Saturday, August 28, 2010

The State versus Achievements

It is true, as this Pajamas article says, that NASA's Constellation moon project was an utterly incompetent conception and a fiasco, and it deserved to die on the pad with a self-destruct order. And space exploration should be private, though there are legitimate and essential military applications in space.   But the article's author errs gravely in diminishing the role of private enterprise in the success of the Apollo program, which rested entirely on the creative spirit and inventiveness of free individuals functioning in a private industry.  Without that, we never would have made it to the moon.  Period.

You can debate how "private" any industry is in the United States, today or in the 1960's, especially the defense industry that made Apollo. But statism doesn't create anything.  Force and mind are opposites: nothing was ever created by pointing a gun at someone.  Acts of creation only come from the reasoning minds of individuals who are free to grasp reality and act on their judgment, according to their convictions and motivations about what it good and true and right.  Those acts don't happen by threatening someone; such acts are always on the premise of a free market -- ie, capitalism -- ie, a system that protects the rights of the individual -- even if they occur in a system that mixes some freedom with some controls -- eg, the United States today, what Ayn Rand accurately described as a "mixed economy" -- a mixture of freedom and statism (see her books, Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, or The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution).

What made Apollo work was not the statists, ie, not the NASA bureaucrats: it was a lot of people in private industry who believed that in using their minds to solve the problems of building a rocket, they were defending freedom  (remember the "space race"?), opposing communism, pursuing adventure, seeking knowledge, taking heroic risks ("boldly going...") and doing something noble and good, even if, in the long run, by acting on behalf of government control of space they were destroying the future of space travel.  People of confused premises but a lot of self-interest.

Let's say it again: Apollo would not have succeeded if NASA had designed it.  It succeeded because there were a lot of free people who believed they were doing good while earning a profit in support of it.

Creation is not an attribute of government. It is an attribute of free people.  Ie, private enterprise. Government, in its only proper, limited function (the military, the police, the courts), simply preserves the good and noble and right -- which is important! -- but it doesn't create things.   The success of a statist endeavor (any illegitimate function of government) does not mean that statists accomplished it; it means you have to discover the free minds who endeavored to accomplish it.

Even the Soviet space program was a product of free enterprise.  Apart from the fact that they stole most of their technology from us, to the extent you could find any scientist and engineer over there with an original thought, such people were acting on the premise of a free society (however misplaced, misguided or mercenary their intentions), even if the society they lived in wasn't free.  Such people were the only ones keeping that communist trainwreck moving, and such people are the only ones keeping a mixed economy such as our own moving.   (What Rand called "the sanction of the victim".)

This is the contradiction of anyone who chooses to serve an illegitimate function of the state -- that is, any function not directly serving the protection of individual rights: they are enabling their own destroyers and enslaving everyone else around them. Like the physicist Robert Stadler in Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged", whose advocacy of the oligarchic State Science Institute (a prescient predecessor to NASA) made him the destroyer of all science.  Like anyone who places their free mind in the service of statism -- they are destroying freedom and everything else made possible by it.

When someone holds irrational ideals -- like "might makes right / the government must use coercion to do good / we have to seize everyone's money and force them to do the 'right thing'" -- to the extent they act to use their mind to grasp the relationships of reality and choose a course of action to achieve some goal (however noble or not), they are acting in contradiction to that irrational ideal. They are acting, on the one hand, on the premise of a free man, a free market and a free country when they use their minds to create a remarkable machinery that puts human beings on the moon; on the other hand, when they put their minds in service to an organization that usurps the prerogatives of private enterprise with extorted taxes (NASA), they are acting on the premise of a common gunman, whose only form of "creation" is a heist.  In that role, they are henchman to the godfather of the state.

Private enterprise made Apollo possible; but the state destroyed space travel.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Depradations of Post-Modern Literary Analysis

This criticism of movie critic Roger Ebert was an interesting analysis even if I've never read Armond White nor seen most of the movies mentioned here. I've never liked Roger Ebert as a movie critic, and Kerstein provides good arguments against him, which can be summed up in Objectivist terms as:  Ebert is a concrete-bound subjectivist who never (or rarely) focused on fundamentals or essentials, but rather on the minutae of his liking, dropping context like elephant dung and usually missing the real conceptual meaning on the few occasions he attempted to address it.

At my own superficial level, I can't recall liking any movie that Ebert liked, and he hated many movies that I thought were good, for simply arbitrary and often vicious reasons.   For instance, Ebert trashed one of the best comedies I know, "Addicted to Love", because of a few seconds on screen with a guy on a motorcycle.  "How cliche!  EVERYone has done that!" yadayada -- not only was this not true (and a comedy is certainly entitled to mock a cliche), but it ignored everything good in the plotting and characterization and the acting and the dialogue and the novelty of the situation that was set up (the use of a "camera obscura"), as well as the genuine pathos of a couple of desperate people pathetically seeking revenge on an overly arrogant but even somewhat admirable Frenchman who stumbled through the glass shop of their lives.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crazy like a Fox

Ayn Rand long ago (July, 1971) wrote a brilliant essay (reprinted in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution) that perfectly captures the essence of the post-modern Left towards America and the dominant emotion that motivates them:  hatred of the good, for being the good -- which means, as she put it:
"...Hatred of that which one regards as good by one's own (conscious or subconscious) judgment.  It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable."
She elaborated (heavily abbreviated here),
"...this type of hatred is heavily enmeshed in rationalizations.  The most common one is:  'I don't hate him for his intelligence, but for his conceit!'  More often than not, if one asks the speaker to name the evidence of the victim's conceit, he exhausts such generalities as: 'he's insolent... he's stubborn... he's selfish,'..."
"...the haters seem unable to differentiate conceptually between 'conceit' and a deserved pride..."
"...Its clearest manifestation is the attitude of a person who characteristically resents someone's success, happiness, achievement or good fortune -- and experiences pleasure at someone's failure, unhappiness or misfortune. ...if you have seen it, you have seen the naked face of evil."

"...Envy is part of this creature's feeling, but only the superficial, semi-respectible part... because it seems to imply a desire for material possessions... but deep down, the creature has no such desire:  it does not want to be rich, it wants the human being to be poor. does not desire [any] value: it desires [any] value's destruction. "

"What endows such a creature with a quality of abysmal evil is the fact that it has an awareness of values and is able to recognize them in people..."

"Consider the full meaning of this attitude... Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action, and the successful pursuit of values is a  precondition of remaining alive... What is the nature of a creature in which the sight of a value arouses hatred and the desire to destroy?  ...such a creature is a killer... not an enemy of your values, but of all values, it is an enemy of anything that enables men to survive..."

"The greatest danger in this issue is men's inability -- or worse:  unwillingness -- fully to identify it."
Rand's point is crucially important to anyone today who wants to preserve this country from the destruction it now faces:
"...The profiteers are men with a vested interest in mankind's psychological devastation, who burrow their way into positions of moral-intellectual leadership.  They provide the haters with unlimited means of rationalization, dissimulation, excuse and camouflage, including ways of passing vices off as virtues.  They slander, confuse and disarm the victims.  Their vested interest is power-lust.  Their stock in trade is any system of thought or of belief aimed at keeping men small..."
Have you ever wondered why the powers-that-be expended every effort possible to keep the Twin Towers from being rebuilt, but they are four-square in lockstep support of a 13 story mosque??
"...historically, philosophically and psychologically... altruism is an inexhaustible source of rationalizations for the most evil motives, the most inhuman actions, the most loathsome emotions... the tenet that the good is an object of sacrifice..."
"If anyone ever believed (or tried to believe) that the motive of altruism is compassion, that's its goal is the relief of human suffering and the elimination of poverty, the state of today's culture now deprives him of any foothold of self-deception.  Today, altruism is running amuck, shedding its tattered rationalizations and displaying its soul.  Altruists are no longer concerned with material wealth, not even with its 'redistribution', only with its destruction.  But even this is merely a means to an end.  Their savage fury is aimed at the destruction of intelligence -- of ability, ambition, thought, purpose, justice... the destruction of values qua values." 
Rand addresses the deeper intellectual movement behind modern altruists:
"...The last fig leaf of academic pretentiousness is the tag used to disguise this movement:  egalitarianism."

"Egalitarianism means the belief in the equality of all men... but this is not the meaning that the altruists ascribe to the word...  they turn the word into an anti-concept... to mean, not political but metaphysical equality... regardless of natural endowments or individual choice, performance and character..."

"...It is not equality before the law that they seek, but inequality:  the establishment of an inverted social pyramid, with a new aristocracy on the top -- the aristocracy of non-value."

"Observe the various methods used to accomplish this goal... [she cites various examples]... it is 'unfair', they cry, that only the rich can obtain the best medical care -- or the best education -- or the best housing --- or any commodity in short supply, which should be rationed, not competed for...  "
I believe we just heard those arguments recently.
"Egalitarians abolish the system of grades based on the objective value of a student's scholastic achievement and substitute... grading on a curve... thus a studen may get an A or an F ... according to whether he happens to be in a class of morons or child prodigies.  No better way could be devised to endow a young man with a vested interest in the inferiority of others and with fear and hatred of their superiority."

This is one way you create a culture of "progressives" -- ie, collectivists -- among the young.
"...Weakness of any sort... is today's standard of value, criterion of rights and claim to privileges....  the same collectivists who once upheld the vicous doctrine of unlimited majority rule, now deny to the majority -- in any given issue -- the special privileges they grant to any group that claims to be a minority."

"Racism is an evil and primitive form of collectivism. [But] today, racism is regarded as a crime if practiced by a majority ...[and] an inalienable right if practiced by a minority...  In relation to any given minority, we are told, it is the duty of all others, ie, the majority, to tolerate and understand the minority's values and customs -- while the minority ... will continue hurling racist epithets (or worse) at the majority's faces."

"Nobody can pretend any longer that the goal of such policies is the elimination of racism -- particularly when one observes that the real victims are the better members of these privileged minorities. "

"Of greater importance to the egalitarians than mere numerical weakness is ... its cultural weakness.  It is primitive cultures that we are asked to study, to appreciate and to respect -- any sort of culture except our own. [We are told]... an oxcart is an achievement -- an airplane is not... Stonehenge is an achievement -- the Empire State Building is not."

"...Why is Western civilization admonished to admire primitive cultures?  Because they are not admirable."

"...It is not for her flaws that the United States of America is hated, but for her virtues -- not for her weaknesses, but for her achievements -- not for her failures, but for her success -- her magnificent, shining, life-giving success."

"If there were such a thing as a passion for equality... it would be obvious to its exponents that there are only two ways to achieve it:  either by raising all men to the mountaintop -- or by razing the mountains.  The first method is impossible... but the nearest approach to it was demonstrated by the United States and capitalism, which protected the freedom, the rewards and the incentives for every individual's achievement... the second method is impossible because... mankind... would not be able to survive... yet it is the second method the altruist-egalitarians are pursuing."

"The greater the evidence of their policy's consequences, ie, the greater the spread of misery, of injustice, of vicious inequality throughout the world, the more frantic their pursuit--which is one demonstration of the fact that there is no such thing as a benevolent passion for equality, is only a rationalization to cover a passionate hatred of the good for being the good."
 Rand goes on to discuss the psychological roots of such people, and concludes (heavily abbreviated):
"...The haters are in control of our culture and in the open.  ... Their G.H.Q. is in the field of education, which they control. 'Progressive' schools are manufacturing haters wholesale..."
 Again, remember: this was written in 1971.  How much might these people have "progressed" since then?
"As long as men believe that they are facing 'misguided idealists'... self-defense is impossible... It is necessary fully to understand the nature of the enemy and his mentality.  There is no giant behind the devastation of the world -- only a shriveled creature with the wizened face of a child who is out to blow up the kitchen because he cannot steal his cookies and eat them, too."
 For anyone harboring the notion that altruism is something benevolent and to be upheld as an ideal, that it doesn't really express itself as a hatred of the good -- before you aid your own destroyers, read a quote from Rand's character of Ellsworth Toohey, in her novel The Fountainhead (1943), which perfectly captures the kind of person now destroying us (who is much more prevalent than the creature now in the White House):
" ...You make me sick," said Toohey. "God, how you make me sick, all you hypocritical sentimentalists! You go along with me, you spout what I teach you, you profit by it--but you haven't the grace to admit to yourself what you're doing."
 This is the beginning of a soliloquy by Toohey, which I commented on at length in my own essay  "Good Night, America". Toohey reveals himself when a pretentious mediocrity par excellance, Peter Keating, asks why Toohey wants to destroy architect Howard Roark, who represents the independent, thinking man:
"I don't want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped--and alive. He'll get up when they tell him to. He'll eat what they give him. He'll move when he's told to move and stop when he's told. He'll walk to the jute mill, when he's told, and he'll work as he's told. They'll push him, if he doesn't move fast enough, and they'll slap his face when they feel like it, and they'll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn't obey. And he'll obey. He'll take orders. He'll take orders!"
As I remarked in my own essay, remember that what follows was written in the 1930's -- over thirty years before her 1971 essay, showing the full progression of the progressives from then till now:
"What do you...want...Ellsworth?"

"Power, Petey." ...Toohey was smiling, almost indifferently.

"You...always said..." Keating began thickly, and stopped.

"I've always said just that. Clearly, precisely and openly. It's not my fault if you couldn't hear. ...Enjoyment is not my destiny. I shall find such satisfaction as my capacity permits. I shall rule."

"..."Want to know how it's done? ...Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. ...Kill his aspiration and his integrity. ...preach selflessness. Tell man that he must live for others. Tell men that altruism is the ideal. Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it."

"...Kill his capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it. Great men can't be ruled. ...Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept--and you stop ... all incentive to improvement, to excellence, to perfection. ...Don't set out to raze all shrines--you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity--and the shrines are razed."

"...Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It's simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. ...Don't let anything remain sacred in a man's soul--and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man."

"...This is most important: Don't allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take away from them whatever is dear or important to them. Never let them have what they want.  ...Make them feel that the mere fact of a personal desire is evil. Bring them to a state where saying ‘I want' is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission."

"Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men will come to you. They'll need you. They'll come for consolation, for support, for escape. Nature allows no vacuum. Empty man's soul--and the space is yours to fill. ...just listen to any prophet and if you hear him speak of sacrifice--run. Run faster than from a plague. It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings... The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master."

"...Am I raving or is this the cold reality of two continents already? Observe the state of the world as of the present moment. Do you still think I'm crazy, Peter?"

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Light of Day

Amit Ghate has provided a wonderful statement of the underlying meaning of "Freedom of Religion" or "Freedom of Speech: as much as these principles mean protection from a state outlawing certain ideas, they also mean protection from a State extorting money from its citizenry to promote anyone's agenda, whether by regulation that suppresses certain points of view (via vehicles like campaign finance laws), public schools that propagandize controversial ideas (like Global Warming or environmentalism in general), or even government advertising campaigns to promote righteous behavior ("This is your brain on drugs... [picture of fried egg]"). 

More people need to take notice that the protection of individual rights (the only proper function of any State), if it means anything at all, means protection from the State in all forms of advocacy.  Not just protection from the State putting a gun directly to your head to do something -- but protection from a State indirectly forcing you to pony up your hard-earned cash so they can put you -- or your kids -- into a locked room, strap you into a chair, clamp your head in a vice, tape your eyelids open, and force you to look straight ahead at a screen projecting a stroboscopic kaleidoscope of caricatures of humanity screaming their "message" with the sound system cranked wide open into an incoherent din.

That is the ultimate expression of and real meaning of a State that doesn't separate itself from the promotion of ideas -- legalized brainwashing. 

Here's an exercise:  over the next week count the number of times you are subjected to some kind of government advocated point of view -- ie, a point of view promoted by some advocates who have seized control of the government. 

-- Count the number of "Ad Council" ads on TV, for instance. (If you watch 20 hours of TV a week and come up with less than 20 government ads, you've fallen asleep.)

-- How many times did you scan past NPR on the radio while they condescendingly promoted their contempt of capitalism by nothing more than a sneer at all businessmen from a guest who never earned an honest buck in his life?

-- Or maybe Barack Obama just preempted your favorite TV show for a 2 hour speech on his notions of subsidized health care. 

-- Maybe you were prohibited from eating some kind of food at a restaurant because of all those publicly funded "public interest research groups" (CalPIRG, MPIRG, US PIRG, Iowa PIRG, etc, etc, pick your flavor) -- who get much of their funding from federal grants and automatic "donations" by students at state-run schools;

-- or, less obvious, you ate something containing an ingredient promoted by government farm subsidies, which made it impossible for alternatives to be made available.

-- or you couldn't get salt on a meal because of Michael Bloomberg's never-ending quest for moral supremacy and power.

-- Maybe your kid was required to have a flu shot to attend class (are flu shots necessary or good or even safe? That's an idea);

-- Or did your kid just come home with a math problem about recycling or conserving energy? 

-- But it might have just been those obnoxious NEA brochures sent home with your kid to promote "diversity" -- meaning, cultural relativism; meaning, relativism; meaning, all ideas are equal -- meaning, no ideas are better than any other; meaning, there's no truth or falsehood, right or wrong, good or bad -- meaning, your ideas are wrong and bad because you don't have the power (or income) to promote them, and their ideas are right because they seized the power: a union granted a government monopoly over every public school in the nation by legislative fiat, with government funding to oppose the emergence of any competition (ie, charter schools, vouchers, or, best of all, tax credits for tuition).

It's endless.

Then estimate how much money was spent to promote those points of view -- multiply by 52 -- and divide by 300 million.  There's your share of the cost to pay for your own destruction -- if you didn't agree.

It's time to get the government out of the propaganda business.  To paraphrase Ayn Rand, the purpose of government is protect rights, not to control the intellectual life of this country.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Underside of a Rock

Reading the two PJ articles at bottom, I'm reminded that I'm frequently amazed that so few people realize the extent to which foreign governments manipulate and even create out of whole cloth issues, events, conflicts, debates, and even movements in this country, to achieve some objective or another, and I'm almost as amazed that Americans can't get their heads around the fact that foreign powers can act very long range when they do it -- the Soviets/Russians had many plans that took decades to reach fruition.  "Nuclear winter", which morphed into "global warming" and then "Cap and Trade", for instance.

Or the health care debate, believe it or not, whose primary purpose wasn't health care but to establish the preconditions of totalitarianism (though that one had a lot of fellow travelers). Or the 20 or 40 year mole implantation program.  (Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "whack a mole", doesn't it? -- you might even possibly raise a little black kid by commie parents under the direction of the KGB [can you spell "Frank Marshall Davis"?], so he can realize his dream of becoming President in a race-conscious society riddled with guilt.) 

It's brilliant, in a way.  The perpetrators are almost perfectly insulated from suspicion: the American psyche, steeped in pragmatism and 4-year election cycles, just can't get it's head around the thought of someone planning for decades to overthrow their way of life with the promotion of abstract ideas like relativism, skepticism, altruism, post-modernism, deconstructionism, Platonic idealism, take your pick -- that's how you cripple a nation with ideas, policies, laws and regulations that corrupt standards, diminish industrial capacity, stop military programs, establish destructive arms-control treaties with enemies, create internal strife and weaken national will to fight and win wars: decades-long efforts to eat out a country from the inside.

Not that it's just these foreign powers.  Usually they're just parasites going along for the ride, on the backs of the academics and other Left-wing "RUSS's". (Rodents of Unusual Size, but if you though "Russians" you were close.)  Fleas spurring vermin on to greater villainy. 

Ideas are more fundamental than conspiracies, though, and just going after the conspiricists won't eliminate the bad ideas they are cashing in on.  You have to combat bad ideas with the right ideas.

Not that going after the conspiricists is such a bad idea.  You can slow them down.  The foreign parasites do often create and promote the academics (Elena Kagan, for instance). The communists, especially, are the intellectual godfathers of this technique, and the Russians, among the America-hating countries, have historically had the longest range.  The longest range of all is to grab hold of the school system (the NEA is riddled with commies, like any important union), and subvert the minds of the kids from an early age (they start at pre-school now) so they learn and hold the ideas that allow them to become the avant-garde radical Left of the future.  (Seriously, think hard why a bunch of college kids from Berkeley formed the communist Weather Underground and started blowing stuff up.  Only now they don't use molotov cocktails and TNT, they use thermonuclear weapons like a "National Health Care Bill" or a "Cap and Trade Bill", or "TARP".)

And I must emphasize:  foreign conspiracies aren't the only ones behind it.  There's plenty of domestic and even multi-national conspiracies of "fellow travelers" on this careening triple-decker bus: people who share the same ideas, ideals, ideologies, goals, ultimate agendas. 

Not just the commies, either -- the entire America-hating world has gotten in on the act.  the Saudis and others do it, too, and the Iranians in particular have for decades had a program to explicitly use our own ideas to subvert us, and the North Koreans and Chinese and Syrians and others have keyed into the method quite well, thank you.  They all do it quite openly -- listen to them rant at any United Nations meeting. 

The U.N., for that matter, is another one of those psyops programs founded on touch-feely appeal to naive Americans steeped in myopic benevolence and relativism -- the Rodney King school of "Can't we all just get along?"  How else can you explain an institution in New York City populated by dictators, killers and pure evil and dedicated to the precept of America-bashing?  It was run for years by Soviet intelligence, according to Sergei Tretyakov, the defector who once headed Russian intelligence at the U.N..  Of course, Putin had him killed a few weeks ago. Right before we sent those 10 Russian spies back home.  Odd coincidence, that, Comrade Barack.

But the Iranian psyops program is one reason it's almost a certainty that they are behind the GZ Mosque;  they are using the touchy-feely precepts of cultural relativism against us:  "Islam has just as much right as any other religion to build their temple."  "Muslims have property rights, too!"  "We need this mosque to promote interfaith harmony!" "Are you a bigot against people of middle eastern descent?"  "Can't we all just get along?"

Blah, blah, blah.

As Leonard Peikoff said, rights exist in a context, and when someone is at war with you (Islam, Iran) you have no obligation to "respect" their property rights and "point of view", and every moral right to eliminate them as a threat and stop them from achieving their agenda.  The same principle applies to anyone else who is at war with you (Russia, Elena Kagan, whoever).

(P.S.: as always with foreign conspiracies, there might be some value in looking for a money trail in the mosque construction approvals.   I have no evidence whatsover -- but if you were the Iranians, would you leave the matter to chance and the politics of New York City?)

(P.P.S.:  Following Leonard's lead, nothing here should be construed as advocating violence by any individual.  Only the U.S. Government has a legal monopoly on the use of violence against individuals and anyone else.  Only the U.S. government should eliminate Islam, Iran, Russia and Elena Kagan.)

An Iranian Connection to the Cordoba House Ground Zero Mosque?

The Ground Zero mosque website just removed a photo of Mohammad Javad Larijani: secretary-general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, brother of Ali Larijani . The unanswered questions keep mounting.

August 13, 2010 - by Anne Bayefsky  

A Cordoba-Iranian connection? What exactly is “Islamicity”?

More questions have arisen about the attempt to build a mosque adjacent to Ground Zero, as part of the so-called Cordoba Initiative. In particular, why has the Cordoba website just removed a photograph of Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the High Council for Human Rights in Iran? Is the move an attempted cover-up of their Iranian connections?

Two weeks ago the Cordoba Initiative website   featured a photograph of the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani at an event that the Initiative sponsored in Malaysia in 2008. This week, the photograph has disappeared.

Larijani was the Iranian representative who defended Iran’s abysmal human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in February and June of this year. Among other things, Larijani told the Council: “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing. … This is a conceptual dispute. Some forms of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.” By which he meant flogging, amputation, stoning, and the criminalization of homosexuality, which are all part of Iranian legal standards. Larijani added: “Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. … The Islamic Republic of Iran … is a democracy,” which would be news to the pro-democracy activists murdered or confined to Iranian prisons since last year’s fraudulent elections.

The Iranian connection to the launch of Cordoba House may go beyond a relationship between Rauf and Larijani. The Cordoba Initiative lists one of its three major partners as the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations. The Alliance has its roots in the Iranian-driven “Dialogue Among Civilizations,” the brainchild of former Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami.  Khatami is now a member of the High-level Group which “guides the work of the Alliance.” His personal presidential qualifications include the pursuit of nuclear weapons, a major crackdown on Iranian media, and rounding up and imprisoning Jews on trumped-up charges of spying. Alliance reports claim Israel lies at the heart of problems associated with “cross-cultural relations,” since the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories … are primary causes of resentment and anger in the Muslim world toward Western nations.”

In addition, a Weekly Standard article  in July suggested that the idea of building an Islamic memorial in lower Manhattan may have originated back in 2003 with two Iranian brothers: M. Jafar “Amir” Mahallati, who served as ambassador of the Iranian Islamic Republic to the United Nations from 1987 to 1989, and M. Hossein Mahallati.

Also pictured at the same Cordoba-sponsored meeting is U.S. representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Sada Cumber. The meeting was part of the Initiative’s so-called “Shariah Index Project,” a plan to rank and measure the “Islamicity” of a state or “how well … nations comply in practice with this Islamic legal benchmark of an Islamic State.”

In July of last year, Cordoba chief Rauf was interviewed by a reporter for Abu Dhabi Media about the Shariah Index Project. He told The National, “Determining Islamic principles had been the easy part.” Easy, but not available for examination to the residents of New York City or to the loved ones of 9/11 victims. Despite multiple references to the Initiative’s publication more than a year ago of a book “on the concept of measuring a nation’s ‘Islamicity,’” a request for a copy of the book made directly to the New York-based Cordoba Initiative resulted in a denial of the book’s existence.

The unanswered questions keep mounting.

Anne Bayefsky is a Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute, Director of the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust at Touro College, and the Editor of . She is the author or editor of 12 books and numerous articles in the field of human rights, and a frequent contributor to newspapers in the U.S., Europe, Israel and Canada.

The Imam Feisal Vanishing Act

In the Ground Zero mosque saga now playing out under the grim shadow of the Sept. 11 Islamist attacks,  one of the weirdest motifs is the summer vanishing act of the imam who peddled this project, Feisal Abdul Rauf. His name is all over the project, and much-mentioned in the fierce debate. Yet Rauf himself has disappeared from New York, and left the country for the summer. Apparently he’s not even talking to the New York Times — which, in a long piece Wednesday included what in recent weeks has become a refrain: “Imam Feisal is in Malaysia and could not be reached for comment.”

After days of hemming and hawing, the State Department finally confirmed this week that Rauf will round out August with a taxpayer-funded swing through some of the oil-rich capitals of the Middle East. He’ll be going to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia has dropped off Rauf’s State-sponsored itinerary. (Will he go there anyway? Who knows?). Though, piecing together information from Rauf’s wife and partner in Islamic nonprofits, Daisy Khan, it looks like that a Saudi stop on Rauf’s taxpayer-funded tour might have been quietly scrubbed within the past week — and according to both Khan and a State Department press guidance memo, State has merely postponed Rauf’s taxpayer-funded travel to Saudi Arabia, not scrapped the prospect entirely. For more on all this, plus Rauf’s vanishing Malaysia office coordinates, the two spellings of Daisy Kahn/Khan’s last name, and the lone date this summer on which I have been able discover where, exactly, Rauf on that day might be located, here’s a link to my latest column:  Mysteries of the Absent Imam Feisal .

Basically, what on earth is going on here? In New York, emotions are rubbed raw. The questions keep multiplying. Instead of showing up to answer them, the imam who wants a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, so he can reach out to New Yorkers, isn’t even taking calls from the U.S. press.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Macbeth Weds Romeo and Juliet

I've written about the GM takeover debacle in the past, but this Pajama's article today prompted me to post a response there:

One of the worst things done in the GM takeover that no one has commented on adequately or even at all -- the debtholders were subordinated to the employee unions.  That sounds innocuous, but consider that all of capitalism depends on the sanctity of contract law.  At the whim of Lord Obama (evil twin to Lord Voldemort, who is, by comparison, a relatively clean person), GM's debt contracts (bonds) were nullified. 

There was no legal basis for this.  And out of abject fear, none of the debtholders contested it in court... Why?  Because the commandment came from our absolute ruler in the White House.  You can't speak against the edicts of the God in Chief, can you? 

Out of stupidly abject shortsighted greed, the shareholders didn't object, of course, because they were facing 10 cents on the dollar for their stock if GM went bankrupt, and they were calling in every political marker they could to get the government to buy out the company and save their sorry asses.

There was not a single principled action by anyone concerned.  So goes the decline of freedom in this world.

The consequences if GM had gone belly up? 

1.) Stupid investors who believed GM a safe bet would have been out a lot of money.  (Read Atlas Shrugged, and pay special attention to the run on d'Anconia stock.) I don't call this a bad thing.  I call it justice.  The other concept destroyed in this pathetic melodrama, besides "rule of law", "property rights" and "capitalism".

2.) The union contracts would have been nullified (Obama would have lost a lot of supporters), and autoworkers would have been forced to work at a competitive wage -- or get another line of work. 

3.) The plants and equipment would have been sold off to more efficient manufacturers.  Capital would have been more efficiently allocated.

No one would have died. The world would have gone on.  But GM would have ceased to exist as a corporate entity -- a collection of legal documents and a management hierarchy.  The productive engineers, managers and laborers would simply have gone into more efficient businesses. The physical buildings would have remained standing, waiting for someone else to occupy them.

The biggest change for everyone not affiliated with the company:  the GM brand would have disappeared.  A name.  A long-dead rose and nothing more.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Trumpeters Lullaby

 "There is a saying: When the trumpeter blows an uncertain note the troops are slow to follow. The GOP lacks both notes and trumpeters and therefore no one is following."
This was a very good statement of the general malaise affecting the Republican Party -- lack of principles, lack of purpose, lack of identity, lack of convictions.
"Leading with purpose means a whole new approach. Instead of saying “vote for us because we oppose ObamaCare!” what should be said is: “We are the party dedicated to individual freedom and ObamaCare is an assault on that freedom. Vote for us because we will do all in our power to defeat it.” Not a small difference. Instead, when the issue of repealing ObamaCare comes up, the GOP’s message is, as usual, muddled and uncertain."
Much more could be said.  This could be said more strongly:  If they don't want to continue being the party of "me, too, but too late", and led down the crimson path into the slaughterhouse of the Left, the Republican Party needs to reject the philosophies of pragmatism and altruism -- a thousand points of neo-conservatism bleeding us to death with pinpricks of selfless sacrifice.

The Republicans need to focus on one thing and one thing only if they want to survive as a useful opposition to the Statists on the Left (and the Statists on the Right):  they must be the defenders of individual rights and the principle that the only proper function of government is the defense of individual rights.   That is the definition of "limited" government.   That must be the rallying cry.   Jettison every other agenda that dilutes or corrupts that message.

Republican candidates should focus on various forms of only one answer to every question put to them:  "I am the candidate defending the rights of the individual.  I am the candidate who will act to limit government to this one function."

Forget the "social" issues.  Forget the non-essential issues (like "immigration").  Focus only on promoting policies that protect individual rights (see what Ayn Rand said to understand what this really means, as opposed to what some would like you to think it means) -- and oppose all policies that threaten them.

All else will resolve itself.

Has the GOP Learned Anything from Recent Electoral Debacles?

One former party member is unimpressed with what the Republicans are peddling.

August 4, 2010 - by Jeff Pope

The Republican Party wants me back, they say, believing that I will see them as the natural soul mate I should want to drink tea with. After all, they still say, we are not them. My tolerance for political mediocrity has greatly declined of late, I reply, but you have learned nothing from the electoral disasters of the past few years and, unfortunately, in many ways you are still you. And I remain uninterested.

By now even the most oblivious of the Republican leadership must be aware how unwelcome they are at tea party events. Some may have even recognized the particular animus most of these rallies have toward anyone deemed a “rank and file” GOP official. The reaction from GOP leadership has been all too familiar: silence, confusion, and reluctance to engage. As before, the majority of them seem content to ride what they see as the coming wave, a wave they sadly had little part in creating and which, as a consequence, may well drown many of them. What had been the GOP’s natural base is turning into adamantly independent voters more interested in voting them out than retaining them. The right and center grow ever more fearful and angry while the GOP is reluctant as ever to commit to a path, much less to effectively pursue an alternative vision.

This is the party they want us to come back to? Why? Like children who disappoint hopeful parents one too many times, much of their base has simply given up on them and will never risk being disappointed again. To the inattentive independent voters they appear as a tired, old, and outdated group of reluctant warriors. Hardly inspirational. The GOP may win elections and even prevail for a time, but as before it will not stand without a backbone and committed followers.

So what to do? Trust so thoroughly compromised is impossible to regain and the fix is very painful. The party itself has to decide just how much it wants to get in the game as a political force or if it would prefer to protect the old ways and continue to wander. The disease comes from within and it is there where things must start. Three suggestions:

First, and by far most painful, the entire roster of senior GOP congressional and party officeholders must step out of leadership positions. They don’t need to resign their office — that should be up to the voters in their state or district and there are many good men and women worthy of retention. The senior members, however, must no longer hold the leadership positions in Congress or the reins of internal functions of the party. If the party wants a chance to regain the allegiance of conservative voters they must come to grips with the fact that completely new leadership is absolutely required. The tea party movement exists because of their shortcomings and they are not invited to the table.

It would be a mistake to single out an individual or two to replace when it is the senior party apparatus in total that lacks resolve and leadership. Witness the inability to come to grips with an ineffective and counterproductive party chairman, a purely internal party matter. Why no action? Could it be because he is black and, as usual, we don’t want to appear racist? Very possible. These guys are like the moles in a whack-a-mole game except that you don’t need to whack them when they come up to speak; merely looking at them sternly makes them scurry back down the hole. What they need to understand and accept, however, is that precious few will ever believe that next time they will keep their heads up and take a hit or two when that is required.

The GOP needs a whole new face and personality. Younger, more aggressive, and more willing political combatants are needed to stand and fight unapologetically for a set of principles. There are many new entrants that have the potential to energize the base and attract new voters across all demographic lines. For years we have been teased with the up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow, but they must wait their turn in the nose–to-tail path of party progression. No more. New people need to take over — completely and immediately — because there is no faith in the party leadership and almost none in the rest of the incumbents.

The second step the GOP needs to do to win people like me back is to find, proclaim, and unite behind a clear sense of purpose. The American Heritage Dictionary defines purpose as “the object toward which one strives or for which something exists.” To be a purpose, it must be clear and unbending so that everyone knows it to be what determines one’s actions. It is basic and does not change unless the goal is achieved.

Shouldn’t a worthwhile party have a clearly defined and well articulated purpose for being? Something better than avoiding political oblivion or being the party of “not them”? There are so many Democrat initiatives frightening people today: government power and control, fiscal bankruptcy, war, dilution of the American heritage, on and on, all of which are thought to be in direct conflict with the beliefs of the GOP. Isn’t it reasonable to expect a forceful GOP leadership, armed with a strong sense of purpose, would be up front leading the principled opposition both in the chamber and loudly in every public forum? I guess I missed them.

There is a saying: When the trumpeter blows an uncertain note the troops are slow to follow. The GOP lacks both notes and trumpeters and therefore no one is following. A wave of anti-democrat and anti-incumbent voting may benefit them, but as before they will fail in governing without a central purpose.

May I be so bold as to suggest the most obvious one? How about a return to the words of maybe the greatest Republican, Abraham Lincoln, when at Gettysburg he called for us to rededicate ourselves to “a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. “

Our founding principles of freedom, equality, and the rights of the individual are simple, clear, and overwhelmingly desired. A party standing strong on a renewed dedication to liberty of the individual, applied particularly to economic and personal choice issues like health care, is what the nation is shouting for, praying for, and punishing incumbents for not advancing. Most of the voting nation realizes there is no chance to reverse the downward direction of the country without a revival or replacement of the GOP. It is abundantly clear that, with the focus of the people on fiscal and economic issues, there is an overwhelming desire for real Republican Party values to be ascendant. Yet at a time they should be heroes the party continues to thrash about in blind self-doubt.

Leading with purpose means a whole new approach. Instead of saying “vote for us because we oppose ObamaCare!” what should be said is: “We are the party dedicated to individual freedom and ObamaCare is an assault on that freedom. Vote for us because we will do all in our power to defeat it.” Not a small difference. Instead, when the issue of repealing ObamaCare comes up, the GOP’s message is, as usual, muddled and uncertain.

The GOP is supposed to be different, a party driven by principles and beliefs. They desire to be so most times, but they are also woefully inadequate in resolve.  At a time when we need strong visible leaders we have Kirks, Snowes, and Grahams. The electorate knows what the GOP is supposed to stand for and they resent the fact that they waiver so easily. This is why Reagan was so popular and why he is so sorely missed.

Finally, every GOP officeholder needs to understand that functional leadership is as a party and without strong unity they can never move forward. As it is today, whenever a GOP member of the Congress makes a strong statement or takes a harder conservative line, like maybe Joe Barton or Jim Bunning, the base cheers wildly while the party leaders run in predictable Pavlovian fashion to publicly denounce their own and to distance themselves from them. In dividing themselves in such a prideless fashion, they again prove the lack of conviction that drives respect for the GOP ever lower despite 70+% disillusionment for the other side. Decide on your purpose, wear it with pride and enthusiasm, and stick together to support each other. People will see and respect that.

A cleaned house; new leadership with courage and unshakeable convictions to principles instead of feigned populism; and a rededication to founding principles, stated proudly and with no apologies everywhere possible by a unified party. Few are enthused by the party as it currently exists, but the time is past right for a revolution within the party — and without.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A More Rational Election Agenda for Tea Partiers

Reading this Pajamas article  on yet another pathetic "Conservative Guide for Governing" -- election planks for 2010 -- I was motivated to suggest a few of my own.  These were off the top of my head, and oh-so-much more could be called for, but something to ponder:

 #1 At the immediately achievable end, goals could include:
1A) Start paving the way for repeal of the health care bill in 2012.  More than any other thing, this is the single rallying cry that will galvanize a LOT of voters.  Don't muddy the message:  make it the basic requirement for any politician to get a vote in 2010/12.  A condition of employment.

1B) Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and "Mark to Market" requirements for business.  More than any other thing, this triggered the financial collapse, though the CRA and other Federal policies that "encouraged" banks to make bad loans  for almost twenty years certainly contributed to the massive credit expansion that is the root of our current crisis.

1C) Eliminate "nation building" as defense department policy.  This is why brush wars like Afghanistan have become so ridiculously expensive.  The Leftists and Neo-Cons (another form of RINO) have infected warfighting with the notion that "winning the peace" is more important than eliminating a threat.  So we spend $2B to conquer Saddam Hussein and $800B to re-build it.  NOT OUR JOB.  We must put the security of the United States first.  If some country we have to conquer needs a new government, they don't get to vote on it.  They get the U.S. Constitution, period.

1D)  Eliminate all foreign subsidies.  If they don't like it, tough. 

1E)  Lots more.
  #2: We also need to start paving the way for mid-range goals (5 - 10 years).  As examples: 
2A) The elimination of Omnibus Bills that have the kitchen sink in them.  We must end smuggled legislation.  Require bills to have a real theme -- and anything that doesn't fit that theme isn't allowed in.  No more agriculture "reparations" in defense bills, for instance. (AKA, Shirley Sherrod.)

2B) Politicians should be required to have their paychecks forfeited if they vote for any bill that exceeds a balanced budget.

2C) Politicians who sponsor and vote for legislation (including the President) that is ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court should be personally liable in perpetuity for the harmful effects of their legislation to the American people -- and exempt from bankruptcy laws. (Think how this would deter egregiously unconstitutional legislation and omnibus bills.  You can give them an out if they go through review by the Supreme Court before passage.)  

2D) Privatization of Social Security -- which is the only thing that will save that mess.  And the rest of us from the next economic extinction event.  Give people opt-out options, like "don't pay, don't get".  Or, no estate taxes if they opt out.  Etc.  Many tax breaks can be offered to incentivize even the old to get out.  For instance, after 65, let them work tax free to earn more than SSI pays out.  

2E) The elimination of entire Federal Bureaucracies.  Cut them off at the ankles entirely.  AGRICULTURE (billions for crops we don't need and for not growing crops we do need). FDA -- who have killed more people than any other agency with obstacles to new drugs, and support for bad drugs.  Dept. of EDUCATION -- who are killing the nation with ignorance and socialist brainwashing.  INTERIOR DEPARTMENT, who block any new mining and continue the biggest land grab since Ghengis Khan.  Shut DOWN Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Federal government has NO business in the housing).  LABOR department -- treat all unions as businesses (which they are).  SEC -- no more surfing for porn at taxpayer expense.  (Seriously, the SEC doesn't do anything to protect us.  At all.)

2F) Many others.  See   Did we need all that in 1793? 
 #3: At the long-range (10 - 20 years) we need to promote: 
3A) the requirement that *anyone* receiving Federal subsistence forfeit the _right to vote__, to eliminate the Democratic strategy of expanding handouts to get votes. (Probably requires a Constitutional Amendment and a radical change in the voters -- but you've got to get people thinking and talking about it.) 

3B)  We must call for A SEPARATION OF STATE AND ECONOMICS.  Shouting mandatory.  There is nothing good that the Feds can do for economics except laissez nous faire -- get the hell out of our way.  The Federal government should be forced onto a gold standard (constitutional amendment), prohibited from printing money, and should only be allowed to borrow in a time of declared war. 
I could go on and on.  Let's use our imagination to create new issues that look bad for any politician to oppose.  Box the SOBs into a corner. But the overarching message must be:  Limited Government whose sole task is protecting the Rights of the Individual  -- eliminate group rights!   Protection of Individual Rights is the only thing the government is supposed to be doing.  This is a rallying cry that even some Democrats could support.  Don't dilute it with social issues.  Saving the country right now is too important.