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:: The Rule of Reason ::

:: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 ::

Woman Jailed After Reporting Rape, Denied Emergency Contraception 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:26 PM

This one will probably have you punching the wall . . .

A woman who told police she had been raped was jailed for two days after officers found an old warrant accusing her of failing to pay restitution for a 2003 theft arrest. While she was behind bars, according to the college student's attorney, a jail worker refused to give her a second dose of the morning-after contraceptive pill because of the worker's religious convictions.

The 21-year-old woman was released Monday only after attorney Vic Moore reported her plight to the local media.

"Shocked. Stunned. Outraged. I don't have words to describe it," Moore said. "She is not a victim of any one person. She is a victim of the system. There's just got to be some humanity involved when it's a victim of rape."

Moore said the woman was not allowed to take the second emergency contraceptive pill until Monday afternoon, a day late, after reporters called police and jail officials. [Phil Davis, AP]
It is one thing that this woman was incarcerated after reporting being raped—that is vicious enough. To deny her the medical treatment she requested--to reduce her to being the potential vessel for some rapist’s child when she expressly requested otherwise--is cruelty beyond compare.

And why? Because it offended some idiot's religious sensibilities. This is but yet another example of how faith is utterly vicious.

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Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:33 PM

The instruction of elementary school math is being bastardized, as Seattle weather reporter M.J. McDermott explains in no uncertain terms (HT: Gus Van Horn). The most devastating critique comes near the end.

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Chavez made dictator of Venezuela 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:40 PM

This has been years in the making, yet it is nevertheless an astounding turn of events.

Venezuela's Congress on Wednesday granted President Hugo Chavez powers to rule by decree for 18 months as he tries to force through nationalizations key to his self-styled leftist revolution.

The vote allows anti-U.S. leader Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, to deepen state control of the economy.

The lawmakers, all loyal to Chavez after opposition parties boycotted the 2005 congressional elections, flaunted their populist credentials by taking the unusual step of holding their vote in public in a square in Caracas.

"We in the National Assembly will not waver in granting President Chavez an enabling law so he can quickly and urgently set up the framework for resolving the grave problems we have," said congressional Vice-President Roberto Hernandez. [Reuters]
One marvels at the intellectual vacuum that exits today for a nation to willfully take such a backward step.

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:: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 ::

Fired Up for Founders College 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:27 AM

Over the weekend I visited Berry Hill, the antebellum plantation which will serve as the future home for Founders College. I do not think enough has been said about just how tremendous a location this is for this school; it is simply a place without many equals in higher education today. I have visited most of the great homes of Virginia in the past and the Berry Hill manor house alone easily ranks among them, while the richness of larger grounds serve to amplify the beauty of the property in ways that are absolutely breathtaking.

The estate, ten minutes from the town of South Boston, rests in the heart of rural Virginia; the countryside surrounding the property is peppered with tobacco farms and their antiquated log drying shacks. One approaches Berry Hill from the north, where a half-mile tree-lined road takes you to the second gate and its surrounding primitive stone wall. To one's right are the stone ruins of slave quarters, ghostly reminders of the plantation's past, and it is here that one first begins to see hints of the Greek revival manor house itself. Built upon the summit of a commanding hill, the home's eight Doric columns peek through the branches of the surrounding oaks in restrained understatement. It is only upon reaching the circular drive directly in front of the manor that one finally sees the unshielded splendor of this temple-home.

And this home is splendorous. On both flanks stand smaller dependencies that echo the style of the larger house, and there one is struck by the pungent aroma of the ancient boxwoods that surround the circle drive. (For those familiar with Mount Vernon, it is said that Washington favored the boxwood over all other aromatic plants). I arrived at Berry Hill about a half-hour before sunset, and as I approached, the north-facing house eclipsed the sun, leaving only its afterglow to illuminate the façade.

All the while, I could not help but think to myself: this is to be their college.

Built by the planter and entrepreneur James Coles Bruce in 1842, the main house is in an excellent state of preservation. As one enters the manor, one is greeted by the carefully restored main hall with its grand circular stairways rising on both sides of the hall, meeting on a landing and continuing as one. The home features many original fixtures, including the carved Italian marble fireplace mantels in the parlor and the library. In back of the manor are more dependencies, one of which now serves as a small tavern.

And as I exited the mansion, I was struck by how the modern additions, such as a large banquet facility, guest facilities, and athletic center do not intrude upon the historic aspects of the manor, yet are equally as luxurious. The guest rooms are decorated en suite and feature either ornate four-post canopy beds or sleigh beds (I am told these are to be preserved for the use of students). Each room has a full bath and a spacious veranda that is perfectly suited to catching the last rays of the setting sun. Common rooms feature working fireplaces, and one would be hard-pressed to envision a more comfortable environment for study and enjoyment.

In the last bit of twilight, I left the house and visited the Bruce family cemetery off a ridge to the east of the main hall. There I found graves that go back to the 1840 founding of the plantation.

The next day I toured the larger estate, mountain-biking a perimeter road that bounds the property, which is bordered by the Dan River to the south and adjacent farms to the east and west. A significant part of the estate is wooded; portions are slated to be part of a future residential community and equestrian center that will circle the estate to the northeast, with the rest of the grounds to be kept as they are. Horse and mules are already raised on a part of the estate, with these animals having both woods and pasture in which to graze. I counted two ponds, with one serving as the home of an industrious clan of beavers (as judged by the large den they had built and the over-abundance of pine trees that they had felled). The other pond is in a small cut closer to the manor itself, ringed with large oak trees and a stone's throw from the ruins of two of the plantation's former slave quarters.

It was near here as I walked back to the manor house that I was able to enjoy a few moments away from my guide and take in the serene quiet of the place. There are no nearby roads to disturb one from their thoughts; as I walked, all I could hear was the sound of my feet and the gentile sound of a light rain falling upon the trees. I find that there are too few places today where this is possible and yet still offer all the potential of an invigorating and stimulating life. I obviously do not believe one's environment determines one's being, but if ever are there places that meld nature and man together in exquisite harmony, the Berry Hill plantation ranks as one amoung them. The property is brimming with possibility, and I can only say how fortunate Founders' students and faculty will be that they will have this beautiful place to call their home.

In a future post, I'll talk about what I learned about Founders College's educational philosophy from one of its recently-hired faculty, and how Founders believes that it can provide its students with an unsurpassed educational experience.

Update: Link to Lee Sandstead's images of the Berry Hill Plantation.

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:: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 ::

Censorship by Nickels and Dimes 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:25 AM

In what seems another age, some thirteen years ago, when Hillary Clinton attempted to foist socialized medicine on the country without even the courtesy of being elected to office, I wrote an article, "Here Comes a Chopper to Chop Off Your Head: Freedom of Expression Vs. Censorship in America," for the quarterly Journal of Information Ethics (St. Cloud State University, Minnesota - Fall 1995). The subject was the steady encroachment of censorship in all fields of expression, ranging from the banning of tobacco advertising to the mandating of the "V-chip" in new television sets as a means of "protecting" children against sex and violence in programming.

Now Hillary Clinton wants to foist herself on the village - excuse me, the country - as president, while censorship itself has inched up like a slow-rising flood to engulf political campaign ads, cresting, for the moment, at the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The principal subject here is the jeopardy in which "political speech" has been put, and this commentary may be treated as a shortened, revised version of my original "Chopper" article.

Let's start by quoting Article One of the Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Now, that is very clear. "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" - period. No exemptions, exceptions or special circumstances are mentioned or specified in that statement. No particular subject or form of speech is singled out or exempted from that broad assertion. It is as clear as "two plus two equals four." It means that regardless of one's financial status or political persuasion or the rightness or looniness of one's ideas, one has an inalienable right to say what one thinks, on any issue, about any person, about any thing. It means that one can agree with others on a specific issue and speak with them as a group, or speak as a lone individual, to anyone willing to listen or read.

On what moral principle is the First Amendment based? On the sovereignty of one's mind, a sovereignty given value in reality by the recognized and protected liberty to say what is on one's mind. The least proscription of that liberty is a shackle that ought to be contemptuously rejected, while the would-be censor should be damned. A mind free to think what it pleases, but prohibited from expressing what it thinks, is not a practical, life-enhancing value. A statutory or literal gag does nothing to further an individual's existence or happiness. But it is not any individual's happiness that a censor is concerned with, but rather his mindless obedience or his sanction by silence.

Man lives by his mind, by thinking, and by taking actions based on his thinking. If he is prohibited from taking action - in this instance, from speaking - then the freedom of thought is nullified by the destruction of the freedom to speak, negated as surely as if a lobotomy had been performed on his brain. You will not hear him, you will not know what he thinks, because to speak will earn him punishment.

Punishment? By whom? By those who do not wish him to speak, or by those who do not wish to hear what he has to say or who do not wish others to hear his thoughts. What gives them the power to gag an individual? Fiat, non-objective law. What is the motivation behind the gag? In most circles, and in editorials and commentary, one encounters reams of verbiage about "fairness" or "equity." But all that discussion focuses on irrelevancies.

Fundamentally, the motivation is fear. Fear of the mind, and most especially fear of reason. Reason is the foundation of rational persuasion. A politician or group that does not want others to hear an articulate, rational, persuasive argument against a particular program or policy, will want that opposition suppressed or neutralized. It is mindless agreement such creatures want, not agreement by serious reflection or thought.

The censors will not admit they are censors, or that they are advocating censorship. Those terms still frighten them with nearly superstitious awe. Cowards that they are, they prefer to introduce censorship by subverting the concept of freedom of speech. To paraphrase Ellsworth Toohey in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, "Enshrine 'fairness' or "equal access' or 'diversity of opinion,' and the concept of freedom of speech is razed."

The First Amendment has been abridged, and the issues that have nickeled-and-dimed it to bankruptcy have so atomized the subject -- one might even say vaporized it -- by such a prodigious volume of non-conceptual thought and politically-biased interpretation by theorists, jurists and legal philosophers, that one is virtually stopped in one's mental tracks by the plethora of sub-issues generated by those kinds of thought and interpretations: political speech, hate speech, corporate speech, commercial and non-commercial speech, obscenity, campus speech codes, balanced viewpoints, the "Fairness Doctrine," content-neutral speech, employer and employee speech, harm-based restrictions on speech, government-mandated product warnings, high- and low-value speech....the list goes on. And none of this even begins to address the subject of libel law.

Nielsen ratings, Gallup polls or any other species of "spot democracy" cannot determine the goodness or badness, the truth or falsehood, or desirability or undesirability of anything. A tally of nods and shakes of heads, whether of the entire population, or of a small fraction of it, is no substitute for thought, objectivity and reality. A consensus, real or imagined, is not a valid substitute for a moral standard.

For example, in an Associated Press article on January 21, "Smoke-free-law movement catching fire across the nation," it was reported that,

"In Virginia, a recent Mason-Dixon poll indicated a majority of the state's voters favored a ban."

It is irrelevant whether the poll truly canvassed all voters or just an infinitesimal percentage of them and then performed a hocus-pocus, statistics-based mathematical projection that would allow someone to say that it "indicated" a majority favored a smoking ban. At stake is the selective seizure of private property to benefit nonsmokers, in the name of "public health" or the "general welfare." Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act also mandates the seizure of private property to accommodate mostly wheelchair-bound individuals. Doubtless a poll or survey would "indicate" that "most" people approve of the Act. These and other such policies are a species of eminent domain.

And, similarly, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was intended to "limit" the employment of private property - in this instance, money - during elections. Its target is "big money," donations in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to the campaign chests of candidates for office or to official organizations that promote the candidates. It is a kind of reverse seizure of property; instead of confiscating it, it prohibits its use to publicly endorse a candidate or a cause.

The law, however, will not restrain the likes of George Soros, the ultra-left billionaire, who will always find a way of circumventing it (he spent $26 million trying to defeat George Bush in 2004), nor will it prevent the creation of numerous ploys to circumvent it through organizations affiliated with political action committees (PACs) that a court, panel, or commission may or may not deem are in compliance.

The flood of censorship has crested with that law, because on December 21st a single spillway was opened that may portend the demise of the law or its stricter enforcement or simply more confusion. It is but a nickel's worth of respite.

A three-judge panel ruled against a ban on corporate or union money that paid for issue advertisements in the weeks before a federal election. A rationalistic distinction was made by the panel between ads that promote a specific candidate and "general issue ads" that may or may not merely mention a candidate's name. In this instance, the Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, brought a case before the Federal Election Commission on the grounds that the rule violated the group's freedom of speech.

It lost the case, but the Supreme Court, instead of throwing out the entire law, returned the matter to the three-judge panel, which ruled in the group's favor. The group's ads, it found, did not violate restrictions against "express advocacy" for or against a federal candidate and so were not "campaign ads" but "general issue ads," because they did not endorse or oppose a candidate, but instead urged voters to contact their senators. Therefore, it was exempt from the "big money" rule and the 60- and 30- day ban of "campaign" ads before elections and primaries.

With such pretzel-like logic, governed by an epistemology which holds that arbitrary rules and not principles are the primary measure of legally permitted speech, we should not delude ourselves that this represents a step in the right direction, which would be a total repeal of the campaign finance law as unconstitutional. Neither the Wisconsin group, the three-judge panel, nor the FEC, nor the Supreme Court knows any more what is or is not constitutional.

In the meantime, Section 220 of the lobbying reform bill now in the Senate would require "grassroots" organizations, bloggers, and individuals who communicate with 500 or more members of the public to register and report quarterly to Congress if their subject is Congress or any political issue, whether or not money changes bank accounts. An amendment to the bill, passed by the Senate, would impose criminal penalties, including one year in jail, for failing to register with Congress.

What does the First Amendment state? "Congress shall pass no law...prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In short, the bill would require individuals to seek permission of the Congress to speak and attempt to petition the government to redress grievances. The bill exempts corporations, unions and large organizations, such as Soros's Move On, from having to comply with the proposed law. (Incredibly, the bill is seen as a curative to Congressional corruption! You can be sure that most members of Congress will find a way to get around the "reform.")

Finally, Accuracy in Media reports that "liberals in the House and Senate intend to push legislation giving the Federal Communications Commission the authority to monitor and restrict what conservatives in the media say and how they say it." They want to revive the "fairness doctrine" that would empower the FCC to force broadcasters and popular conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh to grant "equal access" to their programs.

What is censorship? Most dictionaries agree, in their definitions, that it is the practice or system of officials suppressing or deleting material in books, films, letters, news, and so on. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford Concise Dictionary (6th Edition) both imply, in their use of the term "official," that censorship is strictly a government action. The American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College Edition), however, is less exact in implication; censorship, in its definition, is the "act, process, or policy of censoring," while a censor is defined as a "person authorized to examine literature, plays, or other material and who may remove or suppress what he considers morally or otherwise objectionable." The latter definition could apply to government and private actions alike, since it neither identifies a censor as an official, nor specifies on whose authority he acts. Moreover, no extant definition mentions the use of force, and none incorporates the concept of property rights.

The role of force is a crucial element in the action of censorship, and so is the property status of that which is being suppressed. The only institution granted the legal use of force in our society -- or in any society -- is government. The author's definition of censorship, therefore, would be: The employment or threat of government force in the suppression of ideas, information, or material in privately produced books, films, plays, artwork, letters, news, programming in any broadcast medium, and in all other kinds of private written or spoken material.

To clarify this point, some distinctions must be made. A government cannot practice censorship on its own publications. It can practice fraud, falsehood and propaganda. It can suppress, falsify, manipulate or omit information which any of its branches or agencies may generate, and only the honesty of a government employee or the alertness of a journalist may expose the wrong-doing. The federal government already practices informational fraud in a wide range of fields, especially in environmental, health, and economic matters. But this is another subject altogether.

Censorship is not a publisher, broadcaster, newspaper or other medium refusing to carry, promote or otherwise associate with a writer's, artist's or advertiser's material. The reasons which the owner of a medium may cite in any instance of refusal can be rational or irrational, incomprehensible or repellant, but the reasons are irrelevant. No one has a moral obligation to publicize positions or viewpoints with which he disagrees, or to provide a free or paid podium for others because they lack the means of promulgating their viewpoints.

It makes as much sense to mandate a "fairness doctrine" or "balanced opinion" policy for broadcasters, newspapers and other forms of expression as it would to require one to allow a stranger to include remarks in one's own private correspondence, or to force a shopping mall to give space to someone who advocates the overthrow of capitalism. One problem in the matter of "fairness" or "balance" can be found in the assertion by many publishers in their mottos, slogans and public statements that they exist to "serve the public's right to know" or to "serve people's need for information." Flaunting obsequious sentiments of this kind is an invitation to regulation and control by those claiming "needs" and "rights" and by politicians and bureaucrats who wish to satisfy those "needs" and "rights."

Censorship, then, is a government power reserved exclusively for the control of private expression or communication, whether in books, newspapers, films, letters, visual art, advertising, or over the airwaves. None of these forms of expression or communication is "public" in the sense that it is "collectively" owned. It is "public" only insofar as publishers, film studios, or advertisers wish to reach as many readers or as wide an audience as possible, just as restaurants or workplaces are "public" only insofar as their owners wish to trade with individuals.

But as all these forms of expression or communication employ private property (or, as in the case of broadcasters, licensed property) as vehicles, there is no argument that can justify the control of either the form of expression or communication or the property on which it is based. An attempt to control the property is not necessarily an attempt to impose censorship; but control over it can lead to de facto censorship.

What the Constitutional Convention of 1787 established was a republic, or a system of government in which rights are not only recognized and firmly established as absolutes, but are protected from abridgment by the whims and caprices of conniving politicians and envious majorities and minorities. This is the system of government -- albeit imperfect in practice -- which the country had up to around the Civil War. It was designed as best the Founders could to thwart the "democratic" forces in existence even in the late eighteenth century America. The Constitution, unfortunately, was not then, and certainly is not now, democracy-proof.

It is apropos to cite one of the Founders, James Madison, on the subject of power:

"Where the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Government the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of constituents."
The author would append to this truth the observation that government can also become the instrument of a minority of constituents who have the sympathy and support of intellectuals, the courts, the news media, and last, but not least guilty, politicians with axes to grind or nothing else to do but try to justify their continued presence in Washington.

Behind this phenomenon are the ideals of American thinkers such as Herbert Croly, who wrote early in the 20th century:

"The Promise of American life is to be fulfilled not merely by a maximum amount of economic freedom, but by a certain measure of discipline; not merely by the abundant satisfaction of individual desires, but by a large measure of individual subordination and self-denial."
Croly's lengthy, detailed proposal for a fascist reformation of America was published in 1909. Observe the contradiction in his theme. While he deprecates "economic freedom" and "individual desires," he proposes "discipline and self-denial." Now, either one has the freedom to fulfill one's individual desires -- including the desire to speak one's mind -- or one does not. What is the "discipline" but an altruist selflessness subordinated to the collective or the state?

Croly, it should be noted, was a leading theoretician of the Progressive Party. The principal planks of that party's 1912 platform have since been adopted and in place for decades. It might also be noted that he was an admirer of Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, who united the contentious German states, instituted the welfare state, and imbued Germans with a national spirit for the nation's "historical mission." That historical mission led, inexorably, to Adolph Hitler.

The question then remains: Are Americans so beaten or so stubbornly complacent that they will allow themselves to endure tyranny? Are they so cynical that they hope that things will last only for their own lifetimes, and let the devil and their children take the hindmost? Time will tell.

In conclusion, another original American should have the last word. Patrick Henry, who was so prescient about the flaws in the Constitution and the powers he was certain the federal government would eventually accrue by default, and who passionately campaigned against ratification, and then for the original ten amendments, said that "if the people would not die or be free, it was of no consequence what sort of government they lived under."

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:: Thursday, January 18, 2007 ::

Wasted Words of Wisdom 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 6:17 PM

The sight of newly installed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California on the news recently, surrounded by a gaggle of grinning politicians and slavering reporters, prompted me to dip into the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations for an antidote. What prompted me was not anything she said then, but rather the red serape that enveloped her from shoulder to shoulder. It evoked in my mind pictures of Roman emperors draped in the imperial purple or scarlet robes of absolute power. It caused me to recall Tacitus.

"Mom" Pelosi sought power - competing in power-lust with Senators Hilary Clinton, Barack Oboma and others who wish to "manage" the nation and render it "kindlier and gentler"- and attained it. (Does anyone still think the Democrats are so politically far apart from either of the Presidents Bush? The difference between the parties is one of mere velocity. The Democrats want it now; the Republicans will follow in the next bus.) She sought power over the government purse, over the purses and wallets and futures of private citizens, power exercised by force of legislation and by punitive law for disobedience of that legislation. Power to strong arm the House into moving a few steps away from America's current status as an expiring republic and closer to a full-fledged socialist "democracy."

Women dress carefully for public occasions, so I don't think the shimmering red serape was a coincidental choice of garb for this auspicious event. It was probably the closest thing to a royal symbol of authority she had in her wardrobe with which to telegraph to all that she means to rule the House roost in true hen-house fashion, just as she apparently governs her family. Watching her in the news, she clutched and hefted the Speaker's gavel as greedily as she might have an emperor's scepter. Or a club. Possibly she would have even preferred one or the other to the gavel. The avarice in her eyes was too telling.

But, back to Tacitus. His Annals and Histories record the decline of Rome in the first century A.D. Alternating between dispassionate and lively (and often lurid) reporting on the lives and careers of some of the first emperors, these histories are compelling reading. (I have three of the five Heinemann/Harvard Histories volumes on my bookshelf, and have read them.) He observed in the Annals that, "The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws."

Count the laws recorded in any edition of the Federal Register - never mind state, county and municipal laws - and ask yourself: Are the republic's days numbered, because of these innumerable, endless laws?

In Agricola, a biography of his father-in-law, Tacitus wrote of one emperor, "He has united things long incompatible, the principate (or reign) and liberty." Political corruption could not arise if a government's purpose was strictly defined to preserve the liberty that Romans once valued. And, an emperor's or executive's reign or "principate" could not be so characterized if executive powers were similarly limited. Power and liberty are fundamentally incompatible; if there is a honeymoon between them, as Tacitus notes under Emperor Nerva's reign, it must necessarily be temporary, and would depend on the emperor's ambition or lack of it.

Lord Acton's dictum that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely" remains true. However, William Pitt the Elder's observation to the House of Lords more than a century before delves a little deeper into the phenomenon: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it."

Here I volunteer my own observation about it, that, given the nature of today's politics, one must already be corrupted to seek political office. Look at the range of candidates for the office of president in both parties. Is there a single aspirant who advocates laissez-faire capitalism, or individual rights?

The next apropos quotations come from H.L. Mencken, the American journalist and critic. He observed, as early as the 1920's (when this was a much freer country) in his In Defence of Women, that "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Were he alive today, he would cite just a few of those hobgoblins: the environment, trans fats, the "epidemic" of obesity, global warming (or cooling), smoking, cyclamates, and so on.

Henry Brooks Adams, author of The Education of Henry Adams, would have agreed with Mencken: "Practical politics consists of ignoring facts."

Had the government little power to enact legislation that pleased the purveyors of hobgoblins, we would hear very little from them. But, since the government has such power, they sense that their causes have half a chance to be heeded and acted on by Congress. Consequently, they feel free to make a lot of noise, concurring with Joseph Goebbels, who said, "Making noise is an effective means of opposition."

In past commentary, I advocated that, instead of elected and appointed politicians choosing to take an oath of office on a Bible, they ought to be compelled to take that oath on a copy of the Ten Amendments to the Constitution. One wonders how many office-seekers would be willing to submit to such a condition. If they behaved as they have in the past and continue to behave in the present, which is violating those Amendments in thought and deed by regularly haranguing the public on the dangers of the latest hobgoblin and what ought to be done about it, they could be charged with lying under oath or perjury.

The prospect of impeachment would scuttle the political ambitions of ninety-nine percent of them. What has attracted them and swelled the ranks of candidacies, because there is very little any more in the way of serious recrimination and accountability, is the prospect of power and privilege and a comfortable living at no cost to themselves, except, perhaps, the bother of having to make noise for the benefit of their constituents to justify their holding office.

In Chrestomathy, Mencken offers a definition of Puritanism worthy of Samuel Johnson: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Republican or Democrat, no politician wishes anyone to be happy, unless he is a dupe of volunteerism and "community spirit," and didn't smoke, consume trans fats, wink at pretty girls, and drink more than two cups of coffee a day, preferably decaffeinated. A happy man doesn't need government guidance or anyone telling him what he should or shouldn't do.

Speaking of lies with which politicians and hobgoblins regularly subject the American public, Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf knew the formula well: "The broad mass of a nation...will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."

Among the big lies that comprise the American political mantra today and that have congealed in the American psyche as unassailable truisms:
  • The fiscal soundness and necessity of Social Security;
  • The moral responsibility of the government to provide "free" health care, or any health care at all, in addition to subsidized housing and welfare;
  • A central banking system;
  • The regulation and policing of the stock market and the airwaves;
  • The "fairness" of the propertyless voting franchise;
  • Federal aid to states declared "disaster areas," together with federally funded disaster insurance;
  • The power to establish "livable" or "minimum" wages;
  • Anti-discrimination laws of any kind to advance "social justice";
  • The necessity of income taxes and a galaxy of surtaxes, sales, excise and import taxes, hidden and pass-along taxes,
  • The imperatives of maintaining the public health and the purity of the environment;
  • The absolutely essential necessity of directing the education of the public, the better to produce an informed, responsible and responsive citizenry.
George Orwell weighed in on the subject of truth vs. lies: "Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

And, the grandest lie of all is the one that America is, and always has been, a "democracy." What cannot be forgiven is the sloppiness of past political writers to whom the term "republic" was a synonym for "democracy" and who didn't trouble themselves to make a distinction between the terms.

John Adams, second President, wrote John Taylor in 1814: "Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide." And the sure successor of a failed democracy is tyranny. Which is why Adams and the Founders labored to establish a republic. And why Benjamin Franklin was skeptical enough about its longevity when he replied, in 1787, to a question about what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had created: "A republic, if you can keep it."

Try any of these quotations on any random politician, presidential aspirant, or bureaucrat, and one is likely to elicit a response: "Yeah? And what's that in relation to?" or "Don't bother me with irrelevancies. Changing reality has changed the rules. Forget the Founders."

Then you will appreciate the irony of your being the "public servant," not he. He is the master, sporting the cloak of imperial power.

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:: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 ::

A revealing look at UK Muslims 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:06 PM

The UK's Channel 4 network offers a penetrating (if not outright blood-curdling) look at the irrationality, brutality and hatred of the West that exists among British Muslims. The undercover investigation, conducted over ten months, reveals conduct such as religious clerics urging their congregations to start preparing for jihad against non-Muslims and calls for the beating of children who dare stray away from Islamic tenets.

This is the enemy we fight. I urge you to examine this coverage and see the enemy’s philosophy for exactly what it is.

1/19/07: Update: Unfortunately, the clips that I had linked to were posted without their owner's authorization and have been taken down. Needless to say, I found them to be a chilling representation of what some Muslims living in the UK believe.

:: Permalink | 4 Comments ::

 

:: Sunday, January 14, 2007 ::

The New York Times on the Atlas movie 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:34 AM

The New York Times ran an article today on the long saga of the Atlas Shrugged movie, focusing on how “until now, at least, no one in Hollywood has figured out a formula that promises both to sell popcorn and to do justice to the original text, let alone to the philosophy that it hammers home endlessly” and the pesky (if not outright paranoid) habit of Rand and her heirs to insist on script control.

File this kind of story under “as long as they spell the names right, who cares,” which is where I expect to file a lot of the stories that come as a result of this movie.

:: Permalink | 11 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, January 02, 2007 ::

If we don't stand up for the rights of dwarf planets, who will? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:57 PM

This is amusing. Back in September, Gus Van Horn blogged about a first grade teacher who got her students to start a school-wide petition to protest the demotion of Pluto to "dwarf planet" status on the grounds of "sticking up for the little guy," (or more accuratly, the frigid, inanimate, and too small to be properly classified as a planet "little guy"). Van Horn wrote that he was appalled that children in science class were being taught that truth is a matter of majority vote and that feelings should guide each voter.

Flash forward to the present and the teacher involved (or someone claiming to be her) apparently paid Van Horn's blog a visit and posted a comment to complain about her coverage.

I am constistantly (sic) shocked at the uneducated rants of the educated. I teach 1st grade, I teach complex concepts on a level that is both appropiate (sic) and understandable to my audience, so when I happened upon your blog I was surprised. I will try to educate you on our Pluto campaign. The children were give a lesson on democracy and not science. The IAU which is comprised of over 2000 scientific members who met in Europe last August. Less than a majority attended and voted to demote the ninth planet. We decided to vote as well, a vote of popular opinion. Our tiny class of 14 stated their case for Pluto and we secured a majority agreement from fellow classmates. A great lesson on democracy and appropriate avenues for debate. I hope you now understand that this campaign was about processes and not just planets. We also teach five oceans in our class, and last year the class voted to include UB313 in our planetary line-up. Teaching children that it is acceptable to question and debate is a good thing.
Needless to say, Van Horn (a scientist by trade) was none too impressed with this 2nd attempt to democratize science.

The anthropomorphism in what the paper quoted you saying (Pluto is an inanimate object, not a "little guy" to whom school children really can or really should relate.) and your immediate ratcheting up to emotionalism ("uneducated rants") upon encountering my comment indicates to me that perhaps I was even more on the mark than I suspected.

The appropriate time to teach about government -- and thank God, so to speak, we do not live in a "democracy" -- is civics class. Likewise, the time to teach science is in science class. A scientific congress is not a government and the government has no business attempting to dictate scientific consensus. You have not only confounded two disciplines (science and civics), but you have failed to teach a good lesson in either.

Science -- and I mean the process of finding evidence and logically evaluating it -- is supposed to teach us about the universe; the consistency of the concepts (e.g., "planet") we form with reality is a fact not subject to majority vote. Government is the only social institution that can legally wield force. Studying this institution should make people aware that it is a blunt instrument suited and properly used ONLY to protect citizens from having their individual rights violated.

The scientific congress that "demoted" Pluto was not, furthermore, composed of elementary school students or even their teachers, but of scientists. Just to vote on this matter (and any review of scientific history would show that scientific debate really isn't settled by a quick vote anyway) required something you should educate your students about or better yet, help them become better able to earn: qualifications.
All I can say is "amen, brother."

:: Permalink | 4 Comments ::

 

God goes Green 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:18 AM

If you haven't noticed it in television news and in the press, for the last two weeks or so the news media have been obsessed with the weather and environmental issues. The other night, Charles Gibson on ABC reported that a big chunk of the Canadian ice shelf has broken off. What can it portend?

The Daily Telegraph (London, December 27) recently ran a special article on how London would be affected by a two or three foot rise in the Thames River because of shrinking ice caps and rising sea levels, complete with an artist's renditions of various city sites inundated with water and accompanied by a map projecting the flooding of various towns upriver ("London-on-Sea: the future of a city in decay").

Most networks reporting the chaos caused by the blizzards of Colorado interviewed various climatologists, meteorologists, and scientists who uniformly asserted that the warmest winter in decades is a consequence of global warming. Much attention was put on the blizzards in the Northwest and the Midwest, coupled with the relatively warmer weather in the Southeast and Northeast.

If global warming is a demonstrable, provable fact, then the question to ask is: So what? In its four billion-plus year history, how many thousands of times has the globe's atmosphere warmed up or cooled down? If there is a warming "trend," to what can it be ascribed? The sun? The movement of the earth's molten core? Gusts of solar wind? Or factors of which scientists have little or no understanding? Is global warming connected to the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, typhoons, and other windstorms?

And if global warming is such a catastrophic phenomenon, why do we then witness so much publicized commiseration over the consequences of blizzards during presumably "normal" seasons, with their attendant losses of life, incalculable property damage, power outages, and so on? At the same time, the sonorous harpies of global warming do not mention its advantages, such as increased wheat production in Canada or greater coffee production in El Salvador. Global warming might even allow Icelanders to grow many of the foodstuffs they must now import.

If one peruses the newspapers of the early twentieth century, say, of the 1920's and 1930's, one sees the same frequency of "abnormal" weather and weather-caused disasters as is occurring now. Absent from those accounts are predictions that "the end is near." Going back further in time, do we hear anything about the "mini Ice Age" of the 18th century, when, for example, British cavalry could ride from Staten Island to Manhattan over a frozen-solid New York Harbor? Why is it now preferable to be "cold" over "hot," when twenty or so years ago the harpies were warning of "global cooling"?

"The need for new defences is underlined by a study that concludes that levels may rise more quickly in the coming decades than previously thought - by as much as an additional meter (39 inches) over the next century, according to Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, a leading climate expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research," reports the Daily Telegraph.

Or, the sea levels may rise more slowly. Or, not at all. Or, they may fall. Who knows? No living person does. But, apparently computer models do.

The article ends with the "expert" expressing doubt about his own dire predictions:

"He was prompted to carry out the analysis because current computer models of climate significantly underestimate this 20 centimeter sea level rise. 'The fact that we get such different estimates using different methods shows how uncertain our sea level forecasts still are,' says Prof. Rahmstorf.

"A major reason for the uncertainty is the behavior of the large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which is very difficult to predict."
And that is the crux of the matter. Such blatant but honest uncertainty about the reliability of the data and about the relationship of that data to reality is at odds with the raw, unsupported emotional insistence of global warming advocates that the data prove something.

Global warming, purportedly the result of man's industrial activities, has produced the characteristic hysteria that credulous and ignorant men exhibited when they believed that the Second Coming was imminent, interpreting eclipses of the sun or moon, unusually unseasonal weather, earth tremors, multiple comets in the night sky, or a cow giving birth to triplet calves as omens of the end and the "final judgment."

Yet, beneath all the hysteria and dire reportage is a perceptible undertone of glee and hope. One senses that credulous news anchors and editorialists want global warming to be true, the better to pontificate on man's irresponsibility, to berate him for his greed, and to righteously urge that he repent and "get religion" - the religion of environmentalism.

The new witch doctor predicting disaster and catastrophe because of global warming is not human, but the computer model. One rarely encounters an article that questions the methods, techniques, programs, or software that scientists use in their machines to produce these "models." What everyone seems to forget is that these are just machines, and that the data fed into them, especially if the data are "tilted" to produce a priori conclusions and projections of disaster, will simply produce such conclusions and projections.

Garbage in, garbage out, went the old programming motto. Only this time the garbage is producing spinning 3-D pictures in color of an earth in the early stages of turning into another Venus, hot, ultimately barren and uninhabitable, smothered by CO2 and enveloped in poisonous clouds of "greenhouse gases."

The men who treat these machines and their "scientific" answers as oracles are themselves philosophically programmed to disregard facts. They were taught to be skeptical of everything but their own guilt for being human and man's crime of not wanting to live at the mercy of the elements. If you told them that any recorded volcanic eruption has spewed more "pollutants" into the atmosphere in one day than man has in ten centuries, it would not matter. If you asked them what happened to those "pollutants" and why the atmosphere has always recovered, they would have no answer. These "scientists" are fact- and reality-proof. Some are simply computer-friendly dupes; others are numbers-juggling, power-lusting liars.

To them, man-caused global warming is an article of faith. Literally. Their rabid, vociferous certainty on the matter is out of character in an age of relativism, subjectivism, uncertainty, and skepticism. In that corrupting context, they protest too much. Their unreasoning hatred of man is disguised by a professed love of the earth and a "scientific" version of Elmer Gantry's fire-and-brimstone oratory.

On December 24th, The Philadelphia Inquirer featured an article by John Timpane, "Saving the planet: A mission for us all." It is colored by that same curious undertone of mixed glee and hope but which borders on the facetious, nevertheless wishing to be taken seriously. It is Elmer Gantry as a stand-up comedian.

"Can religion and science join forces to save the Earth?" begins the article. "Especially now, when the two are, shall we say, barely speaking? It's a question very much of the moment, and I hope the answer is yes."

Timpane, evidently a religionist of some stripe and an environmentalist, discusses in his article the issues that divide various religious groups in the country. These include the "accommodationist" scientists who want to work with theologians to develop an environmental policy, the "dominion" Christians who point to Genesis 26, 28, and 2:15 in the Bible as God-given permission to rule the Earth, and the Evangelicals who "can mobilize for immediate, powerful, united action on abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research," but who have never united to "fulfill a nonreligious but sacred duty" to save the earth.

"To churches, mosques, synagogues, meeting houses and religious gatherings everywhere: If you can fulfill a divine mandate by working with people who want the same thing - even if those people don't share your worldviews exactly - why balk at the chance?....All sides: Wouldn't it be a sin to say no?"

Timpane cites a number of authors who have recently published books on God and the environment. Those who criticize the obstructive or destructive role of religion in human history - Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, and Frederick Crews - he dismisses with a semi-snicker. However, he lauds E.O. Wilson of the department of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University and author of a book called Creation.

"To address the fate of the Earth," he quotes Wilson in an interview, "'it will be necessary to find common ground on which the powerful forces of religion and science can be joined....If we could combine the moral passion and commitment of those with religious faith, which is sincere and deep and powerful, with the similar passion of secularist scientists, that would be a perfect combination.'"

Philosophically, the idea Wilson is proposing, and which Timpane is endorsing, is an alliance of antithetical concepts: fact and faith. Facts are demonstrable or provable in reality; faith dispenses with them and its objects are not demonstrable or provable in reality.

Neither Wilson nor Timpane, however, are much concerned about the conflict. The Enlightenment and the accompanying decline of the Church's political power over man's life and liberty might not even have happened. Their goal is to form a political force that will impose such a union on man, and "democratically," as well.

"Science needs the prestige, commitment and political muscle of the churches. Wilson points out that, while there may be as few as 5,000 card-carrying U.S. humanist secularists, 'the National Association of Evangelicals...have in its 45,000 affiliated churches an estimated 30 million members. Need I say more?'"

Projecting the influence such a union could have in politics, Timpane writes: "If that ever happened - if religious leaders, shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists, exhorted flocks to elect candidates and change policy - politicians would take notice and overnight turn greener than Kermit. What leader, what church, will step up and pull the starter chain?"

Timpane is a man begging to be led, pleading for the rise of an environmental fuehrer. Well, Hitler was a "green," too, also believed in God, and was imbued with a faith of another kind. But that lesson of history has also been lost on Timpane and his ilk, an inconvenient fact not worth examining, either.

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