Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 36

I saw a bumper sticker today that said, "Peace Through Music." What can this mean? I think I know: if you play Pantera loud enough, it disorients the enemy and makes him easy to shoot. That must be it.

1. Lots of good posts in October over at Kalamazoo Objectivist. Between Sarita and Mike, Michigan seems to be in good hands.

2. Ed Cline looks at the spate of anti-American movies coming out of Hollywood. He notes that the modern war movies are "ambiguous," but ambiguity is the point. The movies intend to instill doubt in their viewers.

This doubt is the fruit of altruism. The doubt is over whether America has a moral right to defend itself against militant Islam. Or should America, the strongest nation on earth, buy its right to exist through sacrifice for the weaker nations? The enemy is certain he has a moral right to destroy us. America's intellectuals are not certain we have a right to destroy the enemy.

Can a nation survive that doubts its right to exist?

3. Hillary Clinton tries to be on both sides of an issue (should illegal immigrants be given drivers licenses) and when the moderator tries to pin her down she accuses him of playing "gotcha." She's not as smooth a liar as her husband. Roger Simon calls it "the worst performance of her entire campaign."

Where do I stand on the issue? I don't think the state has the right to dictate who can drive. I think anyone who wants to come to America should come on in without anyone's permission and drive without anyone's permission. I disagree vehemently with Senator Dodd, who calls a drivers license a "privilege." If I understood where Senator Clinton stands, I could tell you if I disagree with her.

4. Der Fuehrer's Flatulence Problem.

5. Schumer Asserts Iran War Would Destroy G.O.P.

6. Dick Morris is often wrong, but I think he's dead on here:

Hillary realizes, as Bill once told me, that any government entitlement for poor people can be easily repealed since they lack political power and practical voting strength. But middle class entitlements, once granted, last forever - see Social Security and Medicare and rent control in New York City.

So Hillary will pioneer entitlements and grants for middle class families, making them at once dependent on government aid, winning their political gratitude, and giving them a stake in benefit programs that also help the poor.

She will bring us much closer to the Swedish, French, and German model where everybody gets a check from the government, regardless of their wealth or income, making it impossible to criticize the program.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here and There

Life is humming along pretty well. I went to my first "off book" rehearsal of Monna Vanna and stumbled through my scene. Over the weekend I did the opening monologue of Richard III at a charity event and had a lot of fun with it. Richard has such a good time being a villain that the play presents a challenge to the modern actor -- how far can you go before you're over the top? A character who says "I am determined to be a villain" is not realistic by modern standards, but he's not a caricature either.

I went golfing for the first time in years. For a few days after I ached in strange places; my left collar bone hurt, who knows why. It's nice being out in nature manicured to suit man's purpose.

Here's an interesting quote from C.S. Lewis:

If there were such a [Christian] society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life were very socialistic and, in that sense, 'advanced', but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned — perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing.

The post that quote is from is worth reading because it is about Mike Huckabee's economic populism. Huckabee, a social conservative, apparently has the economic ignorance of a Democrat. He said:

I am not interested in being the candidate of Wall Street but of Main Street....CEOs get paid 500 times what the average worker does, but they are not necessarily 500 times smarter or harder-working, and that is wrong.

This kind of envy is the foundation of the welfare state and socialism. He sounds like the perfect candidate for a Republican Party that has strayed from its Goldwater legacy of smaller government. Now morons in both parties march us to the abyss of fascism.

I see at Gus Van Horn that Armchair Intellectual and Charlotte Capitalist have new posts up.

Gideon Reich writes about his (at the risk of sounding New Agey) "spiritual journey." He was raised Orthodox Jewish and struggles with how much of all that to maintain and pass on to his children. I give him credit for honestly writing about personal psychological issues.

As one who was raised by non-religious gentiles, it's not something I have worried about. Generally, I don't care much about any ethnic heritage. Tribalism is collectivist, an assault on individualism. But from one point of view the case of Judaism is special because of the phenomenon of anti-semitism. When a lot of the world wishes Jews were dead, I can't fault any Jew who embraces his heritage just to shove it in the anti-semites' face. Worse, anti-semitism is growing on the left. But one has to watch out about being defined by one's enemies.

Gideon calls Christianity a fraud, which it certainly is, but aren't all religions frauds since they are based on the concept of God? And then there is the Moses myth -- discovered as a baby in the reeds of a river, parting the Red Sea, the burning bush, the 10 Commandments -- at some point, millennia ago, someone had to think up all those lies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 35

I found time as I did my day job to put together some links.

1. Andrew Bernstein on what makes a hero.

2. John Stossel on Al Gore's global warming propaganda. This piece is good not just because it refutes An Inconvenient Truth, but it shows how government schools are terrifying children with Gore's nonsense. The only thing I would question in this piece is that Stossel buys what "everyone agrees on" -- the idea that the Earth is warming. I wonder if the science behind even that assumption is good.

3. At first I thought Leave It to Dennis was a satire of Dennis Kucinich as the Beaver, but apparently it was made by Kucinich supporters. Have to give them credit, it's funny -- but will it persuade anyone to vote for their man?

4. Randex is a interesting site that collects mentions of Ayn Rand and Objectivism in media around the world. The top 10 countries in mentions:

United States (2515)
Canada (126)
India (96)
United Kingdom (89)
Australia (40)
The Bahamas (29)
South Africa (15)
France (7)
Hong Kong (7)
Israel (5)
New Zealand (5)

By my reckoning, all of those countries except France were once part of the British Empire. (Counting Israel as what used to be Palestine.) Am I wrong?

Maybe someday we'll see Mongolia on the list. That would be a sign of progress.

5.  Finding the Dino Killer. Speaking of extinction events, the biggest was the Permian-Triassic, some 250 million years ago.

6. Is Classical Liberalism dead in the Republican Party? If it's not dead it's on life support. According to one poll in that piece, 32% of Republicans think the rich should be taxed more to pay for health care. Or to put it another way, one in three Republicans is as dumb as a Democrat!

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I must take a leave from this blog at least until November. I have two acting projects that demand line work, I'm writing and my niece in the USAF is getting married before she ships off to Afghanistan. (I'm proud of her, but also a little worried for her safety. Being an MP in Afghanistan strikes me as being on the frontline in this war.)

One thing before I go. In my day job I listened to a morning show targeted to women. In one segment they interviewed a psychic who predicted the future of Britney Spears. A psychic who predicted the future of Britney Spears. Can radio programming possibly get more idiotic than that?

That station's listeners might be among the voters who will give us a Hillary Clinton Presidency. It depends on what factor weighs more heavily in the inert, porous substance between their ears that these women call their brain: if they think "Hillary will be the first woman President," then Clinton wins; if they think, "Hillary gives me the creeps," then Clinton loses.

Watch for the DNC to invest $100 million or so into commercials that humanize Hillary Clinton. These commercials might have flowers and babies and sickening little homey anecdotes about Chelsea, who will become a campaign prop. Also, there will be lots of normal, feminine women testifying for the candidate.

If the RNC tries to "define" Clinton as a hideous crone who swears, lusts for power and throws lamps at her husband, they will be denounced by the MSM for running a dirty campaign. Any Swift Boat campaign from the VRWC will be denounced by both parties. The Republicans have to be careful to attack Clinton's big government, socialist ideas and not her character. It would be nice if this campaign were about a few ideas for once. But given the intelligence of too many Americans these day, can political parties afford to waste time on abstract ideas? If enough voters are morons, can politicians be blamed if they lower their discourse to the level of morons?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 34

1. The Pudu, the world's smallest deer, is hunted by the Kodkod, the world's smallest cat. It's hard to believe, but that web site says the Kodkod is smaller than a domestic cat. The Kodkod is so rare Wikipedia doesn't even show a picture of one.

2. Books by and about politicians:

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama

From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPS to Restoring America's Greatness by Mike Huckabee

Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith, and Dreams of a Mexican President by Vicente Fox

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King and James M. Washington

God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time by Desmond Tutu

Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises by Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen, David Van Heemst, and Desmond Tutu

Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century by Bill Clinton

Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches by Bill Clinton, Mary Frances Berry, and Josh Gottheimer

I thought there was one called "The Man From Hope" by Clinton, but I couldn't find it.

Hope is the perfect word for welfare state politicians because it expresses their aspirations, not their accomplishments. Hope is about their good intentions, their altruism -- and to a liberal that is enough to justify destroying liberty and putting the entire population in chains. Maybe someday we'll get an honest book from a politician titled Using the Word Hope to Destroy All Hope.

3. The Weatherman vs. the Cockroach. Damn, is this funny.

4. The October Rebellion. As Michelle Malkin notes,

If just one city targeted by these criminal punks would crack down hard instead of slapping them on the collective wrist, the property damage and assaults would stop.

I hate to sound like your Uncle From Hell, but the cops need to hit these anarchists with their clubs and make them bleed. People who disrupt the peace with planned violence need to be scared shitless that their nose will be broken and they will spend much time in jail. It's as simple as that.

5. From Hillary Clinton:

"I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

You know what's really weird? I have a million ideas too -- and the country can afford every last one of them! All my ideas involve dismantling the mixed economy/welfare state, cutting spending, cutting taxes and allowing money to be spent by those who earn it.

Hillary Clinton's million ideas would turn America into a fascist tyranny; my million ideas would turn America into a laissez-faire capitalist free country. I will never be President; Hillary Clinton probably will be.

6. Speaking of Hillary Clinton, she is involved in yet another scandal. The MSM, who gave up trying to be objective, are not focusing all their spotlights on this one as they would if Senator Clinton were a Republican. So it goes.

I think the Clintons' scandals are of some importance because they reveal their thinking, but Hillary Clinton's "million ideas" are far more scandalous to me than her bending fundraising laws that are dubious in the first place.

Economic Intelligence

Dr. James Watson made a strange statement.

In an interview published in the October 14, 2007 edition of the Sunday Times, Watson was quoted as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa". "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really."

This is the kind of stupid statement scientists make sometimes when they talk about politics and economics. It reminds me of the liberal Isaac Asimov, who never made racist statements, but used to lose 100 points of IQ when he wrote about politics.

Dr. Watson further confused the issue by backtracking as if he didn't say what he said:

"I am mortified about what has happened," he told a group of scientists and journalists. "I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have.

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly.

"That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."

There is no explanation of what Dr. Watson's original statement was supposed to mean. What IS the meaning of this statement?

All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really.

Our "social policies" consist of giving Africa handouts. These handouts don't seem to do any good, so Dr. Watson concludes from his testing that it is because the negro race lacks intelligence. I see no other way to read this statement. Dr. Watson gives no evidence to support his outrageous statement about "their intelligence" -- however, his statement gives plenty of evidence that he lacks intelligence in economics.

If he had thought his proposition through, he might have considered the Palestinians. We have given them billions of dollars over the years, none of which did a damn bit of good. Much of the money ended up in Arafat's Swiss bank account. The Palestinians are caucasian.

Or he might have considered the Soviet Union. In that communist country, run by white people in their brilliance, there were always shortages in the stores and the masses had a low standard of living, despite the fact that Russia has vast natural resources.

I bring up the Soviet Union because their problems were caused by the same thing causing Africa's woes: they lacked freedom. As Ludwig von Mises explained, it doesn't matter what race a people is, if their economy is planned, they will lack intelligence. Economic intelligence comes when free individuals in a free market use the pricing system to make rational calculations.

Our "social policies" lack intelligence. Following the morality of altruism, we throw money at Africa. The money does nothing but make altruists feel they have done their moral duty. To do the truly intelligent thing (and the truly moral thing), we need to shut off all foreign aid to Africa and demand that the socialist hellholes and thugocracies free their people and respect property rights. Any poor country that tries this soon looks like a country filled with brilliant people -- when they are only people using prices to pursue their self-interest.

Dr. Watson needs to read Ludwig von Mises. Perhaps then he would stop embarrassing himself with his economic ignorance.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 33

1. James W. Caesar takes an interesting look at the Democrats, and tells us why they are now "The Stupid Party." Since the demise of the Old Left and the rise of the New Left, the party has struggled to define its "public philosophy." Caesar doesn't say this, but I believe much of their woes come down to the fact that they are socialists, but openly admitting it would be electoral suicide. So they lie to America and to themselves -- and yes, that would make them stupid. The piece is well worth reading for its historical perspective of how the Democrats changed in the 20th century.

2. Metrosexuals, real men and Hollywood. What conclusion can we draw from this list of types common in post-modern Hollywood?

The Doofus Dad. The strong-willed woman. Gangsta rappers. Punk and pop singers.

They show how egalitarianism affects culture. The father figure is a person with power in the old patriarchal system, so he must be made a lovable doofus at best, a mean bastard at worst. Women must be shown as stronger than men (see the Alien series and The Core, a wretched movie in which men break down and cry all over the place). Writers quickly pick up on these cultural cues delivered by the New Left's political correctness and make their scripts conform. (In this post I give an example of what we're missing nowadays by making our stories conform to political correctness.)

3. Monica looks at the religious right.

4. Captain Ed on the angry demagogue, Alan Keyes. Captain Ed agrees with this part of Keyes's message:

The genius of the Declaration, and later its influence on the Constitution, came in the recognition of natural rights that flowed from man's relation to his Creator. Eliminate the Creator, and humans become nothing more than mere organisms that have no claim to any rights as a natural function of their being, and instead must rely on the mercy of his fellow men and the governments they create to bestow or deny these rights.

If we eliminate the Creator (for whom there is no evidence), we do not wipe out man's nature as a rational animal. Man's rights come from his nature as a being who uses reason. Men must treat one another with reason; if instead they initiate force, then they violate other men's rights.


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(HT: Born Again Redneck)

6. Read Richard Salsman and weep. For seven years stocks have been stagnant -- like the 1970's.

(HT: Inspector)

UPDATE: If you want to know why inflation is a problem, check out this chart. Could the fact that federal spending has risen more under Bush than any other President in 30 years have something to do with it? That spending has to be paid for somehow, and inflation is the hidden tax that does it. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" comes at the expense of those who have saved and those on fixed incomes.

Politically Correct Racism

Some writing becomes outdated as fast as a newspaper. There must be millions of books and magazines from the 1970's that are now of interest to no one but scholars and perhaps the mothers of those who wrote them. But Ayn Rand, because she thought in philosophic principles, actually becomes more interesting as time passes.

Take the speech she gave at the Ford Hall Forum in 1977, "Global Balkanization," which can now be found in The Return of the Primitive. When I read it in the '70s, I could see her point, but tribalism in America was still somewhat theoretical to me. I could not imagine that things would get as bad as the Balkans or Belgium or the Basques in Spain and France. 30 years later we have seen the growth of multiculturalism in our culture and Rand's speech seems remarkably prescient. We have seen blacks relabeled "African-Americans" because definition by ethnicity is so important to the New Left. Now we see immigrants from Latin America who spend their lives in the USA without bothering to learn English.

I believe OJ was acquitted in large part because of the influence of multiculturalism on the jury. The jury's stultified minds had been trained to think of everything in tribal terms. OJ was a black man against racist white cops; the facts of the case were not as important to the jury as the fact that OJ was part of their ethnicity, part of their tribe.

Now we see the Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival worried about the ethnic makeup not just of his actors and playwrights but his audience. Now children get pious lectures about different "cultures" -- asians are supposed to have certain traits, African-Americans other traits and Hispanics another set of traits. Now we see politicians elected because they're the first woman/black/hispanic/fill-in-the-blank to run for an office.

I was inspired to reread "Global Balkanization" by the Jena 6 incident. The case is about six black kids who jumped a white kid and beat him unconscious. It's not a civil rights case, and comparisons to Selma, Alabama strike me as laughable. However, to leftists and people such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton the facts are unimportant; it only matters that this is a case of "our tribe vs. their tribe." Black kids are on trial in the South; they must be defended by other blacks, regardless of the facts of the case. Multiculturalism has spread so far through our culture that many can only think of this case through its distorting lens.

There are many quotable passages in "Global Balkanization," not the least Rand's immortal observation of folk dancing, "if you've seen one group of people clapping their hands while jumping up and down, you've seen them all." Here she looks at the nature and causes of modern tribalism:

Philosophically, tribalism is the product of irrationalism and collectivism. It is a logical consequence of modern philosophy. If men accept the notion that reason is not valid, what is to guide them and how are they to live? Obviously, they will seek to join some group -- any group -- which claims the ability to lead them and to provide some sort of knowledge acquired by some sort of unspecified means. If men accept the notion that the individual is helpless, intellectually and morally, that he has no mind and no rights, that he is nothing, but the group is all, and his only moral significance lies in selfless service to the group -- they will be pulled obediently to join a group. But which group? Well, if you believe that you have no mind and no moral value, you cannot have the confidence to make choices -- so the only thing for you to do is to join an unchosen group, the group into which you were born, the group to which you were predestined to belong by the sovereign, omnipotent omniscient power of your body chemistry.

This, of course, is racism. But if your group is small enough, it will not be called "racism": it will be called "ethnicity."

Rand explains the function of the word ethnicity:

Observe that ever since World War II, racism has been regarded as a vicious falsehood and a great evil, which it certainly is. It is not the root of all social evils -- the root is collectivism -- but, as I have written before (in The Virtue of Selfishness), "Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism." One would think that Hitler had given a sufficient demonstration of racism's evil. Yet today's intellectuals, particularly the liberals, are supporting and propagating the most virulent form of racism on earth: tribalism.

The cover-up that makes it possible lies in a single word: ethnicity.

Today multiculturalism is held as an unquestioned ideal. Using such words as culture and ethnicity as a cover, schoolchildren are indoctrinated with racist ideas.

The tragedy of multiculturalism is that instead of helping people be color blind so that they judge others by "the content of their character," it forces people to categorize everyone by race. I get the sense that race consciousness is spreading among whites. Whites are beginning to judge policies and candidates on how they will benefit the caucasian race. If racism spreads among whites as well as among all minorities, the consequences could be disastrous.

Multiculturalism poses as a force for tolerance and brotherly love, when it really leads to the opposite -- to civil strife, hatred and violence. Multiculturalism places everyone into a pressure group by race that looks to the government for preferences at the expense of all the other groups. The now reviled "Melting Pot," in which people were encouraged to forget their ethnicity and be an American like everyone else, did lead to dignity, peace and respect; it was an individualist policy in a country that had a freer market than today. But when the state intervenes in the economy and people divide into pressure groups hoping to get a bigger piece of the handout pie than other groups, the result is group conflict and hatred.

Freedom cannot last when any form of collectivism dominates a culture. For our children and our children's children to grow up in a free country, we need to return to individualism. Instead, our children are being indoctrinated with racism in government schools -- and this might be the greatest scandal nobody cares about.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 32

1. Virginia Postrel compares housing in Dallas and Los Angeles, two cities with completely different approaches.

2. If Nancy Pelosi gets any more mean-spirited, she'll have to switch parties:

But [Ms. Pelosi's] spirits soured instantly when somebody asked about the anger of the Democratic "base" over her failure to end the war in Iraq.

"Look," she said, the chicken breast on her plate untouched. "I had, for five months, people sitting outside my home, going into my garden in San Francisco, angering neighbors, hanging their clothes from trees, building all kinds of things -- Buddhas? I don't know what they were -- couches, sofas, chairs, permanent living facilities on my front sidewalk."

Unsmilingly, she continued: "If they were poor and they were sleeping on my sidewalk, they would be arrested for loitering, but because they have 'Impeach Bush' across their chest, it's the First Amendment."

Man, I love that. All these Code Pink/ fruitcakes are demonstrating in San Francisco and what is Nancy Pelosi thinking? Goddamn bums -- they oughtta be thrown in the slammer.

I find it comforting that the woman who is two heartbeats from the Oval Office is contemptuous of the Democrat base.

(I forgot to put the link to this one and now I have forgotten where I found it.)

UPDATE: Here is the link.

3. Did you hear about Buddhist monk who walked into a pizza parlor and said, "Make me one with everything"?

4. Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize? As Mike's Eyes notes, the prize is now worthless. Robert Tracinski in TIA Daily says the prize, "now apparently has nothing to do with world peace and is simply an all-purpose vehicle for promoting leftist causes." Mr. Tracinski also points to a good piece by John Berlau on the award:

In direct contradiction of Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, the selection of Gore essentially means the Peace Prize can no longer be said to be an award for improving the condition of humankind. Looking at Gore's writing, it's far from clear that Gore even believes that humanity is his most important priority….

Rather, his stated desire is to stop human activity that he sees as ruining what he calls the "ecosystem." Awarding the prize to Gore in 2007 is the equivalent of honoring the Luddites who tried to stop the beneficial technologies of Alfred Nobels's day.

A common theme of selection for the Nobel Peace Prize and the other Nobel awards has been the use of science and technology to overcome problems afflicting humans such as starvation and disease…. In creating the annual prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and the promotion of world peace (roughly the same five fields for which Nobels are awarded today), Nobel stated the desire in his will to honor "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

According to Alfred Nobel: A Biograpy by Kenne Fant, an earlier draft of Nobel's will stipulated that prizes in all categories should be "a reward for the most important pioneering discoveries or works in the field of knowledge and progress."

But for Albert Gore, Jr. the fields of knowledge and progress are suspect, and so are many types of technology with benefits to mankind.

The Nobel Peace Prize is now being given to enemies of civilization.

5. If anyone is interested, I wrote a piece of flash fiction a few years ago called "The Prophet."

6. The economist Gary Becker looks at the old but endlessly fascinating question of why intellectuals, academics and artists are more left-wing than the rest of the population. His answer is economic, which I believe is not deep enough, but he makes some interesting observations.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will the Big Tent Collapse?

The grumbles from the religious right about leaving the party if the pro-choice Giuliani is the nominee remind us that the Republican Party is a "Big Tent" of various factions -- neoconservatives, social and religious conservatives, free market Republicans -- who are united for little else than that they are not Democrats. To be more accurate, they are united in not being socialists.

The Republican Party is a union riddled with contradictions. Some Republicans want open borders; others want jackbooted police raids of illegal immigrants. Some Republicans think it's fine if gays marry; others quote the Bible and condemn homosexuals as immoral. Some Republicans want to withdraw to Fortress America; others want to pursue neoconservative nation building to spread "democracy" while a few others would like America to assert its national interest and destroy states that sponsor terrorism. A few Republican dinosaurs still long for the Goldwater days when the party seemed to be for laissez-faire capitalism; most are happy with the welfare state, they just want a bit less than the Democrats in order to pretend they're for freedom.

Compared to this the Democrats are united and orderly. All Democrats know what they want: more government. All Democrats adhere to the ideologies of the New Left -- multiculturalism, environmentalism, feminism. When a Dem such as Joseph Lieberman goes off the reservation, he is scorned as a pariah. When a Democrat gently criticizes his own side, he is rebuked for giving the Republicans ammunition.

The conventional wisdom has it that the Republicans are the party with strict discipline, whereas the Democrats are chaotic. The old line goes, "I don't belong to an organized political party -- I'm a Democrat." This might be true in superficial ways, but at root the Republicans are a party full of ideological conflict and the Democrats are a party of ideological conformity. Political correctness comes from the left and is inescapable on the left. A politically incorrect Democrat is not long a Democrat; soon he becomes a neoconservative.

The Republican Big Tent is, I believe, a reaction to Marxism. When the Industrial Revolution was young, the conservatives hated it. They romanticized the middle ages and despised factories, smoke stacks, the division of labor, etc. They longed for the old order, in which everyone knew his place, when God was on his throne in Heaven and all was right in the world. J.R.R. Tolkien was such a conservative; his Shire is a happy, pre-capitalist English town, whereas Mordor is a twisted view of an industrial nation with regimentation and belching smoke stacks. The conservatives were the first enemies of capitalism.

Then came along one Karl Marx, who secularized the conservatives' arguments against capitalism and created dialectical materialism and communism. Marxism was a tremendous success that spread like wildfire through the west. The conservatives had no choice but to band together with their enemy, the pro-capitalist liberals, against their greater enemy the socialists. In America the anti-socialist party accepted the term conservative and gave up liberal, which was immediately claimed by the socialists.

By the mid-20th century it was obvious to all but those blinded by Marxist ideology that capitalism worked and communism did not. The 20th century was a long series of laboratory experiments demonstrating capitalism's productiveness: where people were free, they thrived; where people were not free, they were poor.

Capitalism's productivity presented a problem to the anti-capitalist left. The Old Left's claims of outperforming capitalism because the communists had a planned economy were nothing but a joke by mid-century. They solved the problem by finding an ideology that held productivity itself to be bad. Thus was environmentalism born. Scientific socialism could be thrown overboard -- or at least put on the back burner -- as long as the left could continue pursuing the destruction of capitalism. The left is essentially nihilist: what replaces capitalism is not as important as its destruction.

Capitalism also presents a problem to the religious conservatives -- a problem they are still struggling with and have yet to resolve. Religion upholds the morality of altruism, the idea that the strong must sacrifice for the weak. Capitalism is plainly based on selfishness and greed, what Jefferson called the pursuit of happiness. If one adheres to the morality of altruism consistently, one is led to support the welfare state with the Democrats. This is a contradiction the religious right must resolve.

But the contradictions between capitalism and mysticism go even deeper. If Augustine could be resurrected and set down in midtown Manhattan, his mind would be horrified once he understood what he saw. He would be repulsed by a civilization that is focused on pursuing happiness in this Satanic realm of existence instead of focusing on the Kingdom of God that one enters after death. He would hate a civilization that values science and reason more than blind faith. Modern Christians have been able to evade or plaster over these contradictions so far, but crises have a way of forcing one to act in accordance with what he really believes. Will future crises tear the Republican Big Tent apart?

It might be a testament to the Republicans' vaunted party discipline that the coalition of religionists, individualists, country clubbers and others has held together so well. Or perhaps it is the way a two-party system works: factions are forced by their greater enemy to come together with lesser enemies. Currently, there are calls for James Dobson and the religious conservatives to support Giuliani in order to defeat Hillary Clinton in '08.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the Republicans' Big Tent will be the spread of Objectivism in American culture. At some point, when a large enough percentage of Americans believes that selfishness is a virtue, the religious right will be galvanized into choosing what they really believe. They will have to decide between religion and capitalism. I believe they will choose religion and forge an alliance with the anti-capitalist left. The mystics will be happier then without having to pretend they value freedom. For the first time in several centuries the conservatives will be home again where they should be -- on the side that opposes capitalism.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was published on October 10, 1957, 50 years ago today. It is my favorite novel. I believe it is the greatest novel ever written.

The book is a publishing phenomenon. Last year it sold 130,000 copies, more than the year it came out. How many other novels published in the 1950's can boast such sales figures? (And how many of those have yet to be made into a movie?) These sales come despite the contempt the novel has gotten from tastemakers on the left and right since it was first published. Whittaker Chambers in National Review made the novel sound like the second coming of Adolph Hitler, an outrageous smear. (Could there be a worse person to review Atlas Shrugged than a communist who had become a Christian?) The conservative Andrew Ferguson recently dismissed Rand's novels as "preposterous" and the leftist maverick Christopher Hitchens has sneered at them as "transcendently awful."

If you accept the standards of naturalism, to which most serious novels conform, then Tolstoy's War and Peace is the greatest novel and Atlas Shrugged is indeed preposterous and awful. It has an interesting plot with suspense and an exciting climax; characters who are not statistical averages but heroes; a style that is at once clear and poetic, rational and passionate; and worst of all, it has a theme. Moreover, the theme contradicts the morality of both the left and right, undercutting both socialism and religion! Not only does it do all that, but it introduces a radical new philosophy in a 57-page speech. How on earth did such a book ever get published in an age of naturalism, an age in which your typical novel is a dreary, pointless, plotless story about some hapless professor suffering a midlife crisis?

As the venom from conservatives suggests, Atlas Shrugged is in no way conservative. It is radical. It is a revolutionary tract that introduces the philosophy of Objectivism, a philosophy of reality, reason, rational self-interest, capitalism and romanticism. (And it does this while also being a dramatic page-turner, a love story, a mystery and science fiction. To me it's not just the greatest novel, it's the most astonishing and most ambitious. Rand set her purpose high and she fulfilled it.)

Objectivism is now in a race with modern philosophy to determine the fate of Western Civilization. If modern philosophy continues to spread subjectivism, moral relativism, altruism, egalitarianism and collectivism, then statism will continue to grow and America will continue to lose its freedom. The nihilistic black hole of modern philosophy paves the way for religion to fill the value vacuum; as history shows, religion also leads to dictatorship. The enlightenment, of which America is a product, was the historical lowpoint of religion. If Objectivism spreads the morality of rational self-interest and individualism, then the march toward dictatorship will be halted and turned around.

That last paragraph probably baffled all but those who already agree with it. Any discussion of the effects of philosophy on politics and culture is highly abstract and hard to make real. I can't do it in a blog post, but what I can do is point the reader to the book that does make it real, that concretizes the philosophical struggle of Western Civilization. That book is Atlas Shrugged. It shows what altruism-collectivism-mysticism are doing to America -- and it provides the solution.

I can't do the novel justice here. All I can do is suggest you try it, you might like it. Or you might not. I have pushed the book on many family members and friends, none of whom read it. I think people are more likely to read a book they find and buy themselves than one they get as a gift. People seem to think, "You're giving me 1,000 pages to read? As if I didn't have enough work to do!" So I won't give you the book; but if you should see it in a bookstore someday and recall this review... go for it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Make Limbaugh an Offer He Can't Refuse

This is chilling:

Rep. Henry Waxman has asked his investigative staff to begin compiling reports on Limbaugh, and fellow radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin based on transcripts from their shows, and to call in Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to discuss the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."

"Limbaugh isn't the only one who needs to be made uncomfortable about what he says on the radio," says a House leadership source. "We don't have as big a megaphone as these guys, but this all political, and we'll do what we can to gain the advantage. If we can take them off their game for a while, it will help our folks out there on the campaign trail."

To this "House leadership source," because Limbaugh speaks about politics, it is fair for Democrats to use the power of government to curtail his freedom of speech. Oh, excuse me -- they just want him to be made "uncomfortable."

Somehow it doesn't comfort me when politicians speak in euphemisms like gangsters in The Godfather.

Around the World Wide Web 31

1. Billy Beck finds a new friend -- or she finds him. I can just hear a veterinarian I know exclaiming, "Cats don't have the enzymes to digest milk!" But it's okay, the milk was just an emergency measure. As a daily diet, however, milk is not good for cats; it gives them diarrhea.

2. A new reader of Atlas Shrugged finds it meaningful today.

3. Over 200 million people have given up blogging. Hey, I'm still here.

4. Beauties with Big Brains. Paris Hilton did not make the list.

(HT: Eratosthenes)

5. Newt Gingrich makes sense in this video. "We Don't Have A Peace Process, We Have A Surrender Process."

6. 101 top dishonest stories in the MSM.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Imagine No Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan promised to go away, but she continues to torment the world with her deep thoughts. Here she waxes eloquent about John Lennon's "Imagine".

Imagine no possessions: This is the crux of our problem. Going back to my brothers and sisters at the slot machines in Vegas, pulling almost catatonically on the lever of the One Armed Bandit, for what? To win the “jackpot” of course! How nice is it of the State of Nevada to allow gambling machines in their airports, so we can perchance live the American dream of buying higher stacks of stuff! On a day that George vetoed the health of over six-million children here in America, 16,000 children around the world died of starvation. In a week that we saw murder on a horrendous scale in Burma, more Iraqis were killed or forced from their homes by violence: to wander in the desert, or probably off to Syria where their daughters may be forced into prostitution to help support the family which should be able to live in peace and relative prosperity in their own country. Imagine that.

It was hard for me to imagine or envision peace when I am terrified because BushCo is contemplating even more slaughter in the Middle East in Iran and when Congress, Inc is busy supporting a murderous status quo that hurts humans within all borders, even our own.

Peace will only happen when every member of humanity is guaranteed prosperity, health and security which will not happen when we here in the US can’t even get off our asses to protest a war that is four and a half years and hundreds of thousands of bodies old, now.

We can imagine peace all we want but until each and everyone of us is willing to sacrifice some of our prosperity (because we have already had our security robbed from us by the rotten Republicans and complicit corporate Democrats) true peace—not just the absence of war—will be as elusive as a morsel of truth or modicum of courage coming out of Washington, DC.

Voluntary sacrifice is truly a revolutionary concept here in the United States of America.

So you say you want a revolution? Imagine that.

Why does she hate George Bush so much? He is for voluntary sacrifice also. Bush and Sheehan should spend a weekend working out their differences, then create a bipartisan fascist dictatorship and show us selfish Americans what happens when we do not sacrifice voluntarily. Imagine that.

A History of Appeasement

Do you yearn for moral clarity in our struggle against militant Islam? Watch this speech by Elan Journo, The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists. It will be the best 54 minutes you spend today. Mr. Journo shows how appeasement and diplomacy have emboldened Iran and the Jihadists to attack us harder at every step since the 1979 hostage crisis. (You will have to take a minute to register with the Ayn Rand Institute to gain access to the video; it's worth the effort.)

It is clear that the morality of altruism, if not turned around, will be the death of America. The hole in Manhattan that is Ground Zero is a grim harbinger of our future if we do not find the self-confidence to defend ourselves and destroy our enemies.

(HT: Thrutch)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 30

1. Born Again Redneck compares the 10-point political program in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto to liberal policies today. Not much difference.

2. The 25 Most Ridiculous Band Names in Rock History. As you read the list they just keep getting worse and worse.

3. The Republicans don't need to say anything nasty about the Democrats. All they need to do is let them talk and hope their words get press coverage. Here is John Edwards's plan to end terrorism:

The plan Mr. Edwards presented yesterday — which he dubbed “A Strategy to Shut Down Terrorists and Stop Terrorism Before It Starts” — calls for a 10,000-person “Marshall Corps” to deal with issues ranging from worldwide poverty and economic development to clean drinking water and micro-lending. He said investing in those areas would shore up weak nations and help ensure that terrorism does not take root there. That, he said, would allow the country to stop potential terrorists before they even join the ranks.

The Democrats cannot understand that terrorism comes from a radical ideology that hates the West, held by such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood. These radicals exploit poverty to gain adherents, and a new bureaucracy of 10,000 people will change nothing. There will always be enough poverty for militant Islamists to exploit. Instead of abasing ourselves in yet another altruistic scheme of appeasement that ends up padding the Swiss bank accounts of Mideast strongmen, we need to destroy the states that sponsor terrorism.

4. Big Lizards has the last word on the Hush Rush Crusade, the phony "phony soldiers" controversy.

...I think this is a catastrophic error in judgment by the Democrats. The American people are never as stupid as liberals and Democrats imagine them to be... and they're about to find that out the hard way.

This is an excellent point. As you often read in forums such as Democratic Underground, when Dems attempt to talk themselves into believing the reality they want to believe, they dismiss the American people as "sheep" and so on. This leads them to believe they can pull a fast one over voters with clever lies -- that never work.

5. If you're really bored, here is a Marxist explanation of the "Libertarian Movement." If you don't want to read it, I'll sum up the argument for you: because rich people fund Austrian economics think tanks, etc., the movement for laissez-faire capitalism is an attempt by the wealthy ruling class to thwart socialism and maintain power. One might point out that a lot of rich people such as George Soros and the Hollywood elite fund liberal groups. Economic determinism is a shallow and insufficient explanation of cultural movements.

6. A slide show of quotes from Hillary Clinton. The political statements at the beginning are more interesting than the quotes towards the end, many of which are Mrs. Clinton cussing a blue streak at such servants as Arkansas state troopers. The political quotes show that she is a committed socialist ideologue, not your average welfare state doofus of a politician.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Marion Jones

Marion Jones has admitted to using steroids. Her statement was forthright and sincere without any passing of the blame -- everything an admittance of guilt should be. Her medals should be taken from her and that should be an end to it.

(A more complicated question: should her teammates in the relays also lose their medals?)

She probably could have fought the accusations of performance enhancing drug use and won, given the idiocy of your average jury. Instead, she admitted everything, and she deserves credit for that. These days being honest and repentant seems like an act of heroism.

I would guess she was tired of living a lie, which takes a psychological toll. I believe OJ Simpson's book, If I Did It, was written out of the psychological need to tell the world (sort of) the truth. Being a weasel and a moron, sort of telling the truth is enough for OJ's psychology.

Like Michael Vick, Marion Jones has done the inevitable in these situations and "found God." To this atheist, finding God is the last dismal twist to these stories of disgrace. After destroying her integrity by cheating and lying about it, now Marion Jones is further destroying her mind by believing in a metaphysical fantasy.

And why do the disgraced and fallen always find God? Because it is the easiest way to get most people to forgive them and think they are good people. They turn to a supernatural creature for whom there is no evidence in order to get people to like them. Now, that's pathetic.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dispatch From the Sewer

This has been a week that shows us how far to the left the Democrats have gone. Both the "phony soldier" story and the SCHIP story remind us that the Democrats are a party that has changed greatly in the last 40 years. They are nearing the edge of the abyss of totalitarianism -- but as we will see, the Republicans are not far behind.

It's obvious from the fact that Rush Limbaugh recorded a morning update about Jesse Macbeth the day before that he was referring to phony soldiers -- people who lied about their service in the military -- when he mentioned phony soldiers on the air. Media Matters distorted the words to mean soldiers Limbaugh disagreed with, as if he were questioning the service of soldiers who want America out of Iraq. Prominent Democrats such as Harry Reid and Tom Harkin accepted the Media Matters spin and attacked Limbaugh on the Senate floor.

The story displays two of the most ominous characteristics of the New Leftist Democrats: their contempt for the truth and their penchant for character assassination. The facts about Limbaugh don't seem to matter to the left; they believe he deserves to be attacked, therefore smears against him are true. They believe what they want to believe.

While attacks on Limbaugh delight the base, they don't help Democrats with the rest of America. David Paul Kuhn writes in Politico that the Democrats are losing white male voters, a bloc that is 36% of all voters. White males, independents and other voters the Democrats desperately need will only be put off by the virulent attacks on Limbaugh. It's obvious to these voters that the Limbaugh smear is a ginned-up "gotcha!"

(As for wooing the white male vote, the Democrats are in a terrible bind. The premise of multiculturalism and the broader premises of egalitarianism and altruism will undermine any effort by the Democrats to win white male voters. White males are the ones with power, so they must be made to sacrifice to minorities and women. Any cynical pandering to white males would be an affront to their morality and would make their base unhappy.)

Yesterday President Bush vetoed SCHIP:

At issue is the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as Schip, which was created to subsidize children's health care for families that earn as much as twice the federal poverty level, currently $41,000 for a family of four. The vetoed compromise proposal would expand the $25 billion program by $35 billion over the next five years. The additional money would come from raising the cigarette taxes by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

President Bush deserves credit for this veto, but note the next paragraph in this story:

Bush has proposed increasing funding for the program by $5 billion over five years. Some Republicans say the compromise would unnecessarily expand the program to include families who can afford to pay for health care.

Bush's opposition does not seem to be one of principle, but a question of how much should be spent. Bush is proposing a typical pragmatic compromise, the kind of thing that has helped the welfare state grow over the last century or so. By conceding the principle that SCHIP is worthy of funding -- $5 billion, at least -- Bush has lost the war in the long run.

SCHIP is a step toward socialized medicine, a grim future that looks inevitable under Democrats or Republicans. The Dems might get us there a little faster, but the "compassionate conservatives" will get us there as well.

Allen Forkum noted in Final Bow,

...anything seems more appealing than immersing myself in the sewer of daily politics.

Days like this I can certainly understand his point of view. Politicians in the welfare state give us little to admire; instead they are at best studies in mediocrity, at worst studies in power-lust.

Fortunately, I get to rehearse Monna Vanna in tonight in Hollywood, and immerse myself in great art. Politics is for an age; art is for the ages.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 29

1. This bit from the Daily Show shows why, in my opinion, Hillary Clinton will be demolished in 2008. She's phony. And she has to be phony because the real Hillary Clinton is unpleasant, profane and cynical. The uninformed voters who judge a candidate on such idiotic grounds as "He seems like a nice guy" will not like Hillary Clinton.

2. This political chart baffles me. Any chart that puts Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the same sector cannot be useful.

3. Rick Moran stands up against religious intolerance:

And then to top off GOP idiocy for September, you have war hero John McCain saying first that he couldn’t support a Muslim for President and then clarifying that remark a little later by basically saying, “Well, I can support a Muslim as long as we can be sure of their loyalty to the United States.”

How big of you, John. All you have to do is substitute “Catholic” for “Muslim” and you have exactly the right attitude – for the election of 1928. That’s when people wondered whether Catholic Al Smith would be more loyal to the Vatican or to the US Constitution.

I have but one problem with Mr. Moran's tolerance. I couldn't support a Muslim for President. The difference between Muslim and Catholic is that the Vatican has never declared war against us. Radical Catholics do not commit terrorist acts against the West. Catholic countries do not send money to terrorists. I could not trust a Muslim President to prosecute a war against militant Islam with vigor.

4. The Giuliani campaign thinks it would start with 210 electoral votes, and Clinton would start with 18, the rest being up for grabs. I agree with Green Mountain Politics that this might be wishful thinking, but also think Giuliani would win easily. Green Mountain Politics scoffs at the idea that California would vote Republican, but I think there will be some big surprises on election night.

5. Clarence Thomas on Ayn Rand. (HT: Instapundit) Also on Instapundit:


And doesn't the sound of that kind of bother Ayn Rand fans . . . .?

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

6. The 10 most insane sports in the world. (HT: Conservative Grapevine)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thanks for the Laughs

I can't add much to Gus Van Horn's "eulogy" of Cox and Forkum, who are hanging up their editorial cartoon pen. I enjoyed their cartoons, despite the fact that the byline Cox and Forkum sounded like the punchline of a dirty joke to me. They found the essential point to satirize in any story -- a remarkable feat, considering that most cartoonists give you the liberal or conservative conventional wisdom and little else. The power of Cox and Forkum's cartoons illustrates the power of thinking in principles -- rational principles -- and reminds us how rare that method of thinking still is.