Friday, March 31, 2006

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

"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.

Second Carnival of the Objectivists tomorrow!

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.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

That's because his arguments knock on your glass house

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.

Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists III

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.

Millions for defense, but not one cent for suckers

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.

Green in the head

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.

Enshrining "need" as a virtue

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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Intellectual Activist and the theory/practice split

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.

Thinking through the "Forward Strategy of Freedom"

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.

Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists II

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

The capitalist's movie critic

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.

Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists

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 [], 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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Edward Cline to appear on KOA 850 radio in Denver

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 for details).

Announcing the Second Carnival of the Objectivists!

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.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Not if that's a ham sandwich . . .

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.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

$50K to Fight for Freedom

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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

America's injustice to Sam Waksal

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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Is 'Islamophobia' justified? You bet it is.

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.

Monday, March 20, 2006

'V for Vendetta's' counterfeit revolution

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.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why is the Bush Administration sacrificing our Marines?

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 Malm├ędy? 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.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Reality catches up with art

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."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Blame Capitalism!

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.

So it is the student who has to change his act

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?

'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense

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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The problem with atheists . . .

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.

Monday, March 13, 2006

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

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.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gallery Sunday

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.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jay Bennish Reinstated

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.