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:: Friday, October 24, 2014 ::

Majesty vs. Myopia 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 7:32 PM

I begin this column by offering a measure of what I choose to uphold what ought to be a standard of esthetics, at least in portraiture. It is by no means my only measure, but it does reflect a person I once knew, and who is still close to my conception of a romantic ideal. If she is reading this, she will recognize herself.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw is a luxuriant representation of the kind of woman a man ought to want: In the frank, steadfast glance at her auditor is the knowledge of how she is being regarded, that knowledge shamelessly obvious in the set of her eyes and face, in the quiet confidence of her bearing, in her total expression. It is, from my own perspective, at least, a seductive, come-hither look. The hues of her satin gown, the purple sash, and the relaxed set of her arms, the surrounding colors of the armchair, the neutral background, in terms of composition, together all highlight and are all calculated to guide one’s glance to the focal point, that unforgettable, alluring face….

I have other such conceptions. Some are photographic, others cinematic. But Lady Agnew has been anchored in my gallery most of my adult life. A framed reproduction of it hangs on one of my walls. Two of my fictional characters are also painters and portraitists, literary versions of my projection of a romantic ideal: Stella Dawn in Run From Judgment, and Dilys Jones-Skeen in the Cyrus Skeen detective novels.

Well, enough of that. My point here is that this caliber of art has virtually vanished. There are some capable, unsung artists able to produce that quality of portraiture, but they are invisible to the cultural establishment, and if recognized, then shunned, banished, and deprecated. I happen to know at least two such artists, but only one has a website.

To create Lady Agnew required an enormous context and a measure of beauty. Sargent produced other exquisite paintings, some of which I like, others I do not. But, regardless of the quality of his work, it demanded a nominally rational epistemology and metaphysics. Otherwise, his paintings would be incomprehensible as selective recreations of reality, just as contemporary art is largely incomprehensible and incommunicable in meaning.

A canvas of dots and slashes is just a canvas of dots and slashes, regardless of the artist says it is. A pile of I-beams welded to hubcaps and fenders is just a collection of junk, regardless of what the “sculptor” says it is. He could give it some metaphorical name that may mean something to him, but that is just an arbitrary label.

Lady Agnew needn’t even have a name. One knows what she is. She has an identity apart from Sargent’s title. She is an abstraction reduced to a concrete.

Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand offered a philosophy of art that could’ve been understood by Sargent, had he been able to read it, but is basically hieroglyphics to modern artists. In her essay, “Art and Cognition” in The Romantic Manifesto, she wrote:

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. Man’s profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man’s consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence.

In her companion essay in the same volume, “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” she noted:

By a selective re-creation, art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. Out of the countless number of concretes—of single, disorganized and (seemingly) contradictory attributes, actions and entities—an artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction.

For instance, consider two statues of man: one as a Greek god, the other as a deformed medieval monstrosity. Both are metaphysical estimates of man; both are projections of the artist’s view of man’s nature; both are concretized representations of the philosophy of their respective cultures.

Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Art brings man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.
This is the psycho-epistemological function of art and the reason of its importance in man’s life….

Every color, hue, and line in Lady Agnew constitutes a concrete integrated with countless other concretes to recreate an identifiable entity which has been reduced to a single, concretized entity.  Those colors, hues, and lines were determined by Sargent to be essential to the image. They reflect his epistemology and metaphysics in his sense of life and in an estimate of himself.

But, what makes modern artists tick? Why do they continue to present artworks that seem to confess a madness or insanity that is in violent conflict with the norm of “common sense” or which clashes with everyone else’s sensory experience?

Briefly, their epistemologies and metaphysics are arrested at the concrete level. Whether that is a matter of choice or is self-induced or is congenital, is irrelevant. To them, reality is a chaos and no sense can be made of it. Themes are impossible and comprehension of anything is subjective.

Modern art is a child of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century Prussian philosopher who never ventured from his hometown of Königsberg. His philosophy was that “true” reality was unknowable to man, that the contents of his mind are subjective according to layers of filters that sift thru sensory data and produce a false knowledge of existence. Existence was dichotomized into the noumenal world, which man could never know “directly,” and the phenomenal world as conveyed by our senses, which distort or mistranslate the noumenal.

Which, in turn, presents to modern artists a maelstrom of disconnected concretes, an unintelligible universe, with no unifying law or system, in which identities or labels are arbitrary and subjective.

In most cases it is very unlikely modern artists have ever even heard of Kant (or of any of his reality-contesting successors of the 19th century). But by either conscious, calculated inclination to put over a fraud (as Picasso did), or because an artist is an obsessive schizophrenic, chronically nauseous, and who is burdened with a mental cyclic vomiting syndrome and can only “express” himself in episodes of expectoration .

For example, Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” is not how anyone will see a nude woman descending a staircase, not even Duchamp. Remove one of the elements in the image, and it wouldn’t make a difference. Add one or more, and it wouldn’t make a difference. It could have the same title or any other title, such as a “Rasher of Bacon” or “Portrait of My Garbage Man.”

Subtracting or adding a drop of paint or slash of color to or from one of Jackson Pollack’s canvases would not make a difference to the overall, alleged “composition,” regardless of the name given it by Pollack. It could be “Splashes No. 46,” Or “I was drunk as a laird, No. 2,” or have no name.

The focus of modern artists is not on universal themes – which require some level of abstraction – but mere concretes. It is some species of mental myopia that would limit an alleged artist to pick some concretes that attracts him in the swirling dust devil of existence that comprises such a person’s metaphysics.

In your mind’s eye picture a modern artist frantically in search of some one entity his myopia can focus on and recreate (or not) to the exclusion of context. Ah, there’s Andy Warhol’s eight hour “movie” of the Empire State Building. Who can forget his Campbell Soup Cans? And then there’s another fellow who photographs a collection of light bulbs. An American creates a sort-of blowup Christmas tree, but it actually looks like a sex toy. It sits in the Place Vendome, Paris.  Then there’s a very-well done, “realistic” sculpture of copulating crickets, with commendable attention paid to anatomical detail. The art that sits inside this Silicon Valley exhibit hall is on a par with the “erotic” insects. “Composer” John Cage focused on sounds without melody or a shred of continuity.  Or no sounds at all. (He studied under Arnold Schonberg, so what else could you expect but noise?)

Want to distort the human face (“…a boot planted on the human face forever….” Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four), then try and compete with Chuck Close’s gallery of horrible, Halloween-caliber faces. except they aren’t for Halloween, they’re “high art.” Collectors pay fortunes for these…”portraits.” After all, ugly or nondescript visages are concretes, too.

See also my column on government-subsidized art, “The CIA: Funder of Trash and Terrorists.”

I could go on indefinitely about the number of utilitarian objects that have been the subjects of modern artists. It was not my intention to subject the reader to a menu of modern art, but I couldn’t think of a better way to dramatize the difference between the minds that could produce Lady Agnew and the myopic, very disturbed minds that could produce rubbish.

Please see a gallery of Sargent’s works as an antidote.

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:: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 ::

Metropolitan Opera Joins the Jihadists 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 1:17 PM

It’s a sign of how far America has been corrupted by political correctness, subjectivism in ethics, and relativism in the arts that a shoddy opera that romanticizes murdering terrorists can be put on by a major cultural institution, the Metropolitan Opera of New York City.

I am not an aficionado of heavy weight opera. I won't go into my esthetic tastes here, because those are irrelevant. What is relevant is the obscenity of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, which debuted at the Metropolitan Opera last night (October 20th), whose libretto is a long-winded, atonal propaganda piece for the Islamic jihadists who hijacked a cruise ship and murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a passenger because he was a Jew. Listen to the sing-song screeching here and also a trailer.

But even the discordant singing and jumbled orchestral score are irrelevant. Even had Adams’s opus been written in the disciplined and original style of Georges Bizet or Giacomo Puccini or Giuseppe Verdi, Klinghoffer remains a sucker punch to all standards of moral decency and civilized taste.

More importantly, staging The Death of Klinghoffer is in conformance to the prescriptive steps for “cultural jihad” promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood in its 1991 memorandum for “transforming” America from a free republic into a bastion of totalitarian Islam. The Brotherhood’s “master plan” calls for “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers…”  Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, composer John Adams, and director Tom Morris I guess don’t mind lending their hands to the PLO, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamic gangs.

The Death of Klinghoffer is fundamentally a U.S. State Department and New York taxpayer-funded exercise in malodorous agitprop for anti-Semitism and Islam. John Adams and the Met may as well have staged an adaptation of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will as a musical with dialogue.  Better yet, he could have turned “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers into a serious, Wagnerian style opera, with no dancing and no plumbing for laughs. Why not?

If you’re going to shill for Islam and its core Jew-hatred and its unapologetic ugliness, why not go whole hog? I’m sure the cost of producing a musical Triumph of the Will can be recouped in the usual ticket prices, which for Klinghoffer are going from $35 to $145 a seat. I’m sure the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, could offer special discounted prices to Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, and to the whole staff of the Council on American-Islam Relations. Perhaps even offer private showings for the staffs of every Islamic front group in the country. Full houses guaranteed.

The Death of Klinghoffer is being vigorously protested, and the Met’s Peter Gelb has been hard-pressed to cancel its debut and subsequent showings.

Yet, the opera has its defenders. New York’s Communist mayor, Bill de Blasio, for example, according to a New York Daily News article of October 20th, said:

Mayor de Blasio defended the Metropolitan Opera's right to show "The Death of Klinghoffer," and criticized predecessor Rudy Giuliani's protest against the controversial work.

"I really think we have to be very careful in a free society to respect that cultural institutions will portray works of art, put on operas, plays, that there will be art exhibits in museum," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference.

"And in a free society we respect that. We don't have to agree with what's in the exhibit but we agree with the right of the artist and the cultural institution to put that forward to the public."…

"I think there is a serious problem today in the world that has nothing to do with this opera," the mayor said.

"There's an anti-Semitism problem in this world today, particularly in Western Europe, that worries me greatly. That's where my focus is. I don't think an opera is what the focal point should be right now."

"The only thing I know about the opera is that the Metropolitan Opera has a right to show it," he said.

That’s rich, coming from a politician who hankers after the power to squelch freedom of speech, and who really isn’t for a “free society” at all. And it’s evidence of his cluelessness, one shared with countless others about government-subsidized “art,” that he can claim that the Met has a “right” to force taxpayers to fund any kind of propaganda, which is what Klinghoffer is.  

Excuse me, Bill, but the Met would have a “right” to show Klinghoffer if it were completely privately funded, and even then it would raise issues. But it isn’t completely privately funded by donors; it’s funded in large part by government money, that is, taxpayer money. Institutions that receive a single cent from the government to push rubbish like Klinghoffer to the forefront of “culture” do not have “freedom of speech” rights. Taxpayers, who had no choice in the matter, however, do have a right to protest such “art” and to gag its shills and promoters.

Further, Klinghoffer is implicitly about Islam. The terrorist protagonists are Muslims.  Islam also believes in “freedom of speech,” that is, the freedom to censor any critics of Islam – or behead them, shoot them, hang them, rape them, stone them to death. Islam believes in free speech, and will tolerate you as long as you don’t talk back.

Daniel Greenfield, in his FrontPage article of June 3rd, “Should New York Taxpayers Fund Pro-Terrorism and Anti-Semitism at the The Metropolitan Opera?”, revealed some interesting facts about the Met:

The Metropolitan Opera has been having serious financial problems. Its programs regularly mention support from public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Its 2012 report mentions $500,000 in support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The year before that it was $100.000.

The Arts website shows six figure funding going to the Metropolitan Opera every year under General Opera Support. There are also other grants. That means that when a terrorist screams about the Jews on stage, he’ll be doing it with funding from New York taxpayers.

Maybe it’s time to put a stop to that.

If the Met wants to promote the murder of 9 percent of the population of New York City, New Yorkers shouldn’t have to pay for it.

That means eliminating all city and state funding for the Metropolitan Opera. The most obvious place to start is by killing the annual six-figure New York State Council on the Arts giveaway.

It’s something that a New York State Senator or Assemblyman can do.

At the Federal level, the Met receives funding from a variety of agencies, including $1 million from the State Department and from the usual suspects such as the Department of Education.

Need I say more?

Staging the anti-Semitic The Death of Klinghoffer in the face rising anti-Semitism around the world is not about “freedom of speech.” It is about the power to defy all standards of rationality and morality because of political correctness and an amoral indifference in the ugly, sorry souls of Peter Gelb, the director, and the whole cast.

It isn’t only Leon Klinghoffer who has been shot in the head and tossed overboard. It is the American public and in particular, New Yorkers. 

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:: Monday, October 20, 2014 ::

A Lame Duck’s Lethal Legacies 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 2:06 PM

I don’t think any readers need a refresher lesson in the many ways President Barack Obama has strived to “transform” America, beginning with his first day in office in 2008. His latest action is the appointment of a Muslim of The University of Memphis’ Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program. Graduate Fatima Noor has been appointed special assistant in the Office of the Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. Before It’s News on August 31st reported: 

She majored in psychology with minors in Spanish and international relations. She recently completed a month-long research fellowship in psychology hosted by Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh; her research will be ongoing for this program. Noor was a leader in many honor societies at the U of M. She has done volunteer work with World Relief Memphis and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

What a perfect choice to help accelerate the colonization of America with Muslims (do you really think she’s going to advocate increasing the immigration of Caucasian Danes, Britons, Frenchmen, Germans and so on into the U.S.?), and, because she “minored” in Spanish, advocate the further relaxation of the immigration rules for illegal aliens from south of the border.

The latest administration tactic has been a refusal to enact a travel ban from countries stricken with Ebola, which, in deliberate defiance of all rational medical advice (and in conscious violation of his oath of office to protect the U.S.), will increase the probability of the beginning of an epidemic of the disease in this country. Reuters reported on October 18th:

Obama made plain he is not currently planning to give in to demands from some lawmakers for a ban on travelers from the worst-hit countries.

"We can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "Trying to seal off an entire region of the world - if that were even possible - could actually make the situation worse," he said.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed more than 4,500 people, most of them in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

How isolating Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will make things worse, Obama would be at a loss to explain. Just as his choice for an “Ebola” czar, Ron Klain, would not be able to, either. The Washington Post reported on October 17th:

President Obama has asked Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to both Vice President Biden and former vice president Al Gore, as his Ebola response coordinator, according to a White House official. "He will report directly to the president’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and the president's national security adviser, Susan Rice, as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa," a White House official wrote in an e-mail.

Klain, 53, is a longtime Democratic operative who served as Biden's chief of staff from 2009 to 2011 and as Gore's from 1995 to 1999. He helped oversee the Democratic side in the 2000 presidential election recount as its lead lawyer, a role that Kevin Spacey portrayed in the HBO film "Recount."

The Federalist reported on October 17th:

Earlier today, President Barack Obama announced that he would be appointing Ron Klain as an additional Ebola czar (he already had one before today). If Ron Klain sounds familiar to you, it’s because he has a long political pedigree. He has no medical, scientific, or federal agency administrative expertise, but he has a whole lot of political experience.

In January of 2011, Klain stepped down as chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden. Before that, Ron Klain was a well-connected Washington lobbyist. According to Senate lobbying disclosure records, Klain’s clients included Fannie Mae, U.S. Airways, Time Warner, CIGNA, and Imclone.
Klain also worked as chief of staff for former Vice President Al Gore, Janet Reno, the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. But that’s not all! Ron Klain did debate prep for both Obama and former president Bill Clinton. And if that weren’t enough, Klain was also general counsel of Al Gore’s election recount committee in 2000.

No one should be surprised that a career Democratic wonk, with no medical background except perhaps to take Tylenol or a cold medicine, would be appointed the “Ebola response coordinator.” This is tantamount to appointing gaffe-happy Vice President Joe Biden to manage a linear accelerator program or as an assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice. Well, the latter might actually work out, given Eric Holder’s reign of lawlessness in that agency.

In the meantime, Jonathan Strong of Breitbart Big Government on October 19th, reported under the headline, “Exclusive: Obama Administration Quietly Prepares 'Surge' Of Millions Of New Immigrant IDs”:

Despite no official action from the president ahead of the election, the Obama administration has quietly begun preparing to issue millions of work authorization permits, suggesting the implementation of a large-scale executive amnesty may have already begun.

Unnoticed until now, a draft solicitation for bids issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Oct. 6 says potential vendors must be capable of handling a “surge” scenario of 9 million id cards in one year “to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.”

The request for proposals says the agency will need a minimum of four million cards per year. In the “surge,” scenario in 2016, the agency would need an additional five million cards – more than double the baseline annual amount for a total of 9 million.  “The guaranteed minimum for each ordering period is 4,000,000 cards. The estimated maximum for the entire contract is 34,000,000 cards,” the document says.

This is an “open borders” policy for not only illegal aliens, but for the Ebola virus. In response to a Rule of Reason reader’s confusion over why many white America and British females abruptly convert to Islam and express a wish to enlist in ISIS’s campaign of terror, rape, looting, and conquest, and how Leftists and so-called “feminists” are blind or indifferent to the ideological conflicts between Islam and the Left, I replied:

The king of anti-white culture is, of course, Obama. There is no other credible motive for or purpose to his vicious policy of open borders to Mexicans, South Americans, Somalians, Muslims of every ethic variety, but to dissolve “white” culture. That makes him the supreme racist. He has expressed indifference to the plight of the Yazidis, because they’re “sort of white,” and has said little or nothing about the ISIS policy of raping their women and killing their men. The Yazidis are, I’m certain, as bonkers about their religion as Muslims are about theirs. But they are truly a minority not really declaring jihad against all non-Yazidis. However, no one is brave enough to state in public that Obama is a racist, as much of one was Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Louis Farrakhan (or Al Sharpton, a frequent visitor to the White House, and Jesse Jackson).

The whole Progressive agenda, birthed by and in lockstep with that policy, is also anti-white, anti-European, anti-West. Aged former-leftists, like David Horowitz, were “red diaper babies.” They’re the neo-cons now, siding with “patriotic” religionists and other parties (including much of the Tea Party). Their younger brethren are still leftists, but I call them the “Pampers Babies,” raised by liberal and left-leaning parents from the 1950’s onward, and suitably brainwashed or at least lobotomized in their critical faculties in their college years by professors and academics who took their cues from the Frankfurt School and other, virulent, imported cultural philosophies. (Parenthetically, this importation of those bad ideas to America began a bit after the Civil War, when Americans returned from their education, especially what they picked up in Germany.)

So, they’re not going to look askance at the rape culture of Islam – that would be “cultural imperialism” or the like – but will natter on about the alleged campus “rape culture.” That’s what they’ve been taught. They’re virtually reason-proof. The verities of political correctness, as far as their stunted minds are concerned, are engraved in stone. And, of course, a “rape culture” can’t be pinned on anyone but males, especially white males. Blacks are largely exempt from the charge, even though blacks have committed the most horrific crimes against white males and females. Those crimes get little or no media coverage. To report on them risks the charge of “racism.”

The violation of their principles by Islam bothers them not a whit, because to criticize Islam on that point would also be seen as Western hubris and “elitism.”

Bad ideas – and especially bad ideas imparted by parents and schools – can work their insidious ways into the minds of the young. They’re mostly defenseless. Many of them grow up to be passive yeah-sayers to every and any altruist idea (aka Leftist), or become activists of one stripe or another. They’re like the Muslims who protest their innocence regarding the atrocities committed by their activist coreligionist jihadists; they don’t commit the crimes, but don’t object to their being committed either, their protestations that ISIS et al. have nothing to do with Islam to the contrary notwithstanding.

For example, celebrating Columbus Day is slowly being tossed into the memory hole of political correctness. In his Capitalism Magazine article of October 12th, “Let’s Take Back Columbus Day,” Thomas Bowden noted:

Nowadays, however, an embarrassed, guilty silence descends on the nation each Columbus Day. We’ve been taught that Columbus opened the way for rapacious European settlers to unleash a stream of horrors on a virgin continent: slavery, racism, warfare, epidemic, and the cruel oppression of Indians.
This modern view of Columbus represents an unjust attack upon both our country and the civilization that made it possible. Western civilization did not originate slavery, racism, warfare, or disease–but with America as its exemplar, that civilization created the antidotes. How? By means of a set of core ideas that set Western civilization apart from all others: reason and individualism.

Demonstrating how virulent by unnoticed accretion Progressive ideas can be as they poison America, Seattle Portland, OR, and Minneapolis have renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day,” referring to North American Indians, who before Columbus discovered America or brought the continent to European attention, lived in a state of primitive barbarism and stagnation. A CNN report of October 13th reports:

Columbus Day often brings to mind the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. This Monday, some cities and states would rather you think of the Sioux, the Suquamish and the Chippewa. For the first time this year, Seattle and Minneapolis will recognize the second Monday in October as "Indigenous People's Day." The cities join a growing list of jurisdictions choosing to shift the holiday's focus from Christopher Columbus to the people he encountered in the New World and their modern-day descendants.

The Seattle City Council voted last week to reinvent the holiday to celebrate "the thriving cultures and values of Indigenous Peoples in our region." The Minneapolis City Council approved a similar measure in April "to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwa and other indigenous nations add to our city."

The Romans likewise “discovered” the British Isles and brought civilization to it. The indigenous peoples there were the Iceni and a few dozen other Celtic tribes, who similarly lived in primitive barbarity.  I doubt a “Boadicea Day” is celebrated in Britain.  (Although the Iceni queen was once honored on British coinage, and there is a statue of her near the Houses of Parliament.)

So, as the Obama Administration winds down in terms of the calendar, one can be certain that he will stick his “transformation” agenda with more outrageous executive actions, bypassing Congress and in effect flipping off Americans and this country.

Muslims and illegals aren’t the only ones seeking to invest and conquer our country. Look to the man in the White House. If there is any justice, his legacy name should be "President Pathogen," the pathogens being both human and bacteriological. 

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