a schedule for defeated Germany to pay for its aggression during World War One. It was a curious arrangement, with the Allies loaning Germany the means to make the payments, the U.S. chipping in $110,000,000. The Dawes Plan and its successor, the Young Plan, which reduced the German debt, were cancelled in 1933 when Hitler became chancellor. One of his political platforms was very popular with the German electorate: the alleged injustice of reparations and the Treaty of Versailles.

Throughout its over one hundred year history, the Nobel Peace Prize has rarely been awarded to a success. And there have been virtually no successful "peace initiatives" because the initiators discard, ignore, or are oblivious to the political requirements to attain a lasting peace. It is on record that nations which have a nominal respect for individual rights do not invade or seek to conquer each other. The histories of North America and post-World War Two Europe attest to that fact. But this fact is lost on diplomats and peace activists.

Observe the fancy, verbose evasions our government emits when faced with the fact that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons to with which to destroy Israel, rule the Mideast, and threaten the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. has surrendered its right to self-defense to the tut-tutting of the "international community." It has lost the moral confidence of the rightness of its own existence. Opposing it is the moral intransigence of Islamic totalitarianism, which means to conquer the world. Instead of destroying Iran's nuclear weapons facilities and its regime, the U.S. and the West evade the moral issue with diplomacy and bribery, which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismisses with the same contemptuous flair as his poster boy, Hitler, dismissed treaties and pacts.

Observe our pathetic response is to North Korea's nuclear test. Instead of destroying North Korea's ability to threaten its neighbors and even the U.S. - and destroyed it years ago -- regardless of the "collateral damage" of civilian casualties, we seek to negotiate, cajole, and promise to shake our fist if Kim Jung Il doesn't listen. Now we are talking about "sanctions." Have our politicians forgotten that sanctions were imposed on Iraq, and that these pitiful, ineffectual actions were compromised by the "humanitarian" oil-for-food program, corruptly administered sub rosa by Kofi Annan, the outgoing secretary general, who accepted a Peace Prize in 2001 on behalf of the U.N.?

Apparently, they have. Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, simply reported the administration's displeasure at North Korea's "provocative defiance of the will of the international community."

Like the Medal of Freedom, like the Nobel Laureate in Literature, the Nobel Peace Prize, absent all rational criteria for measuring moral worth, is a nullity and a farce.

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

:: Monday, October 09, 2006 ::

Cox and Forkum infiltrate Iranian cartoon contest 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:55 PM

In response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy earlier this year, an Iranian newspaper elected to hold a "Holocaust International Cartoon Contest," and none other than Cox and Forkum were able to slip in a stealth cartoon critical of the Iranian regime (full story at the Cox and Forkum website here).

Here's their cartoon:




Don't see anything special? Flip the cartoon over and presto!




These guys are simply the two coolest editorial cartoonists in business today. Bravo!

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

Boycotting one's self bankrupt 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:08 AM

Gus Van Horn guest-writes at CAC on calls for an economic boycott of hostile oil-producing countries.

While I strongly sympathize with the desire to boycott Citgo, I doubt that even a successful boycott would have much of a long-term effect on the Chavez regime beyond a temporary reduction of its cash flow while Venezuela looks for other customers. Indeed, Chavez has frequently in the past threatened to cut off oil flow to the United States altogether and already has deals with China – whose rapid economic expansion has helped drive oil prices upward -- to purchase its oil and natural gas. A boycott might do nothing but secure a dependable oil supply for China – while forcing America to find other, possibly more expensive sources of fuel for itself.
Read the whole thing.

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

:: Saturday, October 07, 2006 ::

Medals for Mendacity 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:17 AM

An examination of the list of individuals who were conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom over the last twenty or so years would move one to wonder what "freedom" has to do with the award. Originally established in 1945 by President Harry Truman, it was intended to be bestowed on military personnel to "recognize notable service in the war."

President John F. Kennedy reestablished the medal in 1963 as a purely civilian honor. The list of recipients is largely a roster of scoundrels who are noted for having worked to abridge freedom, not promote it.

Not so curiously, in the context of an overall cultural phenomenon, the Medal of Freedom roster is, if seen through a certain prism, the opposite of the list of Nobel Laureate in Literature conferees. With few exceptions, most of the Nobel winners defy memory. Dario Fo in1997? Imre Kertésez in 2002? Naguib Mahfouz in 1988? The citation for Mahfouz reads, "who, through works rich in nuance, now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous, has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind." That was five years before the first World Trade Center bombing; one wonders what "nuanced" works he's writing now.

Other names are recognizable - such as Harold Pinter, Saul Bellow, and Günter Grass - if only because these literary lights have had more press coverage than the others and have drawn the doting attention of our scrofulous critical establishment. And Günter Grass wrote "frolicsome black fables [that] portray the forgotten face of history." Frolicsome and forgettable faces?

There are a few "greats" on the Nobel list: Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, Sinclair Lewis, George Bernard Shaw, and Henryk Sienkiewicz -- and a few of literary notoriety: Gerhart Hauptmann, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre. But, the list is dominated by obscure authors who may or may not be known to the conscientious reader. The Nobel Prize committee for literature hasn't displayed much prescience in picking memorable writers. Its roster could be dubbed "Authors Anonymous."

Not so the Medal of Freedom list. At first glance, it seems eclectic. Baseball players and comediennes have received the Medal, such as Jackie Robinson and Martha Raye. Bill Cosby, Plácido Domingo, Jacques Barzun and Arnold Palmer have also received the Medal.

But the Medals list is over-populated with the enemies of freedom and their fellow travelers. Cesar Chavez, James Scott Brady, Albert Shanker, George McGovern, and Morris Udall have received the Medal. Labor leaders Walter Reuther and Lane Kirkland have received it. Civil rights activists - or opportunists - Jesse Jackson and Barbara Jordan have received it.

Clergymen and civil rights leaders pepper the list. Millard D. Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, and his selfless, hammer-and-nail handyman, former President Jimmy Carter, share the list with Elliot Richardson and David Rockefeller. Two advocates of public television have received it, Peggy Charren and Joan Ganz Cooney. Nanny state advocates C. Everett Koop and Justin Dart Jr. have received it. And Generals Colin Powell and Tommy Franks are up there with Rita Moreno, Charlton Heston, Julia Child, and Pope Paul the Second. Losers have every right to commingle and hobnob with winners and the half-dead.

All right. There are a few obscurities, such as Wilma Mankiller, former Cherokee Nation leader, Gordon B. Hinckley, a religious leader, and Evelyn Dubrow, a lobbyist. Who? Well, that's not important. Someone thought they were as prominent and well-known as John Kenneth Galbraith, Estée Lauder and Van Cliburn, who also were recipients.

Humanitarians, philanthropists and "government servants," however, dominate the Medal of Freedom list, every one of them dedicated to advancing statism in their own, special little way. It is appropriate that it was the pioneer of the "Fascist New Frontier" who redefined the Medal.

The latest recipients are the not-so-odd couple, those notable humanitarians and inseparable golf partners, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who received their Medals in a ceremony in Philadelphia on October 5th. Bush Senior is also having dedicated to him this weekend a billion dollar aircraft carrier, which undoubtedly will be sent out to carry on future charity work around the world. The reader will now understand why the "Medal of Freedom" is a misnomer and a mockery of the idea of freedom. I trust an extensive rehash of the disastrous administrations of these creatures isn't necessary here.

Suffice to say that "freedom" was not the leitmotif of either of their terms of office, and certainly not the substance of their legislative accomplishments. Bush, among other things, threw away a war, let a dictator remain in power, and spent millions of dollars and American lives to give the Kuwaiti sheiks back our oil fields, in addition to signing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Clinton, among other things, "pursued" Osama bin Laden, oversaw the virtual nationalization of the tobacco industry, and endorsed further federal censorship of the airwaves.

So, when one reviews the list of Medal recipients and why they were bestowed an ounce or so of gold hanging from a ribbon, the question should arise in one's mind: Should the government be in the business of "recognizing" any accomplishments? Military decorations are proper and a means of recognizing and honoring those who risk their lives defending this country. "Civilian" decorations are inherently statist in nature, recognizing as they do statist values and achievements in a nation's culture. The Medal of "Freedom" has become a status symbol for those who either never understood freedom, or who understood it and have dedicated their lives to destroying it.

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