:: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:49 AM
"Insanity doesn't run in my family," exclaimed Cary Grant in the 1944 comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace. "It gallops!"
Insanity also gallops in the boardrooms of American business and industry. For over a century, the producers of this country have been the subjects of repeated assaults by government and anti-business groups. When they have fought back, they have without exception resorted to the argument that proposed regulations and controls are impractical and would result in unfortunate consequences throughout the economy, never believing that the "impractical" has never been a standard of their enemies' purpose.
The assaults have been based on the morality of service and sacrifice. American business consequently ceded its assailants the moral high ground, and never responded in kind. It is as though some congenital disease blocked their thinking and prevented them from following the logic of their persecutors.
In one sense, one cannot gainsay American business for not defending itself with the assertion of a rational morality. It has never had a consistent philosophical defender. But, with death or extinction staring them in the face, one would expect that the brightest and proudest American businessmen would sooner or later make the connection between strangulation by statist policies and the continued existence of their enterprises. Instead, they have adopted the role of mendicants, pleading for their lives and promising cooperation with their destroyers in the name of "public service" and the "public good."
The disease is an accepted guilt for simply existing, for working for their own profits and selfish ends.
The most eloquent and thorough moral defense of capitalism appeared half a century ago, in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. So, there is no longer an excuse for business to play the role of helpless mendicant. The novel and its author are too well known, but the novel may as well have never been written. The defense is there, but few have ever availed themselves of it.
One by one they capitulate to force or threatened force: Microsoft, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, the insurance business, the securities industry, the medical profession, even restaurateurs: the role of dishonor grows yearly.
If statism expands unopposed, a point is reached when many victims of it elect to become willing participants in exchange for permission to exist. That their cooperation with the destroyers will make it easier for the destroyers to enslave or destroy others is not a "practical' consideration in the decision to capitulate. The Altria Group, formerly known as Philip Morris, is one of these turncoats. It has chosen to don the armband of the American swastika.
Witness a story from The New York Times of February 16th, "Trying Again for a Bill to Limit Tobacco Ads."
"After being thwarted for years, a bipartisan group of members of Congress reintroduced legislation that would allow the federal government to further regulate the tobacco industry by cracking down on marketing aimed at young people and requiring that reduced-risk tobacco products back up their (sic) claims with science." (Whose "claims"? The bipartisan group's? The tobacco industry's? The young people's? The reduced-risk products'? Well, this is the Times, which hasn't for decades been noted for its grammatical precision.)
The issue here is censorship. The usual suspects, Senators Ted Kenney and John Cornyn, and Representatives Thomas M. Davis and Henry A. Waxman introduced this bill, in addition to another anti-tobacco bill (see "Congress: A Modern 'Diet of Worms'" from February 20th), completely oblivious or hostile to the wording of the First Amendment. But, who is sanctioning this evil?
"The Altria Group, the company formerly known as Philip Morris, is among the bill's biggest supporters."
"Altria officials maintain that regulation is inevitable and that clear standards would help as the market shifts toward new products like smokeless tobacco and reduced-risk cigarettes...'At some point, this is going to happen,' said Steven C. Parrish, Altria's senior vice president for corporate affairs. 'It would set some clear rules for all the companies to play by.'" Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris USA.
So, now the argument is that proposed regulations and controls - in addition to censorship - are practical and would result in beneficial consequences throughout the economy!
"Mr. Waxman and his co-sponsors argue that regulation by the Food and Drug Administration is necessary because smoking remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States."
That's odd. I thought it was car accidents. Or not wearing seatbelts in car accidents. Or high cholesterol. Or obesity. Or heart disease. Well...never mind.
"The bill that was introduced yesterday would give the FDA authority to regulate the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco so they are not marketed to children. It would also regulate marketing to prevent misleading claims related to health....and it provides for stronger warning labels on tobacco products, with more explicit details of the medical consequences."
Of course, the bill isn't just about smoking or cigarettes. The malice felt by politicians and the power they wish to see exercised over tobacco products represent a precedent that allows them also to wish also to regulate the American diet. Thus the hue and cry about trans fats, and obesity, and, more recently, the move to force restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus. The tobacco industry already is forced to practice what could be called "inverse censorship," that is, to derogate their own products. The makers of pastas, spices and other food ingredients are likely next to be forced to carry warning labels on their products.
It is nearly futile to remind the tobacco companies or any other American industry of the issue of censorship and the desire of statists to leave no citizen left behind in their quest to achieve the complete regimentation of American society. American businessmen appear to be unafraid of the consequences, so long as they are permitted to exist in some form. They are either unafraid, or ignorant of those consequences. If one called them cowards to their faces, it is doubtful they would feel offended. And quoting Ayn Rand - "I'm not brave enough to be a coward; I see the consequences too clearly" - would be to go over their heads.
The Supreme Court, of course, cannot be counted on to see the issues and rule on them in favor of individual rights, the sanctity of property, and freedom of speech. The Times on February 20th ran an article, "High Court nixes award against Philip Morris."
"The Supreme Court threw out a $79.5 million punitive damages award to a smoker's widow Tuesday, a victory for Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA, which contested an Oregon Supreme Court decision upholding the verdict.
"In a majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court said the verdict could not stand because the jury in the [Oregon] case was not instructed that it could punish Philip Morris only for the harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers whose cases were not before it."
Yes. That is the substance of Philip Morris's victory. A procedural error, a technical misstep or oversight by a lower court. When I read that, I recalled the scene in Schindler's List when the Nazi officer's pistol would not fire, sparing the intended victim immediate death and allowing him to creep away, safe for the moment.
Brayer wrote that states must "provide assurances that juries are not asking the wrong question...seeking not simply to determine reprehensibility, but also to punish for harm caused strangers."
Nowhere in this majority opinion does any moral issue play a role. It is as though fundamental Constitutional issues were irrelevant. The verdict may stall class action suits for a while, but that will only encourage lawyers and their looting plaintiffs to try harder to circumvent the Supreme Court's specious reasoning.
It occurs to no one - not to the tobacco companies, not to the regulators, not to the plaintiffs or their lawyers who build such "punitive" cases - that the "inverse censorship" of mandated label warnings on any product will not protect any business against ruinous lawsuits, and especially not against further regulations and controls. (Well, perhaps their predatory, multi-millionaire ambulance-chasing lawyers realize it.)
Further, the issue of the efficacy of mandated warning labels should also have occurred to the Supreme Court; if the warnings are ignored, of what use are they? Cigarette warning labels have been around for decades; they have neither deterred smokers nor stymied individual or class action suits against tobacco companies. Shouldn't the failure of the law to accomplish its purpose - that is, the failure of government force employed to "inform" the public - have deterred legislators? No. The failure has only convinced them that more comprehensive controls are necessary.
But that matter apparently did not pass through any of the justices' minds, either, nor did the question of whether or not the plaintiff's lawyers or doctors could even prove that her husband died of lung cancer caused by smoking Marlboros, regardless of whether or not her husband believed that Philip Morris assured him and countless other smokers that its cigarettes were safe. The causes of lung cancer are numerous and not necessarily associated with or caused by smoking; the disease did not abruptly appear with the first cargo of tobacco from Virginia in the 17th century. How else can one account for the fact that other two-pack-a-day smokers do not contract cancer and live far into old age, or die instead of prostrate cancer or liver failure? The Oregon Supreme Court should have thrown out that suit in the beginning on that basis, at least.
This same issue also applies to warning or nutritional content labels or calorie count labels on menus. And also to cars, coffeemakers, pencil sharpeners, and any other commercial product.
To return to the larger picture, if one ever wondered how the National Socialist Party ever came to power in Germany and was given leave to commit the horrors it did before and during World War Two, it should be remembered that it had the sanction and support of most German businesses and industries, who submitted to Nazi political power in a futile attempt to save themselves. In effect, they "voluntarily" nationalized themselves. Altria's craven endorsement of Congress's latest foray into censorship is no less contemptible.
For details of how and why such a thing is possible in America, see Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America.
2 Comments ::
:: Friday, February 23, 2007 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:30 AM
It is a double measure of today's bottomless political ignorance and of the intellectual gulf that separates our first chief executives from modern ones that anyone could thoughtlessly compare the purpose of the American Revolution with the aims of the "war on terror." On February 19th, President George Bush visited Mount Vernon on the occasion of George Washington's 275th birthday. He exemplified such a measure in what he said.
"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," Bush said in a speech at Mount Vernon. "And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country boasted that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."
Without stooping to dwell much on George Bush's composition skills or his knowledge of history, I am sure he did not write his own speech, and equally certain that much of what he said in it about George Washington was new to him. One of the tasks of speechwriters is to imbue the office of President with a façade of wisdom and literacy. I am willing to bet that Bush, until he vetted the speech, did not know that many new Americans clamored for Washington to become King George the First of the United States, demonstrating even then the vestiges of a clinging psychological need for a monarch.
Many things in Bush's speech offended me. I will begin with the paragraph quoted above.
"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life." No, we are not. We are expending lives and treasure in an altruist moral adventure to spread "democracy" in Islamic countries, something neither George Washington nor any of his immediate successors in office would even conceive of doing. Our liberty, such as is left of it in our declining republic, is not being "defended," but rather is being sacrificed and discarded in ever growing chunks to the welfare state. And "our people" can be best defended, and the security of this country ensured, by adopting a policy Bush has evaded ever since 9/11: by removing the Islamic threat, and leaving the Muslims to their own devices.
Our "way of life"? I do not know what this phrase means any more. It cannot mean freedom that is protected by the government, because our government is the worst violator of our freedoms. More and more, Americans are expected to report or account to the government in virtually every aspect of their lives. Remember, for example, that April 15th is approaching, and that Americans now work nearly half a year for the federal government to pay income taxes.
"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country boasted that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."It is not this country's "duty" to educate at its own expense and the price of American lives other countries on the morality and practicality of freedom. But, how can we work to advance the "cause of freedom" when we have forgotten what "freedom" is, or what are its roots or cause, or never knew freedom except for the crumbs of it that have fallen from the banquet table of statist largess, ultimately destined to be swept up by the federal wait staff? How can we advance it in countries whose citizens do not want it, but "democratically" prefer to structure their lives around a religious book of abominable irrationality (e.g., the Bible, or the Koran)?
How many our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan will admit before a television news camera that they don't believe they are fighting for Iraqi or Afghani freedom at all, but rather for the "freedom" of men to flagellate themselves with swords and chains and to compel women to behave like two-legged chattel sheathed in black winding sheets? None. If those soldiers are under the gun of correctness or orders, they'll say what they are expected to say to save themselves certain grief meted out by their politically correct commanders.
Elsewhere in his speech, Bush stated:
"When the American people chose Washington for the role [of president], he reluctantly accepted....Washington accepted the presidency because the office needed him, not because he needed the office."While it is true that Washington preferred to remain a private citizen, Bush's assertion suggests that Washington was solely motivated by a sense of self-sacrifice, which is perfectly in conformance with Bush's own code of altruism. While I am not a Washington scholar, I know enough about the man that it is more likely he accepted the presidency because the nation he had fought to create was a value to him. The lesser value to him was his status of a private citizen safely ensconced at Mount Vernon. What would that relative serenity have meant to him if he saw that nation on the brink of dissolution and anarchy?
Washington's "honesty and courage have become the stuff of legend. Children are taught to revere his name, and leaders look to him for strength in uncertain times."
Where anymore are "children taught to revere his name"? How many of them go on to college perhaps never having encountered Washington in their "social studies," or think that he was president during the Civil War? And if, by chance, they are expected by teachers to "revere" his name, in today's multiculturalist world, would they have been instructed to share that reverence with the likes of Robert Mugabe or Mao or Mahatma Gandhi?
And what "strength" could modern American leaders derive from Washington's example when they hold that uncertainty, pragmatism and expediency are the bywords of foreign and domestic policies? Washington's character, integrity, and stature can be only unreal or invisible to modern politicians.
Washington was neither an intellectual giant nor a political philosopher. Neither is George W. Bush. But, picturing them standing side-by-side produces an incredible incongruity. In every respect by which we can judge men, it is a pygmy versus a giant.
One wonders what passed through George Bush's mind as he spoke about Washington on February 19th. I can only paraphrase a line from Book Four: Empire, from Sparrowhawk, in which another little man incurs the anger of the giant: "As he spoke, he could only imagine the ludicrousness of his small frame standing toe to toe in opposition to the towering figure of George Washington."
3 Comments ::
:: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 ::
Congress: A Modern "Diet of Worms"
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:25 AM
Revisiting after a long absence Victor Hugo's verse play, Cromwell (1827), which was the opening shot against the tyranny of classicism in literature (the riot against the staging of his play, Hernani, occurred three years later), I encountered these lines:
"They're willing to be crushed and wronged,And:
But by a Lord Protector, not a king.
As a plebeian tyrant, he was safe."
"That when a yoke bends Liberty's bold browI have insisted for decades that when tyranny, or a dictatorship, arrived in America, it would not announce itself with anything so obvious as gangs of brown shirted thugs roaming the streets or mass deportations of dissenters, rebels, and recalcitrants to "reeducation camps." Instead, tyranny, if not identified and opposed, would insinuate itself into American life in subtle, sly accretions which would, among other things, allow Americans time to inure themselves to it - after they had been persuaded it was for their own good.
A tyrant is less burdensome when small."
From the time I first became conscious of politics and its effects on my personal life and the life of the nation, I observed an increasing multitude of statist phenomena daily, weekly, and yearly close in on the nation in a creeping, poisonous fog of death. That fog now envelopes the nation and threatens to suffocate the last of our liberties, one of which is the right to speak out against the perpetuation of our servitude or indenture.
For example, what has not yet arrested the attention of most of our clueless and ambivalent news media is Section 220 of the lobbying reform bill now sitting in the Senate, which would require "grassroots" organizations, bloggers, and individuals who communicate with 500 or more subscribers over the Internet (whether or not they are paying subscribers) to register and report quarterly to Congress, with penalties imposed for failing to register.
The bill has not alarmed most members of the news media, many of them with their own websites, for with very few exceptions, they uncritically (dare I say, religiously?) report government decisions, policies, and findings as though these were commandments of Moses.
The question to ask about this bill is: Why? What is its purpose? What could be the point of conceiving such an intrusive law - unless it was a cowardly move in the direction of censorship, and the censoring of thoughts and words that are feared? Is Congress setting itself up as an American Lord Chamberlain, that is, as a censor? Will the participants of a registered blog or organization or chat room be left "free" to say whatever they wish, so long as they agree with the Congressional consensus of the moment or don't question that consensus in any important way?
And if the manqués charged with monitoring a registered blog, organization or chat room detect "threatening" or "treasonous" discussion and report it to Congress, will action be taken against those making the statements, such as a federal investigation, punitive tax treatment, or even imprisonment? Or will they merely be put on notice to "clean up their act" - or else?
Will blogs, organizations, chat rooms and discussion lists that refuse to register their existence with Congress - citing First Amendment protections, which include not only freedom of speech, but the right to peaceably assemble - be declared "outlaws," and consequently risk physical compulsion by a Congressional counterpart of the DEA, INS or ATF, a gang of goons responsible for policing "illegal" or "unregulated" speech?
Watching Congress now as it works itself up into a lather to "get Bush" over the Iraq war and for simply not agreeing with the Democrats' collectivist agenda - and I am no fan of George Bush - I was torn between two very appropriate nicknames for that less than august body: "Creature Feature," after the name of an old late night television program that ran monster movies; and "A Diet of Worms," after the congress of religious and political authorities called in 1521 in the town of Worms in Germany to decide the orthodoxy or heresy of Martin Luther. When Luther - also no favorite of mine - refused to recant his position, the Diet declared him a heretic and an "outlaw" and he was forced to go into hiding.
I have come down on the side of historical precedent: Congress is indeed a modern Diet of Worms - even though many in Congress are monsters, such as Dorian Grayish Senator Ted Kennedy - the "worms" being every member of Congress, Republican, Democrat, and middle-of-the-roader.
Why worms? While the U.S. is at present threatened within and without by Islamic conquest - by Iran with its growing nuclear threat, by a fifth column of sleeper cells and sleep-walking jihadists now in this country and who willy-nilly attack shopping malls and synagogues and even individuals - what is Congress proposing in answer to President Bush's disastrous "war on terror"?
Basically, to cut and run. In a year, or two years, it matters little. Instead of proposing that Bush eliminate Iran's capacity to strike at the U.S., instead of proposing that the FBI root out every Islamic enemy agent in this country, even if it meant closing down mosques and deporting the principals of organizations like CAIR or at least charging them with sedition - Congress is obsessed with obstructing Bush.
Such is the measure of its obsessional malice - or is it a psychosis? - that Congress is willing to jeopardize the security of this country to execute a repressed vendetta. Neither Harry Reid nor Nancy Pelosi nor John Murtha nor John McCain has asked Bush the question in Congress: "Why didn't you ask us for a declaration of war? Because, Mr. President, we are indeed at war." If Congress wants to find fault with Bush's policies, that is what it should be focused on, his unconscionable adventure in altruism to spread "democracy" to Islamic pestholes.
But Bush and Iraq do not monopolize Congress's obsession. The worms of our political oligarchy - and it is indeed an oligarchy of contemptible plebeians, supported and sustained by confiscatory taxes - also wish to "do good" by imposing more controls on the country and its citizens.
Its latest bugbear is "global warming." There has been enough rational, objective discussion of the hoax of the threat of global warming and its alleged attribution to man's "sin" of living on earth (e.g., "Global Hot Air," Thomas Sowell's excellent commentary) that I waive remarks on it here. But one paragraph in Nick Provenzo's commentary on Rule of Reason, "McCain and Lieberman: the Smoot & Hawley of our generation," tickled my memory:
"OK, let me get this straight: McCain and Lieberman want to pass a law to let the free market forestall the alleged threat of global warming....But that is not what their bill actually does. McCain and Lieberman's bill arbitrarily caps off American CO2 emissions at 2000 levels, forces companies to buy and sell the right to emit CO2 into the atmosphere, and treble fines those that exceed their emission caps. This isn't the 'free market'; it is the antithesis of the free market."One could dwell here on the observation that the entire population of the U.S. probably exhales more CO2 per minute than the whole industrial capacity of the country does in one year. What tickled my memory was Ayn Rand's description of the creation of a new species Washington lobbyist as a consequence of Mr. Thompson's Directive 10-289 (which "froze" the country's economic life) in Atlas Shrugged: the "defreezers," who, for a fee, bought and sold permissions and exemptions for their "clients."
Of course, an altruist/collectivist measure such as Directive 10-289 or the McCain/Lieberman bill will always contain a loophole or two, the better to perpetuate the guilt of the victims and the corruption of the controllers: the only industries that will be able to take advantage of those CO2 emission permits will be those with political pull. Need I say more? Rand had these worms nailed over half a century ago.
One more obsession: Smoking and tobacco. On February 16th, the Wilmington Star (North Carolina) reported, under the headline "Congressional bill would let FDA regulate tobacco."
"A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced legislation Thursday that would give the FDA the same authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products that it already has over countless other consumer products."The bill, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, according to the article, was introduced by Senators Dorian Gray - excuse me, Ted Kennedy - John Cornyn of Texas, Henry Waxman of California, and Tom Davis of Virginia. Kennedy said, "Congress cannot in good conscience allow the federal agency most responsible for protecting the public health to remain powerless to deal with the enormous risk of tobacco, the most deadly of all consumer products."
The "most deadly of all consumer products"? Last week it was sugar. And before that, trans fats. And before that, cholesterol. And before that, polluting SUV's. And before that...? The list of the consumer products deemed "most dangerous" extends back decades and is complemented by thousands of pages of federal legislation. The products are indeed virtually "countless," and account for all the mandated warning, nutritional, and ingredient labels one sees on them.
Was this a slip of Kennedy's obscene tongue? No. If one wishes to understand why collectivist "lord protectors" such as Kennedy, Waxman, the Clintons, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid et al. never cease concocting ways to govern the lives of Americans and proposing that Americans foot the bill for diminishing their liberties, one must note that Kennedy expressed the quintessential premise of all such worms, that reality is dangerous - especially man-made reality - and only they know how to protect everyone from everything: by government force.
Our Congressional "worms," like any other parasite, will attach themselves to any human value and feed on it to sustain their existence until that value perishes, then find another "host." They have been sucking the life out of American freedom for a century and a half in the name of the "public health" or the "greater good" or other collectivist mantras. Altruism/collectivism is the only morality they wish to know, and force the only power they wish to exercise.
The Islamists are not the only power-lusting creatures who wish to subjugate Americans. While the principals of CAIR and the Muslim-American Council hope to someday to replace the Constitution with the Koran as the law of the land, I do not believe there is a single member of Congress who would object to replacing our adulterated and abridged Constitution with a socialist or communist manifesto. These small, safe, plebeian worms are in a state of denial about the war being waged against the U.S. and the West.
They are not interested in vanquishing this country's enemies; they wish to vanquish America. They are beyond moral redemption and so far removed from the founding principles of this country -- and from the moral and intellectual stature of its Founders - that they are fit only for satire.
From their perspective, we are the worms, they own us, and we can be "crushed and wronged" without limit, consequence, or fear of retribution. It was a presumption that men rejected over two hundred and fifty years ago when they decided they had had enough of their small and burdensome tyrants, and threw off the yokes and shackles from their minds, necks and ankles. Will Americans ever again find the pride and moral mettle to emulate their forefathers?
I ask it now before I can be punished for posing the question, and this site closed down for having dared broadcast it.
9 Comments ::
:: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 ::
McCain and Lieberman: the Smoot & Hawley of our generation
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:14 AM
In the post below, I presented the remarks of Czech President Václav Klaus on the alleged threat of global warming. In stark contrast, let's examine John McCain and Joe Lieberman's op-ed today in The Boston Globe. According to McCain and Lieberman (discussing the same report Klaus eviscerates):
There is now a broad consensus in this country, and indeed in the world, that global warming is happening, that it is a serious problem, and that humans are causing it. The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded there is a greater than 90 percent chance that greenhouse gases released by human activities like burning oil in cars and coal in power plants are causing most of the observed global warming. This report puts the final nail in denial's coffin about the problem of global warming.Pretty good ROI for what Václav Klaus notes is an oversimplified summary for pro-green politicians. That said, McCain and Lieberman note that others have helped with the "final nail" too:
In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has identified a warming climate, and the resulting melting of sea ice, as the reason polar bears may now be threatened as a species. The US Center for Disease Control's National Center for Environmental Health has cited global warming as the largest looming public health challenge we face. And President Bush has himself called global warming a serious challenge that we need to confront.And how ought we confront this threat? The senators have reintroduced their Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. According to them:
The bill, which has growing bipartisan support, would harness the power of the free market and the engine of American innovation to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough and quickly enough to forestall catastrophic global warming.OK, let me get this straight: McCain and Lieberman want to pass a law to let the free market forestall the alleged threat of global warming. Sounds great to me, but that not what their bill actually does. McCain and Lieberman's bill arbitrarily caps off American CO2 emissions at 2000 levels, forces companies to buy and sell the right to emit CO2 gasses into the atmosphere, and treble fines those that exceed their emissions caps. This isn’t the "free market;" it is the antithesis of the free market .
At root, McCain and Lieberman are announcing that they seek to be the Smoot & Hawley of our generation. They seek to choke the life out of the American economy in the name of a sill highly-specious theory—and a theory that's more green dogma than science.
And odds are, they will get their way if we don't begin to act now.
3 Comments ::
The real ‘inconvenient truth’ about environmentalism and global warming.
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:34 AM
Luboš Motl, a Harvard professor and physicist recently translated a refreshingly frank interview with Václav Klaus, second president of the Czech Republic, on his view of the alleged threat of global warming [HT: Drudge Report]. The original interview appeared in Hospodářské noviny, a Czech economics daily
Q: On Wednesday, the European Commission has approved carbon dioxide caps for new cars. One week earlier, the U.N. IPCC climate panel released a report that has described, once again, the global warming as one of the major threats for the whole civilization. The Stern report about similar threats was published before that. And you suddenly say that the global warming is a myth. Try to explain, how did you get this idea, Mr President?I don’t know much about Klaus, but if this interview is evidence of how he uses his mind, he strikes me as one of the most active-minded politicians I’ve seen in years. Thanks to Professor Motl for this translation; views like Klaus’ are something we don’t see enough of in American media.
A: It's not my idea. Global warming is a myth and I think that every serious person and scientist says so. It is not fair to refer to the U.N. panel. IPCC is not a scientific institution: it's a political body, a sort of non-government organization of green flavor. It's neither a forum of neutral scientists nor a balanced group of scientists. These people are politicized scientists who arrive there with a one-sided opinion and a one-sided assignment. Also, it's an undignified slapstick that people don't wait for the full report in May 2007 but instead respond, in such a serious way, to the summary for policymakers where all the "but's" and "if's" are scratched, removed, and replaced by oversimplified theses.
This is clearly such an incredible failure of so many people, from journalists to politicians... If the European Commission is instantly going to buy such a trick, we have another very good reason to think that the countries themselves, not the Commission, should be deciding about similar issues.
Q: How do you explain that there is no other comparably senior statesman in Europe who would advocate this viewpoint? No one else has such strong opinions...
A: My opinions about this issue simply are strong. Other top-level politicians do not express their global warming doubts because a whip of political correctness strangles their voice.
Q: But you're not a climate scientist. Do you have a sufficient knowledge and enough information?
A: Environmentalism as a metaphysical ideology and as a worldview has absolutely nothing to do with natural sciences or with the climate. Sadly, it has nothing to do with social sciences either. Still, it is becoming fashionable and this fact scares me. The second part of the sentence should be: we also have lots of reports, studies, and books of climatologists whose conclusions are diametrally opposite.
Indeed, I never measure the thickness of ice in Antarctica. I really don't know how to do it, I don't plan to learn it, and I don't pretend to be an expert in such measurements. However, as a scientifically oriented person, I know how to read science reports about these questions, for example about ice in Antarctica. I don't have to be a climate scientist myself to read them. And inside the papers I have read, the conclusions we may see in the media simply don't appear. But let me promise you something: this topic troubles me which is why I started to write an article about it last Christmas. The article grew in size and it became a book. In a couple of months, it will be published. One chapter out of seven will organize my opinions about the climate change.
Environmentalism and green ideology is something very different from climate science. Various findings and screams of scientists are abused by this ideology.
Q: How do you explain that conservative media are skeptical while the left-wing media view the global warming as a done deal?
A: It is not quite exactly divided to the left-wingers and right-wingers. Nevertheless it's obvious that environmentalism is a new incarnation of modern leftism.
Q: If you look at all these things, even if you were right ...
A: ...I am right...
Q: ...Isn't there enough empirical evidence and facts we can see with our eyes that imply that Man is demolishing the planet and himself?
A: It's such a nonsense that I have probably not heard a bigger nonsense yet.
Q: Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet?
A: I will pretend that I haven't heard you. Perhaps only Mr. Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person hardly. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say that he has. Look: you represent the economic media so I expect a certain economical erudition from you. My book will answer these questions. For example, we know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side and the wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa.
It's also true that there exist social systems that are damaging Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies. These tendencies become important in the long run. They unambiguously imply that today, on February 8th, 2007, Nature is protected uncomparably more than on February 8th ten years ago or fifty years ago or one hundred years ago.
That's why I ask: how can you pronounce the sentence you said? Perhaps if you're unconscious? Or did you mean it as a provocation only? And maybe I am just too naive and I allowed you to provoke me to give you all these answers, am I not? It is more likely that you simply present your honest opinion.
2 Comments ::
:: Sunday, February 11, 2007 ::
Why I love to hate the current Internet debate
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:06 PM
I received some good questions on my post yesterday that I will attempt to answer here.
The kind of stuff [Diana Hsieh] said makes even the worst Speichers stuff tame by comparison, and she's aided by abominable viciousness from Mayhew and Boeckmann, all piling together into one big mass of seething vituperation . . . [w]hat gives?I don't see it that way. For example, I thought it intriguing that Stephen Speicher quoted an almost two-year-old HBL post by Tore Boeckmann in one of his FORUM threads. Leaving aside the whole "was Speicher authorized to do it" issue, I found it remarkable that anyone would remember anything anyone said on HBL from two years past--until I looked at my HBL archives and saw that Boeckmann and Mayhew were disagreeing with Speicher's wife, Betsy over the perennial "how goes the world" question. Mayhew had made a strong case against Betsy Speicher's overly optimistic view and offered his opinion that hope for the future will be for naught if Objectivists spend all their time in Internet discussions over more laborious (and productive) thinking and reading.
Sure, "ouch," but Mayhew is 100% right, and Boeckmann came in later for the assist when another HBL'er objected, adding his own observation that the Objectivism is best learned under the tutelage of an expert followed by private thought.
In reading though it all, it was clear to me that Boeckmann wasn't arguing for "authoritarianism," he was arguing for structure and the benefits of a master's helpful guidance. And he's right; the Internet is great for meeting similar-interested people, sharing camaraderie, and exchanging the occasional deep thought or two, but an Internet bull session is absolutely no substitute for formal instruction in any field. The Internet must not be viewed as the poor man's way to learn philosophy--it's simply too ad hoc and there is too much noise to signal for it to serve as a good substitute for formal learning.
Fast forwarding to today's debate, all I can infer is that these old posts by Mayhew and Boeckmann really pushed Stephen Speicher's buttons, hence the elephant-like memory and the seeming hair-trigger hostility. Yet far from being "abominably vicious," I say Mayhew and Boeckmann make a truthful case in both their past and present criticisms.
So how then has this criticism been met? In one of his more recent responses, Stephen Speicher listed Mayhew's academic articles and the number of documented citations of these articles (which he says is none) on the implicit grounds that this somehow proves that Mayhew is a lout (and worse, a lout that no one cites).
I call it the "Late Great Smear by (Lack of) Citation" and when I read it last night, I recoiled in embarrassment for Speicher. Without knowing the citation ratio for other Objectivist scholars (and Objectivist scholars in the classics), and without knowing what battles Mayhew has had to fight in his career as a scholar, Speicher's list is meaningless. It's nothing more than a cheap and ugly shot. If it was an attempt to take the high ground by proving a material fact, it utterly flopped dead with me.
As for Diana Hsieh, I look at it like this: if you are going to go after her, you damn well better make sure it's good. Some (especially her former pro-Kelley allies) have certainly turned sliming Hsieh into a cottage industry and it only seems that others are jumping in on the action. Nevertheless, Hsieh has convinced me that she's far too thoughtful a writer to deserve being subjected to that kind of treatment. Furthermore, I don't see "seething vituperation," in Hsieh's writing; I see someone laying it out as she sees it and who is right, both in a broad sense and in terms of the particulars. Hsieh may often be pointed and tough, but in my estimate, her targets have convinced me that they deserve it.
I read your post on Noodlefood that you think that the "real cause of this debate is Robert Tracinski's positions over the past several years," but I don't see how Tracinski's pro-Bush ideas played that big of a role . . . [also], I have yet to see one Objectivist claim, on The Forum or anywhere else, that "Bush is a war leader beyond reproach" and that the conservatives are not a threat to our liberty.I take it all back to Jack Wakeland's claim in TIA that when Objectivists criticize George Bush for fighting a "half-war" on totalitarian Islam, they are doing the enemy's work. Up until that point, I was merely indifferent to what I saw as a shift in the focus of TIA's reporting, but from that point on, I took it as an outright shift in TIA's view of philosophy. Tracinski's subsequent writings clearly bear me out on this.
Because Tracinski is not a flip thinker and because many Objectivists seem to agree with him, I think his positions demand thoughtful and sober-minded examination. That said, I don't think that these examinations will come out of Internet discussion boards and I point to the current sad debacle as proof. In fact, I urge all serious-minded participants to argue their positions and examinations by longer-form essays over short cut-and-pastes with an attack premise--in the hopes of reestablishing a proper sense of polite etiquette and a devotion to ideas over personalities.
In my view, Internet pile-ons are simply unbecoming given what most of the participants aspire to be.
Update: Apparently, Stephen Speicher’s list of Robert Mayhew’s journal articles and their citations has been removed. I was able to find no mention or explanation for this removal. Additionally, other posts in this thread also seem to have vanished without explanation.
16 Comments ::
:: Saturday, February 10, 2007 ::
The continuing post-midterm election debate . . .
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:24 AM
The news of the week is the acrid fallout that continues from the post-midterm election debate, this time centering on an essay by Tore Boeckmann which defended Robert Mayhew's criticism of Robert Tracinski's new theory of history.
I personally have been taking my time responding to Trasinski's thesis in-depth (for the record, I disagree with him). Nevertheless, I have been monitoring the debate elsewhere and from time to time I have offered limited commentary. At Diana Hsieh's blog, I noted my view that many of the attacks from the pro- Tracinski side of the debate seem to be the result of the anger many still seem to feel over Leonard Peikoff's election-eve rebuke. Peikoff's statment has caused them to "upchuck a stream of context-busting and concrete-bound arguments, and then engage in an orgy of backslapping for the "courage" it ostensibly takes to disagree with Leonard Peikoff and other scholars." I know, not very subtle and I own that, but unfortunately, the statement reflects my perception of how the debate is rapidly degenerating.
In reply, I noticed a post on the THE FORUM for Ayn Rand Fans, that labels Hsieh, Mayhew, Boeckmann and me as "implicitly and explicitly" issuing "exhortations to Authoritarianism" (note the capital "A") and that the poster has determined that we are disqualified as either "exponents of or legitimate 'authorities' on the philosophy of Objectivism."
Savor the irony. And in my particular case, there's a lot to savor. After all, when Leonard Peikoff first posted his election comments on his website, I agreed with the essential part of his assessment in that some Objectivists are underselling the threat of the religious conservatives in a way that reveals a flawed understanding of how ideas shape history, but I initially disagreed with his lesser important (in my view) position on the importance of voting one way or another (and my disagreement was unequivocal). Ultimately I voted for the Democrats in the election, but I always maintained that one's vote is only as important as the chance that it could swing an election, which is near nil.
So I guess if I'm an "Authoritarian," I don't even get the benefit of being a good one. And it goes even worse for Diana Hsieh; one poster remarks that they never really believed Hsieh rethought and abandoned her previous pro-TOC position. Sure, you can write thousands upon thousands of words frankly acknowledging the errors in your thinking and how you recovered from them, but according to this person's seeming assessment, once a tolerationist rat, always a tolerationist rat. That's a tough break, Diana . . .
Since it has been said that the FORUM is firmly moderated and given that the posts in question are still online, I can only assume that it these posts have met the FORUM's standards for integrity and decorum; that is, that these kinds of wild charges are considered legitimate and helpful commentary by the FORUM's moderators and owners. That's too bad, but it's obviously revealing. I expect that this debate will only become more acrimonious over time.
At the same time, I think this debate is necessary. Lest it be claimed that there are bigger fish to fry elsewhere, I would like those who hold as much to explain to me how people are anything more than vauge allies (if that) when their view of Objectivism leads them to conclude that Bush is a war leader beyond reproach and that the conservatives are not systematically undercutting the advance of freedom in America (that is, when they are not outright threatening it).
Update: Fixed some spelling errors, reordered words in the last sentence for clarity.
8 Comments ::
:: Saturday, February 03, 2007 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:49 AM
The following letter of mine is slated to appear in the Hampton Roads Business Journal:
"The lights are going out all over Europe" - and in America, too.
That is what I usually append to Edward R. Murrow's famous observation of Nazi Germany swallowing more of Europe in the lead-up to World War II, when I read of another smoking ban or a proposal for one. At first glance, the connection of smoking bans with Hitler might seem a fatuous association. It really isn't, not in the historical particulars, not in the broader, fundamental sense.
Hitler was as rabid a non-smoker as any U.S. surgeon general, and if he'd won the war, had plans to ban smoking throughout Pax Germanica, the better to protect a healthier, "pure" Aryan race and a healthier population of slaves, all of them living for the state.
Well, they are going out again in Europe, again, only the aggressor now is an axis of the health bureaucrat, the nonsmoker, and the ubiquitous statistic. Britain and France, for example, have both legislated nation-wide bans that will take the pleasure out of dining out and having a good time.
I recalled Murrow's observation again when I read Mary Worrell's "Owners worry ban will send business up in smoke" in the January 8-14 Hampton Roads Business Journal. "A potential ban on all smoking in Norfolk restaurants has some business owners seeing red - not black," she wrote. They have every right to worry about the fate of their businesses. But, over the past, in numerous articles like Worrell's about smoking bans in California and New York City and Chicago and elsewhere, I have read the same complaints of restaurant and bar owners who predict drastic reductions in their business and even financial ruin. They argue, basically, from the perspective of practicality and unfairness. That, however, in the long run, is a futile and impractical position to take.
I have yet to see any property owners invoke the right to private property. I have yet to see any restaurateur or publican take a moral stand against the arbitrary, selective seizure of his business or property. For that is what smoking bans amount to. Like the policy of eminent domain enacted in favor of other private interests (re the Kelo decision by the Supreme Court, and other such cases), in which homes and businesses are condemned, seized, and destroyed to make way for other private, higher tax -revenue-garnering developments, smoking bans are, in effect, arbitrary seizures of private property in favor of a particular segment of the public or a particular group of people, namely, nonsmokers.
So, when one gets beneath all the propaganda about the alleged health risks of smoking, all the guff about protecting "our children" (whose?), all the tilted statistics about the dangers of secondhand smoke, and all the government-encouraged vilification of smoking and smokers (largely paid for by compliant tobacco companies, no less), all there is to see is just the ogre of political power exercising itself on a targeted, defenseless minority at the behest of an alleged majority.
"The city could be messing with fire if revenues at restaurants are hit by an ordnance banning smoking, which could equate to decreased food and beverage tax revenues, Bourn said," writes Worrell. "You can't legislate social behavior." Chad Bourn owns a retail tobacco store in Norfolk.
But petit tyrants can legislate "social behavior," and will, if they think they can get away with it. They believe they own everyone, that men exist by their whim and by grace of their permission and act and conduct their lives according to their rules. And they can do that if the victims sanction that kind of power. One of the most ironic terms that politicians dress themselves in is "public servant." But, if one is paying taxes to pay these "servants" to make it increasingly difficult to live and conduct business in the name of some dubious "public good," who is the servant, and who is the master?
It costs the "public servant" nothing to pass laws against smoking, trans fats, and cholesterol-heavy foods and whatever else activist, intrusive Chicken-Littles rail against; it costs the opponents of those laws a fortune if not their livelihoods if they decide to revolt against such laws. Modern lawyers, after all, will not advocate a moral approach to the issue. That, they would say, would be "impractical." They are not of the same passionate mettle as, say, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, and everyone should know what happened when they dug in their heels. Neither man, incidentally, was a smoker, but they would both be incredulous about how much freedom Americans have surrendered to big tyrants (the feds), and petit tyrants (the governing council of any city you wish to name).
Worrell concludes her article:
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that even with proper ventilation, secondhand smoke exposure is not eliminated and that establishing smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The CDC also cites homes and workplaces as the primary locations where nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke."
Well, the government speaks, so it must be true.
The nation, and not just Hampton Roads or Norfolk, is creeping by increments to outright statism, that is, a "democracy" in which everyone lives for the sake of everyone else, and, ultimately, for the state. If the business owners of Norfolk plan to put up a good fight against their tyrants, they had better stand on the principle of their individual rights. They should proclaim: This is my property, and if you can't abide smoking or secondhand smoke, go elsewhere, or start your own restaurant. This is not a "public service," nor is it a "public place."
If they don't take a moral stand, and expose the tyrants for what they are, and what is truly at stake, then more lights will go out in America, and in this state, which over two hundred years ago lit the torch of revolution. It appears as such a petty issue - the rights of smokers and restaurateurs - but resistance to the Stamp Act of 1765 heralded a greater revolution.
Learn from history, gentlemen.
5 Comments ::
:: Friday, February 02, 2007 ::
The high price of tortillas
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:38 PM
Here's a story by Ioan Grillo of the Associated Press that evidences the abysmal state of news reporting today. Grillo writes about a protest in Mexico over rising prices.
Some 75,000 unionists, farmers and leftists marched to protest price increases in basic foodstuffs like tortillas, a direct challenge to the new president's market-oriented economic policies blamed by some for widening the gulf between rich and poor.OK, so President Calderon supports the free market and thereby opposes price controls. Yet notice how the third paragraph offers only one justification for Calderon's position: it gives agribusiness larger profits (which allegedly hurt the poor).
Since taking office Dec. 1 after a disputed election, President Felipe Calderon has drawn his greatest criticism for failing to control the largest price spike in tortillas in decades. Tortillas are a staple of poor Mexicans' diet.
The national uproar has put him in an uncomfortable position between the poor and some agribusiness industries hoping to profit from the surge in international corn prices, driven mostly by the sudden explosion of the U.S. ethanol industry. A free-market advocate, Calderon has said he does not want to return to direct price controls enforced by many former Mexican presidents.
What about the fact that the "sudden explosion of the U.S. ethanol industry" is due to government mandates and subsidies, and that these mandates and subsidies coercively steer producers away from fulfilling market demands and instead push them toward fulfilling government demands? Don't misguided government mandates hurt the poor?
What about the fact that price controls discourage production and thereby encourage shortages by mandating that a good be sold at below market rates? Don't shortages hurt the poor?
What about the fact that the abolition of price controls will lead to an increase in production-an increase that creates jobs? Doesn't the creation of new jobs help the poor?
And what about the fact that the lure of new profits compels participants to learn how to be more efficient (and thereby reduce prices), rather than simply troll about for the government-set price? Don't decreasing prices help the poor?
There are a host of critical points about the impact of price controls upon people's lives, yet this news article fails to consider any of them. So what then does it consider?
High tortilla prices put some Mexicans in danger of being malnourished.Does this information offer any information or insight as to what the government of Mexico should do with its price controls? Does the reporter even think it is relevant to present economic evidence in his story beyond that the poor are poor? Apparently not, yet this is what often passes for news reporting these days.
The poor eat an average of 14 ounces of tortillas daily, giving them 40 percent of their protein, according to Amanda Galvez, who runs a nutrition research institute at Mexico's National Autonomous University.
With the new prices, workers earning the minimum wage of about $4 a day could spend a third of their earnings on tortillas for their family.
"Some people can switch to more unhealthy alternatives. Others just go without," Galvez said.
It's no wonder Latin America is lurching toward the left; free market ideas (let alone their moral base) don't even show up on the radar screen.
2 Comments ::
Happy Birthday Ayn Rand
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:06 AM
Today marks the 102nd anniversary of Ayn Rand's birth.
1 Comments ::
:: Thursday, February 01, 2007 ::
Rednecks and the Hajib
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:52 AM
A very apt analogy occurred to me as I read some news items about how certain individuals and groups wish to lasso the First Amendment and put it in a corral. For those who doubt that censorship is creeping ever closer, or are confused about the various issues and see no connections between them at all, the analogy will help to concretize the phenomenon.
We have all heard the joke with a thousand variations, such as, "You're a redneck if your front yard boasts three rusty washing machines and seven cars sitting on cinder blocks." Does a rank-and-file Muslim differ much from the legendary American redneck? Fundamentally, no. What defining characteristics do they share? They are notoriously non-intellectual, mentally arrested, tribal in outlook, and prefer to stick to traditional ways of living and of doing things. On the latter characteristic, they are hostile to the prospect of venturing into new and possibly better ways of thinking, living and doing things, and resent the imposition of having to think and choose. They prefer to be left alone to exist in an insular universe of the mundane and the perceptually familiar.
Their reading habits are mainly limited to violent and bloody ghost stories, that is, to the Bible and the Koran, which represent the limits of their grasp of a moral code. What they do not share are a thirst for alcohol and their traditional cuisines. A Muslim would faint with horror or walk away in a holy snit if served a plate of chitterlings by a waitress in a Hooters outfit, while the redneck would feel offended if offered Southern-fried goat meat or a falafel fajita. But they are otherwise cognitively inert, passive manqués who unthinkingly heed the advice of their Bible- and Koran-thumping spiritual leaders.
Their more "advanced" or ambitious brethren are activists of many suasions. For the redneck, these are represented by the Ku Klux Klan and religious conservative politicians. For the Muslim, these are represented by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qada and the Council on American-Islamic Relations or any of its well-heeled "watchdog" clone organizations throughout the country. The "activists" believe that the status quo, tradition and God's writ can be preserved for all time with violence or by insinuating their oppressive creeds into the larger polity under the sly guises of "tolerance" and "moral uplift and purity."
To this end, the Klan believed in instilling terror and obedience in the minds of Negroes, Jews, and Catholics, and in staging house burnings or lynchings to prove they meant business. Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qada believe in instilling wholesale terror in the minds of any group they designate "unbelievers" and blowing up as many of them as possible, and in a dozen or so beheadings and dismemberments, to show that they mean business.
The Klan would leave alone those who "knew their place" and submitted humbly to its "superior" moral code and a Jim Crow political system. Islamic activists claim they will leave alone those who humbly accept the status of dhimmitude and acknowledge their subjugation to a "superior" moral code and a theocratic leviathan, also known as a caliphate. The Jim Crow enforcers would impose a poll tax on those who were barred from voting and all participation in politics. The Islamists would impose a jizya on non-Muslims, and that would be the limit of theocratic politics in the caliphate, for Muslim and redneck unbeliever alike.
Enough of the analogy. I think the point is made. Two of the news items that triggered this diversion are these:
On December 13th, in "Our Saudi Foes," I remarked on how CAIR received, at CAIR's instigation, submission from the Fox network and diluted the moral appeal of "24" by "humanizing" Jack Bauer's Islamic enemies or by simply diversifying his enemies so that they weren't always Muslims. British Muslims, however, are bolder and are going after bigger game.
Lawrence Van Gelder, in a New York Times article on January 26th, reported in "Arts, Briefly," that:
"A British Islamic group complained yesterday that Western films as old as 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in 1981 have promoted a negative stereotype of Muslims, Reuters reported. The group's report called upon British censors to be given expanded power to cut 'objectionable material' and urged cultural watchdogs to be more effective in ensuring 'responsible coverage' of Muslims. 'There is no such thing as a Muslim good guy,' complained Arzu Merali, a coauthor of the report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Its study, attributed to responses from nearly 1,200 British Muslims, said that 62 percent felt the British media were 'Islamophobic,' and 14 percent called them racist. 'Cinema, both in Hollywood and Britain, has helped to demonize Muslims,' Mr. Merali said. 'They are portrayed as violent and backward. That reinforces prejudices.'"
As "violent and backward" as rednecks? Do not for a moment think that Mr. Merali and his colleagues on the Commission are unaware that it is Muslims who are raising holy hell - otherwise known as jihad - all around the world in a kind of global Hatfield and McCoy feud against each other's sects and everyone else, if the daily death toll in Baghdad is any measure. They are hoping that the employment of the term "prejudice" will scare off anyone who might make that point and ask that a Muslim "good guy" to be pointed out to him. They are hoping that no one remembers that uncounted thousands of Muslims around the world cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Madrid and London and Bali bombings, as well, and hailed the perpetrators as "good guys," if not heroes.
Indiana Jones or James Bond impersonators they were not. By Koranic standards, can there be such a thing as a Muslim "good guy"? The only Muslim "good guys" one can observe are the so-called "moderates" who express queasiness about the actions their "extremist" champions take against especially Westerners, but who won't lift a finger in protest against such "stereotyping."
"Prejudice"? A year ago I stopped patronizing a Muslim-owned tobacco shop for two reasons: I couldn't be sure that some of its revenue was being extorted by or "donated" Mafia-style to Islamic organizations up in northern Virginia's "Jihad Alley" that in turn funneled the money to terrorist gangs with sub rosa connections to CAIR and other domestic Islamic entities; and because I grew tired of seeing the otherwise gorgeous Muslim woman at the register going to fat and seed, garbed in hajib, and deferring humbly to her scruffy-looking Muslim husband. Call me prejudiced. I can live with the disapprobation.
Mr. Merali should not worry about Hollywood ever offending Muslim sensibilities or stereotyping Muslims. Other than producing a few insipid films that dealt with 9/11 but which barely mentioned or didn't mention Muslims at all, Hollywood has been resoundingly silent on the subject of Islamic jihad. In fact, the one portrayal of a Muslim that should not offend Muslims is that of Naveen Andrews, who plays the competent and eminently rational Sayid on ABC's "Lost." As a former Iraqi Republican Guard, Sayid has only once taken time to bow to Mecca. (I watch the program because I like some of the characters in it, but I have no idea where it is headed, and I don't think its producers and director knew where it was going, either, when they premiered it.)
Let us turn to the redneck notion of imposing dhimmitude.
The Wilmington, North Carolina Star on January 26th carried a story, "Republican: Scripts need reviewing, Movie prompts lawmaker's incentive idea."
"Citing the controversy surrounding the Dakota Fanning film 'Hounddog,' the leader of the state Senate [Phil Berger] says he wants the government to review scripts before cameras start rolling in North Carolina.
"That system, said Berger, would apply only to films seeking the state's lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury. 'Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?' said Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted."
In the film, 12-year-old Dakota Fanning's character reportedly is subjected to a graphically filmed rape. Berger may find the scene "objectionable," and so may many of his redneckier Christian constituents.
But, why indeed are North Carolina taxpayers being forced to subsidize filmmakers? In addition to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities? And any other governmental, tax-financed program that promotes "culture," whether or not it produces anything deemed of any esthetic merit? The artistic value or content, or lack of it, of a film is irrelevant. The article goes on to explain Berger's "objections":
"State law denies the incentive to films that are obscene. In state law, obscenity is defined as depicting sexual conduct presented in an offensive way that appeals to prurient interest, lacks any 'serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,' and is not free speech protected by the state or federal constitutions."
And who typically has the power to determine "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific" values? An appointed bureaucrat, otherwise known as a censor.
"Berger said the film-incentive ban should be broadened to include material considered objectionable. He said there should be no First Amendment concerns because the producer would be seeking money from the state government. But he did say that if constitutional questions confused the matter, it would be better not to have a film incentive at all."
True enough, and if the film incentive program were ever dropped, it would save Berger the bother and embarrassment of pondering the true meaning of the First Amendment. But nascent censors like Berger usually think of something else to spend taxpayer money on. Constitutional matters will always confuse or confound his ilk, but won't stop them from taking advantage of the confusion. It should be pointed out, however, that censoring films subsidized by the government is only one step away from censoring films not subsidized by it, on the grounds that they contain "objectionable" material or have no "definable" social or artistic value.
For a clue to what else other than badly made movies may be deemed "objectionable," please refer back to my commentary on the British Muslims above. What the Muslims and rednecks have in mind to fit over everyone's minds is not anything as skimpy as a veil or a hajib. It is a burkah.
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