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Saturday, January 28, 2006::

Intellectual Activism: If I had been president . . . 

In a Marine Corps veteran's forum in which I participate, it was recently asked what we would have done had we been president on 9/11.

This was my answer:

I would have declared the enemy to be militant Islam and the states that allow militant Islam to exist.

I would have sought a congressional declaration of war against each of these states and attacked them as a whole.

I would have ruthlessly destroyed each of these Islamic governments and the larger institutions that made these governments possible. I would have dethroned their kings and dictators, leveled their capitals, shattered their mosques, humiliated their mullahs and ayatollahs and eviscerated their ability to project force.

I would have had the US quit the UN, on the grounds that a world forum that includes tyrants is no forum of value to a free nation. I would have acted as if the United States had an unquestionable right to exist--and that no one's religion or ideology gives them just cause to attack us.

Under Islam, it is held that fire belongs only to Allah. Had I been president, I would have taught the Islamic world--and anyone else who seeks to threaten our people--that fire belongs to the United States of America.

In short, I would not have been that impotent coward of a president who now desecrates the most prestigious and important political office in our land.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:16 PM | donate | link | |

Friday, January 27, 2006::

Intellectual Activism: Famous on TV 

I saw BB&T chairman John Allison last night on Hannity and Colmes talking about BB&T's recent stand against eminent domain. Allison had a problem with his earpiece and for about half of the 10 minute segment appeared to be in excruciating pain. Sigh.

TV is hard. That said, let's look at Allison's positives:

1.) A CEO of a major American bank has come out against eminent domain abuse-on the grounds that it hurts his customers. Bravo-it's refreshing to finally see public choice theory gnawing on the leg of a bad law.

2.) A CEO of a major American bank publicly praised the group that is leading the fight. Not once did Microsoft publicly praise CAC for the antitrust work we did on its behalf, but here Allison gave specific credit to the Institute for Justice for its eminent domain abuse campaign. Again-Bravo.

3.) Allison is keeping the eminent domain abuse issue alive. Unlike the "Lost Liberty" goofbags, Allison's statement is simple, elegant, and directed. Can I get another "Bravo"?

It was amusing to see the Colmes sit-in ask Allison if the Hannity and Colmes show had any influence on his decision. I would have loved of Allison would have said no on the grounds that all the rotating and waving and crawling thingies Fox News puts on its screen gave him the creeps-but hey, we did alright with what we got.

Like I said earlier, my opinion of Allison has changed. One more time now: Bravo!

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:03 PM | donate | link | |

Question for the Tech-savy . . . 

Help! I've been coding all day and I can't seem to get the ROR comments thingy to look right in Firefox. It looks fine in IE, just not Firefox. Any suggestions?

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:04 PM | donate | link | |

Thursday, January 26, 2006::

The Culture: More campus wierdness 

It's funny--the Northwestern fiasco reminds me of a lot the time I had taken from me in college by having to study under the professorial version of Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III.

For example, I took this one class where the professor viewed all of existence though a feminist lens--that is, the Marxist theory that life is nothing more then a perpetual struggle between the genders for power and control. I was given an assignment where I had to review an essay written by a feminist author who maintained that the Columbine massacre was caused by "a crisis in masculinity"-that is, football.

Huh? I thought it was because the shooters were friggin' moonbats.

So here's what I wrote:

In their op-ed "The National Conversation in the Wake of Littleton is Missing the Mark," Jackson Katz and Sut Jhally (2000) hold that the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, where two teenaged students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 other students and a teacher before committing suicide is the result of patriarchy. Katz and Jhally argue that Harris and Klebold's rampage is "not a crisis in youth culture but a crisis in masculinity." If it were not, the authors ask, "why are girls, who live in the same environment, not responding in the same way?"

According to Katz and Jhally, the gender distinction forming men's violent tendencies is shaped by media, arts, sports and other social institutions that produce "a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood."

Yet Katz and Jhally's argument falls flat for the simple reason that Harris and Klebold committed suicide; their rampage was about nihilism and psychopathic contempt for all life-- and not the supremacy of men. Patriarchy, however wrong-headed, at least aspires to empower men; Harris and Klebold, as they drew their weapons upon themselves in their final act of violence, empowered no one.

In "The Depressive and the Psychopath," Dave Cullen (2004) makes a key identification in understanding the motives of the killers. Noting the FBI's analyses of the psychology of Harris and Klebold, the year they spent planning their attack and the failed propane bombs the pair manufactured in their attempt to explode the school and produce a death toll exceeding several hundred, Cullen remarks:

Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the "worst school shooting in American history." They set their sights on eclipsing the world's greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.
The Columbine massacre was not about the conflict between geeks and jocks in high school or the tendency of some boys to rough up their perceived lessors. It was about wholesale elevation of death for the sake of death. Accordingly, a more plausible theory to explain what led Harris and Klebold to choose murder is that they were the consummate achievement of a philosophic and educational system that promotes whim-worship over cognitive ability.

For years, the proponents of progressive education have controlled America's educational institutions. The hallmark of progressive education is the view that children should discover or construct their own knowledge; one thinks of the famous progressive chestnut that the mission of the educator is not to teach school subjects, but "to teach Johnny." In understanding human division, the progressive philosophy of education maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Glen Woiceshyn (1997) of the Ayn Rand Institute observes that philosopher John Dewey, the founder of progressive education, maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and "right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. Interpreting Dewey's thought, he says, "If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious - while ignorance is bliss."

Yet without clear instruction in how to think and how to perceive reality objectively--including the recognition that others have rights--Woiceshyn argues that children are vehicles out of control.

"Which feelings will guide [the child]? The fear and anxiety generated by ignorance and cognitive incompetence? The frustration and rage felt when his desires aren't immediately satisfied? The self-hatred that gets subconsciously projected at others? The false security offered by a gang? The desire to control others by force because of an inability to control reality?

What definitely won't guide him is reason - which is why violence is on the rise."
In understanding the violence that animates the seemingly innocent, it is not enough to observe that the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre were boys, or that they played violent video games, or that they listened to dark music. Millions of boys do the same things. One must examine the basic foundation of Harris and Klebold's thinking-the very philosophic choices that they made and that were made for them by others.
My grade for this essay: Zero. Zip. Nada. Why? I was supposed to "review" the article (that is, agree with its arguments), not refute the author's claim with actual facts. Yeah, right. It was too late for me to drop, so I ended up with a C+ for the semester. Still graduated with honors though. :-)

I'm glad that an individual like Mr. Henry M. Bowles, III is getting nuked while he is still in his embryonic stage. Hopefully it will be the slap to the head that will inspire him to get his "dope straight" as we would say in the Marines--or at least remain silent when confronted with his "less intelligent" peers.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:31 PM | donate | link | |

Intellectual Activism: A Military for the Mind 

I sent this letter to the Daily Northwestern in response to the article on "less intelligent" service members. (And yes, I crib a little from a piece I wrote three years ago. My goodness, I've now become self-referential!)


According to college opinion writer Henry M. Bowles, III ("Military has no place at universities," January 24, 2006) the military should not seek to fill its ranks with men and women of intelligence and ability because "less intelligent people are better equipped for most military positions, and have far less to lose." By his essay, Bowles has revealed what many leftists think, but choose to keep close to their chests: those in the forces that defend our country and our way of life are cretins, not heroes.

The irony of this position is that the left has consistently relied upon appeals to mindless obedience as part of its ideology. Consider for example the 19th century socialist ideal espoused by Elbert Hubbard in his famous pamphlet "A Message to Garcia." There, Hubbard cast the perfect man as one who acts without any question toward the goals he has been given by his superiors.

Yet have such individuals ever thrived in our nation's military? Is an effective solider mostly muscle and little mind? Not if the history of the fighting men and women Bowles smears in his essay is examined.

Consider for example the difference between the US Marine Corps and the Japanese Army during WWII. The men of Japanese Army were literal serfs, duty bound to sacrifice their lives for their racial collective and God-man emperor, where the ranks of the Marines were composed of free men acting in defense of their own liberty. The ultimate reason the Marine fought was his own self-interest. The ultimate reason a Japanese fought was the renunciation of his self-interest. This distinction guided every aspect of how the war was fought and who prevailed.

The American fighting man, then and now, is not just someone who unquestionably does what he is told ala the "Message to Garcia" ideal. Instead, he understands the larger threats to his well-being, appreciates the need to work in concert with other men to defend his values, follows the lawful orders of the team he voluntarily joins, and acts independently when the situation demands. The American military man is at his best when he understands first and then acts appropriately. This model, when adhered to, has allowed the US military to endure every hardship, overcome every obstacle and prevail over every enemy.

So far from the mindless drones Bowles seeks to caricature, an armed force that wins victories is comprised of people of both intelligence and independence. That Bowles does not find these men and women when he looks at the ranks of America's military can only speak to his intelligence--or lack thereof.

Nicholas Provenzo
South Riding, Virginia

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:41 PM | donate | link | |

Wednesday, January 25, 2006::

The Culture: Are Servicemen and Women Cannon Fodder? 

They are--and they are easily manipulated, according to one Mr. Henry M. Bowles III, a senior at Northwestern University [Hat tip: Best of the Web Today].

Writing in the Daily Northwestern, a student newspaper, Bowles claims:

Protesting military recruiters on campus, so long as they ban open gays from joining, is admirable. But there's a more permanent reason to keep the military away from our brightest students. Young males are easily manipulated during the period of their lives when they exist outside the female domain, after the mother and before the wife. They are above all eager to demonstrate masculinity. With its promises of order, fraternity and cohesion, the military taps into this angst.

A real tragedy occurs when a young man, susceptible to the military's appeal and nonetheless intelligent and creative, signs up to become cannon fodder. He'll probably leave the military alive, but he'll have been irreversibly molded, less inclined to dissent. Less intelligent people are better equipped for most military positions, and have far less to lose.
Needless to say, as a veteran, that's about as insulting as it gets.

Let's buy into Bowles' premise for one moment to understand just how repulsive it is: the military is best staffed with cretins then with the enlightened, because the cretins have less to loose.

Like what? Their limbs? Their lives? Is intelligence now the barometer by which a person values his own life and health? "I'm not as smart as Henry M. Bowles III, so I won't miss my legs as much if an IED blows them off."

Like a lot of leftists, Bowles' has zero respects for individual rights--and individual life. "Hey you, dummy--go risk your life against the jihadists--you have less to lose than me." Being young, he just hasn't learned how to fully camouflage his arrogance.

I encourage readers to contact Bowles and tell him what you really think of his opinion. His email is:

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:52 PM | donate | link | |

Rights and Reason: BB&T Announces Eminent Domain Policy 

A few years back I wrote BB&T off as an ally after it sat on its hands during a Hart-Scott-Rodino review of one of its mergers. Yes, BB&T's chairman, John Allison is an Objectivist, but when I wrote him and BB&T's general consul about actually standing up against unjust antitrust regulation, I didn't even get so much as a "no thank you" in reply. To be honest, I wasn't really surprised: a lot of people talk the talk, but are less inclined to walk the walk—at least when it comes to inconvenient things like standing up to unjust laws.

So imagine my surprise when I read this press release issued today by BB&T:

BB&T Corporation today said it will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain.

The commercial lending policy change comes in the wake of Kelo v. City of New London, a controversial Supreme Court decision in June that said governments can seize personal property to make room for private development projects.

The court's ruling cleared the way for an expansion of eminent domain authority historically used primarily for utilities, rights of way and other public facilities.

"The idea that a citizen's property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it's just plain wrong," said BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison.

"One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."
Well, it looks like John Allison does have some sauce.

Bravo to BB&T for taking such a principled stand—it's a tremendous statement and I applaud them for making it. I guess it's time for me to move my money . . .

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:00 PM | donate | link | |

Intellectual Activism: Where are all the good blogs at? 

I'm in the process of redesigning the CAC website (should be revealed in the next week or so) and as I was updating the template for the Rule of Reason blog, I wondered what other good blogs are out there that I may be missing. So I put it to you, ROR visitors: what's out there these days? If it's a good one--I'll certainly add it to the blog roll.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:56 PM | donate | link | |

Tuesday, January 24, 2006::

Intellectual Activism: A call for nominations 

I had a vision yesterday: it's awards season and the Center needs to do its share to honor the deserving. We're a small group though and we need to give credit in a way that stands out from the rest. Accordingly, I propose three new awards and ask for your help in finding worthy candidates.

Award #1: The Tonya Harding Award for Achievement in the Advance of Antitrust. The "Tonya" should identify that special someone, perhaps a lawyer, politician, academic, or looting businessman who though their actions last year have busted up some knees in the name of "protecting competition." Had this tribute been around a few years back, US District Court Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of Microsoft fame or Timothy Murris of the FTC would most certainly been nominees.

Award #2: The Hypocritical Capitalist Award for Making a Lot of Money While Undermining the System that Made it All Possible. The "Hippy-Capitalist" should bring attention to the businessman or woman who does the most to undercut (or perhaps misdirect) the moral case for capitalism, yet makes a pile of money for themselves regardless. For this honor, its going to be hard to beat Microsoft's Bill Gates, who along with his wife Melinda, have given millions of dollars in handouts to relieve African poverty while simultaneously ignoring the fact that Africa's woes are caused by dictatorship, tribalism and the absence of the rule of law. There are other businessmen and women out there who are at least deserving of Honorable Mentions, and I ask your help in finding them.

Award #3: The Looting Politician Award for Unprecedented Generosity with Other People's Money. Lastly, the "Lootie" should honor the political leader whose leadership has been crucial to out-of-control government spending and outrageous government spending. Ex-majority whip Tom Delay is a strong contender for arguing that there was absolutely no fat in the federal budget, as well Alaska Senator Ted Stevens of the "Bridge to Nowhere" fame.

I ask for ROR visitors to help me with this project by finding the most worthy candidates. Together, I think we could have a lot of fun with this. Nominations will close January 29th.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:41 PM | donate | link | |

Monday, January 23, 2006::

The Culture: The Greenspan Legacy 

This gem of a quote appeared in Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein’s article on the legacy of Alan Greenspan:

Greenspan summed up the trade-offs behind his deregulatory philosophy in a series of unusually lucid speeches in London in 2002, on the eve of being knighted by Queen Elizabeth. "The extent of government intervention in markets to control risk-taking," he said, "is a trade-off between economic growth and its associated potential instability, and a more civil but less stressful way of life with a lower standard of living."
Good grief. It sounds to me like Greenspan was a man who never filed his own tax return or ever had to comply with a government regulation.

The real Greenspan legacy is the story of how a man went from someone who wrote an expose of antitrust in “Capitalism the Unknown Ideal” to a man who concluded that government intervention in the economy produces “a more civil but less stressful way of life.”

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:11 PM | donate | link | |


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