:: Monday, July 28, 2008 ::
I'm slated to appear on CNN Headline News @ 5:30 pm
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:43 PM
To talk about today's Florida Court decision on the Pledge of Allegiance case. These things are subject to change, but that is the word as it stands now.
2 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 ::
Five Great American Paintings (Part IV)
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:21 PM
This installment discusses the fourth of five paintings that I consider to be among American painter Norman Rockwell's greatest artistic achievements.
The Problem We All Live With (1964)
Norman Rockwell is most clearly identified with 20th century American sentimentality; that is, with the creation and alleged over-romanticizing of the American mythos. This identification is intended as an indictment, for while better-respected artists were busy depicting the universe as expressed through the sundry nuances of multi-color ink-blots, Rockwell dedicated his brush to representing real Americans (along with their quintessential spirit). One such American was six-year-old Ruby Nell Bridges on November 14, 1960, the first day black children in New Orleans would go to school with white children. Yet far from sentimental, Rockwell juxtaposes the beauty and innocence of this young child against the savage racism that animated large swaths of the American public at that time.
Rockwell's painting depicts a young black girl, with the viewer looking at the girl at her eye level as if they were a child themselves. The girl wears a pristine white dress with white socks and sneakers; this is an outfit one often sees children wearing to Sunday religious services and indicates her finest attire. In her left hand the girl holds a ruler, pencils and two books; she carries the tools of a young student. She is surrounded by four white men in business suits; their anonymous faces are not shown to the viewer. The men wear badges of office on their coats and yellow armbands that indicate that they are federal marshals and they march together in lockstep and with fists firmly clenched; the men expect and are ready for a physical fight.
The reason for the men's aggressive posture is made clear when one looks upon the wall presented in the background. Scrawled out in paint is an ugly racial epithet intended to communicate the writer's view of the alleged sub-human status of the members of the child's race. A splattered tomato sits on the pavement, its fresh ejecta dribbles down the wall, the trace of its rays indicating that these ejecta were mere inches away from sullying the girl's immaculate dress. Drawing the viewer into the drama of the scene, the tomato lies on the ground in a way that makes it seem that it was thrown over the viewer's own shoulder; Rockwell does not permit the viewer to escape as a mere passive observer, but makes him an active participant in the scene depicted in his painting.
Yet in perhaps the most striking aspect of Rockwell's canvas, the girl does not seem to notice the rage that surrounds her; instead, she innocently pantomimes the marshals, her small hands clenched as theirs are and her tiny feet in step with their own. Furthermore, while the men guard the girl, they make no emotional contact with her; they do not hold her hand or offer any gesture of warmth or compassion. They protect her from physical assault, but on every other level, the girl stands alone and is as exposed as her white dress against the angry invective of the mob. Yet though it all, she remains pure; her youthful innocence remains intact.
I have yet to encounter any parallel to this work in American art. Rockwell assembles a host of contrasts, from the innocence of the young girl, to the tomato-splattered wall, to the grim determination of the marshals to defend the girl, to their seeming emotional indifference to her plight and he presents them for us to reconcile. Yet there is no easy reconciliation; such is the nature of the problem we all live with. What Rockwell makes clear to his viewers are the stakes of this conflict; one must truly be depraved not to feel empathy for the girl and contempt for those who would act with such irrationality and malice against her. The cornerstone of the creed that animated this child's enemies was that by nature, blacks were separate and beneath whites, yet Rockwell shows us a young girl thrust into a maelstrom with her humanity plainly in view and for all to see. The world seethes angrily around her yet she remains a guiltless girl, a young scholar on the first day of classes.
As I alluded to earlier, Ruby Nell Bridges, the first black child to attend William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans and the first black child to attend an all-white school in the South, is a real person. Now a mother and speaker on the history of the era that she as a six-year-old child helped to pioneer, she is able to share her story and its implications in her own voice. Nevertheless, the voice that Norman Rockwell was able to give her and others like her though his painting continues to inform us to this day. At root, it is a message of humanity in the face of adversity and contempt, and it is a message that deserves to be told.
Part I: The Scoutmaster
Part II: The Homecoming Marine
Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter
Next installment: Freedom of Speech
2 Comments ::
:: Friday, July 18, 2008 ::
Book Review: The Sparrowhawk Series
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:08 AM
C. August of Titanic Deck Chairs presents a deeply informative review of our own Edward Cline's Sparrowhawk series. Be sure to check it out.
0 Comments ::
:: Thursday, July 17, 2008 ::
The Objectivist Roundup: First Anniversary Edition
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:26 PM
One whole year . . . WOOHOO!! Check it out at Noodlefood.
0 Comments ::
John McCain: Pseudo-Maverick III
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:20 AM
About the controversial New Yorker cover that burlesqued "right wing" allegations against Barack and Michelle Obama, Senator John McCain might have observed:
"In another, saner time, a satirical, unflattering caricature of anyone, especially of a presidential candidate, would not be newsworthy or anything to make a fuss about in public. Think of all the cartoons and comedy skits that mocked JFK and Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Certainly I've been lampooned and depicted as an aging mummer - and some of those cartoons are very clever - but I've seen much worse caricatures of Senator Obama in the press here and overseas than what I saw on the cover of The New Yorker, and no one objected to them. So I don't understand the uproar over it. The irony is that The New Yorker is Senator Obama's friend, not mine, and the cover was meant to help him, do him a favor. And now everyone's expecting the magazine to apologize. Well, maybe too many people are just slow-witted or thin-skinned to get the cover's joke, but that shouldn't be an obstacle to anyone's freedom of expression or speech. I'm reminded of British Prime Minister Robert Walpole lustily joining in one of the choruses when he attended John Gay's The Beggar's Opera in 1728, in many respects an unflattering, critical musical satire on him and his own government...."Unfortunately, McCain did not say it. Instead, he and his campaign spokesman agreed with the Obama campaign that the cover was "tasteless and offensive" and "totally inappropriate." It would not be far from the truth to say that, for the ire it provoked, the cover of The New Yorker is the American version of the Danish Mohammad cartoons. The reaction to it lends some substance to retired Senator Phil Gramm's remark that America has become a "nation of whiners."
But, deeper than that, the fact that the left - nearly everyone in the Obama camp - was incensed by the cover, is a clue to the hostility to freedom of speech, and to freedom in general, that simmers beneath the patina of "hope and change."
Of course, the cover of The New Yorker is an example of the First Amendment in action. John McCain is no friend of the First Amendment. He and his partners in the Senate and House would like to see it reinterpreted - that is, circumvented in a campaign of special pleading - so that any group of citizens that does not meet their perception of a legitimate organization as defined by the byzantine logic of the McCain-Feingold or Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act will be denied the right to criticize candidates, incumbent candidates, and even oppose or endorse issues if a certain amount of money is or is not spent in an arbitrarily specified way. The Supreme Court in June 2007 ruled one of the Act's strictures "invalid," when it ought to have found the entire act in violation of the First Amendment.
As one blogger summed up the peril while discussing the efforts of another organization caught red-handed minding its First Amendment business:
"SpeechNow.org wants to criticize politicians who support restrictions on political speech. But first it has to get permission from the government."
A Human Events article of June 28, 2007, discussed the Supreme Court ruling in clearer terms than the wording of the McCain-Feingold Act and more or less said that the ruling was just a slap on the wrist of the Federal Election Commission, the entity charged with enforcement of the campaign finance law. The Court in a majority opinion decided "to abolish the absolute prohibition against radio-TV ads referencing or depicting a federal officeholder/candidate on any topic in the days before an election."
"Sen. McCain...issued a statement calling the Supreme Court's decision 'regrettable,' fearing no doubt that the ruling could well result in TV and radio ads castigating him for his efforts on a myriad of issues he is promoting that conservatives find wholly distasteful."The article also upbraids Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi for "lamenting...the undue influence of conservative radio talk show hosts in opposing the Senate's proposed immigration legislation," and Senator Diane Feinstein of California, who proposed that the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated "to mute the voices of conservative radio talk show hosts." Just as importantly, a revival of the Fairness Doctrine would leave listeners no choice but to endure the opposing opinions of speakers they would rather not listen to, but which Feinstein and company want to force them to hear, and which the stations and programs would be forced to accommodate under penalty of fines and the revocation of their licenses.
In the meantime, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California would like to muzzle the speech of "grassroots lobbyists" who seek a hearing from or an audience with politicians by making it too expensive and cumbersome.
A Human Events article from December 2006 reports that Pelosi's bill, which failed to pass committee,
"...would apply to those who have no Washington-based lobbyists, who provide no money or gifts to members of Congress, and who merely seek to speak, associate and petition the government...[I]t is targeted directly at the First Amendment rights of citizens and their voluntary associations."Make no mistake about it: There are moves in Congress, in concurrence with the stated objectives of both presidential candidates (and even with those of some who have since dropped out of the race) to "reform" government and Congress by silencing or side-lining any opposition to their actions. McCain has been a prominent point man in that effort since 1994. The First Amendment has already been suborned, nullified, or violated in numerous ways by Congress and the White House in regards to tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies and other producers. There is no reason to believe a McCain administration would not completely scrap the First Amendment under the guise of "change."
McCain poses as a "fiscal conservative," endorsing permanent tax cuts, reducing the corporate tax rate, and offering tax credits for research and development, and other scale-backs in government spending. George Bush, however, also posed as a fiscal conservative, but under his watch the federal government has rung up the biggest federal deficit in the nation's history. If McCain faces a Congress controlled by the tax-and-spend-and-live-for-the-state Democrats next year, all those promises he has made and will continue to make between now and November will have been just hot air. Surely he realizes that.
As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain has advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq by 2013, once the altruist, self-sacrificing mission of leaving behind a "stable" government there is accomplished, and increasing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to fight a resurgent Taliban. He endorsed President Bush's war policies in those countries. But there has been no hint in his rhetoric that perhaps those wars were the wrong ones to fight, that our actual enemies are Iran and Saudi Arabia, the true financial and political enablers of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has shown no evidence that he has "followed the money," or, if he has, that it makes any difference to him.
McCain has accused Obama of wanting to sit down and talk with "rogue states" to solve conflicts. But in 2006 he told a British journalist quite another story concerning Hamas:
"They're the government [of the Palestinians]; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so...but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."The Palestinians got democracy. They voted for Hamas, a stateless "rogue state." And if "reality" keeps changing in the Mideast, it is because of the U.S.'s vacillating, pragmatic policies in that region.
McCain, during a primary debate in May 2007, claimed that he would track down Osama bin Laden. "We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell." Well, Bush made the same promise, but then hamstrung our military with "humanitarian" rules of engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq and allied the U.S. with another rogue state: Pakistan.
The true character of McCain's proposed foreign policy can be deduced from his advocacy of a "league of democracies," much like what Theodore Roosevelt favored (with whom McCain, incidentally, identifies, which is not to his credit if one knows anything about Roosevelt), a group of "like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace."
But, was that not the original purpose of the United Nations?
"McCain is careful to note that his proposed multinational organization would not be like Woodrow Wilson's failed 'League of Nations.'"
McCain claimed, "It could act where the U.N. fails to act."
Has McCain ever bothered to learn why the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II? Has he ever grasped why the U.N. fails to act, such as in its recent non-condemnation of Robert Mugabe and his tyranny in Zimbabwe (China and Russia, those two monuments to "democracy," vetoed the resolution), or when it does act, why it always fails, such as in Darfur or any other killing ground in the world?
The altruist, self-sacrificing moral character of his "league of democracies" becomes evident.
"Such a new body, he says, could help relieve suffering in Darfur, fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, develop better environmental policies, and provide 'unimpeded market access' to countries sharing 'the values of economic and political freedom.'"Such as the economic and political freedom he advocates for this country? Barack Obama could express a similar "ideal" and it would not conflict with what he proposes to do about our remaining economic and political freedoms - which is not dissimilar from what McCain proposes to do about them.
In conclusion, and to paraphrase someone's observation about the current presidential campaign: Barack Obama and the Democrats are pursuing the overthrow of the American Revolution, while John McCain and the Republicans are trying to forget that it had ever happened.
Who is committing the graver treason?
3 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 ::
Five Great American Paintings (Part III)
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:27 PM
This next installment discusses the third of five paintings that I consider to be among American painter Norman Rockwell's greatest artistic achievements.
Lincoln the Railsplitter (1965)
The power of art rests in its ability to encapsulate the essence of a thing, often in a way that would otherwise be quite difficult to explain in plain words. For example, a philosopher can talk about human virtue--its source and its central role in our lives--but an artist possesses the ability to show virtue; that is, to quantify it and make it real before the viewer. It is in this way that art serves as a crucial spiritual compass, guiding man toward his proper path, inspiring him to persevere when confronted with adversity. Norman Rockwell achieved as much through his 1965 depiction of Abraham Lincoln as a young man in his painting "Lincoln the Railsplitter."
Again, squelching what we know about Lincoln's life and focusing only upon what Rockwell presents in his depiction, we see a tall, lean and strong man from the vantage point of almost ground level. The man, perhaps in his early twenties, is dressed in the simple attire of a common laborer. He carries a large ax in one powerful hand; a thick book is gently cradled in the other so he can study it as he walks. He carries a coat draped over his arm; he is prepared for colder weather. A red bandana is tucked into his front pocket, at the ready for him to use it to wipe the sweat from his brow as he works. A plumb-bob hangs from his suspenders; his work, while manual labor, nevertheless requires a tool that ensures accuracy and precision.
All the while, the gray fall sky accents the man's giant silhouette. In the background, one sees a simple log cabin with a faint trace of smoke emanating from the chimney; fuel for this fire demands work and neither is wasted wantonly. In the foreground, a simple split-rail fence marks a boundary; this is private property. Two stumps of felled trees mark the extreme foreground. Perhaps the man cut these trees down himself with his ax; this settlement is the product of hard work performed recently.
Yet of all the elements Rockwell presents before us, it is the eyes of this man that most command our attention. Almost closed, they reveal the focus of a man deep in thought; if you walked by him, he might not even notice you ensconced in his book as he is. The man walks with a dual purpose, but it is the discovery of new ideas though his book that indicates his primary goal.
The magnitude of Rockwell's artistic identification is made all the more clear if one envisions the man without his book, instead relying strictly upon his physical prowess to secure his place in life. With his ax carried as a latent weapon, we might even evaluate him as a threat. Instead, with his book in hand and his focus firmly upon it, we see a man working diligently to make something better of himself.
Adding what we know of Abraham Lincoln's history to the image presented before us, we see in Rockwell's image the essential attributes of the man whose knowledge and wisdom would serve to preserve the American union and liberate the slaves.
Rockwell, in the space of his canvas, shows us that knowledge is power and that even a man from the most humble of circumstances has the ability to shape his own mind, character and destiny. In another culture, the man presented might be a mere brute, yet his by his pose and the tranquil background that Rockwell presents, we are instead shown that under the Pax Americana, this man can choose to master his life though his mind and that he rises solely though the strength of his own efforts. He may face a struggle, but it is not a bitter struggle; he can prevail, and so can we.
Part I: The Scoutmaster
Part II: The Homecoming Marine
Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter
Part IV: The Problem We All Live With
1 Comments ::
:: Monday, July 14, 2008 ::
John McCain: Pseudo-Maverick II
Posted by Edward Cline at 12:53 PM
Senator John McCain is a political pseudo-maverick because, in reality, he subscribes to every major fallacy at large in contemporary Western culture.
He believes, with Senator Barack Obama - and the term believes cannot be overemphasized - in man-made global warming.
He believes, with Obama, in "voluntary" servitude as the price of American citizenship and as the cure-all of the nation's ills.
He believes, with Obama, that the West's Islamic enemies can be bargained with and neutralized if "preconditions" are first established.
He believes, with Obama, in the efficacy of government regulation of the economy.
He believes, with Obama, in the abridgement and/or violation of the freedom of speech in the name of protecting the feelings or minds of children, religionists, and other groups "sensitized" by multiculturalism and political correctness.
He believes, with Obama, that the country should go in a "new direction," and that all Americans should pitch in to move it in that direction.
So, what is the difference between them? As mentioned in Part I, only the speed with which Obama, McCain, and their respective Parties wish to reach the goal that remains unnamed or repressed in all their minds: an American-style fascist state. Obama and his Democratic ilk, in the shrill style of their hippie and Yippie predecessors, want to accomplish it now. McCain and his Republican ilk, in the traditional "Grand Old Party" style, wish to sneak up to it on tiptoe.
Given their premises, given their distance from the American people and the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution, both Parties are working towards the same "Führer."
Thomas Sowell, syndicated columnist and one of the most articulate observers of the political scene, in his July 8 Capitalism Magazine article, "Republicans for Obama," notes that many conservative Republicans find Obama attractive as presidential material because of his recent "refining" of his position on a number of issues, "as he edges toward the center, in order to try to pick up more votes in November's general election."
"The man has become a Rorschach test for the feelings and hopes, not only of those on the left, but also for some on the right as well."But, why is that? Sowell cites a number of reasons for the defections, many of them true, but he overlooks the governing reason: Obama's leftist/altruist positions resonate and mesh with the traditionalist/altruist positions of the conservatives. As Obama and McCain move towards each other and the "center," each will shed his "maverick" persona, Obama a little less so than McCain. But by November it will be difficult for voters to distinguish any major differences between them. Obama will have the advantages of his relative youth (with echoes of John F. Kennedy) and having been "nominated" by the news media. And, he sounds more sincere than his Republican rival.
Let us compare McCain and Obama's statements on the issues.
National or Universal Service:
On December 3, 2007, McCain, appearing at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, stated:
"I hope that you'll go see other candidates and get involved in the political campaign and be involved in public service. And if you remember anything I said tonight, please remember there's nothing nobler than serving a cause greater than your self-interest."On July 2, 2008, Obama stated at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs:
"That's the bet our Founding Fathers were making all of those years ago - that our individual destinies could be tied together in the common destiny of democracy; that government depends not just on the consent of the governed, but on the service of citizens....Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it."The Progressive Policy Institute provides a concise and revealing history of the extortionate means, ends, and scope of "voluntary" universal conscription, together with the role of its principal advocates, including John McCain's.
Never mind the effects of sunspot activity or the cyclical nature of the atmosphere over millennia or the negligible contribution of man to "global warming"; never mind the proofs and testimony of climatologists that man has little or nothing to do with global warming or cooling, or the ample evidence that the vaunted computer models predicting catastrophic warming (or cooling) are just so much Lysenkoesque jiggery-pokery. The collectivist premises of all the candidates and all our policymakers, including President Bush, McCain and Obama, compel them to discard reason, ignore evidence, and advocate government "action" to combat global warming. This is policymaking based on science by consensus.
Because so many papers and articles published in print and on the Internet have exploded the whole fallacy of man-made global warming - papers and articles ignored by or unknown to politicians and the news media, and certainly countered by "warmists" with either suppression or ad homina attacks on their authors - the occasional "inconvenient truth" comes through, such as in this Daily Telegraph (London) column of July 10, "Our Leaders are in carbon-cloud cuckoo land." The article focuses on the empty, unrealistic pledges made by the leaders of the G8 summit this month in Japan.
After reporting that, in general, there is no solid correlation between rising CO2 or "greenhouse gas" levels and global warming, and that, in fact, global temperatures have flattened out and are even decreasing, Christopher Booker notes:
"Yet just when such huge question marks are being raised over the 'CO2 equals warming' theory, our politicians have swallowed it whole, as an act of blind faith - using it to justify such massive costs to our economy that our whole way of life seems destined to change significantly for the worse." [Italics mine.]Obama has had little to say about global warming, other than incidental references to the necessity "saving our planet" and creating an "Energy Corps to conduct renewable energy and environmental cleanup projects." He has a different notion of "climate change," that is, of extinguishing the climate of relative freedom enjoyed by Americans today by putting them to work in a variety of statist and collectivist causes.
McCain, however, has, like the G8 leaders, swallowed the fraud of man-made global warming whole. Aside from advocating the same system of "cap-and-trade," emission offsets, and emission permit auctions adopted by the European Union - a system that has accomplished precisely zero except to spawn fresh new categories of bureaucracy, corruption, fraud, thievery and unconscionable waste - McCain endorses the construction of more nuclear power plants, not because they are more efficient and dependable sources of power, but because they have been proven to be environmentally friendly and could be tools to combat global warming. And in a speech on May 12 at the Vestas Wind Technology Company in Oregon, he outlined his climate change policy, emphasizing that
"Our government can hardly expect citizens and private businesses to adopt or invest in low-carbon technologies when it doesn't always hold itself to the same standard. We need to set a better example in Washington by consistently applying the best environmental standards to every purchase our government makes."Which in effect would be an open invitation to repeat the scandals of $50 hammers and $1,000 screwdrivers. And million dollar wind turbines. McCain proposes to spend federal billions to "develop promising technologies, such as plug-ins, hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and hydrogen-powered cars and trucks."
"Like other environmental challenges - only more so - global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next." [Italics mine.]
In short, Americans should reduce their standard of living so that the next generation can exist by the chancy grace of wind turbines and expensive power sources that will drive everyone, including the next generation, into abject poverty. As for the only rational element of his proposed program, nuclear power, McCain could easily be talked or browbeaten out of it by the environmentalists he has chosen to patronize.
"Reform. Prosperity. Peace," reads a banner of McCain's campaign website. "I believe each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest....I hope that...you will see why I truly believe that I owe America more than she has ever owed me....I've spent my life in service to my country, and I've spent my life putting my country first....."
Now it's your turn, he is saying, to sacrifice and pursue a cause greater than your self-interest.
Everyone thought that John F. Kennedy's imperative, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country," was old hat. But Obama means it. McCain means it.
Come November, voters should send McCain, Obama, and Congress a reply that echoes John Galt's in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: "Get the hell out of my way!"
The final installment of this commentary will focus on McCain's positions on speech and the war.
3 Comments ::
:: Thursday, July 10, 2008 ::
Objectivist Round-Up - July 10, 2008
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:01 AM
Welcome to the July 10, 2008 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up--it's again our pleasure to be hosting this week's edition. This week's round-up presents some of the best insight and analyses written by authors who are animated by Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Ayn Rand:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:
"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.
I present Five Great American Paintings (Part II) posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "It was made very clear to me at OCON that I need to finish my great American art series of blog posts, so to please the starving Objectivist masses, here is Post II featuring Norman Rockwell's The Homecoming Marine."
Edward Cline presents John McCain: Pseudo-Maverick I posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "This is part one of my analyses of US Presidential Candidate John McCain and his contempt for self-interest."
Burgess Laughlin presents What is a movement? posted at Making Progress, saying, "I learned from Aristotle that an effective place to start in thinking about a problem is to ask: "What is it?" That is what this article does, as preparation for one or more later articles on movements of the past and present."
Ari Armstrong presents Rational Endowment posted at FreeColorado.com, saying, "Perhaps the endowment effect is more rational than we've been told."
Gus Van Horn presents Common(s) Confusion posted at Gus Van Horn, saying, "Freedom of speech is not the same thing as forcing someone else to help you be heard."
Monica presents Plant Community Responses to Global Warming posted at Spark A Synapse, saying, "Some recent research by a prominent plant ecologist indicates that grasslands may be more resistant to climate change than previously anticipated. Interesting stuff."
Paul Hsieh presents OCON: Q&A Session with Leonard Peikoff posted at NoodleFood, saying, "Dr. Leonard Peikoff held a special 90 minute Q&A session for OCON attendees. Here are a few of the best questions and answers."
Greg Perkins presents Principled Punishment and the Death Penalty posted at NoodleFood, saying, "Just what would make killing a heinous murderer necessary in lieu of, say, locking him up for life? Here I propose a way of thinking about punishment that answers that challenge, and more."
Myrhaf presents A New Era of Servitude posted at Myrhaf, saying, "This post looks at Obama's speech last week about his national service program."
Peter Cresswell presents Snouts in a $750 million trough posted at Not PC, saying, "Only politicians could demand renunciation, sacrifice and the strangling of western industry out of mouths so full of pork."
Justin Ketterer presents Osama's Reasoning posted at Deus Ex Machina.
That concludes this edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. Submit your blog article to the next edition (to be hosted by Noodlefood) using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Technorati tags: objectivist round up, blog carnival.
2 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 ::
Five Great American Paintings (Part II)
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:22 PM
This second installment discusses the second of five paintings (now up one from the original four) that I consider to be among American painter Norman Rockwell's greatest artistic achievements.
The Homecoming Marine (1945)
To fully appreciate the genius of this painting, it is helpful to examine it not so much from the perspective of what one already knows about the subject (in this case, a US Marine returning from war against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific), but to instead focus on what the artist chooses to show us about his subject. Unlike a photographer, a painter has the complete power of selectivity in determining what is represented in his painting and how it is represented; as such, nothing is left to chance and it is through the artist's deliberate choices that he is able to convey what he thinks is important about his scene. In art, it pays to focus on the artwork.
In this painting, Rockwell presents two boys and five adult men in a mechanic's garage; one of men, the youngest of the adults, wears a khaki military uniform and commands the rapt attention of those around him. Looking upon the background, one sees a newspaper article hung upon the wall identifying that this individual is both a garageman and a military hero; the phrasing indicating that the man is not a professional warrior but someone with a peaceable background who nevertheless served in the armed forces and performed admirably. A smaller version of the photo of the man used in the newspaper indicates that the inhabitants of this garage knew the man before his newsworthy exploits; the blue star on a red and white flag hanging from the wall reflects a WWII tradition that indicates that he is close enough to them to be considered one of their own, even if his singularly red hair seems to indicate that he is not their outright son.
On the man's uniform he wears various ribbons for military merit, one of them being the Silver Star, America's third highest award given for gallantry in action against an enemy. His headgear is cocked back in his own personal style, again signifying his non-professional status in the military. In his powerful hands he grips a red and white Japanese flag; he does not clench the flag in a death-grasp, yet no one dares take this trophy from him. Rockwell presents the man in a reflective pause; his mouth is closed in silence and he does directly engage those around him with eye contact (even though he is clearly their center of their eyes). Instead, his face is focused outside the circle and he wears the expression of a man reflecting upon a grave matter; a matter that he himself has yet to fully reconcile.
The boy sitting to the man's right looks up at him, utterly captivated by the man's presence with his young hands squeezed together with white-knucked intensity. The blonde-haired boy standing across from the man leans against the workman's bench in a contrapposto post and presents a dumbfounded expression of shock. Two older mechanics are presented above the man, one sitting on the bench, his nearly-consumed cigarette held in his gently clasped hands as it burns down to its last embers. This mechanic is the only individual in the scene shown to be speaking, yet the position of his mouth indicates that he speaks faintly; that is, he speaks to the man with a tone that shows his understanding of the gravity of the man's experiences. The other mechanic stands over the man, tobacco pipe in mouth and with a soft smile on his face which seems to indicate both his interest and his pride. The last of the two men each circle the man, both older, one corpulent and uniformed in the garments of some local office of public service, the other ancient and frail, yet bent over with keen interest in the man.
When one combines all of the elements Rockwell represents in his panting with what one knows of the historical record, such as the fact that the Marines performed valiantly against a ruthless and determined enemy, that the Marines were a citizen army, and that those who served in combat would return to their peacetime lives but were nevertheless indelibly marked by their experiences on the battlefield, it is inescapable that Rockwell's Marine Homecoming is a brilliant examination of heroism and hero worship in America. One would be hard-pressed to imagine such a scene in Soviet art; the Soviets being far more interested in inserting some overtly political message into their art than to let a subtle scene such as Rockwell's go unmolested.
Furthermore, as much as Rockwell is known (and derided) for painting common scenes, there is nothing common about his Marine hero. The expression Rockwell represents belies a man who has endured extreme hardship and whose acclimatization back into civilian life may not necessarily be easy. Nevertheless, the man has the attention—and the admiration—of those who were part of his former life. He is their champion and they do not run away from him. For those of us who admire Rockwell's work, neither do we.
Previous installment: The Scoutmaster
Part I: The Scoutmaster
Part II: The Homecoming Marine
Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter
Part IV: The Problem We All Live With
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John McCain: Pseudo-Maverick I
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:52 AM
Parade Magazine, the slick insert found in most metropolitan Sunday newspapers, on July 6 carried a feature, "What is Patriotism?" to mark the July 4th weekend. In it presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama and John McCain shared "their thoughts about our country."
Share them they did, and, quite predictably, they stressed a mutual theme: sacrifice, "giving back," and a "unity" that would make the first two actions palatable. Obama's piece was titled, "Sacrifice For The Common Good," McCain's, "A Cause Greater Than Self-Interest."
Obama's essay was a regurgitation of his boyhood experiences and a thinly disguised appeal to contribute to the "common cause." It was intended to counter claims that Obama is unpatriotic and that he secretly despises his country. And one sentence stands out for a significant omission:
"The greatness of our country - its victories in war, its enormous wealth, its scientific and cultural achievements - have resulted from the toil, drive, struggle, restlessness, humor, and quiet heroism of the American people."What is missing is any reference to the freedom, political liberty, or individual rights that made the country's enormous wealth and scientific achievements possible. These ideas are largely absent from Obama's presidential agenda, except in instances of meaningless lip service to individual effort. The terms toil, struggle, restlessness, and quiet heroism, however, can be found in the speeches and harangues of past tyrants when they praised their slaves for their sacrifices and for the ones they were expected to make in the future.
So, instead of assuring anyone that he is patriotic and loves his country qua free country, Obama defines his patriotism and love of country by how much of a hospital ward/ welfare state/slave camp it can be, if only Americans would express their "love" for and "faith" in each other. His "patriotism" is exclusively of the altruist/collectivist kind. (When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin did not expect his slaves to fight for communism; he dubbed the contest the "great patriotic war" for Mother Russia.)
Freedom, individual rights and political liberty are also absent from McCain's essay. McCain (or his own ghost writer), however, had the arrogance to refer to a question posed by John Adams in July 1815 to Thomas Jefferson: "Who shall write the history of the American revolution?"
""Nobody,' responded Jefferson, suggesting that while writers could understand the facts, they might never grasp the sacrifices."Jefferson suggested no such thing. Here is Jefferson's answer:
"Nobody; except merely its external facts. All its councils, designs and discussion, having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them, these, which are the life and soul of history must for ever be unknown." [The balance of his answer to Adams' question is irrelevant here. Immediately following his answer, Jefferson, who probably paused to recollect that James Madison had transcribed in their entirety the deliberations of the Congress, then mentions that document, first published in 1840 by Henry D. Gilpin.](1)In all of Jefferson's reply, the term sacrifice does not once occur, nor is it alluded to or even implied. To Adams and Jefferson, sacrifice was neither a moral imperative nor a touchstone of moral virtue. It did not automatically pop into their minds or rhetoric when discussing political means, ends, and values. For them, the fundamental issues were freedom versus tyranny, liberty versus slavery.
It is just the opposite with Obama, McCain, and every other career politician today. To a man, they are either utterly ignorant of those issues, or they dare not parse them in their own minds and public statements lest they open a can of worms of their own making. For many politicians, the American Revolution is as distantly foggy in their consciousness as the Peace of Westphalia or the Battle of Thermopylæ; for others, it is completely irrelevant to what they believe and claim are vital matters requiring more controls, intervention, and sacrifices of freedom.
For McCain to raise the issue of the American Revolution is a presumption that verges on sacrilege, because for all his purported "patriotism" for America, he is not by any measure a friend of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. His attribution of the principal role of "sacrifice" in the Revolution is a reflection on either his ignorance of the Revolution or his corrupted understanding of it, or both, a corruption and ignorance also responsible for the pandemic notion in the culture that the U.S. was founded as a "democracy," and not as a republic.
If Obama's political career and agenda can be said to be consistently statist and collectivist, then McCain's political career and agenda have been and continue to be bizarrely "nonpartisan." He portrays himself as a "maverick" in the Republican Party, that is, as an opponent of a complacent status quo. But being a political maverick is not inherently a good thing. Being "nonpartisan" - even when the two major political parties are so philosophically and ideologically bankrupt that the only fundamental difference between them is the speed with which either proposes to propel the country to full statism - means being consummately pragmatic, unprincipled, and open to whatever is perceived to "work."
McCain's positions comprise an eclectic potpourri that ranges from restrictions on freedom of speech to advocating environmentalism and man-made global warming to flip-flops on tax cuts and tax increases and advocating the construction of more nuclear power plants for environmental reasons. His endorsement of the Iraq war stems chiefly from an emotional commitment to the military, not from any rational assessment of the conflict. If it were not for his military background, it is likely that his criticisms of the U.S.'s altruistic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be dissimilar from Obama's, Clinton's or John Kerry's. For all his "straight talk" about Iran and terrorism, there is no reason to believe he would confront them any better than has President Bush. In that respect, if his Democratic critics are right, McCain would simply continue Bush's policies.
McCain, for example, worked for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam - that is, for the moral sanction of the communist government that held him prisoner for over five years (and during which incarceration he displayed more character and intelligence than he has in politics). Is that any better or worse than President Bush's recent removal of North Korea from the "Axis of Evil" because the North Koreans disposed of a disused cooling tower and pledged not to continue its nuclear weapons program, a pledge made to another totalitarian regime, China?
Conservatives are not enthusiastic about McCain. They perceive him as straddling their camp and the liberals'. They will, however, endorse him as an alternative to Obama and a Democratic Party that smells victory in November and is high on the cocaine of possibly achieving their statist dreams. Ronald Kessler, writing for Newsmax on June 25 about the nature of conservative support for McCain, remarked:
"...[T]he fact remains that the prime motivator of conservatives is probably going to continue to be not John McCain but a fear of the consequences of a Barack Obama victory."The conservatives are hoping that McCain will change his positions on his fraudulent "cap and trade" proposal and his refusal to advocate oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Region. And, they have forgiven him for his flip flop on the Bush tax cuts, now that McCain has proposed his own cuts and also a "tax holiday" on gas purchases. Kessler remarked:
"If you care about social conservative issues, the next president could replace one or two Supreme Court judges. That could mean Roe v. Wade could be overturned."The conservatives' and McCain's anti-abortionist position is an unlikely companion to their ostensive "freedom of speech" position, given McCain's work with Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russell Feingold to pass the speech-abridging Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002. But a closer examination of their "pro-speech" position reveals that they are only concerned about the fate of conservative talk show hosts who might be jeopardized or even silenced by an Obama-inspired renewal of the Fairness Doctrine. All other claimants to freedom of speech, presumably, can take the hindmost, including atheists and anyone else prone to mouth, print or wardrobe malfunctions, not to mention pornographers, neo-Nazis, advertisers of abortion clinics, and any other individual, organization or expression of speech deemed by both Republicans and Democrats as undesirable or of questionable or irredeemable social value.
As for the wholly arbitrary strictures and prohibitions of the campaign finance law, conservatives have proven they are as myopically concrete-bound about them as the Democrats. The principle underlying the First Amendment should obliterate the absurd mental gymnastics that govern what may or may not be said and when, what may or may not be paid for and by whom during any election period, national, state or local. But there are no longer any moral giants in politics like Adams and Jefferson who can or are willing to grasp the fundamentality of principles, just charlatans, professional con artists and power lusters of diminished mental capabilities and short-term visions.
Nor are veterans' groups enthusiastic about McCain, although they, too, see him as the better alternative to Obama. A Daily Telegraph (London) article from July 6 underscores the ambivalence of these groups as they launch TV and print ads in support of McCain.
"...Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom, claimed it [the ad campaign] was not designed to support one candidate over another, but to support troops still serving in the field."Most veterans, respecting McCain's own military career, trust him not to betray American troops. They should, however, ask themselves if they should trust a man who places such a great value on sacrifice in fighting the wrong war for the sake of the "democratization" and "stability" of a country 2,000 years behind Jefferson and Adams. They should ask themselves whose country those troops are fighting for.
The second part of this commentary will examine McCain's positions more closely.
(1) The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson & Abigail & John Adams, edited by Lester J. Cappon. Chapel Hill-London: University of North Carolina Press, 1959 (renewed 1987), pp. 451-452.
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:: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 ::
Jihad by the Numbers
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:47 AM
In his masterful second volume study of Hitler, Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis, Ian Kershaw discusses a phenomenon called "working towards the Führer," in which every Nazi Party organization, member and office automatically, with little or no prompting or prodding by Hitler or his inner circle, worked to realize the ends and policies articulated by Hitler before and after he rose to power in 1933. It was automatic, because to disagree with or have reservations about a single, even minor aspect of Nazi ideology was to court reprimand, censure, dismissal, or even death. Agreement with those ends and policies was nearly a secondary motivation behind any Party member's actions. He was compelled to act, regardless of the consequences. The ideology commanded it, and the Führer's will and vision were irresistible, because there was little or no self to resist them.
As Party members who disagreed or expressed reservations were dismissed, or abandoned the Party, fled, committed suicide, or were murdered, monsters of the first rank filled the vacuum to formulate and enact policies that more completely "worked towards the Führer," monsters such as Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Joseph Goebbels. When all the checks within the Party against total irrationality in domestic and foreign policies were removed or fell into disrepute, total irrationality took over totally.
But the average Party member strived to satisfy Hitler, regardless of how minor or major the action and regardless if it stood to be acknowledged or rewarded. To be a true, loyal, above-suspicion Nazi meant the near total surrender of one's ego, mind and self, and to substitute them with Hitler's own.
Of course, an Ellsworth Toohey might say that the joke was on the rank-and-file Nazi: he would claim that Hitler was essentially selfless, and that what little mind Hitler possessed was founded on what he thought his followers and "the people" wanted and expected of him as prophet and dictator. Ayn Rand, in The Fountainhead, describes that phenomenon through Toohey:
"...A world of obedience and of unity. A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought in the brain of his neighbor, who'll have no thought of his own but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbor who'll have no thought - and so on...around the globe. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster - prestige. The approval of his fellows - their good opinion - the opinion of men who'll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no brain....An average drawn upon zeroes...." (1).It is no accident or fluke of history that Islamists - Hamas, Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad, Saudi Wahhabists, the whole ménage of Islamists and jihadists -- admire both Hitler and Nazism. Their hatred of Jews and Israel is merely one facet of that pathology. As Nazism required the complete submission of the individual to Party ideology and an unthinking, unwavering deference to Hitler, Islam requires the complete submission of the individual to Islam and an unthinking, unwavering deference to Allah and Mohammed. Islamists have long recognized that both the method and the ends of Nazism were in complete agreement and practical accord with their own. The "mechanics" of a functioning Islam differ in no fundamental way from the "mechanics" of a functioning Nazism or any other brand of total collectivism, as described by Toohey above. (2)
(One historical note: Kershaw points out that Hitler once entertained the idea of solving the "Jewish Question" by helping to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, where all German and other European Jews would be forcibly "relocated" and presumably - hopefully - perish in a wasteland of desert and hostile Arabs. He dismissed the idea because he feared that such a state could possibly become a political adversary dedicated to destroying Germany. Historically, the ironic joke is on Hitler. He destroyed Germany and the Jews turned the wasteland into a productive, prosperous garden.)
With that in mind, here is a set of significant statistics forwarded to me by a friend. It charts the progression of Islamic jihad, both soft and hard methods, whose purpose is to establish a global caliphate, especially in the West.
It begins by stating:
"Islam is not a religion nor is it a cult. It is a complete system."I would disagree. It is definitely a religion and a political system combined. Any attempt to "separate" mosque and state would emasculate Islam. I have argued this point in past commentaries and will not dwell on it here. And cults, if not opposed by reason and kept by it on the far fringes of a civilized society, have a tendency to become religions that may become state policies. Ecology was once a "cult." Today we have the Environmental Protection Agency.
It goes on to state:
"Islam has religious, legal, political, economic and military components. The religious component is a beard for all the other components."Or a mask, or a ruse. But no one should doubt how seriously Islamists and Muslims in general take the religious component. Islam is a barbaric but fully integrated system, perhaps more lethally integrated than was Nazism.
"Islamization occurs when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their so-called 'religious rights.'"I would defend anyone's right to believe in Islam. The question is: How could one truly practice Islam without declaring jihad on others? After a Muslim has won the "internal struggle" or jihad within himself, the next step is to wage it against all others. To refrain from that part of jihad is to risk the accusation of being a slacker or pseudo-Muslim. From the first stage to the last, all such effort constitutes "working towards the Prophet and Allah."
"When politically correct and culturally diverse societies agreed to 'the reasonable' Muslims demands for their 'religious rights,' they also get the other components under the table. Here's how it works (percentages source: CIA: The World Fact Book, 2007).Here is where it becomes interesting. Note throughout the exponential scale of Islamic influence as the percentage of Muslim population per country increases. Comments in square brackets are my corrective interjections.
"As long as the Muslim population remains around 1% of any given country it will be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to anyone...."
United States: 1.0
"At 2% and 3% they [Muslims] begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs."Denmark: 2.0
United Kingdom: 2.7
"From 5% on they [Muslims] exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. They will push for the introduction of halal ("clean" by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature it on their shelves - along with threats for failure to comply (United States)."France: 8.0
The Netherlands: 5.5
Trinidad & Tobago: 5.8
"At this point, they [Muslims] will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves under Sharia, or Islamic law. The ultimate goal of Islam is not to convert the world but to establish Sharia law over the entire world.Guyana: 10.0
"When Muslims reach 10% of the population, they will increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions (Paris - car burning). Any non-Muslim action that offends Islam will result in uprisings and threats (Amsterdam, Denmark - Mohammed cartoons, murder of Theo van Gogh)."
The one anomaly in this set of statistics is Israel, which has not experienced uprisings and threats of violence. Its Arab or Muslim population enjoys equal political rights with Jewish Israelis. The suicide bombings and rocket attacks that have killed hundreds have been perpetrated by outsiders.
"After reaching 20% [of a population] expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings and church and synagogue burning:Ethiopia: 32.8
"After 40% you will find widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and ongoing militia warfare:"Bosnia: 40.0
"From 60% you may expect unfettered persecution of non-believers and other religions, sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon and jizya, the tax placed on [conquered] infidels:"Albania: 70.0
"After 80%, expect state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide:"Bangladesh: 83.0
United Arab Emirates: 96.0
I question the inclusion of "Palestine" in this set. "Palestine" simply means space occupied by stateless "Palestinians" in Gaza and the West Bank, and is the name of the state which Islamists wish to replace Israel, once it is destroyed. Turkey, after decades of having a secular, non-religious government, is beginning to turn "religious," and seems to be yearning for the kind of Muslim government that cleansed the country in 1915 of non-Muslim Armenians in a genocide that predates the Holocaust.
"100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' - the Islamic House of Peace' [more correctly, dar-al-Islam, or Land of Islam]. There is supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim."Afghanistan: 100.0
Saudi Arabia: 100.0
"Of course, that's not the case. To satisfy their blood lust, Muslims then start killing each other for a variety of reasons.Hammond's book is sponsored by the Frontline Fellowship, a Christian organization, and the book itself was published by Christian Liberty Books. The Frontline website contains several endorsements of the book by clerics and missionaries. The quoted paragraphs above were "adapted" from Hammond's book (by whom, is unknown), and not very professionally. The statistics themselves were compiled by the CIA and used in the book.
"'Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world and all of us against the infidel.' Leon Uris, The Haj.
"It is good to remember that in many, many countries, such as France, the Muslim populations are centered around ghettos based on their ethnicity. Muslims do not integrate into the community at large. Therefore, they exercise more power than their national average[s] would indicate.
"Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat."
The first paragraph of the Frontline ad for the book reads:
"Dr. Peter Hammond's new book...is a fascinating, well illustrated and thoroughly documented response to the relentless anti-Christian propaganda that has been generated by Muslim and Marxist groups and by Hollywood film makers...."
For a detailed exposé of Islam's Marxist affiliation - as distinguished from its symbiosis with Nazism - see Daniel Pipes' "[The Islamist-Leftist] Allied Menace," of July 15.
So, regardless of the book's Christian orientation, the statistics Hammond uses to cite the various Muslim populations in each country can be taken as reliable, as well as the prefatory remarks before each set of percentages. There is certainly a demonstrable and observable corollary between a country's Muslim population and the influence it begins to have or has had on its government, politics and culture.
The Islamists are coolly "working towards the Prophet and Allah" as shown in the numbers above. Meanwhile, our policymakers appear to be a succession of compliant, pragmatic, non-judgmental zeroes blindly working towards the conquest and extinction of the West.
(1) The Fountainhead, pp. 667-668, Plume-Penguin Centennial Edition.
(2) "During the 1930s, Palestinian Arabs under the leadership of the Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, had embraced a great deal of Nazi ideology." From Denis MacEoin's "Tactical Hudna and Islamist Intolerance," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2008.
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