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:: Friday, March 31, 2006 ::

The Ruses of Domestic Islamic 'Rage' Against Freedom of Speech 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 9:31 AM

"We can look as far back as the 1930's in the years prior to the Holocaust when Nazi Germany circulated hate-filled images of our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout society...It is necessary for all of us to stand together and speak out against this, as hatred does not discriminate against any color, race, creed, or religion; all it does is hate."
No, this was not an appeal written by a Jewish person to protest the abominable depiction of Jews in Arab newspapers and on Arab news media. It was written by Maheen H. Farooqi, President of the Islamic Center at New York University in a broadcast email alert to the school's Muslims about the display of the Danish Mohammed cartoons during a panel discussion on them at the university on March 29th, and to organize a demonstration against the event.

NYU President John Sexton caved in to pressure from this group and announced that if the cartoons were displayed, the event must be closed to the public, and only "members of the NYU community" would be allowed to hear the panel discussion. Subsequently, not only was there a demonstration by Muslim students, but many of them bought tickets to the event and destroyed them in an effort to limit attendance.

Meanwhile, in the real world of book retailing, Borders and its affiliate Waldenbooks have banned a forthcoming issue of "Free Inquiry" from their magazine racks because that number of the periodical will feature inside it some of the Danish cartoons. Cited were a fear of violence from radical Muslims and a desire to ensure the safety of the chain's employees and customers.

Creeping socialism. Stealthy statism. The slippery slope of censorship and "responsible" public policy, also known as self-censorship. Someone please correct me, but I believe that Ayn Rand once remarked that at the rate the West is deteriorating, it will not end with a bang, but with a burp. The foregoing instances of submission to Islamic threats and pressure are warnings and guarantees of more to come.

If you have not already noticed it, endorsement of the display of the Danish cartoons -- indeed, any expression of criticism about Islam -- is steadily being equated with racism, hatred, and discrimination. And not only that, but Mr. Farooqi has the unmitigated but apparently effective gall to assert a "bond" with "our Jewish brothers and sisters." His email "call to arms" is too long to reprint here, but it is chock full of gems.

The Holocaust? Does not Mr. Farooqi know that the president of Iran, Adolf Ahmadinejad, has denied that it ever occurred?

"We, however, would not encourage racism is (sic) any shape or form, and to us and many others, these cartoons are racist and we adamantly oppose their display."

So, don't look at them. No, that's too easy advice to follow. It's almost as though he and his protest organizers want to see them in order to whip the Muslim masses into a window and skull breaking lather. In order to frighten cowards like John Sexton into capitulating to their "demands." In order to impose censorship.

Oh, no, we don't want to impose censorship! Allah forbid!

"The event itself and the topic that the students would like to discuss is not problematic in any way, but the pictures themselves are just hatred and there is (sic) no justification in preaching something breeds that kind of hate."

So, Mr. Farooqi and his "brothers and sisters" won't mind a panel discussion of the cartoons, so long as the subject is not present, if it is unseen, invisible. Excuse me, but that ultimatum is problematic. If the subject of the discussion cannot be shown or displayed, what is it, then, that would be discussed? An abstraction that had no anchor in reality. It would be tantamount to a court trying a murder case but declaring all evidence of it inadmissible. And if the subject has already been deemed "hateful," why discuss it at all?

What a formula for shutting down men's minds for fear of provoking irrational emotional outbursts and threats to one's life! What an appeal to submit to unreason!

And what an excuse for Mr. Sexton, Borders, the Wall Street Journal and others to turn tail and betray the First Amendment! With allies like them, who needs Islam to imperil the Bill of Rights?

But the chief interest here is the stress Mr. Farooqi and his colleagues at CAIR and other Islamic organizations are beginning to put on race, hatred and discrimination. Now, Islam is a set of ideas (if a random set of injunctions to kill or enslave infidels, together with contextless homilies, can be said to be a set of "ideas"), and to oppose it or criticize it is not synonymous with "racism." Aside from the fact that numerous Caucasians, blacks and Asians have converted to Islam, it is beyond anyone's power to deny that most Muslims are of Mideastern Semitic or of other large racial stocks. All intelligent, rational criticism of Islam has been targeted at the nature of the creed and its agenda of conquest, together with the fact that most jihadists and suicide bombers have been and will continue to be Muslim.

Consider also the near conversion to a saccharine Islam of the Canadian "peace worker" hostages who, upon release, did not thank the American, British and Canadian soldiers who freed them, and whose statements lead one to believe that they would have been perfectly willing to remain hostages until they rotted. Their selflessness was in the same league as any suicide bomber's. Or consider the statements and behavior of American journalist Jill Carroll, who upon her release by her captors began spouting sympathy for the mahujadeen (Islamic warriors) who were only "defending their country against occupation" and who flaunted Muslim female dress.

It is those mahujadeen, otherwise known as "insurgents," who are killing her fellow countrymen and thousands of the Iraqis she purported loves.

Were these former Western hostages brainwashed in captivity? No. To judge by their portrayals in Western news media before they were taken hostage, they were already selfless airheads, susceptible to conversion to Islam.

Mr. Farooqi wrote:

"These same cartoons unfortunately have lead to riots, protests, beatings, and deaths all round the world."

And all that carnage, together with the burning of Western embassies and the fatwahs against the Danish cartoonists, who have gone into hiding, has been the handiwork of whom? Whose violence was being committed?

That of Muslims -- Sunnis, Shi'ites, and other sects of that mind-suffocating, tongue-severing creed were the ones on the rampage.

Most Americans -- indeed, most Caucasian Westerners -- wouldn't know a Muslim unless he announced the fact.

Do the cartoons foster hatred? It is healthy and life-preserving to hate something that is inimical to one's freedom of speech and thought. But the cartoons do not foster hatred. They are mildly amusing; some are incomprehensible.

Islam, however, doesn't want anyone to be amused by Mohammed. It wants men to fear him and obey his Allah, just as Winston Smith in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was expected to fear, revere, and love Big Brother. Otherwise, how could anyone submit to his will? In that great film comedy, "His Girl Friday," Cary Grant as Walter Burns shouts to his page editor over the phone: "Take Hitler and stick him on the funny pages!" That's where Mohammed truly belongs, in the comics, in the company of Hagar the Horrible and the Wizard of Id. Or in a Monty Python movie. When was the last time a Scandinavian suicide bomber blew up a Christian church because Leif Erickson and the Vikings were the subject of humor?

Is dislike or fear of Islam discriminatory? Discrimination is anyone's right, especially when it entails discriminating against mysticism and anyone who threatens physical force or terror in its name. Discrimination in this instance is not a matter of race or hatred, but of reason-based revulsion for a degrading, freedom-crushing creed.

No, the accusations of racism, hatred and discrimination are merely ruses, or strawmen, employed to deflect attention away from Islam's goal of suppressing any and all criticism of it, to frighten men from any thought of opposing it lest they be accused of those things.

In the case of NYU and Borders, it worked. As a reward, alumni and corporations should refuse to donate money to NYU, and the school's trustees should fire Sexton. And Borders and Waldenbooks should be subjected to a national boycott until its finds the courage to exercise its right of freedom of speech.

And the cartoons should be proudly and fearlessly displayed.

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Second Carnival of the Objectivists tomorrow! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:48 AM

Just a quick reminder--tomorrow, April 1st, the Rule of Reason hosts the second Carnival of the Objectivists. And you know after a week like this one, there's going to be a ton of blogs to cover.

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:: Thursday, March 30, 2006 ::

That's because his arguments knock on your glass house 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 1:28 PM

Here's another report on the NYU event, this time from Pamela at Atlas Shrugs:

Schwartz made some salient points but he was so apoplectic over the rise of the religious right I had to turn him off at points. Equating the power of the religious right with the rabid left was moral equivalence and just plain wrong. They have not taken over the Republican party the way the far left has hijacked the Democratic party platform. Schwartz was a raving atheist, unforgiving of religion.
So now it should be clear why I dropped Pamela from the blogroll. It should also clear up how a misintergrator, that is, a person who hijacks valid points to smuggle in their other bad premises, are such dangerous characters. Yes, the religious right is a pernicious force in America, and a person is not "raving" for saying so, and yes, religion as such deserves no forgiveness. That's what Christians do—they forgive their enemies and turn the other cheek. Objectivists pronounce moral judgment, for the simple reason that our lives depend on it.

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Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists III 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:15 PM

Right-Wing Reason has a first-person report (with photos) on yesterday's NYU Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons event (Hat tip: Passing Thoughts).

I was forced to leave before the end of the debate, as I had to come back for a staff meeting, but all in all, I think it was very informative. As I was leaving, people were STILL in line, waiting to get through the metal detector. Barring some outrageous event occurring in the last bit of the program, I think the only bit of "news" there tonight was that if you complain loud enough, and people are scared enough, you can get what you want. And that's sad.

Or at least this guy thought so.
This guy as well.

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Millions for defense, but not one cent for suckers 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:09 AM

Ed Thompson has a plan that he's calling the "Ragnar Danneskjold project."

As an investor, I regularly receive complex legal notices petitioning me to join a class action lawsuit against some company. I trash them. Shorn of the typical incomprehensible legalese, this is the first notice I've ever seen that I can comprehend. It's in English. And all I have to do is collect my loot.

The heading reads, "Consumers and Businessmen May Claim Microsoft Settlement Benefits."

The proposed settlement arises from allegations that Microsoft violated New York antitrust and unfair competition laws. Consumers who acquired certain Microsoft products for use in New York over the past TWELVE years are eligible to collect an estimated $350 million. No proof of purchase required.

[W]e can fight this. Class Members can write to the court if they do not like the settlement. Of course, the court anticipates exactly the opposite of what we will write, as to what is fair.

One can also ask the Court for permission to speak at a "Fairness Hearing." I intend to ask.

This is an opportunity for Objectivists to affect favorably an outcome of the continued unjust persecution of Microsoft. Since there are seventeen states involved, there are many venues for us to participate. Even those living elsewhere might participate through a proxy, if you have a willing friend or relative who qualifies for an award.

Note: vouchers may be donated to a charity. If enough of us put in claims worth up to $60 and donate our vouchers to ARI, then ARI can take the accumulated vouchers--blood money, actually--up to a total of $10,000, and donate them to Microsoft--publicly.
I would not work to return one cent of antitrust payout to Microsoft. Why? Because why should I or anyone else defend Microsoft any more than it defends itself.

Remember the "Freedom to Innovate" network--home of Microsoft's in-house argument against the myriad of antitrust cases brought against it. I just visited there about ten minuets ago and on a list of Microsoft's "Policy Priorities" I found cyber security, privacy, combating spam, intellectual property, spyware, and children's online safety. No mention of antitrust reform (or even the R&D tax credit for that matter).

Then I looked up latest statement on an antitrust case that was linked from the "Freedom to Innovate" website's main page. This antirust ruling, issued in South Korea, seeks to compel Microsoft to produce two new versions of Windows. Microsoft's response? Microsoft promised it would fight the charges, saying "[This] is one step in a long legal process, and we believe the facts will show that Microsoft's actions have respected Korean law."

Respected Korean law? The real problem with antirust rests not in "respecting" Korean, European, or American laws, the problem rests with these laws themselves for punishing businessmen for the crime of trying to make a better product. On this front, Microsoft has utterly abandoned the battle and I do not support returning to them one dime that was expropriated by laws that they themselves refuse to challenge.

As an alternative, I'd much rather see the money go to put Gary Hull, Tom Bowden, Richard Salsman and John Ridpath's book the Abolition of Antirust in law libraries across America. Let blood money from antitrust settlements go to help real egoists fight to repeal antirust law rather then return it utterly clueless businessmen who wouldn't even know what to do with your gift when you gave it back to them.

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Green in the head 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:29 AM

Another environmentalist is warning us that the world may soon end.

Kenneth Deffeyes believes the world passed a very important landmark, with very little notice, on Dec. 16, 2005.

On that day, he said, the world's residents finished off the first half of the world's oil and started in on the second. Price volatility will be the norm, and if some big changes aren't made, famine, pestilence, war and death are on the way.

Deffeyes, who presented his ideas during a talk Tuesday night at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is a Princeton University professor emeritus and author of "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak" and "Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage."

The idea comes from the work of M. King Hubbert, who predicted in 1956 that the amount of oil produced in the United States would peak in 1970, when half of the country's oil had been recovered, then start its decline. [Stefan Milkowski, Daily News Miner]
The article goes on to describe the Deffeyes’ “peak oil” thesis, claiming that civilization has "driven off the cliff," and that "we're in for a hard landing." Yeah, the same way we drove off the cliff and landed hard with whale oil.

It's amazing how environmentalists exploit ignorance of the basic laws of economics in order to sell their tales of gloom and doom. For example, it’s utterly impossible for the world to run out of oil. Let me explain.

When you have a good like oil, price signals its value. If oil is truly becoming scare, speculators can forecast a rise in future prices. These speculators start to store oil for that future day when they can sell it for more than what they bought it for.

That speculation causes oil prices to rise and any rise in price is met with rationing (that is, one finds ways to get by with less), and the search for alternatives (that is, one tries to find alternatives to oil itself). Man will not sit by and starve when it can build nuclear or hydro plants to serve its energy needs—that is if man still believes he has a right to exist in the face of the environmentalist's claims that he is a despoiler nature.

Notice though that the environmentalists never talk about the market's ability to ration goods though price or the power of price to produce substitutes. The market is freedom and it allows for people to provide for their material needs, yet according the environmentalist, it is the market itself that exploits the earth and savages the intrinsic value of nature.

That's why in my book, there's no such thing as a pro-human environmentalist. If there was, they would immediately become capitalists, fight for property rights and support man’s right to life his life for his own stake.

Yes, it is that simple, but as we all know, its not going to happen anytime soon. The egoism question strikes again.

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Enshrining "need" as a virtue 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:04 AM

You have to love the ability of antitrust regulators to find the "abuse of market power" almost anywhere. This report is from Europe:

The European Union closed a long-standing antitrust dispute with England's Premier League on Wednesday, forcing one the of richest leagues in the world to stop selling the rights to its live soccer matches exclusively to one TV channel.

"The solution we have reached will benefit football fans while allowing the Premier League to maintain its timetable for the sale of its rights," said EU Antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes, after the EU executive finalized the deal between both sides.

Under the agreement, live TV rights will be sold in six balanced packages with no one bidder being allowed to buy them all.
But why do this? The answer rests below.

British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC -- a pay channel owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch -- has held the exclusive rights to the richest broadcast contract in European sport for the past 13 years. The satellite broadcaster dominates Britain's pay-TV market with close to 8 million subscribers.

Kroes's office said the new commitments made until the end of the 2012-2013 season "will increase the availability of media rights, and improve the prospect of competition in providing services to consumers."

Packages will be sold to the highest standalone bidder for each package.
The agreement will allow the Premier League to prepare its bidding process for rights as of 2007. It will be monitored by a trustee named by the Commission.

"The Commission could impose a fine amounting to 10 percent of FA Premier League's total worldwide turnover if it breaks its commitments," the statement from Kroes's office said.

BSkyB's nearest rival, cable operator NTL Inc., has already said the deal does not go far enough to deliver a level playing field and said the EU head office had ignored the "pubs and clubs" market which it said needed a critical mass of at least half of all matches to be economically viable.
Ah, NTL "needed" it-in fact, it "needs" even more.

So here we have a corporation enshrining its need as a moral claim upon all its competitors, yet how much do you want to bet that Rupert Murdoch and his British Sky Broadcasting Group oppose antitrust as such? I doubt I could even get one taker.

Let's face it, egoism is a radical position, even among billionaires.

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:: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 ::

The Intellectual Activist and the theory/practice split 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:53 PM

I wonder if the Intellectual Activist has fallen into the classic theory/practice split, but is doing so with an Objectivish twist. Let me explain my (speculative) theory.

OK, so there's this thing called Objectivism that has all these principles we agree with, but there's also the world of present-day politics that we must face. You're a talented and thoughtful Objectivist writer. So what do you do?

You could make Objectivist arguments all the time and point out how corrupt the culture is ad nauseum, but that can get tiresome, it keeps you on the fringes and limits your audience.

What if instead you highlighted the virtues of contemporary figures and in doing so, you slowly started to see your influence expand. Under this program, the misintegrator serves you better than the disintegrator, because he gives you something positive to latch on to when talking to the general public. Sure, the misintegrator may have his flawed premises, but deep down he fights for you, ala Wakeland’s portrayal of Bush.

Who then becomes your biggest enemy? It's those dogmatic Objectivist naysayers with their pessimistic outlooks who are the real problem--they don't understand the picture, they are dishonest in falling to recognize your hero's virtues, and they hate misintegrators with a passion because they are the ones who steal their glory.

Somewhere, you have to take a stand. You have to choose between your hero and the integrated philosophy. If you honestly believe your philosophy works in the first place, you choose it. Defending it becomes your passion.

Yet if you are unsure if your philosophy really works, even if your doubt is subtle, such as how you use it to bridge the gap between the is and the ought with people who have a good sense of life, but hold mixed premises, you have to start avoiding your philosophy. After all, saying the US should unblinkingly slaughter its enemies freaks people out. You instead choose to identify with your misintergrating hero, and the nascent philosophic movement loses one of its heroes.

Now the philosophy you say you hold can't lose out explicitly, because that too has its price, but at minimum, your focus is changed. You bite at your critics and write articles about the "virtue of persistence" instead of the virtue of rationality, because like Boxer in Animal Farm, if we keep trying hard enough, even a problematic philosophy such as neo-conservatism can be made to work if you appeal to the virtues of its adherents.

Is this the case with TIA? Obviously I have my suspicions--enough to publish this post, even though the psychology is utterly speculative at best. Nevertheless, I think it is strong enough a theory to post for commentary.

Update: Cut out the line "living a tight existence and every dollar you bring in counts" from the 2nd paragraph. I decided that's too speculative to assign to my scenario, even though the scenario itself is speculative.

I'm trying to understand why TIA is taking its position--why, in the Wakeland post, it makes me and other Objectivists into the enemy. In thinking it over, I'm coming to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter. Most important is how it argues its position intellectually. The "why" is their problem, not mine.

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Thinking through the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:32 PM

Jennifer Snow is defending Jack Wakeland's premise:

Mr. Wakeland's support of Bush's "Forward Strategy of Freedom", in my understanding, is based on the fact that it means Bush has recognized two truths: that the real battle here is an ideological one, and that we have to stick with it until we win. While Bush hasn't been fantastic about finding and applying the correct strategies to realize either of these goals, he HAS been consistent in maintaining that there is an ideological battle and that we have to stick with it. In that respect, his floundering efforts deserve our support.
I disagree with Ms. Snow's assessment here (as well as other parts of her larger argument). You cannot have the president cast Islam as the religion of peace and then say he understands the ideological battle. Nor is there anything in the Forward Strategy of Freedom that casts this battle in the terms it deserves to be cast; that is, to pit reason and egoism against mysticism and barbarity. To do that, the Forward Strategy of Freedom would have to embrace secularism and individual rights in favor of literal democracy, and it doesn't. I think the Afghani and Iraqi constitutions prove my point.

At root, I think the Forward Strategy of Freedom is the "White Man's Burdon" redressed in American clothes. As I read it, the Forward Strategy of Freedom is saying little more than if we give the uncivilized barbarians of the world democracies, hopefully they won't try to kill us anymore.

Yet consider the fact that the key Forward Strategy of Freedom claim that "democracies" don't kill their neighbors rang false on the news we heard just this week. Notice how utterly stunned President Bush seemed upon learning that an Afghani court was going to kill one of its citizens for the crime of apostasy. According to Ayn Rand, a nation that is willing to murder its own people is also willing to murder you just as fast, yet here we have a US created democracy tottering on the verge of mystically-inspired. So much for "freedom" or a legitimate strategy to protect American lives.

Yet despite the Forward Strategy of Freedom plainly flawed premise, it nevertheless commits the US to fight to bring democracy to the middle east--democracies that vote themselves into Islamic theocracies and let the Sharia guide them. That is a flawed vision if I ever saw one--one that Objectivists should attack with full force.

Update: I forgot to mention this in the haste to get outside and enjoy a nice spring day--Snow's other assessment against my position is that, well, Bush is the best we got, so I should simply cheer up and support his "tentative first steps in the right direction."

No thanks. If Bush is tentative about defending my life, I’d rather call him (and the culture that elected him) on the substantive, philosophic problem I have with such a position rather than fake a happy face.

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Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists II 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 2:53 PM

Here's my letter to the NYU president on NYU's free speech debacle:

Dear Mr. Sexton:

I have just now received news of your institution's surrender to the Islamic
jihadists in this country, by refusing to allow a student group, the NYU
Objectivist Club, to host a panel discussion on "Free Speech and the Danish
Cartoons." Further, your school's action appears to be in direct violation of
its own "free speech" policy.

I am the author of "Sparrowhawk," a series of novels set in England and
Virginia in the years preceding the American Revolution. That Revoltution
truly began in 1765, when courageous colonial editors broadcast Patrick
Henry's Stamp Act Resolves, passed in the Virginia General Assembly in May
of that year, and served to unite the colonies for the first time to resist
and protest Crown tyranny. In publishing those Resolves, the editors risked
prosecution, imprisonment, and even death by the Crown for treason and
blasphemous libel. They saw the truth and broadcast it, nevertheless.

One of the little known objections to Crown tyranny was the proposed
establishment of a state church in the colonies, which all American
colonists would be taxed to support, regardless of their creed or lack of
one. What you have surrendered to is something worse: a theocracy that
promises death or enslavement for not submitting to it.

Obviously, you and your administration are not of the same caliber.

I urge you to rescind the prohibition of that event and so reinstate not
only the reputation of New York University, as well as your own, but the
inviolability of the First Amendment and free minds.


Edward Cline

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The capitalist's movie critic 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:53 AM

It seems my "V for Vendetta" movie review has sparked a rather lengthy discussion thread at Objectivism Online. Of those critical of my review, their disagreement seems to stem from my claim that "V" supported anarchy, while others seem to disagree with my attempt to judge a work of art according to objective standards.

When I write movie or art reviews for CAC's weblog, it's usually because I am struck by an explicit political or ethical claim (or in the case of Crash, an epistemological claim). After all, this organization's mission is argue for Ayn Rand's political and ethical philosophy. Accordingly, I seek reasons to talk about these principles to a wide audience.

For example, when I reviewed Saving Private Ryan, I was struck by its altruistic portrayal of a solider who dies in the name of those who do not deserve it. As a movie that sought to honor WWII soliders though its portrayal, Saving Private Ryan's naturalistic depiction of the Normandy invasion excised a key motive that would explain why these soldiers risked their lives to defeat America's enemies. Saving Private Ryan excised self-interest, removing it as a motive of its heroes, and instead using it to describe the motive of the movie's coward--a man who betrays his comrades and hides in battle, lest he be killed by the enemy.

As such, I deeply disagreed with Saving Private Ryan's theme and I made my disagreement public, especially after all the praise that was heaped upon the film for its portrayal of the life of a solider.

Much was the same with my review of Jarhead, which unlike Saving Private Ryan did not hide its contempt for the men in our military. I was struck with how so many of my fellow Marine veterans were responding favorably to a movie that portrayed Marines as whiny, sexually frustrated, whim-worshiping wimps. Hence, you have my review of Jarhead, which I am proud to say was published by both Leatherneck Magazine and the Marine Corps Gazette.

Now when it comes to my review of "V," I continue to stand by my article without modification. "V" had plenty to fight against, but his character was never able to articulate what he ought to be to fighting for, unless raw revenge has now replaced justice as a worthy goal. Enough said.

Yet I think it is interesting to note that one of the critics of my criticism referred to my position as the "orthodox Objectivist" view (as if that is a bad thing). Yes, Objectivism is my tool for evaluating art, including an artwork's moral and political claims. Does that mean I shouldn't fault artwork that portrays bad premises, even if it is masterfully produced? Of course not. While I enjoy contemplating art for its own sake, I also have my values and I fight for them. Yes, "V" had stylistic elements that were interesting to me, but it also offended my moral code, and since the movie has been praised for its morality, it became fair game for my brand of criticism.

Unfortunately, there's a lot to examine in art that the criticism I write for my audience here does not explore. I'll give you one example: There are several movies that I think are appalling thematically, and yet I was drawn to them nevertheless, such as Titanic.

Why could I find someting to like in an awful film like Titanic? Simple. I liked the soundtrack despite the movie. So then, the question in my mind is what is the role of music in communicating a film's message, and can a soundtrack contradict and surpass the film it seeks to highlight? Interesting, but not a good topic for debate on the weblog of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.

Accordingly, I stick to my focus. Should you not see "V" based on my review here? That obviously depends on you. If I were you, I'd be intrigued to see the movie simply on the grounds that there have been arguments both for and against it, and as a work of art, it is enjoyable to contemplate these things for one's self and arrive at one's own critical evaluation.

At the same time, if you tire of bad premises in art and prefer art that is uplifting, my review would serve to warn you away from a film that will likely leave you empty and uninspired.

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Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:49 AM

A group called the "Muslim Action Committee" has launched an internet campaign to prevent the New York University Objectivist Club from showing the cartoons behind the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy at the panel discussion it is hosting tonight. Apparently, this group’s efforts have succeeded as the Objectivist Club’s event has been closed to the general public and limited to an audience of no more than 150 students.

Accordingly, I have written the following letter to John Sexton [john.sexton@nyu.edu], the president of NYU:

Dear President Sexton:

I am deeply dismayed by the New York University's decision to close a student organization’s discussion of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy to the general public and severely limit the number of students who may attend the event.

Realize what is taking place at a prestigious American intellectual institution under your watch. A university is a realm of ideas, yet the ideas examining the philosophic foundation of free speech rights as they relate to an important international controversy are being squelched in order to appease the sensitivities of those who disagree with the material being discussed. Rather than defend free speech, the university is attacking the very principles that allow it to exist and taking a position that severely curtails its ability to fulfill its mission.

One wonders what comes next. Will certain art be forbidden, because it offends the sensibilities of its critics? Will unpopular political views be taken off the table as well?

On the eve of the war in Iraq, I took part in a contentious debate over US policy with a peace studies professor at George Mason University, and there, GMU President Alan Merten personally thanked me, saying that such a debate "is the reason we have universities." Yet NYU's seeming position is to hold that the opposite as true, and that proponents of controversial ideas should check their minds at the door.

I call upon you to correct the mistakes that your university is making in falling to defend free speech rights. If not, I will simply do everything within my power to highlight your failure to act as the cowardly failure it would be.


Nicholas Provenzo
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
Update: The "Muslim Action Committee" allows public comments on their website, so I urge you to let them know what you think of their attempt to squelch free speech.

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:: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 ::

Edward Cline to appear on KOA 850 radio in Denver 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:58 PM

Edward Cline's essay "Reality catches up with art" caught the attention of the Mike Rosen Show, KOA 850 in Denver, and Cline has subsequently been invited to appear on it this coming Wednesday the 29th, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

The show can be listened to over the internet (go to 850KOA.com for details).

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Announcing the Second Carnival of the Objectivists! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:56 PM

After the stunning success of the Inaugural Carnival of the Objectivists, I plan to host another carnival this Saturday, April 1st. As before, I’ll scour the web for good Objectivist commentary, so if you have recommendations, be sure to send them on in.

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:: Monday, March 27, 2006 ::

Jack Wakeland's Treason (Part II) 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:00 PM

Part II: Conviction

My disagreement and anger toward Jack Wakeland and The Intellectual Activist rests upon two points in Wakeland's article "Taking Stock after a Defeat in the War on Terrorism." First is Wakeland's claim that Objectivists who argue that the war is being half-fought are "worse than factually false." Second is the claim that these Objectivists, by holding their estimate, "are doing the enemy's work."

The meaning of Wakeland's statements is absolutely clear; he is saying that certain Objectivists are dishonest traitors. The change is a serious, deliberate moral attack. It is also a pile of garbage.

In order to maintain his position, Wakeland must prove that the war is being "fully fought." Why? Because an Objectivist doesn't fight anything less. Two-thirds of a "fully fought" war is unacceptable. Nine-tenths of a "fully fought" war is unacceptable. If an enemy physically attacks you, you fight him until he is defeated and the threat to your life is removed.

A powerful illustration of this principle is Leonard Peikoff's landmark argument that the US should have attacked and subdued Iran when its Islamic government issued its infamous fatwa against novelist Salman Rushdie and his publishers. In his thesis, Peikoff argues that by targeting an author for murder because he published ideas it disagrees with, Iran was waging war upon reason itself. According to Peikoff, America should have struck back in self-defense and forced Iran to retract its fatwa.

Peikoff did not call upon the US to avail itself of the UN, nor did Peikoff call upon the US to bring freedom to Iran. He argued that the government's job is simply to remove a threat to its citizens; no more, and no less. To do this, Peikoff was willing to commit an entire nation to fight for the rights of one single man because not to fight would have been to surrender a key principle of all our existences to a barbarous enemy.

Yet America did choose surrender, not explicitly, but by its appalling and cowardly failure to act in the face of a substantive threat. When the enemy deserved bombs, America gave him sanctions and then proceeded to forget the whole affair. This failure, coupled with all the other appeasements of Islam over the years, served to only to embolden the jihadists and make them detest us all the more.

Then came September 11th, the concrete no one could escape--or so we hoped. The only just answer to September 11th would have been a brutal, ruthless retaliation of the kind that would have left the enemy in stunned shock over our power to crush him and his cause; the kind of response that would cause a mother to beg her son never to incur the wrath of the United States, lest he, she, and everyone else they know be destroyed.

That kind of retaliation would have required an egoist, a man who is so proud of his life and so jealously protective of his rights that it would be inconceivable for him to do anything less than defeat those who would make themselves his destroyer. As we all know, our culture has yet to generate sufficient numbers of these men to elect one of them to a position of governmental power. Objectivists are on the outside looking in, and by definition, the battle that our government wages for our rights and our freedom is being less than fully fought.

Why is this? Because we first need to convince more people of the truth of Objectivism--because the first front in any war is philosophic. In this regard, President Bush does not compare to Washington, Lincoln, or even Roosevelt, let alone an Objectivist. Washington endured starvation at Valley Forge rather than forfeit the American revolution. Lincoln refused to allow the union to be dissolved, even though it took him years of losses before he could find a commander capable of achieving victory. Roosevelt firebombed cities and developed atomic weapons rather than yield to his enemies. Even John F. Kennedy was willing to risk war with the Soviet Union rather then let it place nuclear weapons in Cuba.

In contrast, we find a president who can't even define who the enemy is, let alone develop a cogent strategy for subduing him. After all, how long did President Bush define our enemy by his tactics, rather than by his ideology? How is it that we are mired in Iraq, while Bin Laden still lives and Iran develops nuclear weapons? Rather than simply declare that the US has a right to destroy its enemies, Bush has positioned US policy as the "forward strategy of freedom," that is, a policy that mandates that the US bring freedom to the non-free world in order to keep it from killing us.

That's an awfully generous policy to sacrifice American lives to, and it's one that nearly borders upon the "white man's burden" in its reasoning. Yet the Wakeland and TIA position--the position of new intellectuals--is that the forward strategy of freedom is materially effective, rather than materially defective. Sure, Wakeland and TIA acknowledge that we face our setbacks in the war, including many philosophic failures, but they also hold that the American sense of life prevails and that President Bush will lead us to our inevitable victory.

Victory for an Objectivist is not solely measured by the progress of one particular battle in one particular Iraqi hellhole (as TIA's style of reporting so often chronicles in all its myopic details). It is measured by the nation's willingness to recognize that it has a right to exist for its own sake, and that right alone gives it license to defeat those who threaten it. President Bush is useless in this fight--as he is useless in our fight. He cannot win it because he lacks the requisite intellectual ammunition. And this is where John Lewis gets it right when he describes the contrast between Objectivism and President Bush's neo-conservative philosophy:

Objectivism recognizes that the meaning of an idea is the facts it refers to in reality. A value is a fact that is understood in relation to human life. "A value," said Ayn Rand, "is that which one acts to gain and/or keep"--it is not an idea divorced from action. For example, men are free when the government protects their rights; this is what freedom means. Freedom is a value because the facts of man's nature will not allow him to live under coercion.

But this view of values contrasts utterly with the views of the neoconservative team behind Mr. Bush. They see values as ideas from a higher reality, whether religious or secular, and then applied imperfectly to this world. This is Platonism, so called after the philosopher Plato, who implanted it into western thought. "Freedom" becomes an idea from intuition, or a dictate of the almighty, that can be applied only imperfectly in the real world. This is not necessarily religious faith, but also "common sense"--stuff that all of us just know, as I was once told by a conservative atheist.

The chasm is not between their values and their actions to preserve them, but rather between their values and reality.
I agree, yet according to the logic of Wakeland and TIA, Lewis is nevertheless "worse than factually false" and is "doing the enemy's work."

As I discussed in Part I, Wakeland claims President Bush would never knowingly leave Americans exposed, yet he forgets the specious means by which the president arrives at what he does know. Seemingly counting on the President's sense of life alone, Wakeland and TIA want to cut it both ways, saying that he can achieve victory even though he is weak. Rather than repeat the call for an egoistic war, they instead support President Bush's forward strategy of freedom, even though it is based upon defective reasoning, even though it is costly in terms of life and treasure, and even though it is unnecessary, since at this stage of the game, all the jihad deserves is force alone. Let the Islamic world lift itself out of its self-inflicted mire of superstition and barbarity; we have our own lives and our own quest for freedom to attend to.

But that's not TIA's stand. In fact, by staking out the position that they have adopted and labeling those Objectivists who disagree with them as dishonest, I think they are signaling something I find very troubling to contemplate. I think TIA is signaling that it is not comfortable with egoism.

If TIA was comfortable with egoism, they would not care one way or another for President Bush, but they would care a lot about the culture that elected him and the many moral mistakes it is making. They would see that the war is not being fully fought and they would seek out ways to explain why. Rather than seemingly forgive neo-conservatives for their faults, they would make these faults the focus of their criticism. After all, an Objectivist's goal is not to make friends with neo-conservatives--his goal is to replace them. That mission requires consistent advocates for an Objectivist moral renaissance who are not ashamed to attack altruism or say that a mixed premise is not enough--not when it comes to the government's role in protecting their (and our) lives.

And notice that this debate isn't about the '04 election or who Objectivists decided to vote for. That debate was worth whatever the odds were that Objectivist votes could swing the election, which was somewhere between zero and nill.

This debate is about something far, far larger--it is about how Objectivists interpret reality, fight for their freedom, and publicly position their views to an idea-starved world. Falling to identify an opponent for who he is and failing to understand a mixed premise for the problem it presents does not serve to replace the status quo with Objectivism. Bold statements of fundamental truths do.

There is no universe in which George W. Bush is a hero for the way he fights the war--not when we have been presented with the image of John Galt. And as I alluded to before, if our culture can't produce enough rational men to elect someone deserving to political office, than that's the fight for our lives that we need to wage.

In short, we need the kind of intellectual activists that the TIA name suggests. That is the battle that I think TIA is yielding, and that's why I charge Wakeland with "treason" toward me and other Objectivists. Wakeland and TIA are doing something deeply wrong and they are blaming their critics for their own faulty reasoning. My view: former mentors or not, they are guilty as charged.

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:: Friday, March 24, 2006 ::

Not if that's a ham sandwich . . . 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:15 PM

Michelle Malkin has some pretty funny video of fizzled anti-war march here in DC. The best moment is when Malkin talks to a protestor clad in a orange jumpsuit stating how the march experience has helped him to identify with the Guantanamo Bay detainees while munching on a sandwich.

The other goodie is when Malkin prompts Cindy Sheehan’s to give a stream-of-consciousness speech attempting to justify her failure to secure a headstone for her son (NB: as a member of the Armed Forces, Sheehan’s son rates a headstone provided by the government free-of-charge).

Nothing philosophic--but amusing to watch nevertheless.

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Jack Wakeland's Treason 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:00 AM

Part 1: The Indictment

There is an issue that has been percolating for too long for it not to be explicitly addressed. About a month ago I blogged about an HBL post that I wrote criticizing what I saw as some Objectivist's overly positive estimate of the Bush administration. In my blog entry I wrote:

I stand with [J]ohn Lewis on his point that Bush is not about advancing individual rights domestically or defending America internationally.

The effect of the war has been worse then had it not been fought at all. America is not more secure as a result of Bush's expeditionary campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan when the jihad still survives, when both nations can vote themselves into Islamic republics and when Iran--the fountainhead of Islam and America's key enemy--remains unchecked.

Objectivists who are sympathetic to Bush argue that he represents both the best and the worst in the "honest American" while his cowboy demeanor depicts the vibrant American spirit. If only. The more realistic appraisal is that that Bush's cowboy persona runs only skin-deep, while his neo-conservatism (a literal cross of both liberalism and religion) has advanced some of the worst ideas to be offered in American politics since the rise of the New Left.

Bush spent months begging the UN for permission for the US to protect its interests, only to couch that interest in sacrificial language. Bush's "Ownership Society" died stillborn for want of a moral argument. The "Forward Defense of Freedom" assumed that the liberty-hating people of the world nevertheless desire freedom and that it is for America to bring it to them. The Bush administration and the Republican congress can't even find the sauce to abolish the NEA, let alone correct any substantive spending injustice--or prevent the rise of new ones. And don't even ask me about antitrust or fundamental tax reform under Bush.

All the while, Bush has been energizing the wing of the Republican party that seeks to establish theocracy in America. The White House doesn't call an Objectivist when it has a problem--it calls an evangelical preacher. The Bush presidency is a disaster.

People animated by a revolutionary philosophy such as Objectivism ought to be highlighting these facts and explaining the principles that drive them. This debate goes far beyond the question of which political party can do a worse job--it's a question of what Objectivists have to say about the current state of the world and how we will publicly present our antidote to today's unabated orgy of irrationality and sacrifice.
While I aimed to respond in a general sense to a view I had observed some Objectivists hold, I had not yet read the explicit statement of the pro-Bush position. This was a mistake on my part, because according to the logic of the statement and its author, I am guilty of betraying America.

Back in early February, Jack Wakeland of The Intellectual Activist wrote an article titled "Taking Stock after a Defeat in the War on Terrorism." In his article, Wakeland writes:

[O]ver the past four years I have seen quite a few Objectivists--including many of our most talented and accomplished intellectuals--sitting on the edges of their seats, waiting for disaster. Some of them expect the evil premises of our post-Kantian culture to manifest themselves in a suicidal war policy. Some of them expect defeat to materialize at any moment on any front.

In any mixture--regardless of the degree--of good premises and bad, some expect the bad to win. "A half-battle is worse than none," Ayn Rand observed, "It does not end in mere defeat--it helps and hastens the victory of your enemies." Some misuse that maxim and conclude that any inconsistency in war policy will, therefore, lead a speedy and total defeat.

Some see the combination of the external pressure of Islam and our nation's own Christian premises and conclude that America will descend into theocracy--in five or ten or twenty years. With Olympian detachment, this unhappy band points to every setback as evidence of impending defeat.
Wakeland then proceeds to deliver a laundry list of the Bush administration's failures in prosecuting the war and after each failure, he repeats in mocking derision that "A half-battle is worse than none." Wakeland is not ridiculing the administration's defective philosophic reasoning as the cause of these failures--he is ridiculing Objectivists who are critical of the administration's prosecution of the war. According to Wakeland, the problem is not an administration that is providing bankrupt leadership, it is us poor, benighted Objectivists who fail to support the president. He cannot fathom why we do it.

How can any man who understands that America is an irreplaceable institution--a living repository of the best that man's mind has ever produced--how can he see defeat in the opening years of so small a fight? How can he sell his own civilization so cheaply?
Wakeland continues:

To say that George Bush's efforts at national defense are worse than nothing--something I hear way too often from Objectivists--is worse than factually false. If you follow the implications of this falsehood to claim that America is losing, you are doing our enemy's work.
Let's make sure we are all on the same page: if I do the enemy's work, I am guilty of treason. So what then constitutes treason in the world of Jack Wakeland and The Intellectual Activist? Saying that Bush is weak and calling for principled strength as an alternative? Saying that America's problems springs from a corrupt and inconsistent philosophy that undercuts its very strengths and virtues and working to communicate a rational alternative? If this be treason, make the most of it.

Does Wakeland, a man who seems to call upon every arcane and concrete-bound source he can find to justify his reporting, know that Iran seeks nuclear weapons? Does he know that Pakistan already has them? Does he know that Saudi Arabia provides spiritual and material support to jihadists? Does he recall the pressure the US placed upon Israel to exercise "restraint" when dealing with the jihadits who seek its destruction? Did he see the reports from Madrid and London highlighting the ability of Al Qaeda to slaughter innocents? Does he recognize the unabated self-censorship American newspapers have engaged in when faced with the decision to publish cartoon images that offend Muslims?

Perhaps Wakeland recognizes all these points. I have no personal knowledge of his thinking or lack thereof. Yet where I and other Objectivists see the appalling failure to think and act in defense of American rights, Wakeland finds heroism. He writes glowingly of President Bush:

When American was attacked, Mr. Bush knew that the best defense was a strong offense. Which of our past presidents would have had the courage to act on that knowledge--the moral courage to kill in defense of a supreme value? No more than two of the past four presidents--Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, or Carter--would have kept fighting when 54% of the population didn't approve; when hundreds of our nation's young men were sent home in body bags.
Claiming a leader is "Clearly Better Than Carter" is not a serious argument in defense of anything. The current Bush administration's weakness is not excused by the failures of previous presidential administrations.

As president, George Bush enjoys sweeping powers to shape foreign policy, including the power to set the terms of the debate by framing who are America's allies and who are its enemies. President Bush could have chosen to target all of militant Islam--including its intellectual and spiritual founts--as early as 8:46:40 AM on September 11, 2001, give or take a few seconds for him to adequately think things through. President Bush could have chosen to act upon his "axis of evil" speech, as well as his claim that the world either stands with America, or it stands with the terrorists. Instead of waging a half-hearted and piecemeal war, President Bush could have chosen to crush the jihad and fight to make America secure.

Instead, the president chose to praise the faith and raison d'etre of the enemy as religion of peace, obscuring the fundamental cause of the conflict. The president chose to justify America's motive for waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan as the altruistic desire to bring freedom to tyrannical backwaters rather than protect American security against a naked threat. And he and his administration have chosen not to kill the enemy in the numbers necessary to defeat him, instead favoring a strategy perpetual war over one of swift victory. Wakeland's defense of such failures is obnoxious, yet he still takes one last stab at the anti-administration Objectivists.

Before rejecting Mr. Bush as inadequate to be the man responsible for the defense of our country, our way of life, and our very bodies, we should understand that his vices are the vices typical of an honest American and his virtues are the virtues typical of an honest American. Reluctant to use ideas and to think long range unless pressed by adversity, George Bush is not our intellectual equal, not fully the kind of man we want to lead us into war. But he is like most good Americans. He will never knowingly give up the battle.
What is Wakeland talking about? Bush has already given up the battle. It has been almost five years since September 11th. If the enemy we fight is as small as Wakeland claims, why do the jihadists still draw air? And if an American city is leveled from an Iranian nuclear attack, would anyone ever be able take comfort in Jack Wakeland' claim that the America's failure to defeat the jihad was the product of President Bush's unknowing mind? While there is zero possibility of the jihadists establishing a worldwide Caliphate, they can certainly work to destroy an American city or two on their way down. After all, the jihadists literally worship death. As such, any success the jihadists enjoy is because we give to to them.

Ultimately, it is Wakeland who has surrendered--to a crop of evangelical Christians and neo-conservatives. In order to contort the state of the union so as to defend his hero, Wakeland must surrender the real battle against the litany of irrational ideas that reject self-interest and abandon the responsibility of the government to serve as the uncompromising protector of the American people. Rather than recognize that egoistic principles are being sacrificed by an administration that values compassion over ruthlessness in battle, Wakeland has instead slandered Objectivists who hold the administration in account for the philosophy it adheres to and the policies it enacts.

Why Wakeland takes his stand is beyond me, for one can't expect to defeat altruism by glad-handing its practitioners. I hold that in writing his article, Wakeland has turned Benedict Arnold against Objectivism's real freedom-fighters. And sadly, that such a misguided article was ever published signals the steep decline of The Intellectual Activist as a tool in the Objectivist arsenal. The Intellectual Activist once was a profound asset in understanding how ideas drive history and how to understand a mixed premise for what it is. When it prints screeds like Wakeland's, I find it hard to be positive about what drives it now.

I know one thing though: no one intones that I'm a "traitor" and gets away with it.

Monday: Part II: The Conviction

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:: Thursday, March 23, 2006 ::

$50K to Fight for Freedom 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:48 AM

Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has the power to change the world. From her groundbreaking explanation of the power of the human mind to discern reality, to her moral justification for individualism and capitalism, to her defiant exultation of heroes, Ayn Rand presented mankind with a proud new vision of himself. This vision has inspired millions across the world, yet for Objectivism to truly change the course of history, those who are animated by Ayn Rand's vision must choose to carry on with the fight she first stated.

And to help carry on the Objectivist fight is precisely why I founded the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. When first launched in 1998, it was because I believed that the advance of Objectivism required a group that was both intellectual and activist and that was uniquely dedicated to defending Ayn Rand's trader principle as the only legitimate basis for our social relationships. The Center's mission was thus defined as using Objectivism to present policymakers, the judiciary and the public analyses to assist in the identification and protection of the individual rights of the American people.

In the years since the Center's founding, it has repeatedly achieved groundbreaking results. Its advocates have appeared in the nation's newspapers, on radio and on TV, including economist Richard Salsman's appearance on NPR's Justice Talking and my own appearance on national broadcast television when I was a guest on ABC's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. The Center's arguments in defense of Microsoft were included in the Department of Justice's "major comments" list during the Microsoft antitrust trial--the first time the Objectivist argument calling for the abolition of antitrust was given such consideration, and both times the Center held press conferences defending technology and industry and attacking the environmentalists on Earth Day, C-SPAN came to cover the event.

The Center's advocates have also fought for America's right to self-defense against Islamic jihadists. In one of my proudest moments, after I debated the Oxford-trained director of the peace studies program at George Mason University on the right of the US to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, the university president who was in attendance commented that debates like the one I just participated in were "the reason we have universities." Earning that praise was an incredible victory, for it showed that our best efforts in representing our philosophy will earn us an audience--the first step in changing our culture for the better.

Yet unlike many groups that refuse to touch the controversial, not every principle the Center fights for wins on the first try. The Center stood with students who were refused admission to a public university because of the color of their skin, just as it stood up for the free-speech rights of businessmen as they were sued for "false advertising" because their company bought newspaper advertisements that defended the firm from the unjust smears of critics. When doctors were persecuted by antitrust regulators for attempting to bargain with giant, government-created HMO's, the Center was one of the only voices to stand up in their defense--even when their own medical associations refused to defend a doctor's right to profit form his own hard work.

Why fight for these unpopular causes? Because ideas and their consequences matter. Even if one doesn't secure an immediate victory, the first battle lays down the foundation for the next. And that is why I believe Objectivism's advocates must go to the realms where ideas are discussed and debated and profess objective truths about issues that are important to people's lives. If Objectivism is to have increased currency in our culture, its advocates must confront the enemies of reason and freedom with our answers to the questions of our time, even if Objectivist ideas are first met with skepticism. Remaining silent gains one nothing; only by being outspoken can one hope to gain converts.

And I hold that this organization rests upon a combination of ideas, skill and ambition that ought to be nurtured and supported. The Center fights the long fight--but to continue, we need your help. We need you to stand with the Center and help make it a success. We need you to help financially support our advocacy.

That is why I am launching the "$50K to Fight for Freedom" campaign. Fifty thousand dollars is what I believe it will take to re-energize this group and restore it to a full-fighting stance. Fifty thousand dollars is the amount of money the Center needs to be able to raise even more money for its projects, projects such as the Capitalist's Amicus Curiae program, our writing program, and a student leadership conference where the Center's experts can meet with the next generation of Objectivists and give them the benefit of our knowledge and experience.

And that is where you come in. I need you to give your financial backing to the Center--I cannot do it alone.

And if the Center cannot raise this $50K, it will be time to admit defeat and throw in the towel. This not a threat--it is a recognition of the reality that if we can't raise this small amount of money to conduct our projects, the Center simply does not enjoy the support necessary for it to succeed.

I never have liked fundraising letters that take desperate tones--they always sounded fake to me--but I must confront the fact that this organization has its back up against the wall. I hope you agree with me that it shouldn't--that the contributions the Center makes in the advance of Objectivism are valuable and that with even more support, the Center can achieve even loftier goals. Please, join me and make a contribution to the Center today.


Nicholas Provenzo

PS: The future of your freedom literally rests in your hands. I ask that you act today and make a donation, however the amount, in support of the Center and its fight for a better tomorrow.

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:: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 ::

America's injustice to Sam Waksal 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:09 AM

This op-ed by John Lewis and me goes out to newspapers today:

Remember ImClone? This was the company founded by physician Sam Waksal, an immunologist who worked for years to develop a treatment for cancer. His company had one product: the drug "Erbitrux" which promised to extend the lives of thousands of desperately ill people. While Erbitrux has lived up to its pledge, the government has nevertheless destroyed the life of its creator.

First a recap. In 2001, Waksal was told by a government insider that the FDA was going to reject approval for his drug. The FDA's ruling would prohibit him, along with every doctor and every patient in America, from using Erbitrux-even in a last ditch effort to save a dying life.

The fallout from the FDA's decision would be ruinous, for Waksal, his family, his shareholders and for desperate patients, yet securities law required Waksal say nothing of the "inside knowledge" that the government had leaked to him. In the face of the impending castration of his company by regulatory fiat, Waksal was simply expected to sit silently and do nothing. Unsurprisingly, Waksal was unable to squelch himself.

So in June of 2003, Waksal was convicted of "insider trading" and sentenced to prison for seven years for the crime of telling his family to sell their stock. During his sentencing, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley told Waksal that the harm he caused was "truly incalculable." Since his conviction, Waksal has been forced to pay millions in restitution to his alleged victims.

Yet despite all the attention paid to his case, it is not Waksal, but FDA regulators who have blood on their hands. The FDA was the source of the leak that prompted Waksal to tell his family to sell. The FDA decision to forbid the use of Erbitrux destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars in shareholder wealth and led to Martha Stewart being sent to prison for the ridiculous crime of asserting her own innocence to federal investigators. All the while, the cancer patients who would have benefited from Erbitrux needlessly suffered and died--as many as one hundred people a day according to one estimate.

In the face of thousands of lives needlessly shortened, it still took the FDA over three years to reverse its original decision and permit doctors to use Erbitrux as a treatment for colon cancer, and only this month has the FDA expanded its permission for doctors to use the drug to treat cancer of the head and neck. All the while, the FDA has repeated the regulator's mantra that it has acted only in the "public interest."

But is the FDA's claim true? It is worth comparing the goals of Waksal-a scientist, businessman and creator--to the goals of a government regulator. Waksal's mission was to command nature by bringing life to people suffering from the most intractable disease to ravage the human body. He relied upon the independent judgments of doctors and patients that his product would help them. Success would mean that his cutting-edge drug prolonged the lives of dying patients and profits for Waksal and his investors.

In contrast, the government regulator's goal is not command nature, but to command men--men like Waksal. Why? Because we have vested regulators with the absolute power to substitute their judgment for our own in the name of protecting us from our choices. It matters not to the regulator whether a million people could have been saved during the wait for a new drug to meet their approval--any appraisal other than the regulator's simply does not factor.

In a system that respected freedom in medicine, a doctor and his patient would choose for themselves if the benefits of new medicines outweighed their risks. Yet under the current system of government controls, it is the regulator alone who decides who lives or dies. If one wants to see the naked exercise of power and the horrific price paid by innocent victims, it can be found in the saga of Erbitrux and its creator. It is not Sam Waskal, but government regulators who have caused "truly incalculable" damage to people's lives.

So at root, government regulation--the real cancer metastasizing in the brains of America-remains unexcised. Sam Waksal is confined to prison with over four more years to serve for the crimes of creation and of self-protection. All the while, Waksal's regulators sit comfortable in their government offices, secure in the knowledge that they will never be held to account for any of the lives they destroyed as a result of their deeds.

There is no drug to fight diseases such as the FDA--only better ideas can end the plague of a government that tells the terminally ill and their doctors what is good for them, and jails those who create the means they need to live. To avenge the injustice done to Dr. Waksal and the thousands of faceless victims of the Erbitrux fiasco, Americans must take back the power of the regulators and leave people free to live by their own minds.
This case is one of those monstrosities that makes one want to punch the wall. For years there has been grumbling that the FDA is "risk adverse" and that its posture is to blame for untold deaths, while at the same time, the drugs that it does approve are later recalled. So who are these people to make massive life and death decisions for anyone, let alone a nation of 300 million people? Why do we allow it? It mystifies me.

And it makes me think that another article that deserves to be written would be on the legacy of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle--the novel that led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. The theme of Sinclair's ponderous tome is that life is a hospice and man in incompetent to cross the street (a character literally drowns in a street puddle) let alone make a decision about his life. According to Sinclair, only the group is omniscient, by virtue of the fact that it is a group.

When I read The Jungle about year ago, I was stunned just how ridiculous its portrayal was, yet I can’t count how many times--going all back to grade school--that I have seen this text referenced as the foundation of our modern era. Spare me. The ImClone debacle is the fruit of our era. If we value our lives, it would behoove us to fight against those who think they have the right to control us.

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:: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 ::

Is 'Islamophobia' justified? You bet it is. 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 10:27 AM

I would not blanch if I were ever charged with "Islamophobia." "Islam" means "submission," or subjugation to religious tyranny. The root Greek term phobia means fear. The American Heritage Dictionary and other American dictionaries cite two meanings of phobia: the first is a persistent, abnormal, or illogical fear of a specific thing; the second is a strong fear, dislike, or aversion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines phobia as "fear, horror, or aversion, especially of a morbid character."

I confess that, yes, I have a morbid fear of Islam, for I know its means and ends, which are incompatible with my existence as a free, thinking man.

Yes, I harbor a strong dislike of Islam, and of anyone who defends it, or submits to it, or dismisses it as nothing to worry about (Islamists, say their Western apologists, really don't mean to conquer anyone, they just want to "get along").

And, yes, I have a resolute aversion for Islam, because of what it requires of men, which is the abdication of their minds and selves, their abandonment of reason as a guide to the conduct of their lives, together with the substitution of a ghost's and others' dictates as their "moral" guide, and their consequent and necessary membership in the ranks of an enemy army.

In this context, "Islamophobia" can be defined as a fear of being under the rule of a theocracy -- any theocracy -- but especially a tyranny that promises death, dismemberment, or slavery for anyone not submitting to it. Any doubt about its means and ends ought to be dispelled by citing just one of the many verses from the Koran that prescribe the fate of non-believers in Allah to develop a healthy fear of Islam: "They (infidels) will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off."

So, call me an infidel. As a novelist and writer, I take words at their literal meanings. That verse is not a euphemistic proverb that could by any means be interpreted as an expression of a Muslim's personal "inner struggle" for faith or an overture of peaceful coexistence, as Islamic scholars would have us believe. What commentators frequently overlook is the fact that these same scholars do not contest the English translation of those verses. Ambiguity in language ought to trigger anyone's suspicions. Never mind those scholars' reassurances that it doesn't mean what it says; feet are feet and hands are hands. Clarity such as can be found in the Koran about the many unambiguous ways that infidels, Jews, and other "people of the book" should be treated ought to provoke revulsion and opposition. Or even a phobia.

The inspiration of this observation was a transcript of a debate televised on Al-Jazeera on July 26th, 2005 between Wafa Sultan, a psychiatrist and former Muslim living in hiding in Los Angeles, and Dr. Ahmad Bin Muhammad, an Algerian professor of religious politics and an Islamist. Sultan was just as acerbic in her condemnation of Islam as Oriana Fallaci, the outspoken Italian journalist, while Bin Muhammad was not only vitriolic but blind-sided by her articulate, courageous and uncompromising apostasy. President Bush ought to be required to spend a day with her at Camp David, and less time consulting with glad-handing conciliators Condi Rice and Karen Hughes. Perhaps he would emerge from that encounter shaken but with a more efficacious policy of dealing with this country's enemies.

A phobia, of course, is usually an irrational or unreasoning mental condition. Its object is typically spiders, snakes, mice, heights or some other mundane phenomena. But, it can be fixed on a very real nemesis and have a rational basis. In this instance, the nemesis is an ideology closed to reason, one that could destroy the countless values that constitute Western civilization and make life a living hell (provided one is not first killed or crucified) if one remembered what was lost, or at best a miasmatic existence of servitude to the anointed and privileged, of joyless drudgery and degrading ritual.

A thinking person will move from his phobia to an analysis of what it is he fears and a method for combating it. One graduates from that to a healthy contempt for Islam and all things mystical. One should become almost coldly dispassionate about it, allowing one to formulate arguments against it and for its antidote.

Still, if I am ever accused of being an "Islamophobe," I will reply with two thumbs up and my most charming smile.

Islam is not the only nemesis threatening civilization. Free men are faced today with a steady diminution of their freedom at the hands of their own political leadership, whether the anti-American Left, the religious, God-fearing Right, or a "moderate" mix of the two, as the scope of especially federal power exercised in all realms of life continues to expand and suffocate liberty. Free men are besieged on two fronts: at home, where the enemies of freedom wish to regulate it out of existence in the name of the "public good"; and from abroad, in the name of Allah. If one wants to understand why our political leadership will not or is unable to oppose Islamofascism, consider the mutuality of ends of both parties: the incremental erasure of freedom with subtle and not-so-subtle applications of force.

Homage and unthinking loyalty to multiculturalism, "tolerance," and political correctness save our political leadership and most of our intellectuals the soul-searching bother of examining the consequences of either their own actions and policies or those of this country's enemies. They are literally daft about "democracy," believing it gives them leave to turn productive Americans into a tax revenue generating dhimmi (or subjugated population, a term invented by historian Bat Ye'or as a consequence of her study of populations conquered by Islam).

The Democrats and Republicans are still beholden to Roosevelt's Brunswick stew of the "four freedoms," which have served as the unchallenged coda of our burgeoning welfare state, soaring national debt, and foreign policy. While the mentally myopic rant about the most irrelevant matters ("I have a right not to get breast cancer from second-hand smoke," "I have a right to wheelchair access to anywhere I want to go," "I have a right to sue a company for my stupid use of its product," "I have a right to affordable medical care," and so on), and legislators promise to do something about them, a predator lurks beyond our shores, loping impatiently in the darkening forests of Eurabia for a chance to strike us again. It settles for the time being for the gang rape of a Swedish woman or the murder of a Dutch filmmaker or the torture and murder of a French Jew. But its glance always returns to America, where its proxies, such as CAIR, are busy preparing the ground for conquest here, as well. Islam's appetite is boundless.

Belgium's population is approaching the fifty percent Muslim mark, and that country may be the first in Europe to succumb politically to Islamist conquest. This would be ironic justice, considering the bureaucratic dictatorship headquartered in Brussels that goes by the name of the European Union. Perhaps the name of this nascent regime will be revised to the "Eurabian Union." Doubtless those "freely elected" mullahs and imams will insist on it. But one can bet that when it happens, all of Europe's tolerant multiculturalists will be the first to feel the ax blades on their necks or the stilettos in their hearts, if they don't first emigrate to safer shores. Just one look at the state of Europe would be enough to give any sane man a phobia, and vow to never let it happen here.

But it is happening here under the politics of "progressive democracy," or incremental socialism and the "socialization" of a public school educated, dumbed down citizenry. Progressivism has been the stealthy nullification or expropriation of property rights and, most recently, the abridgement of freedom of speech. A citizenry "conditioned" to tolerate the legalized banditry of our government will tolerate or remain insensate to the seductive but deceptive blandishments of Islamism.

Consider the cluelessness of the colleagues of an American "peace worker" taken hostage months ago and recently found dead near a Baghdad rubbish heap, his body riddled with bullets and obviously tortured before being executed. What was their response to the news? Not outrage, or anger, or even a word of vengeance. Just humility and an incomprehension that can be traced to the scuttling of their rationality by altruism. "He was working for peace, why would anyone want to kill him?" Despite the tank car trains of Western blood spilled by Islamist killers over the past thirty years, altruism prevents them from grasping that the killers are not interested in peace and do not grant good-intentioned, unarmed peace workers any kind of immunity or dispensation. The beasts are jihadists, and American journalists, peace workers and soldiers are their interchangeable targets. "Good intentions" to jihadists are an invitation to conquest.

Speaking of good intentions, there is President Bush with his willingness to sacrifice American lives and wealth in a Wilsonian policy to "democratize" the Mideast, instead of defending this country. The phenomena of the clueless peace workers and Bush's suicidal foreign policy are intimately linked by altruism.
And too often now, when I consider my fellow Americans and the death grip that altruism has on their minds and actions, I feel a phobia coming on.

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:: Monday, March 20, 2006 ::

'V for Vendetta's' counterfeit revolution 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:45 AM

I understand why libertarians are all orgasmic over V for Vendetta, the Wachowski brothers' adaptation of Alan Moore's dystopian graphic novel. Much akin to libertarian itself, this is a movie that glorifies revolution without ideas.

The movie's premise is as follows: fueled by the collapse of the US and its failed war against Jihad and after enduring a biological attack that killed 100,000 Britons, the United Kingdom has become a totalitarian dictatorship. One man, concealing his identity by his omnipresent Guy Fawkes mask and known only as "V," begins a violent crusade to destroy the government.

Why does "V" engage in his crusade? As the victim of the government's medical testing, "V" knows that the current governing party created the pandemic that led to its current stranglehold on political power. Does "V" communicate this seemingly crucial fact (and the philosophy behind it) when he seizes the nation's airwaves to mark his destruction of London's Old Bailey in the beginning of the movie? No, there's no Galt's speech presented here. "V" simply states that something is wrong with world and that Britons should join him in the streets when he blows up Parliament a year later in honor of Guy Fawkes Night. After declaring to one of the film's villains that "ideas are bulletproof," does "V" offer any glimpse of what ideas his revolution fights for, instead of what it fights against? Again, "V" is no John Galt. Instead, he is a bloody anarchist who enshrines vengeance over the principle of individual rights.

So while "V" can quote the Jeffersonian admonition that "people ought not fear their governments, governments ought to fear their people," he can't seem to quite recall the portion of the Declaration of Independence that established why a people would ever need to create a government in the first place. V for Vendetta offers chum for practically anyone who would like to unleash a blood frenzy against government, including Muslims upset about Koran abuse, homosexuals tired of government oppression, people opposed to genetic engineering, surveillance cameras, taxation, or the war in Iraq--with "V" it doesn't really matter why. If you hate the state, "V" throws you a bone. Only intellectual revolutionaries, such as the American founders or Objectivists, are left out of V for Vendetta's premise.

And in a moment of utter irony, despite seeking to slip in an indictment of the Bush administration's expedition in Iraq, V for Vendetta nevertheless copies a key element of the administration's Forward Strategy for Freedom: the imposition of political change though force, without any corresponding intellectual argument or change.

And that's why at the hour of "V" triumph, when Parliament is destroyed, the tyrants are slain and the masses take to the streets, one can't help but wonder "and now what?" Such are the fruits of counterfeit revolutionaries.

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:: Friday, March 17, 2006 ::

Why is the Bush Administration sacrificing our Marines? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:20 AM

Here is a story out of Iraq that caught my eye:

About a dozen Marines are being investigated for possible war crimes in connection with the deaths last year of 15 Iraqi civilians who were initially reported killed by a roadside bomb.

The Navy has opened a criminal investigation into the November 2005 bombing and subsequent firefight between Marines and insurgents that led to the deaths of the Iraqi citizens, defense officials said Thursday.

The inquiry will attempt to determine whether the Marines acted appropriately when they fired back at insurgents following a roadside bomb attack in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, said a military official who requested anonymity because the investigation has not been announced yet. The civilians were hit during that battle.

Military officials in Iraq completed a preliminary investigation and have forwarded it to the Navy Criminal Investigative Service there. Several defense officials acknowledged the investigation was taking place, though the details were provided by one official.

According to the official, the initial allegations of possible violations were brought to the attention of the military by a reporter in mid-February.

Fifteen Iraqis, eight insurgents and a Marine were killed during the Nov. 19 firefight, which began when a roadside bomb detonated next to a joint Iraqi-U.S. squad patrolling Haditha. Immediately after the explosion, insurgents attacked the patrol with small arms.

The Marine killed was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2 of the 2nd Marine Division; two other Marines were wounded. Defense officials would not identify the unit or Marines involved in the investigation. While several Iraqis were part of the patrol, they are not involved in the investigation, the official said.

Military officials will try to determine whether the Marines followed the international law of armed conflict, including whether they positively identified or tried to identify the enemy and whether they determined there was hostile intent, as they are supposed to do.

The law regulates international military operations, and anyone found in violation can be held liable for war crimes and be court-martialed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It is not uncommon for insurgents to launch attacks from homes, hospitals and other public buildings, where civilians can get caught in the crossfire. [Lolita C. Baldor, AP]
Let us consider the basic facts. There is no legitimate reason for Iraqis to oppose the US mission in Iraq. The US has toppled a bloody, brutal dictatorship and replaced it with a government whose constitution was written by the Iraqis themselves (and US policy in this regard has been excruciatingly deferential, for the Iraqi constitution is a mess). Despite the magnanimous treatment of the Iraqi people by the US, many in Iraq nevertheless oppose the US mission and have either given material support to the Iraqi insurgency, or have allowed the insurgency to flourish by failing to fight it themselves.

In a direct attack against US forces that resulted in the death of an American, civilians were allegedly killed. Rather then blame the insurgency for creating the conditions where innocents perish, our own government is investigating our Marines for falling to properly identify their targets under the precepts of “international law,” i.e. the Geneva Convention.

Forgive me for being brutally blunt, but the only acceptable response by Iraqi civilians to an attack on American forces is for the Iraqis to immediately point out who carried out the assault so our troops can utterly annihilate them, and then hide, lest these civilians come between our men and their mission. Anything less is to side with the insurgency. Anything less makes these civilians the real enemy in Iraq—the real source of the insurgency’s power. The insurgency does not exist in a vacuum; it survives only because the Iraqis allow it to survive.

This story goes directly to the heart of Yaron Brook's argument against just war theory and the defects in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war against America’s enemies. Our government is sacrificing the lives of our solders in the name of minimizing harm to the enemy. In the name of “international law,” it is fighting an altruistic battle when justice to our men demands that they be left free to locate, close with and destroy the enemy without squelching their ability to fight.

And last I checked, the Geneva convention have never been consistently applied to the treatment of our forces in battle. Remember the Bataan death march? Remember Malmédy? Remember the Hanoi Hilton? The Geneva Convention may serve our forces if America ever goes to war with France, but since the chances of that happening are remote, the Bush administration and Congress would be better served by simply acknowledging that warfare is brutal and that the responsibility for the death and suffering that occurs on the battlefield rests solely with the party that initiated force. The just war is the one that ends quickly, because the enemy’s forces and their means of support are fair targets to be dispatched with ruthless force and deliberate speed.

So at root, I say the Geneva Convention be damned. The war in Iraq should be brought to Iraqi civilians, who allowed Saddam to flourish, who either actively or tacitly support the insurgency, and who have taken little initiative to restore order to their own brutal mess of a country.

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:: Thursday, March 16, 2006 ::

Reality catches up with art 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 7:40 AM

Readers old enough to remember their high school civics classes might recall an earlier expression of "multiculturalism" and "diversity" before these terms were ever coined, that America was a "mosaic" of races and cultures, not a "melting pot" of reason, freedom, and the rule of law. They may recall, with some distaste, their teachers expounding with sanctimony on the subject and their textbooks describing it in preacherly prose. Neither the teachers nor the textbooks, however, offered any guidance or advice about what would happen or what action to take if the elements of that "mosaic" proved to be inimical or hostile to each other and resulted in violent, destiny-defining clashes.

Move from the classroom to home and television. Fans of the four series of "Star Trek" will recall the "Prime Directive," a world "Federation" rule that forbade Enterprise crews from "interfering" with primitive alien cultures, no matter how barbaric and irrational they were. With very few exceptions in the episodes, this rule was strictly and conscientiously observed. Also stressed in the series was the notion of "toleration" of alien cultures and practices, no matter how impossibly "inhuman" they were portrayed. Those cultures were to remain "pure" and undisturbed, left alone to "evolve" on their own, if ever.

But what was the origin of these ideas? Long before the debut of "Star Trek" in the 1960's, they had filtered down from the modern philosophy taught in our universities to Hollywood, philosophy imported from Europe and tailored for American consumption and promulgation over the course of a century. The relativistic, anti-reason, subjectivist, anti-absolute, reality-denying contents of that philosophy, unopposed by even so much as a fillip of Aristotelian philosophy, helped to indoctrinate not only the writers of those and other television programs, but the culture in general. Then came multiculturalism, "diversity," and "tolerance," all shielded under the mantra of political correctness.

President George W. Bush may or may not have been a "Star Trek" fan, but the "Prime Directive" seems to be the foundation of his foreign policy. Islam, in his view, is a religion of peace "hijacked" by extremists and criminals, against whom we are waging (and losing) an unimaginably costly war. Islam, to him, is itself exempt from criticism or judgment. The true nature of the creed eludes him. The thematic similarities between the Koran and, say, Hitler's Mein Kampf, apparently are beyond his grasp. If Iraqis "democratically" vote themselves a theocratic government as repressive as Iran's, the West should not be judgmental, even though it is sacrificing blood and treasure to make it possible. "Tolerance" means adopting a policy of non-judgmentalism, and is the natural partner of the altruistic policy of "sacrifice."

We can, however, thank the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for introducing and concretizing a new nemesis long before its real-life counterpart made itself known. This was the "The Borg," a ravenous, nomadic phenomenon bent on conquest through the destruction of civilizations and the absorption and forcible conversion of their inhabitants into ant-like ciphers with no volition of their own. Its collective by-word and warning was "Resistance is futile." The sole alternative to submission to it was death. Its goal was to erase all traces of individuality and values from men so they could better serve "the hive."

Islam (or submission) can be characterized as a real-life "Borg." Islam is a creed that demands unthinking, unreserved submission and obedience to the commands of a ghost, purportedly related by an angel (Gabriel) to a pedophilic barbarian-cum-prophet some fourteen centuries ago, and that encourages the conquest and absorption of secular Western societies under primitive Sharia law. Colonies of Muslims appeared and grew in the midst of those societies, in Europe, Canada, the United States, and other Western countries. They were an alien phenomena that first seemed as anomalously insular as the Amish and Hassidic Jews, but have begun to exhibit a virulence that would not otherwise have been noticed, acknowledged or even tolerated but for the emasculating effects of multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance.

Then-chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Omar Ahmad, told a gathering of California Muslims in July 1998 that "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran...should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth." If that ever came to pass, what would happen to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Presumably they would suffer the fate of the Alexandrian Library in a Muslim campaign to cleanse men's minds.

Islamic spokesmen and activists belligerently demand, first, "toleration" of their irrationalism, and then the cessation of any form of criticism of the creed that could be deemed or defined as blasphemy, offense, or "hate crime." On the premise that Islam cannot be "reformed" into a less hostile, non-aggressive creed without destroying it -- a task that would in fact render it as "benign" as that of the Amish, and no longer "Islam," once its homicidal commandments were expunged from the Koran -- what has been the overall Western response to its demands, which are absolute and non-negotiable? Why is the West retreating from the threat of conquest? Why does resistance to Islam appear to be "futile"?

Let us examine some incidents in which Western values, especially freedom of speech, have been challenged and confronted by Islam, and all but abandoned by the West.

In Britain, during the height of the Danish Mohammed cartoon uproar, the police covertly photographed demonstrators in London who carried placards that promised or advocated death for the cartoonists and anyone who "insulted" Mohammed. These demonstrators, however, if they are arrested, will not be charged with inciting murder or violence against individuals, but with "hate crimes." Conversely, anyone expressing a position on Islam that Muslims could claim to be offensive, may also be charged with a "hate crime."

The notion of "hate" crime subverts the whole idea of criminal responsibility, in addition to making mere thought a crime. On one hand, the concept treats an emotion as a crime and grants it legal, prosecutable legitimacy. Since all emotions are based on conscious or subconscious evaluations, or thought, an emotion can manifest itself in some form of objectionable expression (which could be rational or irrational) in oral or printed form.

On the other hand, the notion of "hate" crime grants legal legitimacy to the purported victim's claim of offense, wounded pride, or other emotion-based response to any criticism of the victim's "beliefs," including a sense of jeopardy caused by the "offending" expression.

How easy it will be to shift the definition of a "hate crime" from an inflammatory placard or a shouted imprecation during a demonstration to include an article, essay or book! Are Western judiciaries ready to strike down hate crime laws? No. They are rapidly endorsing their introduction into Western legal systems.

Most Western newspapers demurred reprinting the Danish cartoons out of "sensitivity" to Muslim religious values (although Muslim-run newspapers and news services feel no such constraint when depicting Jews, President Bush, or Western values). The staffs of several American and European university papers were fired or penalized for printing the cartoons. In Minnesota, a professor of geography at Century College was censored by her school's administration for posting some of the cartoons on the bulletin board of her department, even after she hid them from random sight.

Several Mideast editors ran some of the cartoons, not out of sympathy with freedom of speech, doubt about the veracity of Mohammed, or to defy their governments, but simply to show other Muslims what the uproar was about. They were arrested, or dismissed, and their papers closed. One editor in Yemen (a U.S. "ally") faces the death penalty.

Europe is reaping the perilous harvest of its decades-long experiment in multiculturalism and tolerance of the irrational, and there is no reason to think that the endemic Muslim violence there will not be emulated in the U.S. Many European countries, especially France, are experiencing a spike in gang rapes of "unveiled" European and "apostate" Mideast women by Muslim men and teens as a form of jihad. European politicians, artists and writers who have spoken out against the dangers of Islamofascism or who have been critical of Islam must have police protection. Many Muslim sections of European cities are "no go" areas to the police. A Turkish Muslim proclaimed in 2003 that Paris, Rome and Madrid were now components of the Islamic world because so many mosques have been erected in those capitals.

It can't happen here? American Muslims are not "into" jihadist behavior? Daniel Pipes has on his site logged dozens of instances of "mini-jihadi" in the U.S. committed by resident Muslims, the most recent being the attempted murder on March 3rd of students on the campus of the University of North Carolina by an Iranian immigrant who drove an SUV into a crowded pedestrian zone with the intent of killing as many Americans as he could. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, age 22, was the quintessential "moderate," Western-educated Muslim and model student (majoring in philosophy and psychology) who before his action displayed no overt signs of hostility towards his adopted country. His statements, after his arrest, comprise the kind of anti-American rant one can find on jihadist websites or in al-Quada videotapes.

Pipes is understandably perplexed by the event, and writes that Taheri-azar was "not some low-life, not homicidal, not psychotic, but a conscientious student and amiable person." He reaches some wrong conclusions and offers an irrelevant solution. Muslims, he writes, should develop "a moderate, modern, and good-neighborly version of Islam that rejects radical Islam, jihad, and the subordination of 'infidels.'" However, the term "radical Islam" is redundant. Remove jihad and the subordination of infidels from Islam, and there is no Islam. The problem is the creed, just as it is with Christians who attack abortion clinics or murder doctors, and with environmentalists who torch car dealerships or attack animal research labs.

The idea of "non-interference" ala Star Trek is evidence of multiculturalism's influence in the general culture. It, diversity and "tolerance" combine to close the door to rational discussion and persuasion in every detail. It renders helpless law enforcement to deal with the irrational, barbaric ethics and practices of Islam. Muslims can get away with their irrationality under the protection of multiculturalist "tolerance." Any proposal or move to dilute Islam's "purity" as practiced by Muslims triggers claims of Islamophobia or apostasy or even racism, not only by Muslim spokesmen, but by many Westerners, as well (such as Hollywood). From the Islamic perspective, "tolerance" is a unilateral policy to be benefited only by Muslims, while "multiculturalism" or "diversity" certainly is not on the Islamic agenda of global or even American or European conquest.

Only two choices are open to the West: submission to Islam by means of a totalitarian repression of free thought and expression imposed by Western and especially by American authorities; or an assertion of the Western values of reason and individual rights and of their superiority over any species of mysticism, and a declaration of true war against Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The alternative is to experience the degradation of progressive subservience or "tolerated" dhimmitude in deference to the "Borg."

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:: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 ::

Blame Capitalism! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 3:12 PM

Consider the following article by Charles Leroux and published by the Chicago Tribune:

Growth, capitalism fueled flames of disaster

On the morning of Oct. 8, 1871, a Chicago Tribune writer who -- in the tradition of the era, wasn't given a byline -- rose to the occasion of the biggest story in the city's history:

"Only a few minutes elapsed after the striking of the alarm before the flames were seen sweeping into the sky. ... The wind -- seeming to rise as the flames did -- set from the southwest, carrying with its outward rush streams of sparks, cinders and partially-burned wood, which covered the sky with dazzling spangles, sweeping northward like a flight of thousands of meteors."

Headlined, "THE FIRE FIEND: A Terribly Destructive Conflagration Last Night," that story was the first coverage of the Great Chicago Fire, a blaze that would kill at least 250 people and destroy 18,000 buildings -- theaters, hotels, banks, newspaper offices and public buildings.

The blunder wasn't putting a kerosene lamp near a cow (widely dismissed now as the cause) but the city's eagerness to grow faster than any place in history and, in its eagerness, charting a course for disaster.

In less than 40 years since its birth as a city, Chicago had grown from a half-mile-square town of 150 people to an 18-square-mile city of 340,000. It grew at a frenetic pace, fueled by anything-goes capitalism. Whatever the endeavor, if it made for money and development, it was good.

As a result, Chicago had become a tinderbox. Most buildings were wood, the cheapest and fastest material for construction. Those few made of stone or brick were heavily trimmed in wood. The sidewalks were wood; so were the signs and the roofs. Downtown streets were lined with pine planks.

In 1868, the Fire Department warned of the "grave defects in [the way] which our city is being built," and noted that contractors often cut corners, creating "firetraps pleasing to the eye," but in fact "all shams and shingles."
So the people were poor and built with materials they had on hand. If only the regulatory overlords had been there to protect them from their poor benighted selves.

Yet cites had burned before Chicago and they did so when autocrats ruled. So why then is capitalism to blame for the Chicago fire? Were there no fires in Chicago prior to its great fire? Were there no courts to impose civil liability for allowing dangerous conditions that led to fire? The author does not say--his accusation is simply allowed to stand without evidence or balance.So it's interesting that he end his op-ed with the following observation:

On Oct. 11, while embers still smoldered, the Tribune's headline was "CHEER UP: Chicago Shall Rise Again."

The words were prophetic. Skipping hardly a beat, Chicago turned its greatest goof into greater (though safer) growth spurt that made it, as the 19th Century ended, the only major city on the planet that hadn't been a city at all at the beginning of that century.
Ah, so capitalism also caused the
(well, implicitly, at least).

What an idiotic article. I am amazed garbage like this even gets published.

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So it is the student who has to change his act 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:49 PM

Chuck Green, veteran Colorado journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Denver Post, points out the real lesson of the Jay Bennish diatribe-as-geography saga:

The teacher, after arguing that he had given balancing views to counter his heavily biased tape-recorded version of President George Bush’s presidency and the U.S. capitalist political system, was asked in one interview what that balancing view was. Specifically, had he compared Bush’s "style" with anyone else’s besides German dictator Adolph Hitler. Given several moments to consider his answer, and prompted a couple of times by the radio host, Bennish came up blank.

The astonished host pressed again, asking if Bennish had "ever" made a different comparison of Bush, with any political figure in history, he again could not produce an example.

In another interview session, on a different radio program, some of Bennish’s students were asked what balance Bennish had provided to his tape-recorded lecture. Although all of the students said he had provided balance, none of them could think of any examples.

Either Bennish had failed as a teacher, or the students had failed as pupils - there was no evidence that the students had grasped the lesson.

"He teaches, like, in an interesting way, you know?" was the typical response. "He’s fair, you know, in what he teaches us, like, he covers both sides, you know?"
Um, like, whatever.

Green notes that the student's defense of their teacher paled in comparison to the arguments made by Sean Allen, the student who first exposed Bennish’s diatribe-laden teaching technique:

During more than a dozen radio interviews last week, Allen was articulate and probing in presenting his case - the kind of student you would expect to find in an accelerated class, which Bennish teaches.

Unfortunately Allen and Bennish won’t be seeing much of each other now. While Bennish returned to his classroom Monday, after a week of administrative leave, Allen is changing schools.

The two made a good pair - even if their roles seemed reversed at times.

In his discussions of the controversy, and in his analysis of the issues involved in Socratic teaching methods, Allen appeared to have a good grasp of world history and politics - a field of knowledge he didn’t credit Bennish with teaching him. He also seemed eager to debate all comers, not shying away from defending his decision to expose Bennish’s teaching style.

Bennish, on the other hand, avoided the press most of the week and seemed almost reticent about debating his class structure in the few media interviews he granted. In the most confrontational interview, with talk-show host Peter Boyles, he was utterly unable to engage in an effective defense of the political content of his world geography class.
So while none of Bennish’s actions have had any negative effect on his career as teacher, the student who exposed him is forced to move schools, in part due to the fact that several of Allen’s peers were openly hostile toward him for airing his grievances, making him feel unwelcome on campus.

Amazing. Why is it again that we are forced to pay the salaries of teachers like as Bennish and the public schools as such when any dissent from those who demand more for themselves and their children is crushed?

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'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:36 AM

If there ever was an event worth two trips to see, it was The Objective Standard's inaugural lecture featuring Dr. Yaron Brook's on the "Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense (a lecture based on his now publicly-available article of the same title).

Here's a quick recap: in contrast to America's prosecution of earlier wars in its history, America today is not effectively waging war against jihad. America is choosing the wrong targets, it is placing the lives of the enemy above the lives of its own soldiers, it is unwilling to confront the source of the enemy's power and it ultimately cannot prevail given its week-kneed posture. America has adapted this stand because its leaders are acting upon the "just war theory," an altruistic premise that dictates that one must renounce selfish interest when prosecuting war in order for that war to be moral.

Brook quoted Michael Walzer, author of a West Point textbook on military ethics:

A soldier must take careful aim at his military target and away from nonmilitary targets. He can only shoot if he has a reasonably clear shot; he can only attack if a direct attack is possible . . . he cannot kill civilians simply because he finds them between himself and his enemies. . . . Simply not to intend the deaths of civilians is too easy. . . . What we look for . . . is some sign of a positive commitment to save civilian lives. . . . if saving civilian lives means risking soldiers' lives the risk must be accepted.
Remember, the author is talking about sacrificing the lives of our soldiers in order to protect the lives of the enemy who either explicitly supports his nation's government and military, or tacitly supports it by his inaction. "Just War Theory" is altruism at its most vicious, reducing a moment of life and death into a cause for sacrifice--to one's worst enemies, yet its tenets dominate the political scene with little opposition.

Brook's alternative is to "just war theory" is to recognize that "the sole moral purpose of war is the same as the sole moral purpose of any other action by a proper government--that is, to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Every moral issue pertaining to war must be judged by this standard-and only by this standard." According to Brook, a proper war is an uncompromising fight that seeks the destruction of the enemy and the "complete restoration of the protection of individual rights and thus the complete return to normal life."

Here Brook is at his most controversial: When prosecuting a war to protect individual rights, the enemy's civilians are not "collateral" that must remain undamaged at all costs. Civilians, along with the enemy's military and government are all legitimate targets; much as William Tecumseh Sherman recognized during the American Civil War when he broke the back of the Confederacy though his march though the south. In a war of self-defense, they enemy's civilians are not to be treated as separate from their government, but as the cause of its actions and the source of its power.

Brook is absolutely right. War is hell. War's "curses and maledictions" are caused by the enemies of individual rights--not by those seeking to defend themselves. To spare such an enemy from pain when such pain would lead to his submission is utterly bankrupt. Some will certainly blanch at the thought of targeting civilians and holding them responsible for their government's policies. Yet as Brook observes, governments do not exist separate from their people; governments are the product of a people's dominant philosophy. Thus, every citizen ought to take his nation's politics seriously and fight against the causes of war. To fail to do so is simply to place one's life at the mercy of warmongers and in the way of those who seek rightful vengeance against them.

I give great credit to The Objective Standard for hosting such an important talk. The Standard is advancing a bold position that deserves a hearing. I encourage Rule of Reason readers to subscribe to the Standard; both because the ideas expressed in its pages will illuminate their own thinking, but also because the Standard is clearly taking an activist posture, which deserves to be encouraged and supported.

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:: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 ::

The problem with atheists . . . 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:54 AM

Slavoj Zizek argues for atheism in the New York Times:

For centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace?
The problem with vesting one's hope for humanity in atheism is that atheism only rejects faith in God; beyond declaring what it does not accept, it has nothing else to offer philosophically. That’s unfortunately why so many atheists are moonbats—they may have rejected one form of mysticism, but it does not follow that they have rejected all forms. That’s why I’m not surprised when Zizek says this:

A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.
Ah, Hume—and a moral code that is still disconnected from the individual’s life. A moral deed is not its own reward—it is recognition of the facts of one’s nature as a living human being and the nature of choices one must make in order to flourish. Every rational moral choice is self-interested—even if given the nature of our times, it doesn’t seem that way to most.

Zizek makes one last observation:

While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.

What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.
But I don’t respect Muslims for their beliefs. I respect the Muslims right to hold their beliefs (and harm no one but themselves in the process) but I have nothing but contempt for any code that damns existence on this earth in the name of the supernatural. Life demands rationality, and that is why, in the end, atheism is not substitute for Objectivism.

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:: Monday, March 13, 2006 ::

Live-blogging 'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:31 AM

If I can get myself set-up today, I hope to live-blogg the Objective Standard's Washington, DC press conference featuring Dr. Yaron Brook, foreign policy expert and president of the Ayn Rand Institute.

If not, I'll just report on it when I get back.

Update: Upon further reflection (of the variety one enjoys when one shows up to an event that occurs 24 hours in the future) I shall endeavor to blog the press conference tomorrow.

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:: Sunday, March 12, 2006 ::

Gallery Sunday 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:22 PM

Objectivist art historian Lee Sandstead is in town, and I tagged along as he went to the Corcoran Gallery in DC to photograph one of sculptor Daniel Chester French's awe-inspiring statues.

I find experiencing works of art such as French's eminently rewarding. Works such as this one serve as powerful testimony that exquisite love is possible—and within our reach. When standing before the white marble, one witnesses the fruit of the hundreds of artistic decisions and the thousands upon thousands of hammer and chisel strokes necessary to create such a masterpiece. When contemplating the message the artist seeks to communicate, one cannot help but stop and think to one’s self, "oh, such glories that belong to man."

And what does a work of art like that have to do with the philosophy behind capitalism? Everything. If you could convince an opponent that the ultimate outcome of individual freedom and egoistic passion is a moment of sublime, unencumbered love (an expression that is blasphemy to far too many in our world today), I think it would be a lot easier for our civilization to answer the struggles it faces—and once and for all move past them.

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:: Friday, March 10, 2006 ::

Jay Bennish Reinstated 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:36 PM

The story on Jay Bennish, the tirade-launching, America-hating high school geography teacher just took a turn for the surreal with Bennish's reinstatement.

Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish will be back in the classroom Monday, Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Monte Moses said today in a press conference.

Bennish, 28, has been on paid administrative leave after student Sean Allen made public a 21-minute, 40-second recording of part of the teacher's lecture the day after Bush's State of the Union speech.

In that lecture, Bennish compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler, questioned U.S. foreign and drug policy and suggested that capitalism was "at odds" with human compassion.

After hearing the recording, school district officials concluded that Bennish's comments appeared to be inappropriate and that he may have violated a district policy requiring teachers to present balanced viewpoints when teaching controversial subjects. [Rocky Mountain News]
So the Cherry Creek Schools are now taking the position that the taxpayer ought to pay the salary of a teacher who detests America and seeks to indoctrinate students in Marxism rather than teach the subject he has been hired to teach. Brilliant.

Ladies and gentlemen, once again we are presented with the fact that the public schools are an abject failure to our nation’s young.

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Is Google's Orkut service is being used for recruitment by Al-Qaeda? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:45 AM

I have a profile on Orkut, a social networking website run by Google, but I hadn't visited it for ages. Hearing the story at the USA Today on Al-Qaeda using Orkut to recruit English-speaking supporters, I went to Orkut to look up the online communities in question. I was stunned—here were a group of people viciously denouncing the US and reveling in the murder of its people. Clearly, some of the most vicious elements in the world have hijacked this website in order to disseminate their message of jihad against the west.

Instapundit’s Glen Reynolds has a new book called An Army of David’s where he argues that the rise of the Internet culture has given voice and influence to a who new group of people who without their blogs and social reworking websites would be ignored by traditional media. Reynolds is dead on and I myself depend on this medium to communicate with those who share my values. The double-edged sword is that the same technology that allows me to link with my supporters can be also exploited to link up those who seek to re-constitute the caliphate.

Yet to decry Al-Qaeda’s hijacking the web is ridiculous, akin to decrying its hijacking of airliners on 9/11. Anything Al-Qaeda touches is used for corrupt purposes. The vehicles Al-Qaeda uses were not built in the Arab world, nor the satellite telephones, or the video recorders it uses to film its messages, yet Al-Qaeda has used each in furtherance of its cause. This is an enemy whose material assets are only what he is able to take from us.

So the walk away message from this story can’t be that the Internet has become evil, or that we need a regimen of censorship to police the web, because by extension all everyday technology would become suspect. Technology is a tool, and it is as good or as bad the people who use it.

Instead, we ought simply focus on the ideology of our enemies and work to crush that. Let’s face it: we keep pussy-footing around the enemy. Had Iran’s mullahs been silenced and the Syrian regime had been smashed, Al-Qaeda would not exist. Had the US allowed Israel to destroy the Palestinian terror machine and those who support it, Al-Qaeda would not exist. Had the UK broken the backs of the imans who use London mosques to recruit terrorists, Al-Qaeda would not exist. And had the West declared that anyone who harms a westerner or western property over some cartoons and a printing press will suffer a certain, painful fate, Al-Qaeda would not exist.

It is not the Internet that makes Al-Qaeda possible; it’s the West’s unwillingness to ruthlessly seek out and destroy militant Islam that makes this terror group a continued force. How long Al-Qaeda thumbs its nose as us is not up to it; it’s up to us.

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:: Thursday, March 09, 2006 ::

CAC's Weblog makes Little Green Footballs blogroll of anti-idiotarians 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:23 PM

Woohoo!! See the list here.

So when is Instapundit going to throw us a bone???

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A Vicar stands for justice 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:03 PM

Dr. Michael Hurd writes on this story at the Daily Dose of Reason:

I have more good news for you, coming out of Europe. Reuters of London reports that a British vicar whose daughter was killed in last year’s London suicide bombings has stepped down from her parish role, saying she cannot and does not want to forgive the killers.

"I rage that a human being could choose to take another human being’s life," the Rev. Julie Nicholson told a regional BBC program. "I rage that someone should do this in the name of a God. I find that utterly offensive. Can I forgive them for what they did? No, I cannot. And I don’t wish to. I believe that there are some things in life which are unforgivable by the human spirit."

Her associates in the church are trying to soft-pedal it, but her words sound clear as a bell to me. Terrorism is evil and wrong. There's no reason whatsoever to forgive it. Christianity is, therefore, wrong in preaching that forgiveness is a virtue.
Amen, and I hope Nicholson is able to find solace in a sense of justice that says the good is never served by kissing the ring of the wicked.

And I wish Nicholson more than that. I wish that no mother ever has to find herself wrought with pain over the death of a murdered innocent. I wish that the institutions that exist to protect against such outrages act with a swiftness and sense of purpose the finally destroys the enemy and his ability to project force. And I wish that after that last jihad has collapsed, that men and women can live together in goodwill, happy in the knowledge their right to live by their own mind and for their own stake will never be challenged by others again.

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Well, what else do you think they teach there? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:52 PM

AP: Former Teacher Surrenders at French School

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This is what the Jihadists want . . . 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:22 AM

Some interesting commentary from a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar's attack against her fellow students [hat tip: Michelle Malkin]:

Taheri-azar didn't just want nine funerals with nine gravestones to mark his crime. Taheri-azar wanted front-page photographs of our faces in anguish; he wanted to draw us into reactions of irrational violence against Muslims; he wanted his day in court.

He wanted us to fear standing in the Pit - the spot that represents everything Islamist terrorism seeks to eradicate.

On UNC's campus, the Pit is a literal place where worship, art, music, poetry, relationships, celebration and charity thrive. It is a sacred space on our campus - a brick sanctuary for dialogue, nestled between two libraries full of mankind's diverse ideas.

When Qutb says the West "does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence" he called our very existence a debauchery, an abomination and an unjustifiable stain on history.

We are a nation of disparate values. We cannot unite behind religion. We live among saints and sinners of every denomination and creed.

We cannot unite behind symbols - such as a flag that we alternately hail and ignite or a Bill of Rights some call gospel and others hypocrisy.

Islamist terrorists find one true path, while we embrace the possibility of multiple truths. There are few things in this country that we harmoniously coalesce behind and even fewer times when we speak with a united voice.

And that in and of itself is worth fighting for.

Above all we believe in - and demand - a political space where we can disagree. [Ginny Franks, The Daily Tar Heel]
Franks is so close to getting it that a hummingbird's breath could move her to a complete understanding. Our civilization respects the individual's right to his own judgment--that's what the text of the Bill of Rights protects. In contrast, Islam's sacred texts call for the sacrifice of anyone who does not submit to its creed.

The contrast is material and it's the virtues of our way that are worth fighting for.

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No, Ms. Noonan, Hollywood really does hate America 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:02 AM

Peggy Noonan weighs in on this year's Oscars at the Wall Street Journal:

You don't have to be a genius to figure out that viewership of the Oscars is down because movie attendance itself is down, and that movie attendance is down because Hollywood isn't making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex.

There are those who think Hollywood hates America, and they have reason to think it. Hollywood does, as host Jon Stewart suggested, seem detached from the country it seeks to entertain. It is politically and culturally to the left of America, and it often seems disdainful of or oblivious to its assumptions and traditions.

I don't think it is true that studio executives and producers hate America. They are too confused, ambivalent and personally anxious to sit around hating their audience. I think they wish they understood America. I think they feel nostalgic for what they remember of it. I think they find it hard to find America, in a way.

I also think that it's not true that they're motivated only by money. Would that they were! They'd be more market-oriented if they cared only about money. What they care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.
Noonan is half correct. Hollywood is dominated by the left because philosophy is dominated by the left and the arts always follow the philosophy of their time. Nor can it be said that the right offers any real challenge to the left in this regard: fundamentalist Christians don't produce groundbreaking artists in the same way they don't produce groundbreaking scientists. Noonan's observation Hollywood is consumed by status also follows as well: when you are in a room with people who each have their fortunes, the only dividing line left is status. (After all, there's a reason they don't let Rob Schnieder in the Academy). But Noonan is wrong to think that Hollywood does not hate America. Hollywood hates America because it hates reason, it hates individualism, and it hates capitalism.

How does Hollywood hate reason? Remember "A Beautiful Mind" about the Nobel-winning mathematician who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia? What did the movie seek to enshrine: a scientist discovering new methods to observe mathematical relationships, or a mentally diseased cripple struggling to survive amidst his visions? Both? OK, how did the scientist save himself? Oh, he didn't: it was love that saved him. So when faced with the challenge of making new discoveries and overcoming mental illness, Hollywood tells us all we need is love. "A Beautiful Mind" won the 2001 Oscar for "Best Picture"

How does Hollywood hate individualism? Remember "American Beauty," the movie about the materialistic advertising executive who leads the perfect life in appearances, yet is confronted with existential angst? What did that movie seek to enshrine: egoists who take thoughtful steps to find their own happiness and fulfillment, or depraved freaks who mindlessly worship upon the alter of their every whim? "American Beauty" won the 1999 Oscar for "Best Picture"

And how does Hollywood hate capitalism? This time, I note the total absence of any critically acclaimed film that represents a businessman plying his craft and treats him like a hero for doing so Businessmen are routinely cast villains to the point of cliché. Yet it impossible for Hollywood to envision a hero of production worth spotlighting if they hate the social system that makes businessmen possible and the moral basis for such a system.

Yes, I know Hollywood is far from consistent; it gives us the occasional "Gladiator" and even Mel Gibson, the director who threw blood on the screen for "The Passion of the Christ" also threw it on the screen for "Braveheart." Yet at root premise, Hollywood does not respect the nation that makes its existence possible; like most intellectuals, it worships a different value over that of western civilization.

If this wasn't so, we'd already have a movie that depicts our victory over the jihad. That's why I disagree with Noonan's estimate of Hollywood, and that's why I think the Hollywood problem is a symptom of a far larger illness that afflicts our nation.

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:: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 ::

Jay Bennish update: Bennish adopts the Marion Barry defense 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:42 AM

I have to hand it to Jay Bennish, the left's favorite stream-of-consciousness high-school teacher. With his teaching job on the line as a result of a student releasing a tape of one of his anti-capitalist, anti-US classroom rants, Bennish was able to turn his interview on the NBC's Today Show into an opportunity to blame the victim--with a helpful assist from Today Show host Matt Lauer.

According the interview transcript [hat tip: NewsBusters], Lauer matter-of-factly declared that the family of the student who taped Bennish's diatribe "shopped it around to conservative media outlets" (i.e. economist Walter Williams, who first broke the story in his column). Sensing a conspiracy to throttle the teaching of high school geography, Lauer then asked Bennish if he felt he had been "set up"--you know, just like Marion Barry said when he got caught smoking crack. Bennish's answer:

"Well you know the lecture initially was an introduction to world geography and we were covering very, you know stereotypical terms like mental mapping and cultural landscapes. And I was receiving questions from Sean [NB: Sean is the victim of false consciousness that framed Bennish] as well as from other students trying to get me to respond to the State of the Union address that was the night before and I explained to the students that in the case of the State of the Union this is applicable to a world geography class because for many people around the world this speech might impact their lives more so than the speeches that their own, own leaders give."
Good grief--a simple "yes" or "no" would have sufficed. Besides, what ought a professional instructor do when they are asked an off-topic question? (hint: it's not give a Marxist rant). Yet we all know that when two great minds like Lauer and Bennish get together, it's going to even get even thicker. Lauer then asks Bennish if he expected all the national attention:

"From the students? Yes. From the national media and the attention from people all over the country? Obviously not. You know my job as a, as a teacher is to challenge students to think critically about issues that are affecting our world and our society. And you know the process of cognitive dissonance is one way to activate their minds and to get them to think about these various things."
"Cognitive dissonance" isn't a process after a stream-of-consciousness tirade--it's an end state. And why is it up to some poor high school kid to have to talk his screaming teacher down from the ledge? Sorry pal, but when you decry every aspect of the American civilization in a classroom tirade and one of your students records it, that's going to make news.

The interview is not over. Lauer then notes all the support Bennish has received, including a walk-out of students at his high school.

Gimmie a break. You know that teachers like Bennish place no demands on their students as long as they nod approvingly so as to evidence their deep thoughtfulness and talk about whatever crosses their mind in their teacher's glorified rap sessions. I bet even the token resister gets his "A-" on the grounds that he asked some "good questions." For Lauer to act as if these brainwashed kids are the barometer of Bennish's competence as a teacher is appalling. They are not the judge.

The acid test is if Bennish's students posses the core competencies that a proper high school curriculum ought to teach. I can't imagine how that would be possible, given Bennish's fetish for long-winded leftist rages. My view: the man deserves to be fired for incompetence, plain and simple. He is free to engage in his rants from behind the counter of his local coffee-house or organic foods store, but not in front of a high-school classroom.

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Yes, we have no server. 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:39 AM

Reported it to the host company--apparently we are suffering from a larger problem plaguing our host.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Update: back online as of 2:30 AM--all's well that ends well.

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:: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 ::

Wafa Sultan: the bravest woman in the world 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:40 PM

I've been utterly remiss in my duties--here are links to the Memri TV's video and transcript of the courageous Wafa Sultan's recent clash with Algerian Islamist Ahmad bin Muhammad over Islamic teachings and terrorism on Al-Jazeera TV. Here's just one snip of Sultan's response to the jihad:

My colleague has said that he never offends other people's beliefs. What civilization on the face of this earth allows him to call other people by names that they did not choose for themselves? Once, he calls them Ahl Al-Dhimma, another time he calls them the "People of the Book," and yet another time he compares them to apes and pigs, or he calls the Christians "those who incur Allah's wrath." Who told you that they are "People of the Book"? They are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books. All the useful scientific books that you have today are theirs, the fruit of their free and creative thinking. What gives you the right to call them "those who incur Allah's wrath," or "those who have gone astray," and then come here and say that your religion commands you to refrain from offending the beliefs of others?

I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.
If you haven't done so already, you must immediately cease what you are doing and read every word of Sultan's debate. And if any harm comes to this courageous, inspiring woman from any barbarians who would squelch her voice, may whatever god they appeal to have mercy upon their wretched souls, for we shall not.

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I get a Malkin link 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:35 PM

Michelle Malkin has linked to an article I wrote on the Jay Bennish broohaha. She links to CapMag--here's the orginal Rule of Reason post.

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:: Monday, March 06, 2006 ::

Why is George Reisman making a mountain out of a Mayhew? 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:25 PM

According to George Reisman, Ayn Rand Answers editor Robert Mayhew is guilty of dishonesty toward none other than Ayn Rand herself. Writing in his weblog, Reisman states that Mayhew's decision to edit Rand's replies that may have been inconsistent with her written works was "totally unnecessary" and in fact, any attempt to present Rand's answers in book form is fatally flawed.

Speaking is not writing. Converting lectures, and still more, spontaneous answers in question periods, into the form of an essay or book requires editing and a process of considerable intellectual refinement. As a result, in order to put her oral material into the form of a book, Prof. Mayhew was placed in the impossible position of trying to improve upon Ayn Rand. This is an assignment that no one in the world would be capable of carrying out but Ayn Rand herself.
If that person was claiming that final product was touched only by the hand of Ayn Rand, yes, but Mayhew never makes that claim. What Mayhew does claim in his introduction is that when Rand discussed turning her Q&A sessions into a book, she stated that she did not believe that she spoke well extemporaneously and that her answers "might be good for a first draft, but [they] would still need editing."

So what has Mayhew then done? Given Rand's obvious absence, as a competent and knowledgeable Objectivist who has spent years researching her papers, he has acted as her editor. Does Mayhew ever claim that Rand would have approved of his edits? No. He explicitly states in his introduction that that she very well might not have. Does Mayhew ever claim that his book is part of Objectivism? No--he explicitly rejects any such implication.

Reisman even acknowledges these statements made by Mayhew, yet according to Reisman, "it by no means follows that the most carefully considered, edited writing produced by Robert Mayhew is superior to the spontaneous speech of Ayn Rand. Nothing can be gained from attempting such a conversion when there is no one alive capable of reliably carrying out the conversion." [Emphasis mine]

So the alternative is to simply release Rand's remarks unedited (which she herself considered "almost publishable, but not quite") or present them in audio form only, which would result in a final product that was expensive, cumbersome, and that would likely include statements that if taken out of context would contradict what Rand said in her written works. How such a treatment would serve the mass audience Mayhew's book was intended to reach is beyond me. After all, the extemporaneous comments by even the most powerful thinker cannot be considered a substitute for their written ideas.

What Mayhew has presented is a compact, convenient, easily accessible text of Rand's public answers as edited by a scholar of her philosophy—who states upfront what he has done. Yet such a book is clearly not good enough for Reisman, who demands a seemingly Platonic perfection:

"Even the most minimal respect for honesty would have required explicitly naming all [edited] Q&As and providing the exact text of Ayn Rand's answers in all such cases. If transcripts were not to be provided for all the Q&As, they should most certainly and absolutely have been provided in cases of this kind. That way, the reader would know what Ayn Rand actually said, not what Prof. Mayhew had decided she should be allowed to say."
I marvel at Reisman's characterization of Mayhew as the disrespectful and dishonest redactor of Ayn Rand. Reisman acts as if Mayhew has razed the Ayn Rand Archives he relied upon to compile his book and that other scholars will never be able to examine her words in their original form again. I've read Mayhew's book and I found it to be a fantastic contribution--perhaps not exactly the same as hearing the original audio tapes for the more retentive, but light-years above the distortion Reisman intonates. I recommend Ayn Rand Answers to anyone who wants to get an accurate presentation of what Ayn Rand said about her ideas when questioned.

I also have a recommendation for Dr. Reisman: since he's now the guardian of Ayn Rand's philosophy, why doesn't he contemplate the value of his fellowship at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, an organization that hosts sundry articles like this and this on its website, and whose president hosts this gem on his personal website. Each article serves to inform the reader that Rand organized a cult, not a philosophy, and it seems to me that the continued prostitution of garbage like that is of more material importance than whipping one's self into a froth over Robert Mayhew's alleged editorial imperfections. And if engaging in that troubling moral evaluation doesn't appeal to Dr. Reisman, maybe he could do us all a favor and edit and essentialize his own book.

Hell, have you read all of Capitalism? Neither have I.

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It's official--South Dakota criminalizes abortion 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:16 PM

This just in:

The governor of South Dakota on Monday signed into law severe restrictions on abortion, in a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of the practice 33 years ago.

Abortion foes have said they hope to use the South Dakota law to eventually bring the issue back before the high court, where they believe conservatives added to the bench by President George W. Bush in the last year could weaken or dismantle the court's landmark Roe vs Wade decision of 1973.

[R]epublican Gov. Mike Rounds inked the measure, which had been passed by the state legislature on February 24, after a review to make sure there were no technical problems.

Rounds, who has described the legislation as a "frontal assault" on Roe v. Wade, had vetoed a similar measure two years ago, saying it would have wiped out existing restrictions on abortion while it was fought in the courts.

The new law bans abortion in virtually all cases, punishing doctors who perform one with a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

The measure bans abortion even in cases where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or if giving birth would damage the health of the mother. It creates a narrow exemption in cases in which a physician's effort to save a pregnant woman's life results in the accidental death or injury of her fetus. [Reuters]
This is terrible news--clearly an attempt to test the new makeup of the US Supreme Court. I sincerely hope that CAC can get its Capitalist's Amicus Curiae program funded in time to fight against this usurpation of a woman’s right to control the process of her own body. This is not a fight Objectivists want to leave to others.

Update: Gideon Reich comments on the text of the South Dakota law line by line at Armchair Intellectual.

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God and Missouri 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:36 PM

The following bill, introduced by state representative David Sater is being considered by the Missouri House of Representatives
House Concurrent Resolution No. 13

Whereas, our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation; and

Whereas, as citizens of this great nation, we the majority also wish to exercise our constitutional right to acknowledge our Creator and give thanks for the many gifts provided by Him; and

Whereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object; and

Whereas, we wish to continue the wisdom imparted in the Constitution of the United States of America by the founding fathers; and

Whereas, we as elected officials recognize that a Greater Power exists above and beyond the institutions of mankind:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.
What is the point of such a resolution? It offers no proof that there is a God. It's claim that God's law somehow led to the Declaration of Independence and the federal Constitution after a millennium of religious tyranny is absurd. There is no threat to voluntary prayer anywhere. The resolution binds no one to anything--this bill is utterly without justification or merit.

Instead, what this bill evidences is the conservatives' continuing lust for democracy and majority values over the principle of individual rights. Wouldn't the really brave resolution be the one that affirms the individual's right to his own life, judgment and property irrespective of what the majority thinks?

I think so--but you'll never see such a bill introduced by the conservatives.

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So 'Crash' wins 'Best Picture' 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:29 AM

[spoiler warning]

So Crash, one of the most philosophically objectionable movies that I've seen in a long time, won yesterday's coveted Academy Award for "Best Picture." Crash has two major themes: everyone is a racist but doesn't know it, and no one is a hero, even if they perform heroic acts.

For example, when the policeman character played by Ryan Phillpe (after redeeming his earlier moral failure to act) kills the gang-banging hijacker--who was pulling out a religious trinket instead of a handgun: that was vicious depiction that intoned that our perceptions are fatally flawed. When the detective character played by Don Cheadle is blamed for his gang-banging brother's death by his strung out mother--that was vicious setup too, intoning that the innocent are morally responsible for the fate of the guilty.

Every part of Crash--every one of its intricate plot threads-was dedicated to portraying that mankind barely survives in the face of his omnipresent flawed mind. Yet if life were really like that, day in, day out, no matter what one does or how hard they strive to be just, we'd be paralyzed and forever rioting in the streets in endless spasms of revenge and retribution.

So what if Crash was stylishly filmed and well-acted. All of it was in order to communicate an utterly corrupt Marxist view of how people think. The Marxist theory of racial conflict is that the races are utterly subjugated by the dominant race's power and there's nothing anyone can do about it save for blow things up. Why? Because we are all blinded by of our racial compositions--none of us can never hope to see beyond our myriad of prejudices.

So much for the view that the rational faculty is man's only tool for survival. According to Crash, there is so such thing.

And from all this you get spectacles like when the movie cast made a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and members of the audience asked a black studies professor if they were racists. If you actually have to ask someone if your everyday contempt for people of a different race actually makes you a bigot, you have just achieved a new low in mental acuity.

The fact is each of us does have a free choice when dealing with others. We can either choose to judge people by relevant criteria, or by irrelevant criteria. We can either find a common bond with others, or reject any commonality that exists. This is a conscious choice each of us makes. It may get automatized over time, but somewhere, each of us makes a deliberate decision that will shape our destiny: we either choose to think, or not to think.

Yet in Crash, we are all just victims of unconscious fate--a product of a racial composition we have no control over and utterly paralyzed by the fact we have judge and act.

Wicked. Where Jarhead sought merely to smear the United States Marine Corps, Crash seeks to smear all of the United States.

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BB&T's John Allison on the AP wire 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:03 AM

Another John Allison story got caught in the filters:

On its face, it appeared an odd decision for a banker: to turn down business on a principle that most people don’t think much about.

And so far, the banking giants haven’t seen fit to follow the lead of BB&T Corp.’s John Allison, who declared in January that the nation’s ninth-largest bank would no longer make loans to developers who planned to build commercial projects on land seized from private citizens through the power of eminent domain.

“We happen to believe in the fundamental concept of individual rights, and one of those is property rights,” Allison said. “If that is jeopardized, our entire financial system is also in jeopardy.”

The prospect of losing out on a few loans, or taking a stand alone, hasn’t shaken Allison’s resolve, and has only added to his reputation as a banker whose thoughts routinely stray to the philosophical.

Colleagues probably should have seen it coming from an executive known to quote Aristotle during board meetings.

“John is a student,” said Dick Janeway, the retired head of Wake Forest University’s medical school, who served as a board member at Winston-Salem-based BB&T for years. “He’s a living example of continuing education.”

While often overlooked in a state that’s home to the nation’s second- and fourth-largest banks — Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp. — BB&T has grown from its 1872 founding in rural Wilson into a bank with $109 billion in assets and 1,400 branches in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

The 57-year-old Allison has led the firm as chairman and chief executive since 1989.
“I just celebrated my 35th year with the bank,” he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I made a lot of loans in eastern North Carolina to farmers and I can remember praying some years for it to rain more and others for it to rain less.”

Such low-profile loans and BB&T’s focus on consumer banking had long kept it in the shadow of the bigger banks. Then came last year’s decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 that a local government in Connecticut had the power to seize private property for a private development project. A few months later, Allison said publicly that his bank would forgo any business connected to such taking of private land.

“John has a pretty unshakable moral compass, and frankly I think he is right on this,” said Charles Moyer, dean of the business school at the University of Louisville. “The potential for abuse is great and someone needs to stand up for it. I was not surprised it was John and BB&T.”

Allison is an executive who mixes in re-readings of the works of Thomas Aquinas and John Locke into a book-a-month habit. “My absolute favorite writer is Ayn Rand,” he said of the Russian-American philosopher and advocate of capitalism. His reasoning against eminent domain is based in part on a strong belief in property rights, one of Locke’s cornerstone values, and one shared by the farmers in rural North Carolina.

“To these people, property rights are the single most important thing,” he said. “It’s the basis of economic freedom in this country, so they take it very seriously.” [Paul Nowell, The Associated Press]
Great story. And I have to admit, Allison has made a brilliant play, getting repeated positive national news coverage for a stand that cost him little more than whatever the fee is to send out a press release. I wish more of our political battles were like that . . .

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:: Saturday, March 04, 2006 ::

Welcome to the Inaugural Carnival of the Objectivists! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:58 AM

Welcome! I'm Nicholas Provenzo, founder and chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, and I'd like to welcome you to the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Objectivists. For those unfamiliar with Objectivism, it is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and an uncompromising advocate for reason, egoism, and capitalism. Today’s mission is to highlight just a few of the many Objectivist blogs on the Internet, so without further adieu, let me introduce . . .


Noodlefood is a group blog primarily written by Objectivist graduate student Diana Hsieh and includes posts from her husband Paul Hsieh as well as Don Watkins. This has been a bellwether week for Noodlefood, which is helping Denver-based Front Range Objectivism host this weekend’s Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial System. The conference received an excellent op-ed mention by Ari Armstrong in the Boulder Weekly. Other posts of interest include the flood of replies to Diana Hsieh's post asking her readers what originally "hooked" them into studying Objectivism.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Diana Hsieh holds a coveted position on Instapundit's blogroll, which means either her blog is just that good, or she's got dirt on Glenn Reynolds nasty habits. Heh--Indeed!

::Gus Van Horn

Gus Van Horn is the nom de plume of a scientist residing in Houston, Texas and author of a popular pro-reason, pro-individual rights political and cultural blog. This week, Van Horn dipped his toes into editorial waters, writing the following op-ed on the contrast between the American response to the Kelo decision and the Islamic response to the Mohammad cartoons.

Van Horn’s key observation:

A man's home is his castle, but only if he is a free man. Yet if we here in America are afraid simply to print some innocuous cartoons, our home is no longer our castle. It has become our prison, and the Moslems have become our jailers. The fight to protect our home was not won after Kelo. It really only began in earnest with the cartoon riots and the threat to freedom of speech they represent.

Our press has been deterred from its duty to report the news -- by printing the cartoons the rioters used as an excuse for murder -- by that very same violence. The threat to our home, America, may be more abstract this time around, but it is no less immediate or important. The time to defend it – by demanding that our politicians stand up for freedom of speech -- is now.

I'm pleased to report that Van Horn allowed CAC to add his article our op-ed collection and I hope this collaboration continues to bear fruit.

::The Objective Standard

The Objective Standard is Craig Biddle's new journal. Biddle sent me an advance copy and he clearly has set a new high-watermark for Objectivist commentary and critical review. Biddle defines the Standard as follows:

It is widely believed today that our cultural and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left—or to those of the religious, absolutist right—or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, one’s ideas are supposedly either extremely liberal or extremely conservative or somewhere in-between. We at The Objective Standard reject this false alternative and embrace an entirely different view of the world.

Our view is fully secular and absolutist; it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in-between. Our philosophy uncompromisingly recognizes and upholds the natural (this-worldly), factual, moral foundations of a fully free, civilized society.

Culturally, we advocate scientific advancement, productive achievement, objective (as opposed to “progressive” or faith-based) education, romantic art—and, above all, reverence for the faculty that makes all such values possible: reason. Politically, we advocate pure, laissez-faire capitalism—the social system of individual rights and strictly limited government—along with the whole moral and philosophical structure on which it depends. In a word, we advocate Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and apply its principles to the cultural and political issues of the day.

Ayn Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth.” The reason why it is a philosophy for living on earth is that its every principle is derived from the observable facts of reality and the demonstrable requirements of human life and happiness.
Needless to say, The Objective Standard is going to be an important tool in the advance of Ayn Rand’s ideas.

::Cox and Forkum

No Carnival of Objectivists would ever be complete without noting the stupendous achievements of Cox and Forkum, the hands-down most intelligent, most original editorial cartoonists in America today. Here's their latest:

These men are incredible and I wish them continued success.


Literatrix is the personal blog of Jennifer Snow, who posts include book reviews such as her recent examination of the works of Thomas Paine. According to Snow:

My initial impression is that this man was the absolute nuclear generator of quotes; even more so than Ayn Rand, and she is eminently quotable. The reason that both were very quotable is, in my mind, that both spent their time turning a vast complexity of information into simple, memorable principles. They are different, though, in that when you quote Ayn Rand, you have to remember that you are summoning up a vast context for your quote and be careful not to oversimplify the case. Thomas Paine’s quotes generally require little or no context, and he frequently manages to oversimplify the case without the interference of any outside agency.

::Alexander Marriott's Wit and Wisdom

Alexander Marriott is another graduate student blogger and occasional editorialist. Most recently, he is laughing at a Democrat blog promoting a children's book called "Why Mommy is a Democrat." According to Marriott:

This book shows the utter bankruptcy of Democrats in terms of ideas, their conception of keeping people safe it protect them from elephant monsters (Republicans), their conception of economic policy equates to kids sharing their toys (as if this in any way relates to the hard earned fortunes of individuals in the economy at large, not to mention you typically don't pull a gun on a kid to get him to share his "toys").
Marriott goes on to observe that both parties are short of serious ideas, and "Why Mommy is a Democrat" is simply the latest illustration of the general trend.

::The Dougout

The Dougout is a history, politics and current events blog run by Grant Jones and named in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. Jones gets the hat tip for his initial reporting of the University of Washington "Pappy" Boyington outrage that inspired me to write an open letter to the university and get 120 of my Marine buddies to sign along with me. Jones most recently chronicles the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and remarks on Inside Higher Education's review of David Horowitz's 101 Most Dangerous Professors.

::Armchair Intellectual

Armchair Intellectual is the personal blog of Gideon Reich, an old college friend of mine from my George Washington University days. At his blog, Reich reports on some good news for Objectivists:

The first item is Robert Tracinski's article The Lessons of the Cartoon Jihad is featured at the top of the Friday, March 3 edition of RealClearPolitics.com. This is an excellent article which criticizes both right and left for their inadequate response to this controversy.

The second item is a hopeful sign that another important book by a prominent Objectivist may be published by a distinguished publisher. One of my daily pastimes is to check the resume of John Lewis, Assistant Professor of History at Ashland University. I check the resume because he has a section in which he notes the publication status of the books he has written. Specifically, I was very interested in seeing his Nothing Less than Victory published as it includes the details of his argument against the inadequacy of the present war effort with some comparison to a number of historical wars. Over the last few months the listing on the website has mostly been "in progress", which I surmise means that no publisher is looking at it. There was a brief time a while ago when it was listed as "under press review" -- presumably that means that some unidentified publisher was reviewing the book. However, after a week or so of this status, the page was updated back to "in progress." Now however the listing has not only returned to "under press review" but has in fact been updated as follows: "under review, Princeton University Press." This is certainly a very positive and hopeful sign.

I agree. I've seen a draft copy of Lewis' book and he makes many vital arguments. Reich also recently contributed book reviews of The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein and The Abolition of Antitrust by Gary Hull for CAC's Capitalist's Book Club. Eat that for dinner, Oprah.

::The Charlotte Capitalist

Andy Clarkson is the Charlotte Capitalist, and he's posted about my work so many times it's high time I paid him back the favor. Clarkson covers North Carolina and national politics and his most recent posting of note is a parody of the Charlotte Mecklenburg government’s management of the public schools.

For decades the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have run the nutritional system. While a few private grocery stores and restaurants exist, 96% of Charlotte citizens’ food is supplied through a number of Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Board distribution centers. Traditionally, most of the distribution centers have been located close to uptown.

As CharMeck growth has exploded, pressure on the food system has created shortages and conflicts. The suburbs are demanding more food distribution centers and better nutrition. The inner city is demanding renovation of aging centers. The food board says there is nothing it can do without more local, state, and national funding. Without that funding, it will need to sell food bonds for the renovation and building of food distribution centers.

Meanwhile, Charlotte national and state nutritional rankings are far below where they should be. People, particularly the children, are not getting the nutrition they should be getting. The food board points to occasionally spotty areas of improvement, while critics point out longer-term problems.

In order to get to the root of the problem, The Charlotte Capitalist sponsored a workshop to drive discussion of the CharMeck nutritional system. It invited both politicians and pundits. While no ideas or action items, or for that matter anything worthwhile was created, there was a lot of revealing discussion.

As Andy says, here are some, ugh, highlights from the workshop.


Ego is American-in-spirit Martin Lindeskog’s blog. Always plently of good material and lots of cross-posting; in fact, you should just head on over and have a look-see for yourself.

::Daily Dose of Reason

Daily Dose of Reason is Dr. Michael Hurd's blog in support of his private psychotherapy and life coaching practice. Dr. Hurd has the uncanny ability to be published in USA Today, in fact, they have ran his essays more times than I can count, which is quite a remarkable achievement. His most recent "Daily Dose" is on the continued fallout from Hurricane Katrina:

People continue to blame President Bush for the Katrina disaster; but how come nobody blames government itself? The abysmal federal response to the hurricane relief effort was a great opportunity for advocates of limited government (including Republican conservatives, you would think) to point out how government can never do the job that private groups and individuals can. Instead, the media has fixated on Bush and, in the absence of any comments to the contrary, the impression becomes embedded in most Americans' minds that it's all Bush's fault. This is dangerous, because people are now left with the assumption that if only we get the "right" government leader -- not Bush, but somebody else -- then the government will be able to do what no government has ever done or will do: rebuild people's lives after a disaster. Victims of the next natural disaster shouldn't view the Katrina debacle as proof that Bush is bad; they should view it as proof that government is by its nature incompetent, particularly when expected to do what it cannot and should not do.

::Mike’s Eyes

Mike is well, Mike, a retired supervisor from the Detroit, Michigan area. He echos Robert W. Tracinski’s displeasure with the recent anti-American Turkish movie "Valley of the Wolves" and George Clooney’s "Syriana."

Do these actors have the right to smear America? Absolutely. Do they have the right to do it with impunity? Absolutely not. Just as they have a right to condemn America, Americans have the right to condemn them. So, I hereby declare I will not spend a cent to see any movie which casts sirs Zane, Busey or Clooney.

I saw "Syriana" and let us just say that's two hours I'll never get back . . .

::Oak Tree

This blog is by an undergraduate student who often comments on the inanity of some of his classes. Here's his latest:

Summary of today’s Business Ethics class: Won’t someone please [pretend to] think about the children?

Here’s what I learned:

1. Boycotting child labor may hurt the kids even more, but I’m willing to pay the price to feel morally righteous.

Here’s how the actual dialog went between me and prof:

Me: I’m assuming that the poor families are having their children work because they need the money. So abstaining from buying child-labor carpets is essentially a kiss of death for those families.

Prof: It’s true that if children lose these jobs, they will either have to resort to prostitution or starvation. But isn’t this still a rationalization to keep child labor alive?

2. Economic development is an important solution to child labor, but let’s ignore that for now and think about these feel-good solutions.

Again, me and prof:

Me: I agree that child labor is terrible, but it won’t end until these families become wealthier. So I think the only solution is capitalism and economic development.

Prof: I think we can all agree that economic development is ultimately needed, but right now I want you all to choose one of these five. [points to the slide with five possible solutions, all of them suggesting either abstain from buying child-labor products, donating to charity, or a combination of the two]

3. Alright, if you’re going to insist on economic development, can’t we at least do it altruistically?

I was confused by this at the time, but now I realize he was actually trying to come up with an altruistic way to bring about economic development:

Prof: Wouldn’t a country like Nepal achieve “economic development” by using its lack of child labor as a selling point?

Me: I don’t see why. Again, I don’t think the solution is to boycott child labor. Ideally, companies will employ poor children and as the economy grows they will
be employed less and less.

It seems old Oaks is the only ethical person in his Business Ethics class. I recall the feeling.

::Quent Cordair Fine Art

Quent Cordair has Dianne Durante looking at film as an art form in anticipation of Sunday's Oscars:

Evaluating a film esthetically means looking at the "how" of the movie. Do all its elements work together to convey the theme? There may be subplots, plot twists, flashbacks and dream sequences, but once you've watched the end of the film, you should be able to analyze how every gesture, every line of dialogue, every costume and every camera angle contributed to the theme. To put it negatively, nothing should be inexplicable or pointless, and nothing should be confusing unless (as in many mysteries or thrillers) confusion is necessary at a certain point in the plot development.
Read the whole article here.

::Lee Sandstead

Lee Sandstead is simply one of the most brilliant art historians and photographers I know. Sandstead’s website is the photo journal of his adventures in art history as he travels far and wide to capture the most beautiful and inspiring art, wherever it may be. My fiancée recently purchased one of his fine art prints he has available at his commercial website (Monument Light) and we both wholeheartedly recommend Sanstead’s photography to anyone who wants to bring beauty into their lives.

This week, Sanstead highlights this lost gem—lost, that is, to the world of art history, which instead worships in the cult of the ugly. According to Sanstead:

There are so many books that need to be written about nineteenth-century art—thousands actually. While there have been many books documenting the influence of Spanish artists on the French modernists, a more interesting book would concern the Spanish artists that trained, worked and excelled in Academic Paris. This particular artist, Raimundo de Madrazo Y Garreta would be the subject of one such book. (Or maybe several such books.)

Today, little is known about him. For instance, this gorgeous portrait has neither title, date, nor detailed provenance.

But the painting is gorgeous. The sitter, whoever she may be, has the look of intelligence, bearing, and surely commands the attention of whoever looks at her.
I admit, I feel passionately about Sanstead’s work because he is so inspiring and passionate himself. What else can I say? Visit his website today.

::The Secular Foxhole

Blair (not sure if he wants his last name public) is using Ayn Rand to get chatty with babes at the bookstore:

I've just returned from the bookstore, where I had a pleasant conversation with a fine looking young woman who, as it happened, was looking in the philosophy section at Rand's books :-) I couldn't let this opportunity slip by so I said, "excuse me, are you interested in Ayn Rand's ideas?" She said a friend had recommended her works to her and what would I recommend to her (!). I said she should read 'The Fountainhead' but then asked if she preferred fiction or non-fiction. She said non-fiction, and had 'Return of The Primitive' and 'Philosophy: Who Needs It?' already in hand, which I praised highly and also recommended to her 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' "which explains her theory of ethics". We then sauntered over to the Literature section, where I pulled out FH for her.

We continued our conversation about Rand and FH in particular briefly. I left before she did, but she had all four books in hand when we parted company.

I love it!


Thruch is Amit Ghate's blog. Ghate is enjoying a surge in traffic from this article on the cartoon jihad.

To stand together means to assert our rights with our government as our agent. To those who threaten us with force, asserting our rights means responding with force, in fact, with overwhelming force. We must say to Iran (which on February 14 just reconfirmed the Rushdie fatwa) “oust and turn over the regime which sees fit to condemn a single citizen of ours to death, or face all out war.” And if they refuse, give them the war they started, but be sure to win it decisively, not protecting their mosques and infrastructure, but instead doing everything necessary to ensure they have no capacity to ever threaten us again. To Pakistan and India, which host clerics bold enough to put bounties on the heads of our citizens, demand that they turn over the men and their supporters, and if they refuse, go in and take them by force.

For if we fail to reverse our pattern, men will continue to learn that their rights are a sham, that the government’s promise to protect the individual is a hoax, and that only by refraining from thinking and speaking out might they be momentarily safe. Men will then go on to realize that they must seek out true protectors, in the form of some gang; ethnic, religious or otherwise; who may afford them a measure of security, albeit at the cost of complete obedience. Eventually the gangs will fight it out in an effort to wrest absolute power and to subjugate the others.

So will end the great intellectual and political achievement of the West, which began 2,500 years ago in Greece with its discovery and reverence for the individual, and which culminated in the enunciation of the guiding principles of the United States. The end will not come because an over-powering enemy has arisen –- no, to our everlasting shame, the end will come because Western governments, in a display of incredible cowardice and treason, have abandoned and delivered their disarmed individual citizens to a mob of stone-age savages.
Well said.

::Witch Doctor Repellent

Witch Doctor Repellent is Andrew Dalton's cultural commentary blog. He's not sheeding a tear over the recent passing of perennial Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne:

Harry Browne, former presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, has died today. Color me unsad.

Why? This is why. Notice that he was pushing this tripe on September 12, 2001—the day after the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Browne's brand of triumphalist defeatism might seem unremarkable by the standards of today's "anti-war" Left, but he did have the remarkable dishonor of being first. Take that, Michael Moore! Does anyone needed a clearer concretization of why Objectivism is not "libertarian"?
In a word, No.

::Truth, Justice, and the American Way

TJAY is David Veksler’s blog of assorted commentary. Most recently, he writes that the U.A.E ports controversy is overblown:

The U.A.E has some significant freedoms compared to the U.S., especially in some areas that I find personally important. Whether economic or political freedom is more important to you personally is not the issue.

The issue is that the UAE has an economy that is mostly free, and further trade with the West will encourage the growth of productive values instead of the destructive values prevalent in the Arab world. Isolating a progressive country like the U.A.E will be a racist statement that will discourage the rest of the Islamic world from economic liberalization, and instead encourage their anti-Western sentiment—and in this case, with good reason.

This is not about the safety of our ports, as [Harry] Binswanger explained, or the totally irrelevant fact that the UAE is not a democracy. The issue is whether we will recognize the virtue of a society that has chosen civilization, or engage in collectivist thinking and refuse to distinguish a potential ally from our enemies.

* * *

So there we have it, the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Objectivists. The thing is, I only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Objectivists standing up for their values. So until next time . . .

Good Premises!

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:: Friday, March 03, 2006 ::

The Jay Bennish 'Diatribe as Geography' update 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:28 AM

Colorado high school geography teacher Jay Bennish plans to bring suit in federal court in order to be re-instated in the classroom after he was suspended for comments he made during a class lecture. Bennish is being represented by attorney David Lane, who also represented Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who received national notoriety when he compared Americans killed on 9/11 to Nazis.

In an interview on Denver's CBS 4, Lane inadvertently revealed the weakness in his client's case. According to Lane, Bennish's remarks are protected speech-as long as they fit within the curriculum of his class. How a twenty-minute stream-of-consciousness leftist diatribe falls within the rubric of a high school geography class escapes me, so it will be interesting to see how the court rules.

Of course, the key rests in defining the nature of the speech at hand. I was most taken aback by Bennish's absurd and off-topic smears against America and the free market, but the media seems to be highlighting the more concrete remarks against George Bush. I suspect Bennish's attorney will claim that is was those remarks alone that earned Bennish his suspension. As "political speech," Bennish's attorney will argue his client's remarks are protected.

Yet this is not the real question at bar. The real question is simply does an employer have a right to sanction an employee for inappropriate comments that stray from the task at hand. The proper view is to take Bennish in his entire context and determine if his employers have any cause to dissatisfied with any aspect of his performance as teacher. I think it's clear that Bennish's employers have every right to be upset with his conduct and sanction him accordingly. Bennish is free to let loose his diatribes on his own time, but he has no right to demand a captive audience of high-school students.

It will be bad news for education if Bennish wins re-instatement. In essence, the court will have ruled that a high-school teacher has no professional responsibility to follow the school curriculum and that school administrators cannot admonish teachers who bring inappropriate and off-topic opinions into their classrooms.

The tragedy is the whatever the court's decision, the real question behind this debate-which is the legitimacy of the public schools themselves-will yet again be evaded.

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Standing up to Kelo, but Surrendering to Jihad 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 10:59 AM

NB: It's my pleasure to welcome Gus Van Horn's recent op-ed contribution to CAC:

Suppose I knew that one man was a magistrate and another was a terrorist, but I had to pick out the terrorist on sight. If I chose the man in the powdered wig over the man in the kefiyah, you would think me daft. And yet our news media have been making a mistake of the same order in their coverage of two very different stories over the past few months. In doing so, they have completely missed an important relationship between the stories that affects us all.

The two stories are the reaction of the American people to a hugely unpopular Supreme Court decision, and the reaction of Moslems across the world to a hugely unpopular set of cartoons portraying their prophet, Mohammed. Our media often frame the stories as if we have people from two very different cultures fighting for their rights -- but do we? Let's look at the facts.

Last June, in the case Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a local government that wanted to expand the power of eminent domain in order to force residents to sell their homes to make way for a real estate development. Kelo instantly sparked outrage among Americans everywhere. They immediately understood that their very homes were in danger and quickly made their displeasure known by exercising their freedom of speech through letters to the editor, calls to public officials, and lawsuits, for example.

And our elected representatives got the message. The New York Times recently reported that bills limiting the power of eminent domain were pending in nearly every state legislature. The people's outrage had, in fact sparked what the paper called "a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines". Even legislators who'd never met a tax they didn't like became staunch defenders of property rights almost overnight.

In America, a people wanting only to be able to enjoy their homes recognized a threat to that right, took it seriously, and acted to preserve what was theirs. They acted in a civilized manner, consistent with their respect for individual rights.

Now let's look at the reaction across the Moslem world to the publication, in Denmark last September, of some cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed. Although the editors of the newspaper Jyllands Posten knew that Islam forbids images of its prophet, they decided to do so as a protest against self-censorship by Danish cartoonists, after the author of a children's book about Mohammed was unable to find an illustrator.

Moslem reaction has been swift, prolonged, and deadly. Within weeks, eleven ambassadors from Moslem states asked Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to "take all those responsible to task under law", and threatened, "reactions in Muslim countries and among Muslim communities in Europe." Rasmussen, to his great credit, stood up for the freedom of speech of his countrymen.

Since then, violent protests have taken place in ten countries, resulting in attacks on five embassies, thirty-four deaths, and hundreds of injuries over a span of three weeks. Many Western media outlets have refused to show the cartoons, citing concerns that they are offensive. But an editorial in the Boston Phoenix explained its refusal by saying, "we are being terrorized, and...could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year-publishing history."

This is a newspaper in America, a nation organized upon the principle of freedom of speech. For those who might somehow still feel conflicted about whether Moslems have a "right" to not be offended that somehow supersedes our right to criticize Islam, it might be instructive to remember some of Thomas Jefferson's words on the matter of speech offensive to religion. "[I]t does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Contrary to the claims of the Moslem rioters, there is no "right" not to be offended. There is no "right" to forbid someone to say something. There is no "right" to murder someone or threaten to do so over something he has said. Nevertheless, the Ayatollahs and Imams have incited violence and bloodshed over an issue that pales in comparison to the daily fare of self-inflicted degradation and barbarity that constitutes every Islamic state. It is crucial for America's security that we acknowledge that the perpetrators of this murder and mayhem have every intention of continuing to export it and its underlying philosophy it to the world -- and within our own borders.

Throughout the Moslem world, hoards of meddlesome savages saw a cartoon as an excuse to threaten the lives and well-being of anyone anywhere in the world with the temerity to "offend" them -- whatever might happen to "offend" them on a given day. Their barbarous acts stemmed directly from the fact that they have no concern for individual rights -- only what they say Allah wills.

So when comparing the American response to the Kelo decision to the Moslem response to editorial cartoons, nothing could be further from the truth than to say that both stories are about people fighting for their rights. The Kelo story shows Americans protecting their property rights through the exercise of their right to freedom of speech, while the cartoon story shows Moslems butting into our affairs over something that neither picks their pockets nor breaks their legs. In fact, Moslems are doing far worse -- committing murder -- over a few line drawings. Theirs is not a fight for their rights, but a jihad against ours.

A man's home is his castle, but only if he is a free man. Yet if we here in America are afraid simply to print some innocuous cartoons, our home is no longer our castle. It has become our prison, and the Moslems have become our jailers. The fight to protect our home was not won after Kelo. It really only began in earnest with the cartoon riots and the threat to freedom of speech they represent.
Our press has been deterred from its duty to report the news -- by printing the cartoons the rioters used as an excuse for murder -- by that very same violence. The threat to our home, America, may be more abstract this time around, but it is no less immediate or important. The time to defend it -- by demanding that our politicians stand up for freedom of speech -- is now.

Will we take the Moslem jihad against our rights as seriously as we took the government's threat against our homes? The Moslems are no less serious than government bureaucrats, and they want to take much more from us than just the roofs over our heads. Our government wanted only our homes. The Islamists want our freedom.

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:: Thursday, March 02, 2006 ::

Calling all Objectivist bloggers! 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:20 PM

Tomorrow is prep day for the first Carnival of the Objectivists—a carnival where reality is held as an absolute, reason is our only guide, man is treated as an end in himself and happiness (and increased website traffic) is our noblest goal.

So . . . if you want your Objectivist blog to be highlighted at the Carnival let me know no later than 9PM Eastern Standard Time tomorrow, March 3rd.

Update: Lost, confused, don't have a clue: click here and read.

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Jay Bennish's Geography: Anti-America: 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 9:27 AM

This report from Denver based KUSA-TV:

A 16-year-old boy at Overland High School doesn't want to hear what he calls his teacher's left-wing political rants.

Sean Allen frequently recorded his teachers to back up his notes. Allen recorded Jay Bennish, his 10th grade World Geography teacher, making comments about President Bush's State of the Union Address. [audio here]

Allen's father claims the comments made in the recording are biased and inappropriate for a geography class.

"I'm not saying Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they're not. OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use," says Bennish in his critique of U.S. economic and foreign policy.

Towards the end of the class, Bennish goes on to say, "I'm not in anyway implying that you should agree with me, I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think about these issues more in depth and not to just take things from the surface."

The Cherry Creek School District is conducting a thorough investigation of the complaint from the Overland High School parent and student concerning comments.

The school district says at first glance it does appear the teacher acted inappropriately at the very least.

A spokesperson for the Cherry Creek School District said they have placed Bennish on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. This is not a disciplinary action; the school district wants to remove him while they sort through the rest of the investigation.
After listening to the whole tape, one feels the need to take a shower. Basically it's twenty minuets of leftist stream-of-consciousness diatribe attacking the usual suspects (capitalism, the war, the USA, the president). How Bennish’s rant communicates anything about geography escapes me. Yet this story isn’t about Bennish's choice in subject matter for his class or the truth and falsity of his claims. It's about an educational system where there are little or no checks on a teacher's pedagogical method.

How long has Bennish been teaching? What was his curriculum? Who approved it? What did Bennish’s tests look like? Why did it fall to a tenth-grader to show that Bennish’s classes were disconnected from the subject at hand—and reality? Where were the other parents, and what about their failure to provide the proper oversight of their children's education?

It's good that this one teacher has been caught with his proverbial pants down, yet I can't help but be reminded of the larger, more insidious problems that infect our educational system. Consider this story very much in play . . .

Update: Malkin is transcribing the tape here.

Update II: Bennish's students just walked out of his class to protest Bennish's suspension from teaching. Story here.

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Book Review: The Abolition of Antitrust 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:01 AM

NB: This review is by Gideon Reich and is the second installment in CAC's new "Capitalist's Book Club" series.

If there is one alleged shortcoming levied at capitalism about which there is little controversy, even in many allegedly pro-free market circles, it is the claim that unregulated markets allow the formation of coercive monopolies. In answer to the supposed concentration of economic power by businessmen, proponents of government intervention in the economy created the antitrust laws--laws which Justice Thurgood Marshall, speaking for the majority of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Topco Associates claim serve as the "Magna Carta of free enterprise." Today, too few would dispute Marshall's claim.

The supporters of antitrust law argue that allowing companies to compete freely in the market is an injustice to the consumer, resulting in higher prices, as well as being obviously to the detriment of other competitors. These supporters claim that unregulated market competition was already tried in the 19th century and that it led to the evil of the so-called "Robber Barons." Even economists point out that monopolists destroy "perfect competition" and are thus able to earn so-called "monopoly profits."

Hence it is hardly surprising that when the lay proponents of laissez faire suggest that the antitrust laws ought to be repealed, they encounter a barrage of varied objections and may not have the necessary specialized knowledge to answer the various criticisms with which they are presented. Thanks to Professor Gary Hull, director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace at Duke University, there is now a source which contains the detailed answers to the economic, legal, and philosophical objections one is likely to encounter.

The choice of "Abolition" in the title of this book is a powerful inclusion--it seeks to place the repeal of antitrust on the same moral ground as the repeal of slavery during the American Civil War. Accordingly, the arguments presented in The Abolition of Antitrust are a taut integration of law, economics and morality. As such, this book will be anathema to any who see no connection between values and economics because The Abolition of Antitrust serves as both a primer and as a call to arms.

The Abolition of Antitrust includes essays by Dominick T. Armentano, Richard M. Salsman, Eric Daniels, Gary Hull, Harry Binswanger, Thomas Bowden, and John Ridpath, covering topics as diverse as the history of America's views on monopolies (Daniels), profits as viewed by the economists (Salsman), as well as detailed arguments as to the immorality of antitrust (Binswanger and Hull) and several others as well.

One of the most fascinating essays in the book is the one by Richard Salsman. Entitled "The False Profits of Antitrust," it recounts the two hundred year history of economists' inability to understand the nature and source of profits. Profit, Salsman argues,

...has been falsely characterized as theft from manual laborers (or consumers) due to improper "market power," as some transitory residual reflecting "market failure" or a consequence of dumb luck. Tragically, false theories, of profit have become an integral part of the pseudo-intellectual, Byzantine edifice of antitrust law. Since the law rests of false theories, it necessarily assaults genuine market competition, restrains free trade, and penalizes legitimate business gains. (p.27)
Salsman goes on to describe how the economics profession completely misunderstands profits, partly as a result of its insistence on fictional idealized models of market place operation such as the "perfect competition," which according to Salsman, "asserts that profits and entrepreneurs are (or should be) dispensable." Surprisingly, Salsman also criticizes the usually pro-capitalist Austrian school of economics for its inadequate views on the nature of profits:

For most Austrians, profits are not created but "captured"-as one might secure a ransom by a hostage taking. Accepting the false view that markets in equilibrium do not generate profits--yet looking favorably upon profit and sensing that it has something to do with entrepreneurial motivation-Austrians have been left to conclude that markets are in a perpetual state of disequilibrium, that they do not clear, and that entrepreneurs or capitalists do not create profit but, through their arbitrage activity, inevitably eliminate it. (p.46)
In his essay, Salsman proceeds to defend the profits of capitalists and argues that companies which achieve consistently large profits-the typical targets of antitrust legislation-are unjustly persecuted.

It is no surprise then that Salsman's chapter has sparked deep controversy among economists, one even going on to claim that he "[didn't] know of any economists who consider the perfectly competitive model relevant to antitrust analysis" nor knew of any economists "in the past century at least, who would characterize entrepreneurs as 'robber barons.'" Apparently, this commentator has never sat though an undergraduate course in economics or has ever read a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times.

In Editor Gary Hull's essay "Antitrust is Immoral," Hull describes the inspiring but tragic history of the DuPont Company. According to Hull, the story of DuPont's extensive production and marketing efforts of cellophane shows business acumen at its best:

DuPont realized that cutting-edge chemistry and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities were, by themselves, insufficient to create wealth. The company grasped that it need to educate potential customers about the virtues of cellophane. It needed the same creative thinking, the same purposeful plan and productive prowess in marketing and sales that were employed by its scientists and engineers. Tragically, the company's successful marketing would soon unleash the hounds of trustbusters. (p.151)
As a result of its achievements, DuPont was "persecuted and prosecuted." Hull writes that

After World War II, the company wanted to expand its production of cellophane to meet growing demand-a demand that the company had created. Then trustbusters alleged that DuPont "monopolized" the cellophane market and that it had "effective market power"--which is described loosely by defenders of antitrust as the ability to raise prices or exclude competition. Fearful of providing the government with "evidence" of a "crime," DuPont cancelled its expansion plans and was compelled-by the threat of the government's suit-to build a cellophane plant for one of its competitors, Olin Industries. (p.153)
In his essay, Hull identifies altruism as the fundamental moral premise behind the throttling of businessmen through the antitrust laws. Altruism, Hull points out, "does not mean kindness of consideration" but instead that "others-whether society, God, or the state-have a first claim on anything you consider a value, be it your money, property, time, effort, or life." Following the morality of altruism, antitrust's proponents argue that the successful businessman must sacrifice for the unsuccessful--or else. Hull concludes that the abolition of antitrust requires the rejection of altruism and the adoption of rational egoism as an intellectual prerequisite.

The scope and power of antitrust legislation is mind-boggling. Antitrust prosecution and intimidation has included everything from ice cream, to software, to telecommunications, to grocery stores, pharmaceutical companies and individual small-businessmen. To ferment a resistance that one day will lead to antitrust's repeal, it is crucial to challenge the moral, economic and legal premises of the proponents of this unjust law. The Abolition of Antitrust offers powerful intellectual ammunition for those who would choose to fight this battle for justice.

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:: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 ::

'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 2:59 PM

Got this today from Craig Biddle at The Objective Standard--mark your calendar:

"Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense

Who: Dr. Yaron Brook, foreign policy expert and president of the Ayn Rand Institute
What: A provocative talk identifying the only solution to the bloody mess in Iraq
Where: Conference Room, National Press Club, Washington DC (529 14th St, NW)
When: Tuesday, March 14, 2006, 1:00–3:00 PM

The public and media are invited. Admission is free.

Summary: Nearly five years after President Bush declared “war on terrorism,” victory is nowhere in sight. American soldiers continue to die in Iraq for no clear self-defense purpose, while enemy regimes like Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to sponsor Islamic terrorism and spread anti-Americanism without fear of reprisal. The cause of America’s continuing insecurity is not any practical inability to defeat our enemies--America can militarily crush any enemy it chooses--but our leaders’ unwillingness to do what is necessary to defeat them. The only path to American security is real war, self-interested war, a war of genuine American self-defense. In his talk, Dr. Brook will present the principles of “Just War Theory,” the altruistic theory guiding the Bush administration’s so-called “War on Terrorism,” and will contrast them with the principles of a proper moral approach to American self-defense.

Dr. Brook is available for interviews on this topic before and after his talk. He lectures on foreign policy around the world and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows. This talk is based on an article of the same title, by Dr. Brook and Alex Epstein, which is the lead article of the premiere issue of The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of culture and politics.

Contact: Craig Biddle, Editor, The Objective Standard
Phone: (800) 423-6151
Email: cbiddle@theobjectivestandard.com

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A weak-kneed manifesto against Islam 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 11:38 AM

The following manifesto was published in yesterday's Jyllands-Posten [hat-tip: Michelle Malkin]:

Together facing the new totalitarianism

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilizations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and un-egalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatization of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

12 signatures
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq
This manifesto reads a lot like a liberal attempting to talk tough. "Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations." No, Islam is fueled by mysticism and irrationality.

"Nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred." No, the despair in the Islamic world is caused by the totalitarianism and hatred that springs from irrationality--despair is the product, and not the cause of the Islamic world’s woes.

"To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people." No, it is not our job to assure anything beyond our own borders--the oppressed or discriminated people have a responsibility to fight for their own rights.

"We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions." Ok, it's nice that the authors see relativism as a problem, but they are attempting to put a new spin on the term. Cultural relativism really consists of judging a culture that embraces reason and freedom no differently than a culture that rejects them. Cultural relativism doesn’t victimize the Islamic world as much as it disarms the West (unless holding Muslims to low standards now counts as Western victimization).

This letter seeks to be a grand statement, yet in ideas, it gives away far too much. Count me as disappointed.

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Harry V. Jaffa's Central Idea: Freedom is a gift from God 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:11 AM

Harry V. Jaffa, a distinguished fellow at the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of government at Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate School says Americans are not properly justifying their arguments for freedom in today's Wall Street Journal.

As God's creatures, we owe unconditional obedience to His will. By that very fact however we do not owe such obedience to anyone else.

Legitimate political authority--the right of one human being to require obedience of another human being--arises only from consent. The fundamental act of consent is, as the 1780 Massachusetts Bill of Rights states, "a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good." The "certain laws for the common good" have no other purpose but to preserve and protect the rights that each citizen possesses prior to government, rights with which he or she has been "endowed by their Creator." The rights that governments exist to secure are not the gift of government. They originate in God.
So the rights of man are an article of faith. It gets better.

Our difficulty in pursuing a rational foreign policy in the Middle East--or anywhere else--is compounded by the fact that we ourselves, as a nation, seem to be as confused as the Iraqis concerning the possibility of non-tyrannical majority rule. We continue to enjoy the practical benefits of political institutions founded upon the convictions of our Founding Fathers and Lincoln, but there is little belief in God-given natural rights, which are antecedent to government, and which define and limit the purpose of government. Virtually no one prominent today, in the academy, in law, or in government, subscribes to such beliefs. Indeed, the climate of opinion of our intellectual elites is one of violent hostility to any notion of a rational foundation for political morality. We, in short, engaged in telling others to accept the forms of our own political institutions, without reference to the principles or convictions that give rise to those institutions.

According to many of our political and intellectual elites, both liberal and conservative, the minority in a democracy enjoys only such rights as the majority chooses to bestow upon them. The Bill of Rights in the American Constitution--and similar bills in state constitutions--are regarded as gifts from the majority to the minority. But the American Constitution, and the state constitutions subordinate to it have, at one time or another, sanctioned both slavery and Jim Crow, by which the bills of rights applied to white Americans were denied to black Americans. But according to the elites, it is not undemocratic for the minority to lose. From this perspective, both slavery and Jim Crow were exercises of democratic majority rule. This is precisely the view of democracy by the Sunnis in Iraq, and is the reason they are fighting the United States.

Unless we as a political community can by reasoned discourse re-establish in our own minds the authority of the constitutionalism of the Founding Fathers and of Lincoln, of government devoted to securing the God-given equal rights of every individual human being, we will remain ill equipped to bring the fruits of freedom to others.
So according Mr. Harry V. Jaffa, the alternative to the tyranny of the majority is some good old-fashioned religion.

What is astonishing about Jaffa's thesis is his utter unwillingness to come to grips with intellectual history. Why, if faith in God is the fount of all individual liberty, did it take mankind almost 1,800 years to get from the Sermon on the Mount to the Declaration of Independence? Why the Dark Ages? Why the repression of scientists such as Galileo? Why the Inquisition? Why the wars of religion? And why the First Amendment, which protects the individual's right not to have a religion, if all freedom springs from faith in God?

And why should our freedom (or anything else, for that matter) be accepted simply as an article of faith, with no grounding in any sort of understanding of the nature of man as a living organism with a free mind and a being that must take self-sustaining action to in order to survive and prosper? Is Mr. Jaffa, citizen of the freest nation in the history of mankind and beneficiary of the fruits of industrialization and unshackled enterprise, unable to find any rational justification for freedom in our nation's history?

It seems so. And in the process, Mr. Jaffa is conceding the debate to the ilk that says that individual rights are nothing but "nonsense on stilts."

Speak for yourselves, brothers. I find the case for my rights in human nature.

Two massively wicked articles out of the Wall Street Journal in as many weeks. This is an increasingly bad trend . . .

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Um, no . . . 

:: Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:50 AM

This quip got caught in my news filter:

AMMAN — Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa yesterday considered the blasphemous cartoons as part of a "battle against Islam" rather than a symptom of conflict among civilizations, and urged Arab parliamentarians to put pressure on the United Nations to come up with a "strict" solution to this problem.

"I don't think the issue pertains to an inter-civilization conflict. We have to mention the issue in its real perspective — it is a battle against Islam," Moussa said at the opening session of the Arab Parliamentary Union (APU) conference at the Dead Sea resort in Jordan.

"I urge you to send a message to the United Nations that it should address this issue in a strict manner in order we can deal in future with each other on bases that exclude double standards," he added. [Khaleej Times]
A strict manner? For what? Printing a cartoon critical of Islam? That’s what constitutes a battle against Islam in Moussa’s mind?

So how then does Moussa frame the murder of almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11? How does he frame the jihad against American forces in Iraq--forces that dethroned a brutal dictator and replaced him with a freely elected government? How does he frame all the beheadings of western journalists--if mere pen and ink drawings constitute a battle against Islam?

I consider this proof yet again that the Islamic world is utterly disconnected from reality.

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