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:: Thursday, May 31, 2012 ::

Objectivist Round Up - May 31, 2012 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:29 AM

Welcome to the May 31, 2012 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents 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.

"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.
 So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:

John Drake presents 3 Keys to Picking a Career posted at Try Reason!, saying, "After giving students advice on picking careers for many years, I have discovered there are three key things to picking one that captures your passions but is also profitable. Values, strengths, and opportunities. Read more..."

Roberto B Sarrionandia presents Tories vs The Enlightenment posted at Roberto Sarrionandia, saying, "Why a British exam question on Judaism is not racist, and what is revealed about the premises of the government officials who think it is."

Diana Hsieh presents Defecting to North Korea posted at Philosophy in Action, saying, "The horrifying story of a man who convinced his family to defect to -- yes, to -- North Korea."

Rational Jenn presents The One About ATLOSCon 2012 posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "All about my ATLOSCon 2012 experience! What can I say? It was wonderful and fulfilling!"

Paul Hsieh presents Scherz and Fogoros on USPSTF posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "Two nice discussions on why the government wants to clamp down on preventive medicine."

C.W. presents The Immediate Important Lesson From Europe posted at Krazy Economy, saying, "We can learn from Europe what not to do first to move toward capitalism."

Darius Cooper presents To teach posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, "To teach is to step into another man's thought,..."

Peter Cresswell presents A conclusive experiment with a crucial lesson for Christchurch [updated] posted at Not PC, saying, "NZ's earthquake-ridden city of Christchurch has been treated by government as a welfare case instead of opened up as an enterprise opportunity. The experience of two US cities after tornado damage helps illustrate how wrong this approach has been."

***

That concludes this edition of the round-up. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Objectivist round-up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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:: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 ::

Watch What You Say: A Guide for Dhimmis 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:51 PM

Feeling a need to humor myself, and casting about for a way to cock a snook at the Department of Homeland Security and The Transportation Security Administration (in German, Die Abteilung der Heimatland-Sicherheit, and Die Transport-Sicherheitsverwaltung, one click of the heels and raised right arm, palm down, required for pronunciation, if you can manage it) and strike a blow for freedom of speech and the First and Fourth Amendments, the DHS provided me with a salubrious vehicle. Cowboy Byte and other blog sites reported the grudging release by the DHS of its 39-page Analyst's Desktop Binder (2011) containing words employed anywhere on the Internet that should cause red flags and whistles and bells to awaken the glaze-eyed human monitors and alert over-heating computers to open that Binder and follow its instructions.

The list is pseudo-comprehensive, including obvious terms that would slap a monitor on the back of his head when they pop up, and numerous terms used millions of times every day by Internet users, so that one wonders why they were included, unless the monitors and computers are programmed to look for suspicious combinations of two or more of them in sneaky repetitions or recurrences. The DHS may as well have programmed the whole Oxford English Dictionary and the Cambridge Complete Works of Shakespeare.

"The keywords are included…in the Binder," notes Cowboy Byte, "which also instructs analysts to hunt down media reports that reflect poorly on the department."

And they're not even in alphabetical order. Very, very sly. Makes it difficult to follow.

"It doesn't include the keyword list used by Obama's gang of plumbers who troll the Net for negative stories, or the NSA, which represents a whole different set of eyes that are watching you."

Well, let's give that a try, and reflect" poorly on our very own We Never Sleep Detective Agency, and imagine the critical infrastructure of the average DHS monitor's mind when he's on the job. Words in italics are push-their-button terms, except for book titles and the like. But, then, you never know. The lexicon reputedly is incomplete.

As a new hire, our man probably went through several weeks of orientation with other recruits, and he might have innocently asked his instructor why the Koran was not listed the Desktop Binder. The guide hemmed and hawed in his best professorial manner, claiming that Islam was never considered an enemy, all the evidence to the contrary, but the question was secretly logged into the new hire's personnel file under "Possible Islamophobic Tendencies and Symptoms." Not an auspicious start of a career of snooping.

The guide's answer was also secretly entered into his own personnel file. After a brief review of his record by a permanent and anonymous committee of employee evaluation, he was subsequently and regretfully furloughed, and his security clearance rescinded. One of his new hire charges happened to have been working for Internal Affairs, a department charged with the task of policing trainers and training classes and just about everyone who worked for the DHS. Except for Internal Affairs personnel.

In the subterranean consciousness of rank-and-file snoops, Internal Affairs had a nickname, the Mutaween, or The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Crimethink, modeled, some said, after the Saudi Arabian religious police, although no one dared investigate and confirm the parallel, nor could they, for all references to Islam, Muslims, mosques, beards and burkas had been excised from DHS literature. "Rhymes with Halloween," whispered the lowly amongst themselves.

Our new monitor learned later that any blunt but incautious reference to Islam and Muslims within the confines of his job – and even during chitchat at the water cooler or in the break room or at the Starbucks down the street – was considered hazmat jibber-jabber and evidence of a radioactive mindset that would be closely monitored by his supervisor. He would come to realize that if he did not wish to be considered toxic by his colleagues, he'd better put his mind in permanent lockdown. The pay was too good and the benefits too fabulous for him to risk losing them over a slip of the tongue or an impulsive fillip of independent thought. How often had the orientation instructor emphasized that certain words were verboten, because they could cause episodes of intellectual contamination, acting as bacteria that could metastasize into a plague of epistemological Ebola, and render the DHS impotent to detect and counter terrorists of anonymous and un-named allegiances?

"Not to worry, however," the instructor had droned on. "The Center for Disease Control has had added to its purview a new task, per executive order, that of managing mental mitigation among the populace. It works closely with the Department of Education to reduce human-to-human ideational infections."

One day, after a week on the job, the new hire was taken to lunch at a very expensive restaurant on K Street, the Tuscany Bar and Grille, by a veteran analyst, ostensibly to compliment him on his alertness and the number of alarms the novice had sent his way with the click of a button and the swish of a mouse.

After Trish, the comely waitress had taken their orders and served them glasses of Chianti, the analyst smiled and said, "That last referral of yours I had to share with my colleagues upstairs. It was worth a chuckle. The dirty bombe was merely a dessert recipe a lady in New Haven had sent to a friend in Cannes, consisting of strawberry mousse and ice cream packed into a pound cake coated with dark chocolate Godiva sprinkles." The analyst laughed. "Hardly the ingredients for an explosion, except to one's waistline, But she called it her 'Bombe Sale,' or Dirty Bombe,' and we had her investigated anyway. There was nothing cryptic in her communication. Our computers also analyzed the text and found nothing threatening in it, and gave the email a pass."

"Sorry about that," said the novice, humbled, and forgetting to smile at the analyst's funny.

"No, no," assured the analyst. "Don't be sorry. It showed you know the drill." He paused. "By the way, I heard that the lobby scanners confiscated a few books you brought to work the other day. What was that one? Atlas Shrugged?" The veteran clucked his tongue and shook his head. "At your age, reading such subversive trash!"

The novice looked perplexed. "Know your enemy," he ventured. "That's been my motto."

"Well, there's a difference between knowing one's enemy, and denying he is one. Our job is to detect and foil terrorists of all stripes, especially intellectual terrorists, such as the author of that badly penned novel. Leave enemy designations to your superiors. Don't go wandering off on your own. There is a point where initiative becomes a vice."

"Sorry," answered the novice.

"Then there was that other book the screeners took," said the analyst, furling his brow. "The Satiric Verses?"

"Satanic Verses, sir," corrected the novice with a tone of polite deference.

"Yes, yes," acknowledged the analyst. "By that odd fellow, what is his name? Salmonella?"

"Salman Rushdie," said the novice.

"Oh, yes. Well, that show-offy writer offended our Muslim friends with that one. Brought it upon himself. No sympathy for him. I've heard it's a lousy novel, anyway." The analyst recited a list of books the novice was advised never to bring to his job. "That new one by Gertie Wildman, that Dutch fellow, or whatever his name is, Marked for Death. The man is a dangerous paranoid. Lives in an armored car, I've heard. The Federalist Papers. Anything by Jefferson, Madison, Adams, that ilk. You don't want people to think you're going high-hat on us. Leave that old stuff to the courts and eggheads. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -- irredeemably subversive. Cool Hand Luke, that Pearce novel, and the movie, too. Claims to be an allegory on modern American society, according to our authorities here, just chock full of anti-government speeches and the like."

The analyst studied the novice's stupefied expression. "Tell you what, son. I'll draw up a list of no-no's and send it down to you. The whole grid of things to stay away from. All you have to do is abstain from reading or watching any of it. You wouldn't want any of those things to spill over into your work, would you? People might think you were in some secret militia spying on us."

"Thank you," said the new hire.

"No problem. Always glad to help the new boy find his way through the labyrinth. Ah! Here are our Panini Supremes!" the analyst exclaimed as the waitress appeared with their orders.

Our novice monitor, over the following weeks, gained confidence in his snooping and detection skills, learning how to filter innocuously used terms and forward the emails containing them to specific analysts, who specialized in various usages. A little quadrant of his gray cells, however, did wonder why, when most of the news concerning terrorist attacks invariably involved Muslims – he did, after all, watch TV news and read "safe" newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post – the terms "Muslim," "mosque," "Iran," "Afghanistan," "Pakistan," "Saudi Arabia," "iman," "mullah," "Syria," "CAIR," "MPAC," "MSA," "ISNA," "ICNA," and many other Islam-associated terms were not to be found in the Binder of All Knowledge and Threat Level Usages. But he cordoned off that quadrant of curiosity, refusing to allow it to cloud his performance or breach his commitment to national preparedness and domestic security. Homeland security trumped all definitions of common sense and required the most stringent enforcement.

He took special pride in forwarding to his analyst friend an email sent by a university medical researcher to a neurologist in private practice complaining that FDA regulations and delays inhibited pharmaceutical development of drugs that would not become treatment resistant in countless patients, and that when Obamacare went into full effect, medical and pharmaceutical research would come to a halt. It was obviously an undisguised criticism of government policies, and the email suggested to the monitor the existence of a cabal of such people in all medical professions, a veritable conspiracy to incite a coordinated black out of medical services across the country.

He learned a week later that the purloined email led to the arrest by a special military SWAT team of the researcher and neurologist, who were incarcerated without charge indefinitely by the authority of a law passed by Congress a year before. Thus the monitor's first commendation was entered into his personnel file. Over lunch one day again at the Tuscany Bar and Grille with the analyst, after they had ordered, he queried: "Was there a conspiracy?"

"Probably," answered the analyst, "Whether or not there is or was, is irrelevant. We cannot tolerate resistance in any form. Not any kind of organized crime. Extraordinary threats justify extraordinary powers, to protect the Homeland, which, in the final analysis, is us. You and me, and all our colleagues. The Homeland isn't just the country, you see. It includes the state. You mustn't distinguish between them."

"I'm learning not to," answered the monitor eagerly. Still, a little comma of memory tickled the cordoned-off quadrant of his mind. He seemed to remember – and quite reluctantly – reading about historical figures who had uttered words similar to what the analyst had just explained: Bismarck, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and others. But that reading was done long, long ago in grade school. He hoped his mother had gotten rid of those books, they were an embarrassment and possibly a liability. "I'm learning to get my mind right," he added, not realizing that submitting to authority was a subject of Cool Hand Luke, the book and the movie, because he had not read the book, nor watched the movie.

But the analyst, who had done both as part of his own training, and had tasted much more of the forbidden culture than he would ever confess to his protégé, smiled mysteriously and said, "Admirable effort, my friend. I see that you are trying not to remain a hostage to your youthful expectations."

Just then the waiter appeared with the analyst's Chicken Verduta Flatbread and the monitor's Risotta and Insalata. He gracelessly set the plates in front of the customers. The analyst frowned and looked up at the waiter, a large, bearded fellow with a swarthy complexion and an inscrutable visage. His white tunic seemed about to burst from his weight.

"Say," ventured the annoyed analyst, "where's Trish, our usual server? Is she off today?"

The waiter smiled. "She is off. She had an accident with a box cutter. She is resting in the kitchen, with all the others." Then he reached inside his tunic, and, as he pressed a button, shouted, "Allahu Akbar!"

Only then did the analyst and his protégé notice that all the waiters were in the crowded, elegantly appointed dining room, standing erect among all the occupied tables, and were all reaching inside their tunics and shouting the unfamiliar malediction in chorus with the analyst's server. The analyst had just enough time to turn and see another waiter in the outdoor café, before he and his friend were blinded by a flash that turned them both into something resembling cooked calamari and tomato sauce.

The Washington Post, the next day, however, blamed the unfortunate incident, which claimed seventy-five lives (mostly federal employees, not counting the restaurant staff of fifteen), on a dispute between the restaurant owner, the Service Employees International Union, and a renegade splinter group of Occupy Wall Street.

End of story.

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:: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 ::

Sticks and Stones 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:32 PM

Sticks and stones may break my bones, goes the adage, but names will never hurt me.

The new adage, tailored for our age, goes:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, and names, insults, derogatory remarks, denigrations, defamations, "hate" crimes, "bias intimidations," rude or indecent gestures, mockery, satire in textual print or imagery, disrespect, lifestyle harassment, bullying, and other verbal, visual, and non-violent actions, attempts at passive victimization and gross insensitivities that tend or are calculated to hurt, depress, humiliate, or shame me, and otherwise offend my self-esteem and rightful dignity, compromise my privacy, and diminish my standing in the eyes of my fellow creatures – may be grounds for civil and/or criminal suits.

Sticks and stones may be used in the commission of an actual felony, as well as guns, knives, one's fists, or any other physical object. But an evolving complement of new chargeable felonies, often appended to legitimate ones, is growing, and if not challenged, will reach a "critical mass" in law that will stifle all realms of speech. These new "felonies" are "hate crimes." A new subset of them is "bias intimidation."

In "The Peril of 'Hate Crimes'" I noted:

…[T]he why of a crime is increasingly treated as though it were a weapon, such as a gun, a knife, or a club. In standard criminal cases, however, it has never been the instrument of crime that was on trial, but the defendant and his actions.

Proponents of hate crime have attempted to find a compromise between objectivity in criminal law and the notion that a felon should also be punished for what caused him to commit the crime. But no such compromise is feasible if objective law is to be preserved and justice served. The irrational element – that is, making thought, however irrational or ugly it may be, a crime – has suborned the rational. No compromise between good and evil is lasting or practical. Evil will always come out the victor.

It did not take long for the corrupting notion of hate crimes to degenerate into thought crime. This is what happens when reason is declared irrelevant or is abandoned or diluted by the irrational.

It used to be that a criminal was sentenced for his crime, and if the crime was committed from some form of prejudice, the court's and jury's afterthought was usually: And, by the way, your motives are contemptible and despicable.

Appended now to a guilty verdict for the murder of an individual because of his race, gender "orientation," religion, or political affiliation, is another verdict: You had no right to think that way, so we are adding five years to your sentence and adding X amount to your monetary penalty.

"Bias intimidation" played a role in the conviction and sentencing of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers freshman whose webcam spying allegedly drove roommate Tyler Clementi to commit suicide. The New York Times reported in March;

The jury in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of invading his roommate’s privacy by using a webcam to watch him in an intimate encounter began deliberations on Wednesday and asked the judge to define two crucial terms.

Jurors asked Judge Glenn Berman of Superior Court in Middlesex County to restate the definition of “intimidate,” as well as of the word “purpose,” as it related to the bias intimidation count.

The judge ruled that the defendant, Dharun Ravi, could be found guilty of bias intimidation only if he was also found guilty of the first charge, invasion of privacy. And he told the jury that the roommate, Tyler Clementi, would have been the victim of bias intimidation if he had been made to feel fear. [Italics mine.]

“A person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation,” Judge Berman said, “if he commits an offense with the purpose to intimidate an individual because of sexual orientation.”

Mr. Ravi is charged with 15 counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors say he encouraged friends to view a feed from his webcam that showed Mr. Clementi with another man. Mr. Clementi committed suicide shortly afterward, in September 2010.

And the denouement of this drama on May 21st, as reported by the Times:

The jury found that he did not intend to intimidate Mr. Clementi the first night he turned on the webcam to watch. But the jury concluded that Mr. Clementi had reason to believe he had been targeted because he was gay, and in one charge, the jury found that Mr. Ravi had known Mr. Clementi would feel intimidated by his actions.

On May 21, Mr. Ravi was sentenced to a 30-day jail term. He had faced up to 10 years in prison. He was also was sentenced to three years’ probation, 300 hours of community service, counseling about cyberbullying and alternate lifestyles and a $10,000 probation fee.

USA Today provided a few more details of the sentencing by Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman:

While Ravi wasn't charged in connection with his death, he was convicted of 15 counts, including two second-degree bias intimidation charges that carry a presumption of jail time. Ravi also was convicted of a second-degree hindering charge.

Judge Glenn Berman ordered Ravi, 20, to report to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center on May 31.

Ravi must pay a fine and costs of more than $11,000 -- $10,000 of which will go to an agency that assists victims of bias crimes. Berman also ordered three years probation and 300 hours of community service.[Italics mine.]

USA Today included an important update, a point of Ravi's defense which the jury apparently ignored:

Ravi's defense team is making the case for an acquittal of the charges, saying Ravi did not know the effect his behavior would have on Clementi.

The unstated premise behind the whole trial was that Ravi had driven Clementi to commit suicide. And it is doubtful, highly doubtful, that Ravi's intentions were more than just exposing Clementi to adolescent ridicule. As a new college roommate, he barely knew Clementi. He could not know how "sensitive" he might have been to exposure, mockery, or to an invasion of his privacy. Ravi, then 18 years old, could not have known, even had he been 50 years old with a lifetime of experience behind him, what Clementi might have done as a result of his webcam spying which he shared with others.

Notice that the term bias intimidation is synonymous with bias crime. Whatever it is called, in New Jersey, the "crime" garners a presumption of jail time.

The larger picture is the introduction of the notion, not only of "hate crime," but of an appended but invalid felony charge that may accompany the charge of a validly defined felony. The question is – and it may be a moot question by this time – is how soon mere bias intimidation will be treated as synonymous with hate crime? How soon will individuals be taken to court and charged with it alone, without the excuse of having committed an actual felony?

Salman Rushdie, who surely knows something about the consequences of "defaming" a religion and its central icon, as well as having "insulted" or "offended" the feelings of Muslims, wrote in The New Yorker:

The creative act requires not only freedom but also this assumption of freedom. If the creative artist worries if he will still be free tomorrow, then he will not be free today. If he is afraid of the consequences of his choice of subject or of his manner of treatment of it, then his choices will not be determined by his talent, but by fear. If we are not confident of our freedom, then we are not free.

Dharun Ravi is not a writer, or an artist. But if a writer or artist experiences the fear of what might happen if he allowed his creativity full rein, then he will not create anything but what has been approved by the million censors of protected classes, who could just as easily file suit against him and see him sentenced to a new Gulag, or just financially ruined. Fear of censorship shuts down the mind and sends it on the main traveled roads of the average, the unexceptional, the bland, the expected. Fear of censorship smothers thought, and makes freedom of expression of all but the mediocre impossible and a cruel taunt.

Let's examine the court's, the jury's, and the law's a priori assumptions, assumptions on which they acted. An a priori assumption is one that is knowable without further need to prove or experience. It just "is." . Clementi was gay. Ergo, Ravi's actions were anti-gay, or biased against gays, or in this instance, against Tyler Clementi because he was gay.

First, note that gays are now becoming a new "protected class," as surely as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the ICNA, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and other Hamas-linked "civil rights" groups are working to make Muslims and Islam a protected class, and with some success, especially in our judiciary, and most importantly in regards to what one may say about Muslims and Islam. .

As there is a legitimate distinction between premeditated and aggravated assault – premeditated meaning that a defendant meant to assault the victim, and his motive not being on trial, and aggravated meaning that the victim expected or apprehended physical assault or battery – will our courts now accept as a legitimate charge premeditated bias intimidation? Will a defendant be arraigned and indicted for aggravated bias intimidation?

If a legitimately defined felony can be deemed an action taken with malice aforethought, will writing satirically (or even seriously) about Islam, or gays, or badly dressed people, or obese people, or even about the disabled, be some day treated as malicious and biased intimidation, because the feelings of the subjects were hurt, or because the words instilled unprovable but asserted fear in them?

The emotional states of a felon and his victim are essentially immaterial when judging a crime. The contents of their thoughts are likewise not proper subjects for criminal justice. I could sit here and plot how to rob my bank, especially because I didn’t like the way a teller treated me the other day, but I could not be charged with any crime unless I acted on my thoughts (or my piqued sense of hurt and mistreatment). It is the action that would count, not my motive. Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, in her article "Is There a Legal Problem with “Hate Crimes?” emphasizes this point:

The definition of "hate crime" is one of those overkill legislative initiatives with unforeseen consequences. It is noble to recognize that some people commit crimes out of hate, but a murder is a murder, and this should be enough.

How can we possibly know a criminal's inner thoughts (his hatred for his victim); furthermore, even if we can know this for certain, what difference does it make to the victim? The hatred of the murderer should only reflect upon the ultimate sentencing: premeditated and aggravated murder.

While a defendant's emotional or even considered "bias" or "hate" may be demonstrated and proven, it should have nothing to do with the criminal charge at hand. It is the criminal action that should be the subject, and the defendant punished for having taken the action. Murder is murder. Assault is assault. Robbery is robbery. The reason why a person commits a crime, or rather his motive, should not be "punishable" and within the aegis of criminal law. The law can decree that men stop thinking, or emoting, or forming opinions, but cannot enforce the decree. It is only fear of government and/or mob reprisals that may cause their minds to sputter to a halt, and die.

Little horrors, such as Judge Glenn Berman putting Dharun Ravi on probation for his "bias crime," have a way of trickling up to greater realms of human action because they remain unchallenged. There are many forces at work in this country to obviate the substance and meaning of the First Amendment. These range from the outright thuggery of an OWS-linked assault on restaurant patrons, to the concerted campaign by Islamic supremacists to outlaw criticism of Islam, to a confused judiciary that is losing sight of individual rights and replacing them with collective rights.

Salman Rushdie has to date escaped the sticks and stones of the Iranian fatwa on his life, but is certainly right about the miasma of fear and political correctness that stifles and smothers freedom of expression.

Little horrors like "bias intimidation" can and will contribute to a greater, incremental, and totalitarian horror.

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:: Sunday, May 20, 2012 ::

Facebook Founder Flees Fleecing 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:28 AM

The subheading would read: Globalist Senators in Hot Pursuit.

One look at the arrogant, sneering expression on the face of Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) and one glance at what he had to say about Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin's renunciation of his U.S. citizenship in favor of living in Singapore, and I felt an immediate and compulsive urge to, well, slap Schumer silly. Instead, I must leave him with worse than a stung cheek and a cleaned clock.

But then I'd go to jail, because it's a capital offense to strike any member of Congress. Congressmen, however, may assault us with taxes, regulations and countless Bronx cheers and sneers from the safety of their aerie of indemnification, and walk away with impunity.

Schumer said Saverin's actions were "an outrage," adding Saverin "wants to de-friend the United States of America just to avoid paying taxes. We aren't going to let him get away with it." He said Saverin "turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire."

So, I must settle for characterizing Schumer and his colleagues in Congress as a slimy, collective, real-life Jabba the Hutt, the crime lord from Star Wars.

They are the less-than-one-percent filthy rich that OWS isn't concerned about, an elite bevy of senators and congressmen who usually retire from "public service" (that is, from serving the public sunny side up) to multiple homes, continuing fringe benefits, sumptuous taxpayer paid health plans excluded from Obamacare, and cushy university appointments or a lucrative lecture circuit. I call them "filthy rich" because their wealth is largely ill-gotten through connections with lobbyists and special interests and crony capitalists and each other.

I grimace every time I read of a Senate or House ethics committee grilling a victim or plying a leftist activist ringer with leading questions (e.g., Sandra Fluke), when the only ethics Congress is noted for practicing is that of a thug wielding the club of a subpoena. The Party is immaterial. As a rule, Congress lets its own malefactors off the hook with a verbal slap on the wrist. See the careers of Charles Rangel and John Kerry. They can lie through their teeth and juggle the books, but they're still there, untouched.

To return to Eduardo Saverin – here is a man who helped to create a means for uncounted millions to find friends, make connections, and communicate with the rest of the world without spending anything more than their own time. Saverin and his former partner Mark Zuckerberg (now worth $17.5 billion) deserve every penny of profit from their efforts. I do not use Facebook much myself, and there are aspects to it I don’t particularly like, although I have a page which I use primarily to alert "friends" (and enemies) to my columns and writing projects. Facebook went "public" with an Initial Public Offering that dazzled some investors, others less so.

Why did Brazil-born Saverin renounce his U.S. citizenship, which he did in September 2011 and paid the extortionate "exit tax"?

“My decision to expatriate was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009,” Saverin, 30, said in a statement released to ABC News. “I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government. I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen.”

Saverin, who helped Mark Zuckerberg develop the social network as Harvard students, is expected to save millions of dollars by not paying capital gains taxes on his shares of Facebook, which is expected to have the largest technology IPO ever on Friday.

Saverin paid a standard “exit” tax, which included approximately 15 percent of the pre-IPO value of his shares. Saverin is likely saving millions of dollars because he will not pay capital gains taxes while he lives in Singapore.

“As a native of Brazil who immigrated to the United States, I am very grateful to the U.S. for everything it has given me,” Saverin said. “In 2004, I invested my life’s savings into a start-up company that initially was run out of a college dorm room. Since then the company has expanded dramatically, has created thousands of jobs in the United States and elsewhere, and spawned countless new companies across the United States and other countries.”

All those jobs and new companies are nothing to Jabba the Hutt, nor is the fact that Saverin has already been fleeced by the Treasury Department per Congress's own rules for departing citizens.

The performance of Facebook stock is not the subject here. It opened at $45 a share on the 18th and closed at $38. Whether it will become another Microsoft or Apple stock, or fade away as a flash-in-the-pan, remains to be seen. Some financial observers are wild about it. Some aren't.

Senators, Representatives, and Presidents, however, do not announce IPO's. They make offers Americans can't refuse. Or rather they delegate the tasks to vast, impersonal bureaucracies, which implement the ethics of gangland extortion, shake-downs, and protection rackets. Project, if you will, life in these United States as one enormous TSA airport checkpoint. As Forbes notes: (3)

It is unimaginable that U.S. taxes were not a huge part of his decision, since “taxpatriations” are now all the rage. See Celebrity Leavings: Bidding Stars Adieu. And that is perfectly legal. Tax avoidance intent when expatriating used to trigger tougher tax rules, but that changed in 2008. Tax motivation is no longer even relevant to the tax treatment of citizens or permanent residents who permanently depart the U.S. See Ten Facts About Tax Expatriation.

Inevitably there are tax issues on the way out. U.S. citizens or long-term residents who expatriate after June 16, 2008.are treated as having sold all their worldwide property for its fair market value the day before leaving the U.S. Although taxed as a capital gain, this “exit tax” is unforgiving. See Rich Americans Voting with their Feet to Escape Obama Tax Oppression.

Senator Schumer and his grim-faced co-author of the "Ex-Patriot Act" bill, Pennsylvania Democrat, Senator Bob Casey, are "globalists." That is, they wish to pursue "tax dodgers" beyond American shores with the full power of the Treasury Department to snare expatriate money squirreled away by its owners to protect it from evangelical thieves like Schumer and Casey and their ilk in Congress and the various Washington satrapies. The government has done this before with the same sanctimonious ballyhoo.

In 2008, a hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, estimated that at least 19,000 US citizens were hiding “undeclared accounts” with the help of UBS bankers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the committee chairman, stated that these accounts held "$18 billion dollars in assets that have been kept secret from the IRS." At the time, UBS was also being investigated by the IRS, the FBI, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

UBS stated that "undeclared" accounts would no longer be provided as a "service" and that they were planning to weed out those existing accounts; suggesting that they would reveal such account holders to authorities…Last year, The Swiss bank agreed to give U.S. tax authorities the records for more than 4,450 American clients. [Ernest] Vogliana is just one of the seven people that were charged by the U.S Attorney’s office last year. [80 years old, sentenced to two years' probation and fined $900,000 in penalties for depositing $4 million with UBS.]

Saverin's public statement about his citizenship was ill-advised. He should have simply vanished and have had nothing to say after Schumer's hue and cry. His renunciation was likely leaked to the MSM, which promptly took up its pitchforks and torches, led by Schumer and Company. They wish to bring an end to the Frankenstein monster of an evader of the capital gains tax. Schumer wishes to make an example of Saverin – as a warning to other Americans who want to escape servitude and the malignant psychosis of envy that governs the actions of creatures such as Schumer, Casey and their ilk. He has admitted as much.

Schumer called Saverin's decision "outrageous" and labeled his tactics a "scheme."

"Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him, and helped him become a billionaire," Schumer said. "This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong."

The only thing wrong with that "success story" is that the country did not keep Saverin safe, did not educate him, and did not help him become a billionaire. But then, according to Schumer's metaphysics, all good things pour from the cornucopia of federal largesse and legislation. No one could exist or save a dime unless Washington, like God or Allah, made it happen.

My point here is that Schumer and his ilk wish to cut off all escape for those who wish to protect their wealth by placing it in off-shore bank accounts. They wave the flag of "paying one's fair share" of taxes when they know damned well that if all the billionaires in America were tomorrow stripped of their wealth and saw all their physical and financial assets seized, and were reduced to sleeping in Zuccotti Park with the OWS, it would result in only a miniscule ding in the national debt while it continues to mount, thanks to legislation passed by Congress. A spitball launched from a slingshot will not pierce the hide of a rhinoceros.

Perhaps that's an insult to rhinoceroses. Again, think instead of Jabba the Hutt and the spitball embedded in his revolting epidermis.

I do not underestimate Senator Schumer's intelligence. He knows that this administration's economic and "social" policies have cooked this country. He knows that it's riding for a fall. He wants to make sure that no one escapes its fate. Schumer is a "humanitarian." A "progressive." A socialist. He doesn't want to die, but if he must die, he wants to ensure that his moral betters do not continue living. Whatever Eduardo Saverin's virtues or flaws, he produced something that Schumer et al. could never even imagine. Looters are not creators, except in the many ways to penalize success, such as the "exit tax" for anyone who renounces his U.S. citizenship. Again, as Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes explains it:

The expatriation laws are a bit tricky. The basic rule is that, for purposes of the tax, any assets that you leave the country with are treated as though you had sold them on the date before you leave. Any gain which would have occurred had you actually sold those assets are subject to tax (with some exceptions). So Saverin doesn’t get a free pass. His assets are still subject to tax. Lucky for Saverin, however, the value of his assets pre-IPO are [sic] still considerably less than the value of his assets post-IPO. And by lucky, I mean absolutely planned.

…Saverin’s advisors are pretty savvy: Singapore is a terrific choice because it does not have a capital gains tax. It’s also no stranger to expats from all over the world because of its favorable tax laws.

Saverin, age 30, was also moved to renounce his citizenship because Singapore does not recognize dual citizenship beyond the age of 21.

Also important to note is that the U.S. is now violating the sovereignty of other nations by conducting raids on those countries' banks and financial institutions in pursuit of wealth that will not ameliorate the government's debt. These are vendetta raids moved by a malice for the "rich" that knows no bounds – except when it comes to speculating on the net worth of individual Congressmen and federal executives and other czars, and then the drawbridges of privacy are raised to block invasive inquiries. Schumer's press conference was a vote-garnering public relations ploy to assuage the fictive envy of an imaginary citizenry whom he and Congress presume wishes to send the rich to an auditor's guillotine. The New York Times reported in 2011:

The penalty [on foreign banks] stems from the violation of a rule known as Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or Fbar(pronounced EF-bar), that requires American taxpayers with overseas bank accounts and foreign assets to file a special disclosure with the Treasury Department each year. The top penalty for failing to file the disclosure is 50 percent of the account balance for each year of violation, a level that can leave tax evaders owing multiples of what their accounts hold.

Now the Justice Department, which is conducting a broadening inquiry into Swiss and Swiss-style banks, including Credit Suisse and HSBC, according to court papers and statements by the banks, is exploring how and whether it could apply the penalty to the banks, should it find that they violated American tax laws, according to two persons briefed on the matter. The persons, one in government and the other in private legal practice, spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

The malice does not end with punishing U.S. citizens. The Treasury and Justice Departments also penalize those foreign banks for "abetting" tax evasion. This is intended to frighten and discourage foreign banks from offering succor and security to American depositors. Of course, the MSM applauds that move, as well. But the federal government throwing its weight around is not nearly the eye-candy of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Imagine now Jabba the Hutt doing the Twist with one of his slave girls.

Complementing the spectacle of the federal government going on pillaging Easter egg hunts overseas, is the proposed surrender of U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations in a bewildering array of concessions to that looters' club of dictatorships, theocracies, tyrannies, and one-man régimes. Call it a kind of political schizophrenia. Only when the U.N. and the European Union impinge on Congressional power will one hear Congressmen cry foul. However, if the power violates the sovereignty of individual Americans and subjects them to the ukases, mercies and injustices of foreign politicians and bureaucrats, that is only fair and proper for the greater good of global amity. Canada Free Press reports:

Last week, the Senate gave…a clear and unmistakable illustration of why we need to sack all the Democrats, and a bunch of the RINOs, too. They voted down not one, not two, but five budget bills, four of which would actually have done America some good. This comes as we move into the fourth year that the Senate has failed to do its duty by passing a budget, leaving the country economically adrift.

That great patriot and Swift Boat Hero from his four whole months in Vietnam, John Kerry (R-MA), has vowed to get them onto the Senate floor for votes as soon, he hopes, as this summer. They include:

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS or LOST, “Law of the Sea), which cedes control of all the world’s oceans and their contents, including our territorial waters, to the U.N.; The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, aka, Small Arms Treaty, that would virtually outlaw privately owned firearms or ammunition of any sort; he United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which takes away parental rights to raise their children as they choose, and gives them to the U.N.; The International Criminal Court, which allows foreigners to have Americans arrested and tried in kangaroo “international” courts, using foreign law; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which destroys, among many other things, marriage; And a host of outrageous environmental treaties that would doom most of the world’s people to Third-World level poverty in a world-wide police state.

Our omnivorous (and carnivorous) Congress wishes to nail American taxpayers coming and going, and even when they stay put, susceptible to arrest by the U.N., the OIC, and the European Union. Who could have guessed a hundred years ago that Congress would make the surrender of the sovereignty of one's own life to both the parasites of the welfare state here and abroad a measure of one's "patriotism"?

November cannot come too soon. It may be too late for Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg, but Senator Schumer and his looting gang must be shown the door as finally as Jabba the Hutt met his end before they do more damage to America. Perhaps, for starters, a charge of treason for not abiding to their oaths of office to preserve and protect would be entirely and legally appropriate.

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:: Saturday, May 12, 2012 ::

Alias Marx and Alinsky 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 12:10 PM

Calling socialists liberals is as deceptive as calling goose gizzards foie gras. It fools no one but the epistemologically blinkered. The term liberal allows liberals to pose as concerned, generous and forward-thinking individuals and to act under what was once an honorable term for anyone who advocated or endorsed liberty. And as any well-read American knows, liberals do not advocate liberty. Quite the opposite.

The subject here is the devolution of the term liberal, not its evolution.

Even out-and-out communists are called liberals. President Barack Obama is called a "liberal." The late Senator Ted Kennedy was called a "liberal." Barney Frank is a liberal. Obama's cabinet is largely staffed by liberals (unless outed, as self-confessed communist Van Jones was). Communism and socialism still carry a bad reputation, so everyone, including the Main Stream Media, and even well-intentioned pundits and commentators friendly to liberty, use the term liberal. The MSM, however, does it to dodge the reputation. Others use it from habit or ignorance, or because calling liberals socialists or communists in drag might open a can of worms they couldn't handle. This is courtesy carried to a fault. Underlying the fault is a fear of the inevitable clash between those who advocate freedom, and those who do not.

Obama's campaign slogan, "Forward," is simply a Progressive marching order. "Forward" to what? To socialism. To communism. To a command economy and a slave state, one half governed by bureaucrats, the other half by an alliance of Islam and quivering religionists of various stripes, willing to pay jizya to Islam in order to be granted their "religious freedom."

The Washington Post trumpeted "Forward" with no reservations or even curiosity about its Communist and Nazi origins. But then the Washington Post has been in the Saul Alinsky camp for over a generation.

One Alinsky benefactor was Wall Street investment banker Eugene Meyer, who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1930 to 1933. Meyer and his wife Agnes co-owned The Washington Post. They used their newspaper to promote Alinsky.

Agnes Meyer personally wrote a six-part series in 1945, praising Alinsky's work in Chicago slums. Her series, called "The Orderly Revolution," made Alinsky famous. President Truman ordered 100 reprints of it.

In 1989, The New York Times waxed poetic about Alinsky's powerful friends, and also provided some important information in the course of a review of a biography of Alinsky by Sanford D. Horwitt:

By the end of World War II Alinsky had won a measure of national renown. His ''Reveille for Radicals'' (1945) hit the best-seller list, and he secured the fervent support of important liberals like Agnes E. Meyer of The Washington Post and the retail magnate Marshall Field 3d. Though it undercuts his larger portrait, Mr. Horwitt shows that much of Alinsky's acclaim rested upon his promise that social reform and a democratic revival could take place through what Meyer called an ''orderly revolution,'' which would bypass the new power of the unions and reject the growth of an intrusive New Deal state. Thus ''Reveille for Radicals,'' which ostensibly celebrated social conflict, was panned by most of the left but acclaimed by Time, The New York Times and other mass circulation publications.

Neither Time, nor the Washington Post, nor the New York Times has changed its tune. If anything, they have grown more shrill from the standpoint of endorsing not just Alinsky but socialism. But they repress that term socialism, and deny they are of the Left. They'll admit only that they're "progressive" because, you see, they're "humanitarians." Well, so were Pol Pot, and Mao, and Stalin, and Lenin, and Hitler. So are Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez, and Ahmadinejad, and all the Kings of Saudi Arabia.

But, what are uncountable millions of dead of humanitarianism, when "progress" has been made, and man has been nudged "forward" into impoverished, straight-jacketed societies?

Let's set the record straight. Liberals are fundamentally collectivists. Specifically, either socialists or communists. Their policies and programs are demonstrably socialist or communist, whether one is speaking of Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, the income tax, and innumerable regulatory and confiscatory programs and policies, practically every bit of legislation that has been entered into The Congressional Record and The Federal Register for the last one hundred years. The term liberal should be retired, put out to pasture, and substituted with the appropriate and correct terms.

Here is a sampling of definitions of the term liberal:

1. Having, expressing, or following political views or policies that favor civil liberties, democratic reforms, and the use of government power to promote social progress….3. Of, designating, or belonging to a political party that advocates liberal social or political views, esp. in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company) 1985. (This is the first definition. Root meanings connected with generosity, open-mindedness, tolerance, etc., follow it. This is a significant order.)

6a. Of, favoring, or based on the principles of liberalism. 6b. Of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; esp. of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideas of individual esp. economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reform designed to secure those objectives. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (G. & C. Merriam Company) 1967. (Meanings connected with generosity, tolerance, etc. precede the political meanings.)

II. 1. Any person who advocates liberty of thought, speech, or action; one who is opposed to conservatism: distinguished from radical. 2. Liberal Party, a party in English politics formed by the coalition of the Whigs and Radicals about 1830: opposed to Tory. The Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language (Funk & Wagnalls Company) 1939. (Meanings connected with generosity, etc. precede the political ones.)

And finally:

3. (Polit.) Favorable to democratic reform and individual liberty, (moderately) progressive (the Liberal Party). The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 1976. (Here, too, meanings connected with generosity, etc., precede the political definition. This is an acceptable condensation of the term from the two-volume Compact edition of the OED, 1971, whose entry is about half a foot in length in very tiny print, most of whose information is not relevant to my purpose here.)

Notice that the older the dictionary, the more liberty-linked the definition is. The American Heritage definition marks the end of the road for the term liberal, stressing the use of government power to promote social progress. Social progress is a catch-all euphemism for the collectivization of society and the assumption of more and more power by the government. It does not mean the liberation of men from other men's alleged needs or claimed "rights," but the forced or legislated chaining of all men to each other's alleged needs or alleged, government sanctioned "entitlements." It is the devious and misleading byword for incremental socialism, or Progressivism.

You will never hear Brian Williams of NBC or Bob Schieffer of CBS counter George Will or Charles Krauthammer with a statement, "But, we the Left don't think that's a good policy…." You will never hear them admit that they are of and for the Left. That would be "telling," as a con artist's "tell" is a warning that he's about to scam you.

One could say that today's liberals are the true conservatives, that is, those who wish to preserve the status quo of the welfare state and government power over individuals and their property, and any and all socialist programs and policies now in force.

And what do the designated "conservatives," or the "right wing," stand for today, that is, those who identify themselves as Republicans? Nothing, except for a watered-down version of what Progressives, socialists and communists have created over the course of a century, most often accompanied by an appeal to "tradition" and religious faith. All Progressive legislation is altruist and collectivist in nature. Conservatives have never challenged the moral foundations of Progressivism. They can't, because they subscribe to the same morality. They will never confess that Progressives have elevated the state to take the place of a deity, and that men should live for the secular deity's moral code of self-sacrifice and obedience to the state's commands. Also known as The Ten Thousand Commandments.

Social progress implies there are social problems to be solved and overcome. What are the problems? In the beginning, it was a concern – and not an actual problem – of working conditions at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Reformers wailed over the fact that factories employed children and women, neglecting the fact that children and women would otherwise have perished in poverty and disease at the outset of the Revolution, and in fact did perish in the centuries preceding the Revolution. By the millions.

The Abolitionist Movement identified slavery as a major social problem. The result was the Civil War. But the "problems" were numerous, and continue to be numerous and otherwise fictive or imaginary. In search of the City on the Hill, or Utopia, or a "just and fair" society, problems are naturally endless. The sole alternatives as the means to correct or ameliorate them have been: voluntarism or force. Progressivism chose force, because too many people thought the problems were not problems at all. Force bypasses volition or voluntary action.

Successes were many, beginning with the Interstate Commerce Act (1887), and the Sherman Antitrust Act 1890). Progressives never spoke with one mind and differed sharply over the most effective means to deal with the ills generated by the trusts; some favored an activist approach to trust-busting, others preferred a regulatory approach.

A vocal minority supported socialism with government ownership of the means of production. Other progressive reforms followed in the form of a conservation movement, railroad legislation, and food and drug laws.

More recent social "problems" led to the endless "war on poverty," and the "war on drugs." Having nearly exhausted the major "social problems," Progressives or socialists are reaching deeper into the bottomless pit of "problems" and coming up with concerns with "wars" on obesity, salt, sugar, smoking, gender inequality in the workplace, in insurance, in the military, on incandescent light bulbs, sexism, ageism, and so on. Name a norm established by men without government supervision or guidance, and Progressives are against it. They immediately wish to abolish the liberty, or subject it to controls, regulation, and licensing. All for the sake of one's "fellow men," in the name of that prettified version of mob rule, "democracy."

All this goes on, and has been going on, more obviously, since the late 19th century. But Progressivism, a.k.a. socialism, has been advanced by intellectuals and writers ever since, say, Rousseau and his contemporaries in the 18th century. It has been disparate in means and ends ever since, but during the 19th century coalesced into a behemoth of an ideology posing as a love for the poor and other alleged victims of freedom. It no longer asks men to "love their neighbors"; it commands that they fetter themselves to each other in the name of "social progress."

Progressivism inculcates in its minions an obsessive-compulsive psychology. Just as Muslim men are obsessed with sex because Islam, on the one hand, hates women, and on the other, targets them for unrestrained and permissible abuse in the way of ownership, rape, enslavement, beating, and "honor-killing," Progressivism requires that all men answer to and be accountable to the state. The state establishes criteria of what is good and what is bad when addressing men's actions and values. It is a prescription for ownership and enslavement, as well. The key to the success of Progressivism is to ensure that a habit of dependency on statism is bred in men.

As the narrator of "If I Wanted America to Fail" notes:

I'd demonize prosperity itself, so that they will not miss what they will never have.


But first, demonize individualism, independence, and living one's own life, so that men will not miss what they once had, because submission to government controls is so much easier.

This has been, briefly, an account of the devolution of "liberalism." Progressive, liberal or socialist rhetoric is tailored for public consumption, usually innocuous and goose-feather pillow soft, so as not to alarm the public. The title of this column is frankly a parody of that successful TV Western, "Alias Smith & Jones," about a couple of outlaws promised amnesty if they "reformed." I could just as well have parodied the films, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" or "Bonnie and Clyde," for all three "entertainments" portray outlaws as basically nice people who mean well and just happen to commit crimes and who otherwise might have been your next-door neighbors, ready for a barbeque and a round of poker.

In a 1971 book called Rules for Radicals, Alinsky scolded the Sixties Left for scaring off potential converts in Middle America. True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism, Alinsky taught. They cut their hair, put on suits, and infiltrate the system from within. Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.

So, the radicals cut their hair, donned suits, hunkered down to win those Ph.D's, and infiltrated academia, for one thing. And here's the tip-off about the altruist nature of Progressivism and socialism, and their link to government force:

In his native Chicago, Alinsky courted power wherever he found it. His alliance with prominent Catholic clerics, such as Bishop Bernard Sheil, gave him respectability. His friendship with crime bosses such as Frank Nitti – Al Capone's second-in-command – gave Alinsky clout on the street.

Just as Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky have wielded clout in political thought and in "practical politics." They, too, "meant well" and were otherwise forgettable souls whom one might pass on a street.

It's time for liberals to "man up," drop the demure veil, or take off the smiley mask, or come out of the totalitarian closet. It's time for them to stop the charade and confess their collectivist allegiances, and for their opponents to call them what they are.

Then we'll see some sparks fly, instead of the dissembling back-and-forth rhetoric between the Republicans and Democrats.

Gunfights, anyone?

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:: Thursday, May 10, 2012 ::

Objectivist Round Up - May 10, 2012 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:01 AM

Welcome to the May 10, 2012 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents 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.

"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.

So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:

Josh Windham presents The Conservative War on Sex | The Undercurrent posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "Josh Windham weighs in on one of the profoundly anti-life positions of the religious right."

Josh Windham presents Hate Crimes Legislation Unmasks Blind Justice | The Undercurrent posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "An argument in favor of objective law and against the "hate crime" classification."

Josh Windham presents All Entrepreneurs are “Social” Entrepreneurs | The Undercurrent posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "An exploration of the newfangled concept "social entrepreneurism.""

Edward Cline presents The Peril of "Hate Crimes" posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "A totalitarian anti-concept of "justice" has been gnawing away at objective law without correction or opposition, and making rapid progress in a judicial system that has steadily abandoned reason and the protection of individual rights: hate crime" 

Paul Hsieh presents Linking Licensure to Mandatory Service posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "A new way for the government to extort "free" labor from lawyers. Will doctors be next?"

John Drake presents 5 year goals update posted at Try Reason!, saying, "An update on my 5 year goals. Why should you care? To see intergration in action."

Diana Hsieh presents ATLOSCon 2012 posted at Philosophy in Action, saying, "I'm excited to be speaking on "Forgiveness, Redemption, and the Virtue of Justice" at ATLOSCon this year!"

Darius Cooper presents The men who caused the Great Recession posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, "Look who were supposed to save the world.

***

That concludes this edition of the round-up. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Objectivist round-up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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:: Sunday, May 06, 2012 ::

The Peril of "Hate Crimes" 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:19 PM

A totalitarian anti-concept of "justice" has been gnawing away at objective law without correction or opposition, and making rapid progress in a judicial system that has steadily abandoned reason and the protection of individual rights: hate crime.

Hate crimes initially were violations of individual rights motivated by the perpetrators' hatred of a victim's race, gender, religion, or political affiliation. Hatred is an emotion that can be traced to two fundamental evaluations: fear, and malice. One can justifiably hate what one fears, if what one fears jeopardizes a rational value or one's life. Or, one can hate what one fears because it threatens an irrational value, such as blind faith or one's purported racial or cultural superiority. Malice is simply a raw, unreasoning hatred of a good for being the good.

But the motivating, emotional element of a demonstrable or provable violation of an individual's right (murder, rape, physical assault) has been factored into the severity of a defendant's crime and in consequent punishment after his conviction and trial.

In short, the why of a crime is increasingly treated as though it were a weapon, such as a gun, a knife, or a club. In standard criminal cases, however, it has never been the instrument of crime that was on trial, but the defendant and his actions.

Proponents of hate crime have attempted to find a compromise between objectivity in criminal law and the notion that a felon should also be punished for what caused him to commit the crime. But no such compromise is feasible if objective law is to be preserved and justice served. The irrational element – that is, making thought, however irrational or ugly it may be, a crime – has suborned the rational. No compromise between good and evil is lasting or practical. Evil will always come out the victor.

It did not take long for the corrupting notion of hate crimes to degenerate into thought crime. This is what happens when reason is declared irrelevant or is abandoned or diluted by the irrational.

It used to be that a criminal was sentenced for his crime, and if the crime was committed from some form of prejudice, the court's and jury's afterthought was usually: And, by the way, your motives are contemptible and despicable.

Appended now to a guilty verdict for the murder of an individual because of his race, gender "orientation," religion, or political affiliation, is another verdict: You have no right to think that way, so we are adding five years to your sentence and adding X amount to your monetary penalty.

A salutary instance of the corruption of justice is the Rutgers University "hate crime" case. The New York Times, in September 2010, reported:

It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet.

And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide….

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office said Mr. Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, N.J., and another classmate, Molly Wei, 18, of Princeton Junction, N.J., had each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using “the camera to view and transmit a live image” of Mr. Clementi. The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of five years.

In many states, invasion of privacy is a misdemeanor, not a capital crime. Dharun Ravi was originally charged with invasion of privacy. But the alleged "hate crime" against a gay metastasized into a de facto trial for committing a capital crime, because Clementi committed suicide. Ravi was not charged with Clementi's murder, but it was implied that he was responsible for his suicide.

Fast forward to March, 2012. The presiding judge in the case contributed to the confusion;

The Times reported:

The jury in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of invading his roommate’s privacy by using a webcam to watch him in an intimate encounter began deliberations on Wednesday and asked the judge to define two crucial terms.

Jurors asked Judge Glenn Berman of Superior Court in Middlesex County to restate the definition of “intimidate,” as well as of the word “purpose,” as it related to the bias intimidation count.

The judge ruled that the defendant, Dharun Ravi, could be found guilty of bias intimidation only if he was also found guilty of the first charge, invasion of privacy. And he told the jury that the roommate, Tyler Clementi, would have been the victim of bias intimidation if he had been made to feel fear. [Italics mine.]

“A person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation,” Judge Berman said, “if he commits an offense with the purpose to intimidate an individual because of sexual orientation.”

Mr. Ravi is charged with 15 counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors say he encouraged friends to view a feed from his webcam that showed Mr. Clementi with another man. Mr. Clementi committed suicide shortly afterward, in September 2010.

There are several things wrong with this. First, Clementi learned of the webcam prank indirectly by reading Ravi's Twitter posts about him (thirty-eight times). Ravi was not attempting to "intimidate Clementi, or "bully" him. Hi-tech back-fence gossip and slander-mongering about another person are not "intimidation." Ravi invited his friends to watch the webcam, not Clementi. Secondly, no one knows why Clementi committed suicide. He left a brief, cryptic suicide note which shed no light on his motive. ABC News reported:

Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was told by police that his text message apology for spying on roommate Tyler Clementi was written within minutes of Clementi's suicide note.

In a taped interview with investigators the day after Clementi's suicide Ravi is seen struggling to understand as he is told that his apology to Clementi was received just minutes before Clementi posted a Facebook message saying, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

"Did he get that text before?" Ravi asked investigators.

"That's the way it looks," an officer responded.

"So he got mine, and then sent his?" Ravi asked, to which the investigators responded yes.

The police, however, appear to have made a mistake. Time stamps on the two messages show that Clementi posted his suicide note at 8:42 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010. Ravi's apology to Clementi was sent at 8:46 p.m. It's not clear if Clementi ever saw the apology.

But, because no one had or could have had access to the contents of Ravi and Clementi's minds, the jurors, per Judge Berman's instructions and "clarification," were left to resort to second-guessing. To wit:

What the jury had to decide…was what Mr. Ravi and Mr. Clementi were thinking.

Had Mr. Ravi set up the webcam because he had a pretty good idea that he would see Mr. Clementi in an intimate moment? Had he targeted Mr. Clementi and the man he was with because they were gay? And had Mr. Clementi been in fear?

Without Mr. Clementi to speak for himself, that last question was perhaps the most difficult to determine, and jurors struggled with it.

That was the hardest because you really can’t get into someone’s head,” said one, Bruno Ferreira, as he left the court. The jury deliberated longest — for well more than an hour, he said — on the bias intimidation charge. [Italics mine]

Mr. Ferreira said he ultimately voted guilty on the bias intimidation charge because Mr. Ravi had sent multiple Twitter messages about Mr. Clementi.

So, Ferreira overrode his initial doubts about getting into someone's head by substituting a number and translating it into a motive, or "bias intimidation." No one knows why Ravi engaged in his admittedly malicious prank. No one knows if Clementi committed suicide over the webcam incidents or because he was embarrassed or shamed or just in a suicidal mood. Any one of those reasons is more credible than is the "intimidation" charge.

But Bruce J. Kaplan, the prosecutor in Middlesex County, applauded the jury for sending a strong message against bias. "They felt the pain of Tyler," he said.

No, they were not. The jurors were projecting what they imagined Clementi's emotional state might have been because they were persuaded by the prosecution that Ravi's webcam actions contributed to Clementi's decision to commit suicide. There were no photos of Clementi's anguished state for them to judge, and so no way to even deduce why he was feeling "pain."

I am not taking Ravi's side here. I am taking a stand against the whole notion of hate crimes. If you want to see how a jury properly treats a bigot, watch Twelve Angry Men (start here at 1.18.56).

In criminal law, and even in Perry Mason TV law, determining a motive is merely a means to determine the reason for a criminal action, whether it is murder or larceny or petty theft. It was never criminalized itself. Motives exist in men's minds and can not be taken out and paraded as evidence. Even if they could be, in the past they would not have counted. It was the criminal action that was actionable in law, not why a crime was committed. That is changing, for the worse. Motives can not hurt anyone; only an action spurred by a motive, just as guns don't (volitionally) kill people; it is people using guns that kill people. The same logic applies to butter knives, rubber bands, spit balls, or rocks. Guns, butter knives, rubber bands, spit balls and rocks are not imbued with magical powers that force people to commit crimes with them. But gun control advocates wish to pretend that guns have magical powers to turn people into criminals.

Emotions and motives alone are not physical objects that can harm anyone.

Emotions are evaluations, and evaluations are products of thought. To condemn and punish an emotion is to criminalize thought. It's as simple as that. Crime enters the picture only when one acts on the emotion. The action is demonstrable.

The guiltiest party in this affair is Judge Glenn Berman, who aided and abetted in the sanctioning of "hate crimes" and "bias intimidation," both of which are anti-reason and anti-rights. A judge ought to know the difference between an actual, proven crime in which action is the evidence of a crime, and the contents of an individual's mind. The contents of the mind are no government's or court's business.

A motive or an emotion may help authorities to find clues to a crime or even identify a felon. But it is not a chargeable offense; it is the action stemming from it.

The why of a crime is not the crime. It is the action that is the crime. One can deduce, or collect evidence that a person wanted to embezzle his employer's bank accounts, that was his purpose; that is the "why." The crime is the embezzlement, the action, not the motive. The why of a crime may deserve condemnation, but it is not the proper object of criminal justice.

But, what has spurred te spread of "hate crime" and "hate speech"? In a word: tribalism.

Hate crimes are a direct result of a nation's population scrambling to join tribes based on race, gender, religion, and political affiliation, and these in turn splinter into sub-tribes. Such tribalism is possible in a nation that has abandoned reason and objective law, and a contest ensues in which the various tribes jockey in politics and fiat power to become the dominant and ruling group at the expense of all others.

Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand about tribalism:

Tribalism (which is the best name to give to all the group manifestations of the anti-conceptual mentality) is a dominant element in Europe, as a reciprocally reinforcing cause and result of Europe’s long history of caste systems, of national and local (provincial) chauvinism, of rule by brute force and endless, bloody wars. As an example, observe the Balkan nations, which are perennially bent upon exterminating one another over minuscule differences of tradition or language. Tribalism had no place in the United States—until recent decades. It could not take root here, its imported seedlings were withering away and turning to slag in the melting pot whose fire was fed by two inexhaustible sources of energy: individual rights and objective law; these two were the only protection man needed.

As the scope of government power grows, so do the number of "tribes" grow to protect themselves from it or to demand a share of it or simply to clamor for a granting of special privileges and status. Today there innumerable tribes locked in constant warfare in response to government power: smokers vs. non- and anti-smokers, gays vs. heterosexuals, blacks vs. whites and/or Asians, Hispanics vs. whites and/or blacks, cyclists vs. motorists, developers vs. conservationists, Christians vs. atheists, and, most prominent of all, Muslims vs. all non-Muslims, and especially Jews.

The last category is particularly vicious because Islam is a totalitarian ideology naturally comfortable, in Sharia law, with the notions of "hate speech" and "hate crime," because the growing ubiquity of such notions in U.S. secular law helps to insulate Islam from Western norms while its activists follow an agenda of conquest or stealth jihad. And, the New Black Panthers offered a $10,000 bounty for the "capture" of George Zimmerman, which is in addition to race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling Zimmerman's shooting of a black teenager "racist" and fomenting racial strife.

(It is noteworthy that neither the government nor courts nor the MSM is willing to charge black activists with "hate speech" or "hate crimes." Vociferous black activists are now a "protected" tribe able to slander, libel, and promote malice with impunity.)

As "hate speech" focuses on the written or spoken word (or on "forbidden" images of Mohammad), "hate crime" focuses on thought, whether or not it is spoken or written. You can be sure that the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Islamic front groups will be looking for ways to exploit the Rutgers precedent. And is certain that ambitious censors in government, such as Cass Sunstein, the "Speech Czar," will also be on the alert for opportunities to silence critics of the current administration based on the Rutgers verdict.

The Rutgers verdict against Ravi does not auger well for the state of criminal justice. Together with the vile notion of "hate speech," "hate crime" is another assault on man's mind.

*"Tribalism," in Philosophy: Who Needs It," p. 42.

:: Permalink | 3 Comments ::

 

:: Wednesday, May 02, 2012 ::

Your Mild-Mannered Speech Therapist: Cass Sunstein 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:09 PM

Cass Sunstein, director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will not like this column. He may be offended by it. Feel insulted. Cry "not fair!" He may recommend that I be taxed, or financially penalized somehow for expressing unapproved speech, or even incarcerated for having said such awful things about him. He endorses these ideas. Works assiduously for them. Has written extensively on how unbridled free speech imperils society and social stability, and so ought to be checked and even licensed.

So, sue me.

Well, he hasn't yet. In September 2009 I penned, "Cass Sunstein: 'Czar' in Wolf’s Clothing," in which I excoriated him for sanctioning censorship and the manipulation of "public opinion" on the occasion of regiment of government arts-grantees being turned loose on the public by the National Endowment for the Arts. (I have written numerous articles on the perils facing the First Amendment and freedom of speech, including "'High Noon' for the First Amendment" in September 2009, which indict Sunstein, as well, including several articles for the Journal of Information Ethics and The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.)

Sunstein has published thirty-seven books to date, and a mountain of articles and papers. A man who has written so much may have a faulty memory and have difficulty remembering what he's written. On April 30th, for example, during a lecture at New York University Law School, an attendee asked him if he still endorsed an idea he proposed in a paper he wrote in 2008 while still fully employed at the University of Chicago Law School, "Conspiracy Theories"  (before joining the faculty of Harvard Law School; Working Papers Nos. 08-3, 199, and 387).

In the question and answer portion of the lecture, We Are Change founder Luke Rudkowski confronted Sunstein concerning his avocation of a "provocateur" style program to silence what have become the government’s most vociferous and influential critics.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Rudkowski introduced himself as "Bill de Berg from Brooklyn college," before directly asking Sunstein to explain his comments.

"I know you wrote many articles, but I think the most telling one about you is the 2008 one called ‘Conspiracy Theories,’ where you openly advocated government agents infiltrating activist groups for 9/11 truth, and also to stifle dissent online," Rudkowski stated.

"Why do you think the government should go after family members and responders who have questions about 9/11?" he asked Sunstein.

"I’ve written hundreds of articles and I remember some and not others," Sunstein replied, denying that he has a firm recollection of the paper.

"I hope I didn’t say that, but whatever was said in that article, my role in government is to oversee federal rulemaking in a way that is wholly disconnected from the vast majority of my academic writing, including that," Sunstein added.

"I know that, I’m just asking because you may be the next Supreme Court Justice if Obama appoints you, and you did write those things," Rudkowski replied.

"I may agree with some of the things I have written but I’m not exactly sure. I focus on what my boss wants me to do," Sunstein said, intimating that he was just following orders.

When Rudkowski asked if Sunstein would retract his comments about banning opinions that differ from those of the government, Sunstein again claimed he did not remember the article he had written and his personnel intervened to prevent Rudkowski pressing him on the matter.

I don't think Sunstein got the joke. Someone probably filled him in after the lecture. Rudkowski used as a pseudonym a play on The Bilderberg Conference – or Group or Club – an annual meeting in the Netherlands of influential Western politicians, businessmen, industrialists, and media heads. It is the subject of a conspiracy theory for world domination or world government, as have been the annual Pugwash Conference in Nova Scotia, the two-week Bohemian Club encampment in rural California, and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. There are also a number of private organizations the subject of conspiracy theories, such as the Masons and Yale University's Skull and Crossbones, among others. (I employ some of these conspiracy theories in two of my novels, The Daedâlus Conspiracy and Presence of Mind, and not to the credit of the theories or their adherents.)

I have read all thirty pages of this paper. It is a ponderous, sociology-jargon riddled discourse that treats men as interchangeable, volitionless ciphers influenced by peer pressure, rumors, speculation and hearsay, as mere atoms of a social whole, the pawns and playthings of mysterious but unaccountable powers beyond their ken. Sunstein's paper is half Aldus Huxley's Brave New World, forty percent B.F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity, and ten percent Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. His career position has been that the government has a natural adversarial interest and power to monitor, "manage," or otherwise counter men's thinking and speech it deems dangerous or potentially dangerous or disruptive.

That Sunstein could not remember having written this paper tests one's credulity.  In it he expresses his central, fundamental political premises, one of which stands out: that the government has an obligation to oversee or police speech for the "greater good." Sunstein did not answer Rudkowski's question; he deftly pleaded advanced but selective Alzheimer's in the finest tradition of political stand-up evasion.

There is a sole thesis in "Conspiracy Theories": that the government should act to gag or confuse conspiracy theorists, which would include anyone with a plausible, credible theory of government malfeasance or inappropriate behavior, and not just wild-eyed, crackpot theories. Here are some choice statements from Sunstein's paper. He begins by citing all the conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks, that they were either the work of the federal government or committed by terrorists with foreknowledge of them by the government. But then he diminishes his seriousness about the subject by deeming Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as "conspiracy theories." Weeding through and enduring all the mushy verbiage about how and why conspiracy theories arise and gain currency, one is persuaded of one single thing about Sunstein's target: the safety and preservation of government power. Conspiracy theories jeopardize government, not the public. Conspiracy theories must be either spoken or recorded, and that action, regardless of the merits or lack of them of any given theory, comes under the protection of the First Amendment.

In Sunstein's worldview, the First Amendment is no guarantor of "democratic deliberation." It must be either rewritten, or complemented with legislation that will identify and regulate what the government deems as true and worthy of deliberation.

Which, of course, means censorship. Here are a sampling of excerpts from Sunstein's half-forgotten paper. The abstract sums up Sunstein's means and ends.

Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined. Such theories typically spread as a result of identifiable cognitive blunders, operating in conjunction with informational and reputational influences. A distinctive feature of conspiracy theories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy. Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a "crippled epistemology," in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracy theories or to ignore them, are explored in this light. [Italics mine.]

Remember those italicized terms. They will come in handy later.

A further question about conspiracy theories – whether true or false, harmful or benign – is whether they are justified. Justification and truth are different issues; a true belief may be unjustified, and a justified belief may be untrue. (p. 6)

Confused yet? You may be justified in thinking that your car is powered by gas and internal combustion and electricity, but it may not be true. Sunstein will forgive you.

Karl Popper famously argued that conspiracy theories overlook the pervasive unintended consequences of political and social action; they assume that all consequences must have been intended by someone  The basic idea is that many social effects, including large movements in the economy, occur as a result of the acts and omissions of many people, none of whom intended to cause those effects. The Great Depression of the 1930s was not self-consciously engineered by anyone; increases in the unemployment or inflation rate, or in the price of gasoline, may reflect market pressures rather than intentional action. Nonetheless, there is a pervasive human tendency to think that effects are caused by intentional action, especially by those who stand to benefit (the cui bono? maxim), and for this reason conspiracy theories have considerable but unwarranted appeal. [p. 7]

Well, yes. Because natural phenomena are not the subject of the paper, all human action is attributable to intended consequences. Whether or not those consequences are intended to subjugate or mislead, or allow the actors to profit from them, is open to interpretation without evidence, but with evidence, those intentions can be proven. It is here, for the first of many times throughout his paper, that Sunstein implies that government policies that cause depressions, inflation, and gas prices, are excluded from any serious discussion of conspiracies. We can, however, determine motives from the consequences of those policies, such as the refusal of a government to allow oil exploration and drilling, or refusing to allow pipelines to be built, actions which result in higher gas prices. This is not rocket science or ethereal economics.

Sunstein continues to cite Popper:

Popper captures an important feature of some conspiracy theories. Their appeal lies in the attribution of otherwise inexplicable events to intentional action, and to an unwillingness to accept the possibility that significant adverse consequences may be a product of invisible hand mechanisms (such as market forces or evolutionary pressures) or of simple chance, rather than of anyone’s plans. A conspiracy theory posits that a social outcome evidences an underlying intentional order, overlooking the possibility that the outcome arises from either spontaneous order or random forces. [Italics mine, p. 7]

Random forces? Not a philosophy of altruism, not a system of collectivism? Ideas and ideologies play no role in Sunstein's explication of conspiracy theories. People just get all this foolishness in their heads.

Members of informationally and socially isolated groups tend to display a kind of paranoid cognition and become increasingly distrustful or suspicious of the motives of others or of the larger society, falling into a "sinister attribution error." This error occurs when people feel that they are under pervasive scrutiny, and hence they attribute personalistic motives to outsiders and overestimate the amount of attention they receive. Benign actions that happen to disadvantage the group are taken as purposeful plots, intended to harm. [p. 15]

That observation admirably describes how most of the American public is alienated from the Mainstream Media, which largely endorses and shills for harmful and intrusive government policies. There are a few independent news outlets that hove to true journalistic reporting. Fox News is one of them, so it is no wonder that some statists are demanding that the FCC revoke its broadcasting license. After all, reporting news of government corruption, policy failures, hypocrisy, and ignorance can be deemed a harmful "conspiracy theory," and we would all be better off without Fox News.

What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5). [Italics mine, p. 15]

Sunstein is comfortable with all these options, as he explains further on, although there are "cost and benefit" considerations to take into account. But, he would much prefer to play with the minds of Americans with "cognitive infiltration." Otherwise known as lies or half-lies.

Throughout, we assume a well-motivated government that aims to eliminate conspiracy theories, or draw their poison, if and only if social welfare is improved by doing so. (We do not offer a particular account of social welfare, taking the term instead as a placeholder for the right account.)

I think it is obvious which "social welfare" account Sunstein prefers – precisely the kind that exists now, a mixed economy which has grown less and less mixed under the current administration. Charging that administration with imposing a command, socialist economy on the country – after nearly four years of observation, evidence, and deduction --, would, in his parlance, be a "conspiracy theory" and come under the aegis of government action. Sunstein concludes his vaguely-recalled paper with:

Some conspiracy theories create serious risks. They do not merely undermine democratic debate; in extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so. One problem is that its efforts might be counterproductive, because efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them. We have suggested, however, that government can minimize this effect by rebutting more rather than fewer theories, by enlisting independent groups to supply rebuttals, and by cognitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracy minded groups and informationally isolated social networks.

That call for more government power speaks for itself. But the public is no longer "informationally" isolated, or even starved. It has the Internet at its disposal to conduct its own judgment of what is true and what is false. Aside from the traditional repository of information, called books and libraries. And Sunstein has his beady eyes on the Internet to regulate it for the sake of ridding society of all those foolish ideas and theories, to better ensure that the public has the "truth."

And what, fundamentally, is a "conspiracy theory"? It is the contents of an individual's mind. And it is man's mind that Sunstein wishes the government to "infiltrate."

In May of 2010 The New York Times ran an adulatory, almost fawning appraisal of Sunstein and his policies, "Cass Sunstein Wants to Nudge Us."

In "Nudge," a popular book that he wrote with the influential behavioral economist Richard Thaler, Sunstein elaborated a philosophy called "libertarian paternalism." Conservative economists have long stressed that because people are rational, the best way for government to serve the public is to guarantee a fair market and to otherwise get out of the way. But in the real world, Sunstein and Thaler argue, people are subject to all sorts of biases and quirks. They also argue that this human quality, which some would call irrationality, can be predicted and — this is the controversial part — that if the social environment can be changed, people might be nudged into more rational behavior.

"Rational behavior" meaning obeying orders, and deferring to authority, especially government authority. Of course, Sunstein, Thaler and Benjamin Wallace Wells, author of the Times article, are also subject to all sorts of biases and quirks. The difference is that Sunstein in his present position wants to be able to enforce his biases and quirks. One shouldn't call that a "conspiracy," else one might find oneself burdened with a special "irresponsible speech" tax, or taken to court, or sent to a reeducation camp to have one's "crippled epistemology" cured by hard labor and epistemology-altering drugs.

Wells also confirms the existence of that paper Sunstein had difficulty remembering.

Sunstein had, during his academic career, a penchant for publishing trial balloons — they were a necessary part of his inquiry, a perpetual what if? Now, with their author a government official, some of these conjectures seem more worrisome. Sunstein has, for example, written often about the corrosive effects of rumors and falsehoods on democratic discourse (it is the subject of one of the two books that were published while he was waiting to be confirmed last year), and in a 2008 paper, he proposed that government agents "cognitively infiltrate" chat rooms and message boards to try to debunk conspiracy theories before they spread. The paper was narrowly concerned with terrorism, but to some, these were dark musings.

Dark musings or not, Wells approves. He needn't worry about having his thoughts "infiltrated." They've already been co-opted.

Let's take a look at what would be Cass Sunstein's interpretation of the American Revolution.

There were many American colonials who perceived a conspiracy by the Crown to enslave or indenture them to the Crown's benefit, or at least to the benefit of a handful of dissembling plotters.

Of course, from the Crown's perspective – and the Crown knew what was best for everyone, that was part of its job, its authority was the Book of All Knowledge – these dissatisfied and contentious colonials, most notably Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, the Adams cousins, George Mason, and many others, all well-read in the political theories of John Locke and other antiquarian philosophers and theorists, and who were otherwise quite rational gentlemen,  nonetheless were burdened with a "crippled epistemology" which inevitably skewed their perception of things. This epistemology permitted them to see dark designs where there were none in every action taken by the Crown, demonstrably taken for public order and the greater good.

These unfortunate gentlemen, who represented the "conspiracy entrepreneurs," rejected any and all explanations of Crown actions, and brooked no dissent within their own core membership. They tenaciously held onto their suspicion that the Crown was a semi-potent entity controlled by a small, secret clique in the deepest but most respectable recesses of the British establishment, who meant the colonies no good and sought to profit from the consequential misery of their distant charges.

In their dealings and correspondence between themselves, the colonials mutually reinforced their collective certainty of a conspiracy emanating from the most impenetrable bowels of the British government, and, in resisting all reasonable explanations, experienced an overwhelming and continuous "cascading" of consensual agreement concerning the means and ends of the Crown, even though some of them differed on specific points. All attempts by the Crown to "cognitively infiltrate" political discussions and gatherings and to sow seeds of discord, disinformation and misdirection, failed. The mechanisms of the conspiracy theorists were proof against tampering. The self-sealing "psychosis" of conspiracy proved too strong, and the Crown, otherwise unprepared to deal with such recalcitrant opposition to its benevolent policies, wondered if the best course of action might have been to simply ignore all colonials obsessed with their conspiracy theory. But, it was too late.

The conspiracy theorists finally took action. Their paranoia resulted in Jefferson's enumeration of libelous and slanderous (and, in other circumstances, actionable, they learned nothing from the John Wilkes affair) charges against the sovereign and his alleged lackeys in the Declaration of Independence. This curious document seemed to sanction any and all resistance to Crown authority, and served to deviously "objectify" their unfounded and delusional grievances against the Crown for the consideration of a "candid world" (neglecting the fact that most of it couldn't read anyway; the Declaration merely "preached to the choir").

This hysterical climax was preceded only a year before by an act of violence (predicted by a number of members of the Commons, notably Isaac Barré) committed by the lower ranks of subscribers to the conspiracy theory when they opposed with firearms a benign expedition by lawful authorities to find and destroy stockpiles of gunpowder and arms, which were intended by the conspiracy theorists to be used against the Crown without regard to law and order should it not belay its purported designs on the colonials. There was a tragic loss of life among those acting only to ensure the public's safety against "extremist" violence.

And we all know the consequences of this unfortunate episode of cognitive dissonance.

Except Cass Sunstein, your wannabe "speech therapist."

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