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:: Saturday, May 26, 2007 ::

“Lost” and Clueless 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:15 PM

Instead of politics, Islam, and current events: a review, for a change of pace.

In the 1970’s, I always made sure I made time to watch The Prisoner, a British series that appeared on “public television” and which was an unofficial sequel to another British import, Secret Agent Man. Both starred the then incomparably debonair and deadly Patrick McGoohan. In terms of subject matter, casting, dialogue, plots, and overall style, nothing else on television could match The Prisoner. Only the last two episodes of the series were disappointing. They were bizarre, pointless and resoundingly off-putting.

As it progressed to its conclusion, it became more and more deterministic and existentialist in theme and tone. Perhaps if British broadcasting rules were not so egalitarian in nature – a successful, popular series at that time was not permitted to extend itself beyond a set number of episodes – The Prisoner might have concluded on a more satisfying note. I learned later there were production problems and internal conflicts that contributed to the series’ eclectic denouement, but I judge it was chiefly because the writers and producers did not know how to end the series.

Another series I have watched recently, less from enthusiasm and more from professional curiosity, is ABC’s Lost. Since my time is more or less budgeted, it was a choice between spending it to watch that or Fox’s 24. The latter I gave up on when the series lost both its moral and story-telling focus. That left Lost.

The two-hour finale of Lost’s third season aired the evening of May 23rd. On the basis of that finale, I do not plan, even from professional curiosity, to watch any of the fourth season in the fall. I would caution the reader here about plot spoilers to follow, but there is no plot to spoil.

Lost, according to ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson in May 2007, will end its run in its sixth season in 2009-2010. Its executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, stated that they had “always envisioned Lost as a show with a beginning, middle and end.” The implication is that the series has a plot.

But a beginning, middle and end are not the defining attributes of a plot. They are a consequence of any literary effort that attempts to tell a story, whether it is finely crafted or a random regurgitation of emotions. Any naturalist, modernist or Romantic novel or play can boast those attributes, from the unintelligible, stream-of-consciousness compendia of James Joyce to the plays of Terence Rattigan or Victor Hugo’s novels or the Mike Hammer novels of Mickey Spillane. A plot, as defined by Ayn Rand, is “a purposeful progression of logically connected events leading to the resolution of a climax.”

As a writer who has labored to produce fifteen plotted novels, and who knows how difficult a task it is to write an integrated, no-loose-ends detective or suspense novel (never mind a six-volume historical epic), it is my assessment that the writers and directors of Lost are simply making up the story from season to season, tailoring each episode and season to what they think the public likes, expects or demands, and combining it with their own whimsical predilections and fancies. While the producers promise that the sixth and final season finale will be a “shocker,” it is likely that they will be as much surprised by it as will be viewers.

In short, I doubt they or their writers know how to end the series.

So, there are no logical connections between any of the series’ episodes. Ergo, there is no plot.

Lost’s basic story is that some forty-odd passengers, flying from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, survive a plane crash somewhere in the South Pacific and are marooned on an island. The series mixes elements of “realism” with elements of the magical or fantastic. The “realism” is represented mostly in the flashbacks of the principal characters’ lives before the plane crash. These are mostly naturalistic, anecdotal snippets, and the characters are burdened with some form of guilt that governs their actions on the island and their relationships with other survivors.

There are some shreds of plot in these conflicts, much like snatches of identifiable entities in a canvas of slashes and gashes. I suppose the writers will attempt to iron out a handful of these by series end. But, perhaps not.

The survivors’ first big conflict is with the island itself. They are immediately confronted with mysterious phenomena, such as a polar bear, a wild stallion, and the impossibility of radio contact with the outside world.

Characters who died earlier in the series or who were simply dropped from it appear and disappear before some of the living characters like the Virgin Mary to Bernadette at Lourdes. The island performs other miracles. One survivor of the crash, wheelchair bound because of his paralyzed legs, can suddenly walk. Minor injuries and wounds heal in a fraction of the normal time.

However, it is suggested in the third season that the island itself somehow caused Oceanic Flight 815 to break up in midair and crash into the surf.

In the original episodes, the survivors are menaced by a roaring unseen force manifested only by the path it takes through the jungle in the trees and plants it brushes aside. I suppose that later the writers decided it needed an identity. I half expected them to introduce a T-Rex, but the next time the force appeared, it was in the form of a roaring, predatory, volitional tornado or cloud.

The survivors’ other nemesis is a group called the “Others,” who may or may not be connected with evidence that the island was the site of a socio-scientific experiment managed by an organization, called the Dharma Initiative, which may or may not be a government operation. The “Others” raid the survivors’ beach camp for women and children and are generally and unaccountably inhospitable. While the “Others” are hostile to the survivors and make it clear they are not welcome on the island, they also act to prevent their rescue. It is revealed that women who become pregnant on the island die, but that the procreation potential in men soars.

None of this is explained, and I have not touched on a fraction of the strange phenomena that occur in the series. Now, from a story-telling perspective, it is appropriate to introduce the attributes of intrigue, suspense and mystery. But these must have a rational, logical basis and at some point in a story point to a rational explanation. Lost boasts an avalanche of intrigue, suspense and mystery, but none of it points to anything but the supernatural or the occult or the metaphysically impossible.

I must not forget the role of numerology in this series, as well. Numbers somehow possess magical powers to influence events and actions, usually for the worse. Also, one character, Desmond, has occasional “visions” of what will happen to other characters in the near future. He is not able to explain why he has these visions. They just happen.

Evidence of the series’ anti-reason theme can be found in the development of some of the better characters, who turn out to be straw men. For example, the formerly wheelchair-bound character, Locke, initially displayed an admirable, unapologetic virtue of self-sufficiency, exploring the island and even hunting wild boar. But his character was slowly chipped away, so that by the third season he mystically “bonds” with the island and becomes an unbalanced threat to the rest of the survivors on some mysterious mission of his own.

In the finale, he murders someone who was helping to rescue the survivors. He commits this action after having been fatally shot and left for dead in a pit atop a pile of decomposed corpses, his legs paralyzed again. One of the written off characters appears at the edge of the pit and orders him to climb out. Somehow, we do not see him actually climbing out, but presumably he rises like Christ from the dead, and, not knowing beforehand where the survivors are or what they are doing, emerges from the jungle, and finds them to commit the murder.

The next most appealing character is Sayid, a former Iraqi Republican Guard officer and expert in interrogation. Incredibly, he is the most consistently rational character in the series, offering correct assessments of crises and proposing proper courses of action. But, since the series’ writers hold a specific animus for rationality – aside from their playing fast and loose with viewers’ metaphysics and epistemology – I fully expect them to turn him mad, as well.

Wikipedia, in its long entry on Lost, reports on one of the producers’ and writers’ goals, which is to create a “mythology”:

“In parallel to its character development, episodes of Lost include a number of mysterious elements which have been ascribed to science fiction or supernatural phenomena. The creators of the series refer to these elements as composing the mythology of the series, and they form the basis of fan speculation.”


I do not think the use of the term mythology is accidental or arbitrary. Myths are usually founded on the actions of supernatural or imaginary beings from another realm who treat mortals as pawns or playthings for their own incomprehensible reasons. However, it is doubtful that Lost's writers are borrowing from Greek or Roman mythology to justify the hocus pocus events in Lost. Its aim is to treat existence or reality itself as a “myth.” Perhaps a better term would be hallucination. That puts it in the modernist, Kant-Hegel axis. It is the modus operandi character of the entire series.

Under the heading “Thematic motifs,” Wikipedia notes:

“There are several recurring thematic motifs on Lost, which generally have no direct effect on the story itself, but expand the show’s literary and philosophical subtext….There are also many allusions to philosophy, demonstrated most clearly in the distinct naming of certain characters after famous historical thinkers, such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, David Hume, Mikhail Bakunin and Richard Price.”


On the contrary, the thematic motifs are governed by Kant and Hegel. Things are not what they appear to be to the survivors’ epistemology, which is incapable of allowing them to see the “true” reality of their predicament. And the island itself is in a state of becoming “something else.” The historical names of Locke et al. are simply red herrings intended to decoy viewers from the con being played on their minds.

That, briefly, is Lost. The series won an Emmy in 2005 and numerous other television awards over the years. An otherwise fine cast lends some substance to the careening, haphazard story. The series has millions of fans worldwide and has produced cults and numerous spin-off games, “fanzines,” special websites, tie-in novels, and even “action figures.”

(It would require a separate commentary to speculate on why the series is so popular, and to perhaps delve into the psychology of cults and those who are drawn to them.)

To date, Lost has a core cast of about twenty, and a “guest” cast of over two hundred. A platoon of writers is responsible for the scripts, which are handed over to one or more of nine directors listed on the TV Guide website for the series. Doubtless the directors have the freedom to contribute their own little twists of “creativity” to the series.

Given this evaluation, I contend that neither the producers, nor the directors, nor the writers of Lost can say with any certainty how the series will end. If certainty is what they wish to destroy, they can hardly claim they “know” what they will do in the future, or even what they are doing now. Collectively, the series character they most resemble in philosophical and literary terms is Ben, the sadistic, “intellectual” leader of the “Others,” who refuses to tell the survivors what it is all about. That is because it is likely he does not know himself.

Why dwell on the esthetic and philosophical pitfalls of Lost? Because the series is a perfect mirror of the state of all the arts today. It has exhausted my professional curiosity.

When a program practically poses the question every five minutes – “What’s reality got to do with anything?” – that is when I tune out.

:: Permalink | 5 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 ::

Wicked, Hurtful Words 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:38 AM

Pat Condell, A British stand-up comedian, regularly excoriates religions of all suasions on his own blog. In a recent video, he took Islam to the cleaners and, among other things, called Mohammed a desert nomad “with a psychological disorder” and said that women who wear the veil are “mentally ill.” (See The Dougout blog, May 19.) He characterized average Muslims as “hysterical, murderous, carpet-chewing, book-burning muppets.”

His atheistic humor may not be to everyone’s taste – too often he is more outrageous than funny – but his monologues and observations have appealed to many of the non-faithful around the world. His YouTube videos have been broadcast just about everywhere. He reported that this particular video earned him 16,000 hits and a few death threats.

His latest monologue was sent to the Berkeley, California, city council. Members of that sorry enclave’s “peace and justice commission” (more Marxist nomenclature you would need to conduct a search for) took grave exception to Condell’s scathing critique of Islam and Muslims. “It’s not about free speech,” said Elliot Cohen, one of the commissioners. “It’s hate speech.” This commissioner also called it “racist.”

Excuse me, Mr. Cohen, but, yes, it is about free speech. If we excluded what you deem “hate” speech from any protection, what would be left that you would permit to be spoken? Some vapid, meaningless, “balanced” exchange of views?

It is obvious that Condell’s critique emanated from a hate for religion; in this instance, for Islam. And his contempt for adherents of that creed cannot be disputed. Conclusion: Condell “hates” Islam. So what?

However, Condell was not encouraging other atheists to go out and slay Muslims and torch mosques. He did not behave like American or British imams who advocate slaying infidels, torching churches and synagogues, and killing any Jews behind them; those genuinely “hateful” rantings are protected because they are founded on “religious” convictions. Condell’s statements simply expressed an antipathy for Islam and were formatted in the vehicle of humor.

By some sleight of rationalization, however, Condell’s statements should not be protected because they are not founded on any religious belief. Or, at least there are those who wish his statements were not protected by the First Amendment or the British equivalent of it because they are fantasy-free, ergo, unexplainably immoral and wicked.

Watching Condell’s video, I could not help but notice that as he ripped Islam to shreds, he did not sport a balaclava, the preferred headgear of those brave executioners and killers of Hamas and Hezbollah. Rather than looking like a wild-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth crusader against the ghosts, phantoms and goblins of all faiths, he struck me a fiftyish, mild-mannered accountant or software engineer.

Cohen’s “racist” charge against Condell is more serious. Given that Islam appeals to members of all kinds of races (remember Richard Reid, the foiled shoe-bomber?), black, white, Asian, Semite, non-Semite, this accusation makes no sense. To equate a serious or humorous critique of Islam with “racism” points to a very suspicious ulterior motive of the commissioner’s, to wit, a desire to squelch all criticism of Islam. On the face of it, the “racism” charge is ludicrous. Condell has subjected Catholicism and Anglicism to the same treatment. Would the humorless commissioner call that criticism “racist,” as well? On what grounds?

Condell was flaying a religion which is not so much a creed as it is an ideology. Ideologies, especially totalitarian ones, are as color blind as religions. Ask Castro, or Robert Mugabe, or Mao, or Stalin, or Hugo Chavez, or Vladimir Putin.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Islamic organizations also equate criticism of Islam with racism, which is why they are so happy that the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act. It would make such “hate” speech a federal and punishable offense.

(On ABC News the other night, in special reporting on the recent death of Jerry Fallwell and the rise of religion in politics in the Reagan years, Charles Gibson noted that the Christian right is beginning to take up the cudgels on behalf of global warming, poverty, and AIDS. Well, there’s intellectual bankruptcy for you.

In the same spirit of bankruptcy, the left is forming a kind of tacit, conditional alliance not only with Christians, but with Islamists, as well. Why would Cohen and Comrades care what anyone says about Islam, unless they saw something in it for them? It is reminiscent of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. They are all for imposing universal, collectivist power over the country as a shared goal. If they ever attain that goal, the falling out between them should be interesting, just as the Nazis and Soviets fell out, and be just as bloody.)

Further, what would Cohen propose to do about the likes of Condell and such “insulting, degenerating and racist” spewings? (“Degenerating”? Not “denigrating?” But, never mind, that’s Cohen’s vocabulary.) Advocate a government entity to police the Internet to keep it “clean” and “non-offensive”? And, why was Condell’s video sent to Cohen and Comrades in the first place, and by whom? Was it sent to raise the good Marxists’ hackles, to get them into a comical lather in the best Keystone Cops tradition? Or was it to provoke the bull with a red cape, to see if Cohen and Company could form a posse to lynch Condell from a distance of six thousand miles?

If the FBI or NSA confiscated Cohen’s computer, they could track down the culprit, and determine his motive. I’m willing to bet the Internet cops would learn it was sent by the California chapter of either the Muslim Public Affairs Council or CAIR.

I am reluctant to let Condell monopolize “hate.” Why is such speech called “hate speech”? What are the alternatives to that term? “Mildly resentful” speech? “Awfully irritated” speech? “A tad ticked off” speech? “Tepidly tactful” speech? The candidates are almost numberless. I will leave development of that kind of levity to Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Pat Condell.

I imagine that Cohen and Comrades could just as well seethe with anger at someone who exercised his freedom of speech by reciting in person or in a video, for example, the Declaration of Independence. Surely, Jefferson’s language could be deemed “hate speech,” directed against George the Third and Parliament, intended to move men to take action against those who shared the king’s and his legislators’ most profound beliefs. And, remember, they were all Anglicans, members of a state church, so the Declaration could be said to indirectly slur their religious beliefs, as well. Doubtless, George and many Englishmen found that language to be insulting, denigrating, and patently offensive. Also, radical. Perhaps, fearfully incomprehensible. Certainly hurtful.

After all, tyrants and dictators have feelings, too.

And everyone knows what happened as a result of that kind of speech: the violence of the American Revolution. Well, practically everyone would know whose minds haven’t been turned to mush by a politically correct public school and college education.

Why have the advocates of censorship settled on the term “hate” to designate the kind of speech they disapprove of and wish to regulate? “Hate” is a powerful term, denoting an emotion rooted in fear. They presumably associate “hate” with action that is “likely” to be taken against that which is feared. Well, one can fear something without taking criminal action against it. Not everyone is an emotional, hate-saturated basket case like Cho, the student who gunned down 32 people at Virginia Tech. Most people will not act on their fears, which they usually cannot articulate except perhaps in the form of expletive-salted exclamations.

And what is it that the gauleiters of speech fear about “hate speech”? The truth. Ridicule of the indefensible. Disrespect for the fallacious. Not being taken seriously, after serious scrutiny or unmitigated hilarity has deflated their arguments. And communication by the offender of the truth, ridicule and disrespect to a wide audience whose members’ minds are not controlled by the “offended.”

For example, observe the peculiar outrage directed against anyone who questions the delusional fraud of man-caused global warming.

Speaking of hate speech, that globetrotting, church-going, odd couple, professional altruists and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, addressed the graduating class of the University of New Hampshire last weekend.

“…Putting politics aside Saturday,” they urged “ graduates to focus on helping others both in their communities and around the world….’I can’t tell you the selfish pleasure I get out of working with President Clinton,’” said Bush. . (The Daily Press, Newport News, May 21)

Bush told an audience of 2,650 graduates “that they don’t have to run for office to become leaders. ‘All you have to do is care, roll up your sleeves and claim one of society’s problems as your own.’” This is said in the state whose motto is “Live Free, or Die.” The New Hampshire men who risked death at Bunker Hill to be free would slap Bush silly, if they could, for spewing such collectivist, anti-freedom claptrap.

If you ever doubted that the left and the right could ever meet in the middle to become an indistinguishable glob of collectivist politics, Bush Senior and Clinton will serve as a nonpareil symbol.

Adopt one of society’s problems as one’s own? Become a “caring,” selfless minion of fascism, by obeying Kant’s categorical imperative? Just like Elliot Cohen? And Jimmy Carter? And, don’t forget Bill Gates, and anyone else who feels a guilt-driven compulsion to “give back” to society.

The double billing of Bush and Clinton in New Hampshire is an instance of a pair of idle, purposeless nonentities preaching altruism, and at taxpayer expense, as well. They both have Secret Service protection 24/7, at a cost of about $10,000 a day. The Secret Service goes with them even on their speaking engagements, from which these retired political millionaires each collect stupendous fees, in addition to their presidential retirement pay. One can only wonder how much the University of New Hampshire shelled out to them.

Unlike Voltaire, I won’t defend someone’s right to say things with which I disagree. I won’t act to stop him, either, but try to answer him on my own dime and time. However, I bear a special malice for unrepentant frauds with careers of destruction who contribute to the diminution of my freedom, and I am forced to pay for it, as well.

There, dear readers, is another instance of “hate speech.”

So, sue me.

:: Permalink | 4 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 ::

Learning how to Think at Founders College 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:52 PM

An article I wrote on Professor Lee Sandstead has been posted up on the Founders College blog/forum. I'm a big champion of Sandstead's unique ability to explain how ideas shape man's life and his history though art and I'm excited to see him shape Founders' Art History program. If the goal of a Founders student is to come to "know themselves and the world around them," Professor Sandstead is going to be an integral part of their journey, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I envy them for it.

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John Lewis on the Mike Rosen Show 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:32 AM

Dr. John Lewis talks in-depth with Mike Rosen about his April 24 speaking engagement at George Mason University and the disruptions of the talk by SDS and Muslim students and their supporters.

Audio here (free, registration required).

:: Permalink | 1 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 ::

The Genesis of Thought Crime 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:42 AM

In discussing the invalidity of the notion of “hate crimes” in “The Democrats’ Assault on Freedom of Speech” (May 10), in connection with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 passed by the House of Representatives (H.R. 1592), I remarked: “A motive is not a crime, but an action is.”

To elaborate on that observation, a motive cannot be a crime, but an action founded or based on it can be a crime. In a court of law, a motive can explain an action, but can no more be punishable than denying the existence of God, or man-caused global warming, or the link between actual violent crime and simulated violence in television programming and in movies. In a court of law governed by objective law, determining a motive for a crime is merely a means of explicating the otherwise inexplicable.

A competent trial lawyer can establish a motive and link it to evidence of murder, assault or even fraud (and this can include intent or conspiracy to commit it), but his key task is to prove a defendant’s criminal actions, not his motivation or character. He would not end his summation to a jury by asking it to find a defendant guilty of committing murder because he hated the victim’s looks or religion or odd behavior, but rather by asking it to find the defendant guilty of murder, based on the evidence he has presented to the court.

Under objective law, a prosecutor must prove the initiation of physical force. In the end, for the jury to decide on the validity of the evidence that the defendant was responsible for proven actions, the motive as established by the prosecution should be contributory for context setting purposes, but remain extraneous to the verdict.

One may feel the same level of contempt for a person who has committed a crime based on his hatred of his victim’s race, gender, religion and so on, as one might feel for someone who has not committed a crime but who holds the same irrational premises.

Objective criminal law, based on proving the initiation of force, is the best guarantor of justice. Although it was long in coming, stalled in part by the news media’s encouragement of lynch mobs and giving free publicity to notorious advocates of hate crime law, the exoneration of the three lacrosse players in the Duke University rape case in North Carolina is an instance of reason and reality trumping emotionalism and wishful thinking. Former District Attorney Nifong should not only be disbarred, but he should be indicted for conspiring to frame innocent men for political “hate crime” reasons.

On the other hand, remember what happened to Imus, the radio personality, who made some disparaging remarks about a women’s basketball team, remarks that hate crime law advocates blew out of proportion to their significance and, also with the cooperation of the news media (which played them on air repeatedly), made them a national issue. I am no fan of Imus, and I doubt that either I or the members of the basketball team or the nation would have known about his “insulting” remarks, had not some aspiring gauleiters decided to test the waters.

This commentary will examine the phenomenon of “hate crime” a little more closely.

The first and most crucial thing to grasp about what can be deemed a “hate crime” is that it is, essentially, a political crime. If this country were still ruled by objective law; if Congress fulfilled its proper role as a protector of individual rights; and if the Supreme Court acted to uphold the legitimate individual rights-based philosophy of the Constitution; then pressure and special interest groups would have no chance of having laws enacted that favored them at the expense of others. In short, they would have no political power to instigate the passage of fiat legislation.

The only crime that could legitimately be called “political” would be treason, that is, actions taken to aid and/or comfort the enemies of the United States.

But every piece of “public policy” legislation in this country, from Social Security, to Medicare, to banking laws, to disability laws, to anti-discrimination, racial and gender quota laws – the list is long and growing longer – is a consequence of political pull and a measure of the corruptive influence of collectivism.

George F. Will, in his May 13th column in The Washington Post, “No end to hate-crime laws,” observed:

“The federal hate-crime law, enacted in 1968, enhanced punishments only for crimes against persons engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting. H.R. 1592 would extend special federal protections to persons who are crime victims because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.”

Will goes on to cite a statistic:

“Hate crimes are seven one-hundredths of one percent of all crimes, and 60.5 percent of them consist of vandalism (e.g., graffiti) or intimidation (e.g., verbal abuse).”

Will does not dwell on it, perhaps because he does not see it, but in that statistic lies the peril. Given the rate of disintegration of objective law, what is to stop pressure groups and legislators from extending the range of “hate crime” from the vandalism of graffiti on the door of a synagogue or church, and intimidation by “verbal abuse,” to unflattering or disparaging portrayals of “protected” groups in movies or on television, and to intimidation or disparagement of them in the printed word?

What will stop the blurring of distinctions between disparagement, defamation, slander and libel? What federal, state or local judge will uphold the conceptual lines between them at the risk of being politically incorrect and inviting the wrath of the liberal left and pressure groups?

Well, nothing and no one. Rational jurisprudence is unraveling apace with freedom of speech.

Fox Television’s “24” toned down its anti-jihadist plots at the behest of CAIR. No major American newspaper or public figure came to the defense of the Danish cartoonists. And Dr. John Lewis last month was subjected to actions of intimidating thugs at George Mason University for daring to criticize Islamists. Do not forget that other courageous individuals, such as Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and other critics of Islam, can appear at universities and other public forums only after the most stringent security measures have been taken.

All this occurred while H.R. 1592 incubated in the House.

But Muslims would not be the only beneficiaries of H.R. 1592. What rankles conservatives more than its potential to further abridge the First Amendment is that it singles out for special protection homosexuals, the “trans-gendered,” and “cross-dressers,” all “sinners” by conservative moral criteria. Do not expect conservatives to defend the First Amendment with any important, fundamental arguments.

For example, the possibility that H.R. 1592 would have any connection to the abridgement of the First Amendment is nowhere mentioned in George Will’s column. He skirts the issue – “Hate-crime laws…mandate enhanced punishments for crimes committed because of thoughts that government especially disapproves.”

In fact, Christian activists no more like seeing God’s or Christ’s name besmirched or hearing it taken in vain than do Muslims Allah’s or Mohammad’s. It is a certainty that they, too, will avail themselves of the power of H.R. 1592, if it becomes law, to punish or gag anyone who dares offend their religious feelings or sensibilities, as well.

And if you bruise the feelings or “violently” injure the “self esteem” of the obese, the elderly, the disabled, the under-achievers, the Indians, the “challenged” of any persuasion, or of any of the other gangs of protected ciphers and manqués, they would have the “right” to take a crack at you, too.

In the film “Twelve Angry Men” (the superior 1957 version), one of the deliberating jurors, a last holdout against acquittal, is certain that the young defendant (of apparent Hispanic origin, there is a single brief shot of him in the whole film) brutally murdered his father, because such behavior, he asserts, fits “his type. You know. Their type.” Most of the other jurors turn their backs on him in disgust.

Half a century later, the implicit moral code of those fellow jurors has undergone an inversion. The revolting irrationalism of the racist juror may be legislated into a federal code that explicitly sanctions the primacy and supremacy of a score of “types” – of every “type” but the individual.

If H.R. 1592 is made law, mind what you say about anyone. Better yet, don’t even think of saying anything, lest you risk the accusation of thought crime. It would be a political crime, whether or not you ever acted on it.

That is thought control. Exercise your First Amendment rights as a private individual or as a public commentator at the peril of committing a crime.

I, for one, will not submit to it.

:: Permalink | 12 Comments ::

 

:: Saturday, May 12, 2007 ::

A Happy Retraction 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:27 AM

To set the record straight, John Lewis wrote me privately about his George Mason University talk of April 24th, and what a debacle it was. He remarked: “The college paper got it wrong when it wrote that I said that Islam was peaceful. The point I made to the audience was that I had not said it was violent; I just read a bunch of violent quotes from Muslims, and it is those Muslims who say it is violent. Draw your own (obvious) conclusion. The crowd showed us just how close to violence they are.”

So, I am retracting whatever I said John said about Islam not being violent, as reported by the Broadside. I trusted Broadside's reporters to get it right, and apparently they didn't. John and I are more in agreement than disagreement. However, I must thank him for the earwax idea. I think the paper quoted him correctly on that.

:: Permalink | 7 Comments ::

 

:: Thursday, May 10, 2007 ::

The Democrats’ Assault on Freedom of Speech 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:15 AM

“Fight the doctrine which slaughters the individual with a doctrine which slaughters the individual.” (Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead, p. 669, Centennial edition.)

The gloating, drooling avarice with which the Democrats took possession of Congress should have shocked no one. They took over the House and Senate like a spendthrift heir who had finally won a long-contested lawsuit over the distribution of a decedent’s estate. All their plans for expanding the welfare state and government powers were put on hold for the longest time – they thought – and now they were going to have a feast redirecting the nation’s private wealth and abridging its remaining freedoms as they saw fit – with government force.

They were ready and eager to bulldoze everything to make way for Hillary’s “Village,” declaring political eminent domain over the whole country.

The irony is that the man who blocked their agenda for seven years, Republican President George W. Bush, is responsible for having expanded government powers and enlarged the federal debt on such a scale that his administration’s record would turn Franklin D. Roosevelt green with envy. Bush pulled a rabbit out of his hat, in the name of “free enterprise” and other “conservative” values, and did what the Democrats would have given their eyeteeth to do in the name of explicit collectivism, only wholesale. Bush’s social, economic and moral values are certainly not those of the Democrats; they are just different forms of the same things, different expressions and applications of statist and collectivist policies.

It is no accident of political history that the campaign for the White House has begun so prematurely, either. In their hurry to ensure that they win occupancy of it, several of the Democratic Party, notably “Billary” Clinton, announced their candidacies early in the year. The Republicans have responded in kind. Now there are about as many stance-modeled aspirants for Pennsylvania Avenue in each of the parties as pins at the end of a bowling alley.

This is because everyone, Democrat, Republican, Independent, seems to sense – I do not say “know,” because that would be giving candidates of either party too much epistemological credit, their “knowledge” is more feral than objective – that the next presidential election will be a make-or-break election: Whichever party seizes the White House, and has a friendly, compliant Congress to work with, will set the future course of the nation. Under the Republicans, the nation has been creeping toward statism and de facto totalitarianism. Under the Democrats, it will gallop towards them and political and economic disaster.

The Republicans have always wanted to experiment with censorship, but what has stymied them is not being able to find a nicer, less scary term for it. In fact, freedom of speech over the airwaves and in some newspapers has allowed them to criticize the liberal left. The abandonment of the “Fairness Doctrine” on the airwaves, instituted by the FCC in 1949 and dropped in 1987 – the failure of government power to coerce a radio or television station to carry “opposing “ or “conflicting” viewpoints – has been a boon to especially conservative radio talk show hosts. Until the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, many stations preferred to remain silent on issues rather than attempt to perform the “public service” of presenting opposing positions.

As Adam Thierer observed on the Cato Institute’s TechKnowledge site:

“…The Fairness Doctrine actually stifled the growth of disseminating views and, in effect, made free speech less free. As the FCC noted in repealing the doctrine in 1987, it ‘had the net effect of reducing, rather than enhancing, the discussion of controversial issues of public importance.’” (April 20, 2004)

The Democrats, however, are not so shy about what they want to impose. They want to revive the “Fairness Doctrine” as a means of silencing or muting popular talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity. Why? Chiefly because these men make more sense to the average listener or viewer and seem to be on the side of reason and right. They give voice to the rational or semi-rational values that many people hold, especially working, productive people who certainly do not hear themselves defended by Democrats, politicians or bureaucrats.

These talk show hosts are as a rule non-politically correct, willing to tackle issues that the politically correct dare not discuss. They are often acerbic and controversial. They practice what the Democrats and liberal lefties claim they want to encourage – debate and the airing of issues. They are competition the Democrats cannot match, not in intellectual content, not in personality.

In short, conservative talk shows are an alternative to and a relief from a news media and intellectual establishment dominated largely by the liberal left. These shows are not mainstream – the liberal left is – but they are a kind of escape from that mainstream, that is, from The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the major news networks.

The Democrats wish to lock and bolt that door of escape in the name of “diversity” of opinion, and to punish anyone for daring to pry it back open. The Democrats’ charges against “right wing” radio and television ignore two important facts: one, that the liberal left has a virtual monopoly on the news media, and this monopoly of “viewpoints” reaches all the way down to prime time sitcoms; and two, that the liberal left simply hasn’t the same appeal as “right wing” news media.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat, sponsored a bill (H.R. 4069, according to the Human Rights Council site, H.R. 3302, according to The Raw Story site) in the House introduced in 2004 called the “Media Ownership Reform Act,” which is also sponsored in the Senate by Vermont Senator and Democrat Bernie Sanders. The bill would compel especially radio broadcasters to allow “dissenting opinions” to be aired, whether or not those opinions can find a sponsor and whether or not a broadcaster wishes to air it. But, even if a broadcaster was willing to underwrite, at its own cost, an opinion that dissented from, say, Rush Limbaugh’s viewpoints, what liberal lefty spokesman has the same charisma and forcefulness of delivery as Limbaugh?

The bill claims its purpose is to “amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prevent excessive concentration of ownership of the nation’s media outlets, to restore fairness in broadcasting, and to foster and promote localism, diversity, and competition in the media.”

Section 3, 2(a) of the bill reads:

“Public Interest Obligation to Cover Publicly Important Issues – A broadcast licensee shall afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance. The enforcement and application of the requirement imposed by this subsection shall be consistent with the rules and policies of the Commission in effect on January 1, 1987.”

That is the most important wording in the bill. The rest of it is largely complaints about how the broadcast industries reorganized themselves after the lapse of the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987, and much gobbledygook Congressional patois about “vertical integrations” and the like.

The next most important section of the bill is Section 5: Invalidation of Media Ownership Deregulation, which abrogates the new broadcasting rules adopted in 2003. It reads like Directive 10-289 in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and even uses 2003 as the “base year.”

Further, the bill also hints that the print media – newspapers, magazines, and the like – may be the focus of another bill to regulate reading material, having committed the same “sin” of unregulated “vertical integration” and not serving the “public interest.” The desire to break up those “monopolies” is all too apparent in the bill’s language.

The primary, unstated object of the bill is to consign all “opposing” viewpoints to the purgatory of the subjective, to diminish the importance of ideas (“My opinion is as true as yours, but we must let the government decide what is right for the public good”), while the government assumes absolute power over freedom of speech to decide, for example, whether Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage are performing a “public service.”

The Democrats, in short, wish to control what Americans hear and say, and to erase all “competition” in ideas. And the best way of ensuring that Americans have no choice is to regulate the means by which they speak and listen.

“All that stuff will end,” said Rep. Hinchey at a recent National Conference for Media Reform, reported Insight magazine on May 1st in its May 1-7 online edition. Hinchey and his political ilk are noted for claiming there is a conspiracy to impose fascism on the U.S., a fascism coming from the right. He would strenuously protest any claim that his bill would advance fascism from the only direction it could come: the left.

(The curious thing is that conservative publications such as Insight object to the bill more because it would purportedly champion liberal causes that oppose “traditional,” religious ones, than because it would be a further infringement on freedom of speech. “God” is not present in any of the liberal left’s causes; ergo, it must be evil and anti-American. This observation also applies to the second freedom of speech-repressing bill discussed below. One wonders if the First Amendment would fare any better if the country was under the thumb of the Christian right.)

The simplest solution to the “problem” of “media concentration” is for the Federal Communications Commission to auction off the whole broadcasting spectrum to the highest bidders, then be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and abolished. As the government should be got out of the economy, it should be prohibited from entering the realm of freedom of speech.

The second major threat to the First Amendment is a bill that has already passed in the House, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1343, according to The Traditional Values Coalition site, or H.R. 1592, according to the Human Rights Council site), sponsored by Democrat Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.

This bill would empower the Justice Department to assist local law enforcement agencies in investigating and combating “hate crimes,” that is, “violent bias-motivated crimes.”

“Federal support, in the form of grants for training or through direct assistance, will ensure all bias-motivated violence is adequately investigated and prosecuted,” reports the Human Rights Council site.

Of course, any “violent bias-motivated” crimes should be treated as crimes, period, not as “hate crimes.” If one assaulted a Muslim, or a Catholic, or a Baptist simply because that person was a Muslim, Catholic or Baptist, one should be charged with assault on the individual, not on his race or religion. The character attributes of the assailant and victim, including the contents of their minds, are irrelevant. A motive is not a crime, but an action is.

To the statists in our midst, however, that is too simple an idea, too logical, and certainly not collectivist. But since group or tribal collectivism has gained ground in this country – of individuals identifying with a group, race or other collective for their own protection against other groups, or simply as an empowering political expedient – secondary attributes such as gender, creed or “sexual orientation” have entered not only our law courts but political considerations, as well.

American individualism has given way to cipherism.

One of the most enthusiastic supporters of this bill, stalled in Congress since 2001, has been the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). It might be curious that an Islamic organization would endorse a bill that protects homosexuals and other groups that are an anathema to the Islamic creed, such as women, Christians and other religious sects. But the bill would serve to stifle critical commentary of Islam itself.

“Violence,” according to CAIR and similar Islamic organizations, includes hurt feelings or offended sensibilities. It would also include “discriminatory” actions against Muslims, such as the removal of the “flying imams” from a Minneapolis plane because other passengers were suspicious of their pre-flight and onboard behavior.

“Support for this legislation is overwhelming,” reports the Human Rights Council site, citing law enforcement organizations, the Attorney General, churches, mayors, disabilities advocates, and numerous polls. JihadWatch reported, “The Council on American-Islamic Relations today congratulated the U.S. House of Representatives on its passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” (May 1st)

Well, of course CAIR would be jubilant. Congress will give it the means to gag all critics of Islam and an invaluable tool for advancing its agenda of submission.

There is no reason to doubt that organizations such as CAIR will sooner or later attempt to include the printed word that criticized Islam as an instance of a “violent bias-motivated” hate crime.

These two bills, if enacted into law, would form a pincer movement that would squeeze the last shred of meaning from the First Amendment.

:: Permalink | 5 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, May 08, 2007 ::

Correcting the Politically Correct on Jamestown 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:34 AM

8 May 2007

To the Editor
The Daily Press
MP 120
7505 Warwick Boulevard
Newport News, VA 23607
(letters@dailypress.com)

Editor:

Bentley Boyd made several statements in his May 6th article, “Why Jamestown Matters,” that need correction.

The overall problem with his article is that he does not take into account the role of philosophy – an adolescent role of reason in the early Enlightenment – in the settlement of North America by a culture that was beginning to discover individual rights and capitalism. These ideas, including the importance of the separation of church and state, were identified and systematized later in the 17th century by English philosopher John Locke. The Declaration of Independence is written in Lockean language.

Boyd writes that “Modern, secular Americans don’t realize how big a role religion played in the thinking of Europeans four centuries ago.” Well, that might be thanks to our failed education system, but the drive for individual rights was fueled by secular ideas of liberty, not religious ones. The Wesley and Whitfield religious phenomena were basically revolts against Anglicism, or the state church of Britain.

Boyd takes a swipe at the political thinkers of the 18th century by asserting “slave labor gave American gentlemen such as Thomas Jefferson the time to work out a free and democratic society for themselves.” It was not a “democratic” society that the Founders thought about and later fought for, but a republican form of government. “Democracy” and “republic” are not synonymous political terms. Then, slavery and the slave trade were key elements of the British mercantilist system, which the American colonists protested against throughout the 1760’s and 1770’s. The Crown collected a revenue on the slave trade, and especially in Virginia slaves by British law could not be emancipated. Also, the Founders had to win their own political freedom before turning to the matter of freeing the slaves.

Boyd also repeats the mantra of the colonists’ alleged rapacious treatment of the Indians. Somehow, the vanguard of an advanced civilization was supposed to defer to and treat as an equal a people who had not yet emerged from the Stone Age, had not discovered the wheel or even metals, had been slaughtering each other in internecine tribal warfare for thousands of years, and would have remained in that primitive state had not the Europeans colonized the continent.

The Europeans discovered the New World; the Indians discovered nothing but their own cultural inferiority, which is why most of them sided with the French, who were not interested in civilizing the continent and turning it into a haven for those who wished to escape state power.



Sincerely,

Edward Cline
Yorktown, VA 23690


(Author: “First Prize,” “Whisper the Guns,” and the “Sparrowhawk” series of novels set in England and Virginia in the decades preceding the Revolution.)

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

:: Friday, May 04, 2007 ::

Minds of Wax 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:40 AM

"Neither individuals nor nations become corrupt all at once, nor are they enlightened in a moment."

So observed William Wordsworth in 1815. He was commenting on the resistance to the revolution in poetry and in literature that was beginning to sweep through Europe as an overture to the Romantic movement.

It would not be taxing credulity to observe, 192 years later, that neither the West nor the United States was corrupted all at once, or to wonder if the advocates of reason are fighting a rearguard action against the assaults on a retreating Western civilization, or are in the vanguard of reason, knowing too well in either instance that neither men nor nations can be enlightened in a moment. Chief elements of the corruption encouraging the assault are Kant's philosophy and the altruist/collectivist axis. When men abandon reason, whether gradually or immediately, a vacuum is created, and barbarism and irrationality rush in. This is what we are witnessing today, in virtually every realm of human life and action.

Reason seems to be impotent in the face of this multi-front onslaught. It certainly is not in the ascendant in current trends.

Dr. John Lewis of Ashland University, Ohio, was invited to George Mason University in Virginia, to give a talk, "No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism," and faced a form of this onslaught of anti-reason on the evening of April 24th. Although campus and local police were present, the barbarians established the anarchical tone of the event, continually interrupting Dr. Lewis with heckling and disruptive behavior.

At one point, an article reported, he replied to an uninvited comment, "The enemy is not Muslims. If you people [the "protestors"] refuse to hear this sentence, I can't help what's in your ears." ("No Substitute for Conflict," George Mason University Broadside, April 30)

Presumably, he meant wax, or rather the wax clogging their minds. Earwax, of course, can block hearing partially or completely, if not removed. And, it collects dirt, and can cause infection that can lead to a loss of hearing. "Wax" in the mind is immeasurably more harmful, and too many people today resist giving their minds a thorough scouring of the many forms of irrationality that comprise that wax.

Like people who hundreds of years ago believed that blood-letting was a cure-all for many kinds of illness, and resisted advances in medicine because they were "unnatural" or unsanctioned by God, many people today believe that closing one's mind to reason is a cure-all for most moral and philosophical conflicts. That is caused by the wax that accumulates in their minds by either faith or nihilism or Kantian "idealism" or emotion-driven subjectivism. Just as earwax mutes or blocks sound, these patently irrational methods of dealing with reality and other men mute the role of reason or block it entirely.

And what did Dr. Lewis say? Simply that totalitarian Iran is the U.S.'s biggest threat, that it seeks to impose its religious tyranny on as much of the world as it can, and that, like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, it must be defeated, militarily if necessary, if the West is to have any chance of survival.

This, the "protestors" did not wish to hear, nor wish anyone else to hear. Their minds were infected, of their own choice, at the behest of their religion or their professors. (Ayn Rand might have referred to it as "venomous muck.")

(I disagree with Dr. Lewis on only two points: Muslims are as much an "enemy" as devout Christians, environmentalists, left-wing student protestors, and power-seeking politicians; their minds are also closed to reason by choice or by mental lethargy. More on these phenomena below.

Elsewhere in the Broadside article, he is cited as believing that Islam is a "religion of peace," and that the problem with it is its application as a political ideology that denies a separation of church and state. But Islam is not a pacific creed; it is a supremacist creed whose fundamental tenets mandate its hegemony by force, guile or dissimulation in its means and ends.

I see no difference between Islam, Nazism, Shintoism and any other vile ideology that requires uncritical, unquestioning faith and the ready submission of its followers. It requires of men an internal comfort level with totalitarian ambience, and the granting by them to authoritarians or totalitarians an omniscience that relieves the believers of the task or responsibility of questioning party lines, dogmas and consensus-founded "truisms.")

Why is it so difficult to enlighten men? Reason is not so radical a means of resolving conflicts or answering questions. It has been an operative in Western culture since the Renaissance; if it had not been, no "West" would have come into existence. However, it has not been consistently applied to all human affairs; in some instances, not at all.

But, when reason is applied to a specific critical issue, what can account for the resistance to what it prescribes as proper actions to take? Why is reason rejected so hastily, or so volubly, so finally? In the GMU protestors' case, it is a matter of active resistance to it, prompted by malice or hostility to it as a resolution to problems or to the values reason seeks to advance or preserve; in many others, it is a matter of lethargic, passive resistance, or a disinclination to think, or a preference to rely on undisputed, supposedly infallible authority, augmented by whatever irrational, fallacious ideas an individual has absorbed in the culture and never bothered to scrutinize.

At the risk of carrying the wax metaphor beyond bounds, a few instances might help to illustrate the malady.

At a recent booksigning for my Sparrowhawk novels outside the bookstore at Colonial Williamsburg where I appear every weekend, a prospective buyer asked me if I had written a book about the founding of Jamestown. Since I was having an informal conversation with the man and his party, I turned and pointed inside the store to a display of books on Jamestown by over a dozen authors, and exclaimed in a friendly manner, "Jesus Christ! I don't think they need another book about Jamestown! Everyone and his mother is writing about Jamestown!" Then the man's wife gave me an odd look and said to me, "You swore."

I learned later that the woman made a point of informing a store clerk that she had persuaded her husband not to buy a whole set of the series, as he had wanted to, because I "swore." There was a mind of wax in action. (Which is just as well, since they would have discovered that religious clerics do not fare well in the series; it was secular ideas of liberty that moved the American patriots, not religious ones.)

Moving to a broader issue, the Daily Telegraph (London) reported on April 30, under the headline, "Britain damaged by dropping arms deal inquiry," that Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was dropping an investigation of corruption connected with a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

"The decision followed a Saudi threat to cancel a £10 billion order for new Typhoon fighters, a move which threatened thousands of jobs in the defence industry.

"Despite widespread criticism, Tony Blair defended the decision by arguing earlier this year that the SFO inquiry would have a 'devastating' impact on Britain's relations with Saudi Arabia if it was carried on."

Here is evidence of a great mound of wax. What possible benefit could Britain reap by maintaining "relations" with Saudi Arabia, except an arms deal that would prop up its subsidized arms industry? Why would it want to sell advanced fighter jets to a feudal monarchy that is using much of its oil revenues to stir up British Muslims and advance the Muslimization of Britain? If kickbacks, briberies, and other forms of corruption indeed characterize the arms deal, shouldn't the Saudi threat to cancel the deal imply their reality and indicate the Saudis' fear that corruption would be exposed?

Why are "good relations" with one's de facto enemies regarded as indispensable, but not the truth? But, these questions will not occur to Tony Blair or anyone else in his government, because the imperatives of unreason trump reason. The wax of pragmatic diplomacy is proof against reason. It will not penetrate.

Meanwhile, speaking of pragmatic diplomacy, on May 3rd, at a Middle East conference in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exhibited her own mind wax by stooping to meet with Walid Moallem, foreign minister of Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism and training ground for foreign "insurgents" it sends into neighboring Iraq to kill Americans and continue the unacknowledged civil war there. So much for President Bush sticking to his principle of never dealing even indirectly with Syria or Iran. The mind waxes of faith in God and faith in his goal of "democratizing" Iraq at the cost of American blood and treasure have for the last five years plugged up his receptivity to reason.

Does it matter to the Bush administration, or even to its Democratic opponents in Congress, that the U.S. military has evidence that Iran declared war on the U.S. by supplying Iraqi "insurgents" with ordnance with which to kill American soldiers? According to the World Tribune of May 1, this ordnance is not only of Iranian manufacture, but much of it is of Chinese origin, as well. Also, agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have been directing the "insurgency." No, none of this matters. Evidence is a product of reason, which is barred from playing a role in the formulation of foreign policy.

The "Goebbels" of global warming, Al Gore, has apparently instituted a "climate change" project which has trained over a thousand climate "messengers" to indoctrinate Americans in schools and businesses with the propaganda that man is responsible for melting icebergs, rising sea levels, and foul weather. Arguably the most culpable in helping Gore spread this propaganda is the news media, whose "reporters" and alleged journalists treat the fallacy as rock solid truth and who evince not the least inclination to question Gore's assertions.

Arguments offered by scientists who question Gore's assertions are either sidelined or not reported at all. The truth about global warming apparently is "inconvenient" enough to discourage the news media and most politicans from dislodging the wax of "consensus" from their minds. It is safer to repeat banalities.

What this culture needs is a firestorm of reason that will melt the wax that has been incrementally smothering this nation and the West for the last century.

Got a light?

:: Permalink | 3 Comments ::

 

Operation Mindcrime? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:00 AM

Jim Woods is monitoring the Finnish government's persecution of blogger Mikko Ellila for making posts critical of Islamic brutality.

:: Permalink | 0 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 ::

Congress mandates, the private sector is forced to make it work and we all pay 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:13 AM

That's pretty much all that deserves to be said about the movement behind this website. Well, that and that one has to admire the audacity it takes to call carbon caps "the centrist approach."

:: Permalink | 3 Comments ::

 

 

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