Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Home for the Holidays

No blogging until Monday. Have yourself a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Rights and Reason: Just what do Republicans stand for?

I'm not the only one angry at the Republicans. I received this from David Burton, a tax-reform lobbyist and Republican friend of mine:

Once upon a time (actually a mere 15 years ago before the Bush family took control of the Republican party), being a Republican meant supporting individual liberty, free markets, peace through strength, federalism and limited government. One could even argue that the Republican party still held to these principles as recently as 1996. How times have changes. Now being a Republican means supporting:

1. protectionist tariffs;
2. the largest new entitlement program in 40 years;
3. the largest increases in domestic spending since LBJ (more than either Clinton or Carter);
4. the largest federal intervention in education ever;
5. huge federal intervention in the energy market, including massive subsidies for uneconomic forms of energy;
6. cooperating with European socialists to destroy financial privacy and tax competition;
7. Arresting Americans for alleged crimes and holding them indefinitely without having to prove anything in court or even charge them with a crime or provide access to an attorney, provided that the federal government declares them an enemy combatant or a material witness;

This, of course, is only a partial list of destructive things the Republicans have done once they gained power.
The Republican party has imploded, but in a certain sense, this should come as no surprise. When has a Republican candidate affirmed individual rights without compromise or concession? And if not the principle of individual rights, what principle animates the Republican party?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Administrative Note: Ads by Google

We're experimenting with the "Ads by Google" box you will find on the left. While we run this experiment, we can't be sure what ads we are going to get placed on our site. Some might be from groups we don't agree with. So needless to say, if the ad comes from a company or group you know we would disapprove of, yes we disapprove, and that will factor in our decision to keep or drop this box.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Rights and Reason: Consumers First

I came across an amusing press release today:

ORINDA, Calif., Nov. 19 -- California consumers are big winners in the $1.1 billion settlement of the antitrust suit against Microsoft, according to Consumers First, a California-based consumer-rights organization. The group, which works to educate the public, media and government officials about important changes in the marketplace, applauds this unprecedented settlement, which has resulted in more than 14 million California consumers and businesses being eligible to collect cash refunds.

"I encourage consumers to take full advantage of the settlement by filing a claim in a timely manner," said Jim Conran, president, Consumers First. "Consumers should also share the information with their family, friends, local schools and businesses because everyone can benefit from this settlement."

[. . .] "This settlement provides real benefits to consumers," said Conran. "The vouchers average out to a 22 percent discount on what the purchaser originally paid."
Consumers "first"? If consumers are truly first, one wonders how anything would ever be made anywhere. Doesn't a producer, by definition, have to come first?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The War: Photos from the front.

Look at the SAW gunner.

Capitalism and the Law: Taking the Antitrust Enforcers to Task

CAC's Skip Oliva documents his appeal against the DOJ's antitrust division in the Mountain Health Care case at Initium today. Skip describes the crux of his case against the government:

My appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit presents a simple question: Does the government have any legal obligation to support its arguments with facts? If so, then what facts should the public have access to; if not, then is there any effective check on the executive's power to unilaterally destroy private businesses through selective enforcement of the antitrust laws? Whatever the answer, the question must be asked, if for no other reason than nobody has asked it before.
In particular, Skip seeks the release of documents the government relied upon in its prosecution of Mountain Health Care.

In 1974, Congress amended the antitrust laws to expand judicial oversight of antitrust settlements. The idea was to provide for "meaningful" public comment, ostensibly to aid the court in deciding whether a settlement was in the "public interest." One requirement of the law was that the DOJ must disclose any "determinative" documents or information related to a settlement. On paper, it sounds like a salutary reform: Let the people see what the DOJ is thinking. At the very least, let the people see why the DOJ thinks that a particular settlement will "restore competition" to the marketplace.

In practice, however, the DOJ has ignored the law and has made every effort to thwart public and judicial oversight of its settlements. In virtually every antitrust settlement (keep in mind, more than 80% of all government antitrust cases result in settlement) the DOJ says that there are no "determinative" documents within the law’s meaning. Most judges accept this assertion blindly. And why shouldn’t they? Rarely does an outside party stand up and object.
That is, until Skip Oliva came along. I pity the fools at the DOJ.

The Culture: Logan's Run

Logan Darrow Clements has grievances:

Nicolas (sic):

I'd like to respond to your criticism of my candidacy and I hope you'll be honorable enough to print it.

First of all I am an Objectivist not a Libertarian. Calling me a Libertarian is a lazy and inappropriate ad hominem. Each time you use the expression as a jab. Truth be told, all Objectivists are libertarian in the realm of politics but Objectivists and libertarians have tremendous differences. I am just as upset with the people who wear only the title "libertarian" as you are so please don't refer to me as a libertarian. I am an Objectivist.

Second, I fully expected the sort of article you wrote the moment I decided to run for Governor. I could have written it myself and let you put your name on it. The error you made was in your premise that I was running to become Governor. In fact I ran for Governor primarily to spread Objectivist ideas in the mass media and to promote my Objectivist television show. In other words I was executing the Objectivist game plan of trying to change the underlying thinking of the culture before trying to cash in on the politics. It just so happened that my educational project happened to be a run for Governor. Surely you are smarter than to think I was running with an expectation of winning.

Third, "an exercise in futility" is your main criticism but this criticism could be leveled against you or any Objectivist as we are so greatly outnumbered in such an irrational culture. Isn't your website an exercise in futility? You have to start somewhere despite the enormity of the task. Again I remind you my campaign was about spreading Objectivist ideas not winning an election. Therefore votes are irrelevant. My campaign was a success because of the many interviews I gave on television, radio and in print. I may also appear in several independent films made about the California Recall distilling Objectivist ideas.

Now on to my television show FreeNation and your criticism of my use of the drug raid as the opening segment. Again you are making an error not me. The error you are making is that the purpose of my show is to promote Objectivism. Wrong. The #1 goal of my show is to maximize profits. To maximize profits I need to draw the largest audience possible. To draw the largest audience possible I need the most dramatic video combined with the most shocking and compelling stories. The #2 goal is to advance Objectivist ideas. Without success at goal #1 then goal #2 will be impossible. Choosing topics based on drawing a large audience will yield a different set of stories than choosing topics based on promulgating a philosophy. In fact I myself often criticize libertarians for focusing too much on drug legalization. If I found compelling video footage relating to the topics that top my list of grievances I would have run that instead. If you come across good footage relating to the topics that you would put at the top of your list for my show then please send it to me.

Also, you didn't watch the episode very carefully. It was not primarily focused on "the drug war" but in fact it was about individual sovereignty. I focused on the issue in this segment and the FDA segment of "should a person be prohibited from putting something into their own body." Watch it again. Also your readers should know that there are four segments in my demo episode. The other three deal with: licensing laws, social security, and the FDA.

Before you published this article you sent me an e-mail where you made the same points you do in your article. I answered your mistakes in my reply. So why did you "blank out", as Ayn Rand would say, ignore what I said and publish your article, chock full of mistakes anyway? Isn't that what we accuse everyone else of doing. You still could have criticized my run for Governor but done it in a more knowledgeable way having incorporated input from the subject of the story—me.

Finally, your last sentence about "navigating through his errors in philosophy" is ridiculously condescending, spoken as if you are the high lord of Objectivism. You made six errors in that one article and I made zero errors in my activism. I get tired of the "holier than thou" attitude. I’m just as much an Objectivist as you and perhaps more. If you doubt that I'm an Objectivist I challenge you to find substantial issues where my viewpoint diverges from Objectivism. Keep in mind I may apply the same test to you. Judge and prepare to be judged.

However, despite the fact that your article is completely wrong, lousy journalism and shamelessly misrepresents me, I applaud the activism you undertake with CMDC (sic). Let's break the old habits of bitter Objectivist in-fighting and unite to help Objectivist ideas win and laissez-faire capitalism be realized. One dumb article is less important than achieving the incredible potential that freedom has to offer.

Logan Darrow Clements
Executive Producer, FreeNation TV
former candidate for Governor of California

P.S. You also got my name wrong. It's Logan Darrow Clements. That's 7 errors.
Seven errors. Sounds like a new record. Here’s a recap:

1.) I called Mr. Clements a Libertarian and not an Objectivist, and that’s unfair.
2.) Since Mr. Clements himself held zero expectation of winning the California governor’s race, it was unfair of me to think of him as a serious candidate. He just was trying to represent Objectivism and promote his TV show to the public.
3.) Mr. Clements’s candidacy was no more an exercise in futility than any other Objectivist-themed activism.
4.) Since the basis of Mr. Clements’s TV show is to make money, and not to promote Objectivism, my criticism is of his pilot is negated.
5.) Since the pilot of Mr. Clements’s TV show was focused on individual sovereignty, my criticism of the drug war segment is negated.
6.) By claming that Mr. Clements’s errors are philosophical, I am acting as “the high lord of Objectivism”.
7.) It's Logan Darrow Clements, not Darrow Clements.

Sigh. Well, here it goes:

1, 2 & 3.) My thesis was that by entering a race where, by definition, he had zero chance of winning, Clements made the classic libertarian error—he placed political activism before political philosophy. That’s no ad hominem—that’s an argument from fact. And I don’t buy for a second that Clements only wanted to run a protest candidacy or aimed to simply promote his TV show. However laughable, Clements outlined a whole strategy for his victory here, pleading that his plan was not “unrealistic but in fact quite possible.” Was he lying then, or now?

Ultimately, Clements did not evidence his ideas to be compelling or efficacious—he instead showed that despite all his alleged principles, he was willing to degrade himself by participating as a clown act in a three-ring circus, to little or no long-term effect. That’s what you get when you place activism before philosophy.

But what if Clements aimed low and had decided to run for a local position, like one, for example, that decides local zoning issues? What if Clements invested the time needed to be expertly informed on the issue and offered credible solutions to government zoning abuse, even if only to introduce incremental reform? Then I would have saluted his candidacy, for it would have had practical value—and served as a stepping stone to offices of greater responsibility.

Or, if Clements truly wanted to participate in the recall process, he could have chosen to represent a single issue, like government regulatory reform, as an election watchdog. He could have, for example, highlighted all the regulations that contributed to the California power crisis. Then I would have saluted his advocacy, for again, it would have had practical value.

It is not enough to stand as a lone voice in the wilderness. Truth be told, there are a lot of lone voices and few amount to much. If one is going to stand in the face of great public opposition, it matters dearly what one says, how they say it, and who they say it to. Clements lost out on all three points.

4 & 5) It is with frustration that I criticize Clements' TV show. As I said in my original post, I think it has potential, if he is able to address its shortcomings. Yet given what he seeks to accomplish, Clements does not understand where people make the errors in thought that lead to government encroachment of individual rights. As is, the theme of his show focuses on lawbreaking. If Clements is able to get footage from Cuba or North Korea, it will make for compelling drama. But in a nation where freedom of speech is protected and legislatures and courts exist to redress grievances, lawbreaking is impractical. How can one say that reason and persuasion ought to guide human behavior when one abandons it when facing injustice?

There is a way to tackle the drug war question that does not hold the irrational as a value, and yet shows the illogic of the drug war. That would demand taping footage of people going though withdrawal while incarcerated for drug offenses and not receiving medical treatment. Show someone who committed no violent offence jonesing off heroin in a jail cell, and point out that the drug laws put him there, instead of a treatment facility, where at least he would have a chance at breaking his habit. That would present supporters of the drug war with quite a conflict.

I think there is potential for Clements’ TV show if Clements can learn to be more sensitive to his audience and more thoughtfully present his case. I grew up watching “Fight Back!” with David Horowitz and I see some parallels. But as of yet. . .

6.) I do think Clements errors are philosophical, and one does not need to be a high lord to say so. And it’s ridiculous of Clements to argue that because his show aims to be profitable, he has no choice to offer segments like the one on the drug war. Objectivism is not something that floats in the ozone that we all must pay homage to; it’s a practical tool for use in everyday life. And that tool tells me it is foolish to show footage of someone smoking pot as a great expression of individualism, unless, of course, one sees no distinction between individualism and whim-worship. No one will be convinced of anything and the show will lose money—its premise will be rejected outright.

7.) The name thing. Well, it’s D. Logan Darrow Clements here and here, Darrow Clements here, Logan Clements here, and who the hell knows what it really is. But it has always been “Nicholas” here, there and everywhere, so before you bust on me brother, you had better get your own ducks in a row.

Monday, November 17, 2003

News Hits: Washington Times

My letter to the editor arguing against Tony Blankley's column supporting the draft was published in Sunday's Washington Times.

History: Thomas Bowden in Insight Magazine

Thomas Bowden, author of The Enemies of Christopher Columbus, is interviewed at Insight Magazine. I found this exchange between interviewer Stephen Goode and Tom to be particularly compelling:

Q: In our age of multiculturalism and politically correct attitudes, it is considered bad manners and even wrong to claim any superiority for Western civilization and its achievements. Multiculturalism regards all societies and traditions as of equal merit and is very critical of the West, claiming to see in America an explanation for the world's evils. How can you defend the West, as you do in your book, and claim that its traditions and civilization are superior?

A: Our core value is reason. Western civilization is the culture that is most concerned with natural law, the scientific method, religious toleration and the application of reason to the task of living - all of that. This cannot be said enough.

Defending Western civilization is not defending the "superiority" of white men. That other peoples had not developed the application of reason to life does not mean that they are in any way inferior. It means that they had not yet achieved what the Europeans achieved over many centuries. But if we take an objective look at the standards of men's lives, then Western civilization is superior in very visible ways. The Indians might have developed it all on their own, but they did not. There is no such thing as a racial inferiority that says they couldn't have done it. But you don't have to invent everything yourself to benefit from it, and any gift of knowledge is a great gift.

In any case, tribal society is prerational. And no moral blame can be attached to a tribal society living in a prerational, primitive manner. I always point out that there is no shame in having ancestors called "savages" since everyone living on Earth today has ancestors who were in fact savages. The root of the word is "forest," meaning people who live in the forest.
And if those who attack Columbus could only understand this point. . .

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Culture: Radical Cheerleaders

Respect for women has just been set back 50 years. The AP report a leftist outfit called the "Radical Chearleaders" may be marching and chanting in a town near you.

Aimee Jennings, who now lives in New York, said inspiration struck after demonstrations at the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. "People were acting really goofy for the media, but with no message," Jennings recalled. "The people who had the bullhorn got to state the message, and most them were boys."
And boys are like, ohmygod, so whatever.

I visited their website. Total idiots. And they list their cheers. Consider this one:

riot don’t diet by Mary Xmas
hey girl (clap clap clap)
get yer face out of that magazine
you are more than a beauty machine
you've got anger soul and more
take to the street and let it roar
uh-HUH (clap clap clap)
If cosmo makes you sick and pale
you know what you need to do
liberate the beauty queen
burn the bibles of the fashion scene
How tedious. How tiresome. How totaly off one's rocker.

Of course, two can play at this game.

Hey Hey, Ho Ho,
your leftist junk has got to go
Hey Hey, Ho Ho,
your leftist junk has got to go

If Cosmo makes you sick and pale,
maybe you're just a big dumb whale


You wouldn't be cut out of the beauty scene
if you weren't so bitter, nasty and mean


You think black clothes say you're poetic
the said truth is you're just pathetic


You ignorant hippy communist
Move to North Korea, you won’t be missed
And so on . . .

But then again, perhaps the greatest anti-left march slogan of all time is the one coined by John Bragg. It works best when said with a loud, patronizing voice, and repeated often.

Just because it rhymes
doesn’t mean its true
Just because it rhymes
doesn’t mean its true . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rights and Reason: Sacrifice and Selfishness

The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley thinks the youth of America need to be sacrificed for the greater good. Referencing the last living veterans of theWWI generation, Blankley writes:

Just as the country that sent those 4.7 million young men off to the Great War disrupted or ended those young lives for a larger purpose, today, the country that is America must decide whether it is prepared to disrupt or end young lives for another, greater, purpose. (As the father of two healthy teen-age sons, I think about such matters on a personal as well as theoretical basis.) But it is becoming ever more obvious that we do not have sufficient armed forces to face and master the many perils that are assembling against us. . .

. . . Finally, then — as it always does — it comes down to moral, not mathematical decisions. Unless the terrorists voluntarily go back into their hole (which seems unlikely), the president will soon have to ask the American people to accept our obligation to effectively fight the terrorist scourge by substantially increasing the size of our military. Whether by draft or by voluntary means, it will cost huge sums. Many of those new troops will fight — and some will die — so that millions of American civilians will not be killed by terrorists.
If the war against militant Islam is the preeminent crisis of our day, why call on the draft to fight it? Why frame the issue as question of whether America is willing to disrupt or end the lives of its young people? If the militant Islamists threaten our lives, freedom and prosperity, why is defending against them a sacrifice for the “greater good”? What good could be greater than defending one’s own life and happiness? And why does Tony Blankley ignore one’s selfish interest in defending one’s freedoms?

Why? Because Tony Blankley, like many conservatives, considers selflessness and not selfish interest to be the moral ideal. Even though we are a nation dedicated to protecting the life, liberty and happiness of the individual, conservatives are always nagged by the problem of the “greater good” and how best to sacrifice to it.

Yet an individualist sacrifices for no one. He lives for himself, and to appeal to him, you must appeal to his values. To convince men and women to serve in the military, you need to impress upon them of the gravity of the threat today and the manner in which it impacts them. You need to convince them of the benefits of the martial lifestyle, and pay them enough so that the cost of their service is not the derailment of every other aspect of their lives. And lastly, you must keep the promise that if they are wounded or fall in battle, they and their loved ones will be cared for by a grateful nation.

The idea of the draft should be anathema to any person dedicated to human freedom. Yes, Mr. Blankley, we have a host of threats arrayed against us. We do not answer those threats by betraying our core values, or sacrificing our freedom. It will take men and women of substance to successfully defend the nation. Such men and women will not be found by a draft board.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Happy Birthday USMC

Today marks the 228th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. It is a tradition thoughout the Corps to read the General John LeJeune's Marine Corps Birthday Message.

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of it's existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the nations foes. From the battle of Trenton to the Argonne. Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home. Generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.
May we all raise our cups to 228 years of and glorious achievement and legendary victories.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Rights and Reason: Partial-birth abortion

I received this in an e-mail from the Republicans:

President Bush today signed into law the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 to end the abhorrent practice of partial birth abortion. The legislation signed by the President helps continue to build a culture of life in America and will reaffirm a basic standard of humanity the responsibility to defend the vulnerable and weak. As he signed this important legislation the President said, "By acting to prevent this practice, the elected branches of our government have affirmed a basic standard of humanity, the duty of the strong to protect the weak. The wide agreement amongst men and women on this issue, regardless of political party, shows that bitterness in political debate can be overcome by compassion and the power of conscience. And the executive

With the President's signature, the ban on partial birth abortion is now law, but as the President said in his remarks there are those that would like to see the courts overturn it.
How many package deals do we have here? There is the package deal about the "culture of life" and "basic standard of humanity" which ignores the right of the mother to her own body and presumes that sacrificing the life of the mother to the life of the unborn fetus is pro-life. There is the package deal about the "duty of the strong to protect the weak" which assumes that women who have abortions are vindictive attackers and that their fetuses have rights in the first place. And then their there is the package deal about "compassion and the power of conscience" which says to grant rights to potential life at the expense of existing life is a benevolent and moral act.

This is garbage. As one of those that would like to see the courts overturn the late-term abortion ban, I only hope that the courts show more respect for Constitution's protections of individual rights that the Congress and the Executive.

Antitrust News: The John Sherman Award

This DOJ antitrust division press release takes the cake:

Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer in Law with the University of Chicago Law School will receive the Department of Justice John Sherman Award for his lifetime contributions to the teaching and enforcement of antitrust law and the development of antitrust policy. The award will be presented during a celebration of the Antitrust Division's 70th and 100th Anniversaries on November 6, 2003, in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice.

"Judge Posner's work has been critical to promoting a sounder understanding of antitrust law. The Antitrust Division and antitrust practitioners worldwide are tremendously grateful for the time and energy he has devoted to antitrust issues, including his valuable writings, thoughtful analyses, and dedication to providing an intellectually rigorous foundation for antitrust enforcement," said R. Hewitt Pate, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division.

Created in 1994, the John Sherman Award is presented by the Department's Antitrust Division to a person or persons for their outstanding achievement in antitrust law, contributing to the protection of American consumers and to the preservation of economic liberty.
A sounder understanding of antitrust? Only by obfuscating the principle of individual rights.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Antitrust News: Big Cans

At CAC, we keep our eyes peeled for bizarre market definitions by government antitrust enforcers. This latest one takes the cake. Apparently, there was a budding conspiracy by big frozen juice concentrate can equipment barons that has been thwarted by the Department of Justice. From the DOJ’s press release:

The nation's two largest frozen-juice can manufacturers — Sonoco Products Company and Pasco Beverages Company — agreed to abandon their proposed can-making equipment deal after the Department of Justice expressed concerns that the deal could have been anticompetitive, the Department announced today. The Department's Antitrust Division said that Pasco's proposed sale would have given Sonoco control of virtually all of the equipment used to make the spiral-wound composite cans used to package frozen juice concentrate in the United States.

At the same time, the Department said that it has closed its investigation of the proposed transaction. The Department said that the parties' decision to abandon the proposed acquisition eliminated its competitive concerns.

R. Hewitt Pate, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division said, "The decision of Sonoco and Pasco to abandon the equipment sale will preserve competition for packaging for this important consumer product."
Very important indeed. Small children can sleep easy now that the threat of big frozen juice concentrate can equipment has been checked.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

In honor of 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas

The son of friends of my family was killed in combat operations in Iraq on Sunday. 1st Lt. Brian D. Slavenas, 30, of Genoa, Ill, was killed when the helicopter he was piloting was shot down by Iraqi guerrillas in Al Fallujah, Iraq. 14 other servicemen and women are reported dead in that attack.

I did not know Brian as an adult, but I feel confident that I can judge him by his actions. The man fulfilled a proud family tradition that its men would serve in the forces that defend our lives and our freedom. Whatever fear or reservations he may have had, he volunteered to lead the life of a citizen solider. When called upon, he answered the call.

I honor the values that make men like that possible and willing to face such labors. I honor that in the hour of Brian's testing, he held fast. It has been said that honor is self-esteem made visible in action. Brian Slavenas was a man of honor.

In my line of work, I am often required to think of the things that make human life possible and worthwhile. I think of the principle of individual rights, the rule of law, and a great nation made possible by human reason and the freedom to use it. And now, I will think of Brian. He joins the ranks of a painful, yet noble fraternity. I, for one, shall honor his memory.

Brian's family has my deepest sympathy and most profound respect. I wish them strength and peace as they face their own trials in the weeks and months ahead.