Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Mindless Era

I've been impressed today how I have been living in a mindless era for a long time. When I say this, I mean that the philosophies governing my life have been mindless. When I was born, I was raised a Christian in a farm community in northern Indiana. The ethics were those of Christianity. I was not discussing these norms, mind you; I was just accepting them, as from God (or the community). My mind was not considered in this transaction and I accepted that.

Years later, in the 80s, I signed up for a course in Landmark Education. I did it because I was bored and wanted to see what else might be possible in life. The mental character of Christianity and its taboos had grown thin. I needed my body. So, I explored my feelings. What did my heart want? All of this was about my body (interpreted in the larger sense as non-reason/non-intellectual). In fact my mind was specifically disengaged and I remember well the day I disengaged it.

But, at last, some other things are brewing.

In the Christian days of mind without body and in the Landmark days of body without mind, the one thing that was constant was that I was split. I have come to know the consequences of that split in the past two years. The chickens are here. The possibility of putting together the mind and body as a unified whole is upon me. I do grasp the idea and its consequences. Whether at this age it is possible remains to be seen. Habits are habits. It will take some specific clear-cut actions to impact the habits of 67 years.

It's not all a bust, however. When I was 30, I discovered and read Ayn Rand. She was, for me, the source of the possibility of unifying the mind and body. I got it emotionally from her novels although I didn't translate it into everyday terms. So, even though I lived through the Christian mind period and the Landmarkian body period, Objectivism was in the background as a standard against which I was measuring my actions throughout those years. That influence was not strong, but it was there. When I reached the dead end of Landmark's influence, I had somewhere to turn. So now life is about a new integration. And, you know, this is very exciting. It really is. I've been soooo happy all day.

When I get discouraged and forget this conversation I will pull out this blog post. Reason is a powerful tool. Hell, it put a man on the moon and that was something new.

The hardest part is realizing where I've been and what I've been doing and forgiving myself according to the standards by which I am now assessing my life. My strategy is to develop a context for what happened which allows me to use the past for living in the present. I request you accept the above paragraphs as an effort in that direction.

From Moocher to Producer

I was exploring the internet this morning when I came across this quote from Atlas Shrugged. Thanks to Dirk for excerpting it on his blog: It is from the paperback version, pg 662.

"He chuckled. 'Market? I now work for use, not for profit - my use, not the looter’s profit. Only those who add to my life, not those who devour it, are my market. Only those who produce, not those who consume, can ever be anybody’s market. I deal with the life-givers, not with the cannibals. If my oil takes less effort to produce, I ask less of the men to whom I trade it for the things I need. I add an extra span of time to their lives with every gallon of my oil that they burn. And since they’re men like me, they keep inventing faster ways to make the things they make - so every one of them grants me an added minute, hour or day with the bread I buy from them, with the clothes, the lumber, the metal' …"

The lens through which I look at life produced a clearer vision when I read this quote. How many times have I looked at my bank account thinking it was how I knew where I was in my mastery of life? Ellis Wyatt has been through all this and has gone on strike. He's now at a more fundamental value: use. He has now selected his market based on what is useful for him rather than being a slave to the market for what he can get. Who is his market? Those who produce. Those are the only ones that are safe and fruitful for him to deal with.

So, if there is to be a shift here, what would it be like if instead of the bank deciding it can loan you money based on your bank balance and your credit report, they loaned you money based on whether you can produce? Would they not upgrade their portfolio? And would they not do something to shift people's attitude if they win the lottery or come into an inheritance?

And what if instead of getting up in the morning and asking yourself what you are going to do that day, you ask yourself what you are going to produce that day?

And what if the political candidates appealed to production as a value rather than need as a value? What if their conversations and political speeches encouraged being a producer rather than being a moocher living off the State? Both Hillary and Obama slop around in the poor, downtrodden travails of life as if their political fortune is justified by people's need, rather like Mother Teresa's except they will use a gun instead of charity as their means of providing.

If a politician is in favor of a healthy society, his policies have to encourage production as a virtue and winnow people from "moochuction" as a virtue.

I've been given a piece of advice when times are slow: "Fill the pipeline." This means that depending on the actions one puts into gaining income, one will draw out income. This is true in one sense, but where I am left with this advice is that effort and action are a virtue and we all know that effort and action can also produce no results.

I like the idea of production as a virtue better because it focuses on the essence of the matter rather than something that is involved in it but not the heart of it. A further point is that it shifts one's orientation from materialism to objectivism - a view of life that is an integration of mind and body, not a split between mind and body. It does this by integrating effort with results which are not only material but spiritual. What pride there is in producing what one says he will produce and needs to produce to forward his life. But that is a whole other subject.

What will I produce today?

Friday, March 28, 2008

When "Heavy-handed" becomes "Thug."

Peggy Noonan had an editorial on Hillary in the Wall Street Journal. Here is my reply. Her article follows.

"I'm keeping my eye on the transformation from "heavy-handed" to "thug" that you played with in your own mind in writing the article. I got a glimpse of that when Hillary so easily talked about fining people at the emergency room door who do not have health insurance. Sending them a bill never ocurred to her.

"Either people are ends in themselves or are to be "used" for the alleged common good. Both Obama and Hillary openly advocate or imply the latter. McCain does too at times, but the difference so far with McCain is that he advocates something that is applicable to all of us. It is the populism of the Democrats' message that I find so disgusting. They divide society against itself and think nothing of it. They don't even attempt to have their policies be for all people. For this reason, I think Obama will have to become a thug too before its over."

Steve B


Getting Mrs. Clinton
March 28, 2008

I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.
That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual). AP

But either you get it now or you never will. That's the importance of the Bosnia tape. Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.
Not that her staff isn't policing them too. Mrs. Clinton's people are heavy-handed in that area, letting producers and correspondents know they're watching, weighing, may have to take this higher. There's too much of this in politics, but Hillary's campaign takes it to a new level.

It's not only the press. It's what I get as I walk around New York, which used to be thick with her people. I went to a Hillary fund-raiser at Hunter College about a month ago, paying for a seat in the balcony and being ushered up to fill the more expensive section on the floor, so frantic were they to fill seats.

I sat next to a woman, a New York Democrat who'd been for Hillary from the beginning and still was. She was here. But, she said, "It doesn't seem to be working." She shrugged, not like a brokenhearted person but a practical person who'd missed all the signs of something coming. She wasn't mad at the voters. But she was no longer so taken by the woman who soon took the stage and enacted joy.

The other day a bookseller told me he'd been reading the opinion pages of the papers and noting the anti-Hillary feeling. Two weeks ago he realized he wasn't for her anymore. It wasn't one incident, just an accumulation of things. His experience tracks this week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mrs. Clinton's disapproval numbers have risen to the highest level ever in the campaign, her highest in fact in seven years.

* * *

You'd think she'd pivot back to showing a likable side, chatting with women, weeping, wearing the bright yellows and reds that are thought to appeal to her core following, older women. Well, she's doing that. Yet at the same time, her campaign reveals new levels of thuggishness, though that's the wrong word, for thugs are often effective. This is mere heavy-handedness.

On Wednesday a group of Mrs. Clinton's top donors sent a letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, warning her in language that they no doubt thought subtle but that reflected a kind of incompetent menace, that her statements on the presidential campaign may result in less money for Democratic candidates for the House. Ms. Pelosi had said that in her view the superdelegates should support the presidential candidate who wins the most pledged delegates in state contests. The letter urged her to "clarify" her position, which is "clearly untenable" and "runs counter" to the superdelegates' right to make "an informed, individual decision" about "who would be the party's strongest nominee." The signers, noting their past and huge financial support, suggested that Ms. Pelosi "reflect" on her comments and amend them to reflect "a more open view."

Barack Obama's campaign called it inappropriate and said Mrs. Clinton should "reject the insinuation." But why would she? All she has now is bluster. Her supporters put their threat in a letter, not in a private meeting. By threatening Ms. Pelosi publicly, they robbed her of room to maneuver. She has to defy them or back down. She has always struck me as rather grittier than her chic suits, high heels and unhidden enthusiasm may suggest. We'll see.

What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.

* * *

What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."

Made me laugh. It was like the voice of the people answering back. This guy knows that what Mrs. Clinton said is sort of crazy. He seems to know her reputation for untruths. He seemed to be saying, "I get it."

Monday, March 24, 2008

And the Rand Influence Widens

Donor gave, and UNCC winced
$1 million with strings

3/12/2008 - BB&T CEO John Allison speaks before a large crowd during a forum, a prelude to the dedication of UNCC's Ayn Rand Reading Room. The room was paid for with a grant from the BB&T Foundation.

50 years later, Ayn Rand's ideas still spark debate
Business, philosophy merge

As a college student in Chapel Hill, John Allison stumbled across a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and was hooked by her philosophy of self-interest and limited government. As he rose over the decades to chief executive of BB&T, one of the country's leading regional banks, Rand remained his muse.

He's trying to replicate that encounter through the charitable arm of his Winston-Salem-based company, which since 1999 has awarded more than $28 million to 27 colleges to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective.

But on at least 17 of those campuses, including UNC Charlotte, N.C. State and Johnson C. Smith University, the gifts come with an unusual stipulation: Rand's novel, "Atlas Shrugged," is included in a course as required reading.

The schools' agreements have drawn criticism from some faculty, who say it compromises academic integrity. In higher education, the power to decide course content is supposed to rest with professors, not donors. Debate about the gifts, which arose at UNCC this month, illustrates tensions that exist over corporate influence on college campuses.
UNCC received its $1 million gift pledge in 2005, but details about the "Atlas Shrugged" requirement came to light as the school dedicated an Ayn Rand reading room March 12.

"It's going to make us look like a rinky-dink university," UNCC religious studies professor Richard Cohen said Thursday after UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the faculty council about the gift. "It's like teaching the Bible as a requirement." Dubois, who learned of the book requirement this month, says it was ill-advised. He may ask Allison to reconsider it, he told faculty.

Allison has been surprised that the gifts can generate controversy. He says he simply wants students exposed to the late author's ideas, which he believes the academic community has largely ignored. He welcomes opposing ideas.

He also points out that the schools approached the foundation, not the other way around. "We obviously can't make anybody teach something," he says. "We wouldn't want to, we wouldn't try to. These are professors that want to teach this."

"Atlas Shrugged" tells of an America where the most gifted industrialists and creators go on strike. The book, more than 1,100 pages long, showcases Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, which says individuals have the right to live entirely for their own self-interest. An atheist, Rand criticized government regulation of business.

Her followers "regard her as the greatest thinker to have graced this earth since Aristotle and the greatest writer of all time," Reason Magazine wrote in 2005. "Mainstream intellectuals tend to dismiss her as a writer of glorified pulp fiction and a pseudo-philosophical quack with an appeal for impressionable teens."

Allison discovered Rand as a business major at UNC in the late '60s. "Atlas Shrugged" remains his favorite book. "Most of the defenders of free markets mostly do it from an economic perspective," Allison says. "They argue that free markets produce a higher standard of living, which is certainly very good. But Rand makes a connection to human nature and why individual rights and free markets are the only system consistent with human nature."

BB&T officials say they never made a specific decision to spread the gospel of ethical capitalism and Ayn Rand. But in 1999, Duke University received money from BB&T to support the teaching of values and ethics in business The gift didn't require that Duke teach Ayn Rand. Her work was already being taught there.

As word spread of that gift and others, more colleges approached the foundation with proposals. Allison shared his interest in Rand with them.
At least one school, UNC Wilmington, offered to make "Atlas Shrugged" a requirement, figuring "our proposal might be more favorably received" if it were part of the package, officials said in an e-mail to the Observer. Wilmington got a commitment of more than $1 million. But unlike most campuses, the faculty voted to approve the proposal first.

Money with conditions

Companies have long endowed college professorships and programs that fit their areas of interest. Sometimes, schools reject gifts if they can't live with a donor's conditions. But as state legislatures reduce higher education budgets, business is playing a bigger role in the classroom, experts say. "They're so desperate for funding sources that they're willing to take more money with strings attached," says Jennifer Washburn, author of "University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education."

Some companies, including IBM, have developed curricula for schools that teach skills to make graduates good employees. In California, critics have complained that the University of California system has sold out to oil, following a $500 million research deal with oil giant BP. At Hunter College in New York, faculty are crying foul over a course sponsored by a coalition of companies, including Chanel, Coach and Reebok, that's trying to combat low-cost knockoffs of their products. In the class, students would create a campaign against counterfeiting.

But many schools defend the "Atlas Shrugged" requirement. Administrators say it'll be one of many views studied, and professors are free to teach it as they want. "We would not have accepted anything that would have been so narrowly drawn that it restricted academic freedom," JCSU President Dorothy Cowser Yancy said in a written response to the Observer. At UNCC last week, several business students said they weren't bothered that a donor is choosing a book to be required in a course. The school needs money, several said, and it can't hurt to read a book, as long as it's presented objectively. "I certainly don't see an issue, unless the cost outweighs the benefit. That's what they teach you in business school," said Josh Greenberg, 23.

But the gift sparked controversy in Raleigh, where faculty at Meredith College rejected $420,000 from BB&T in 2006, saying the book requirement violated their academic freedom. (Believe me, this is not about academic freedom. If it were, these universities would purge their curriculum of any dollar attached influences. What about government grants? Those grants and the resultant publications are not about investigating any ole thing the professor's heart desires. SCB) In West Virginia, some Marshall University faculty recently voiced similar criticisms.

Details were a surprise

At UNCC, few people knew much about the BB&T money until a couple of weeks ago. UNCC's $1 million is to be distributed over five years to develop a course on the fundamentals of capitalism, organize a speaker series on business ethics, provide faculty research money and create an Ayn Rand reading room in the business school.

The deal was brokered by former business school dean Claude Lilly, who left UNCC last spring to become a dean at Clemson University. At that point, UNCC practices didn't require a review of the agreement, though they would now. Dubois came to UNCC as chancellor after Lilly got the gift in 2005. He says Lilly told him the money came with two conditions -- creating a course on the ethical foundations of business and giving copies of "Atlas Shrugged" to business students. He says Lilly told him the book would not be required. But Dubois says when he saw the agreement for the first time recently, "it had more conditions." Lilly, asked to respond to Dubois' recollection, said he wouldn't want to speak for the chancellor.

In a 2005 letter to Allison, Lilly had offered to teach the first "Ethics and Capitalism" course. When it was offered last spring, Lilly was listed as co-instructor with another professor. Lilly taught only one meeting of the semester-long class.

That course's syllabus didn't include "Atlas Shrugged." Lilly says he assigned students to read a chapter or two from the book. This semester, the course isn't being offered.

Dubois explained the BB&T gift's history and conditions to UNCC's Faculty Council last week. He said he didn't like the "Atlas Shrugged" requirement or the fact that the school has named a business school reading room for Ayn Rand, but he believes UNCC should live up to its commitments.
Cohen, the religious studies professor, responded that Rand was an ideologue, not a serious economist. "It would be exactly like having a Karl Marx room," he said. (I don't think they need a Karl Marx room when many universities are entirely Karl Marx universities. At a Georgia Tech bookstore I visited recently, Karl Marx is everywhere. Rand is not to be seen. SCB)

One faculty member asked Dubois if he could renegotiate terms of the gift with Allison. Dubois said he's planning to talk to Allison about it. But "we would like it not to be the last gift from BB&T."

Here's a some conversation from Charlotte, NC.

There Will Be Blood

A letter to a friend who had gotten me interested in seeing this movie.

Thanks, Chris, for piquing my interest in this movie at the potluck. I went last night. I liked the movie a lot. It reminded me, in a way, of Rand's play, Night of January 16th. In that play which takes place in a courtroom, a jury is chosen to sit on the stage. A man is accused of murder. The idea of the drama is that evidence is presented on both sides and you cannot know for sure if he did it or not. Rand's idea is to have people drawn to their verdict by means of their "sense of life." And the juries over the years have decided guilty or not guilty on both sides of the fence.

In There Will Be Blood my sense of life placed me with the oil man. But, he was skewed by something that happened in his childhood that had him hate people and want a family - his view of family was not that of growing, living human beings, but that of a thing. He granted unyielding loyalty to his family so long as they were his family. Also, he didn't see competition as a way to have himself grow and get stronger, but as a call to destroy his competitor. For some, his lack of "humanity" will be enough to negate his accomplishments even though the "humanity" side of himself and the community that grew up around him would not have existed except for his accomplishments. This movie, for me, demonstrates the dependence of religion on production, civilization on raw ambition, etc. It takes someone with oversized ambition to accomplish something on the order of the oilman.

This was definitely a movie worth seeing. And, I notice that I am more positive about this movie this morning than I was last evening after I saw it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Ruse of Race

"Equal before the law" is the principle that ends institutional racism, institutional homophobia, institutional genderism, and any other distinction by group in the government of the United States. Who is equal under the law? Individuals.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Mr. Constitution, this principle, which is the one that inspires Judge Thomas, is made clear:

The case that preceded Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was the separate but equal decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Justice John Marshall Harlan is an example of a Justice putting his personal predilections aside to keep faith with the Constitution. Harlan was a Kentucky aristocrat and former slaveowner, although he was also a Unionist who fought for the North during the Civil War. A man of his time, he believed in white superiority, if not supremacy, and wrote in Plessy that the "white race" would continue to be dominant in the United States "in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. . .for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty."

"But," Harlan continued, "in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Out Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens."

That, for Mr. Thomas, is the "great "But,'" where Harlan's intellectual honesty trumped his personal prejudice, causing Mr. Thomas to describe Harlan as his favorite justice and even a roll model. For both of them, justice is truly blind to everything but the law.

None of this, in principle, applies to a person's choices. You get to choose who you marry regardless of race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or any other group designation. You get to choose who you work with. You get to choose via many discriminations, how you want to live your life. It is the government than cannot discriminate by any of these means.

And none of this applies or can apply to a group. Can you imagine charging someone with assault and battery based on the fact that he is part of a group? "He hit me because he is white, black, gay, or a gypsy!" It makes no sense.

So, what is the reason that people want to have another conversation on race? In a free society you can be a racist or a homophobe. No one expects you to accept people you don't like. And insofar as the government is concerned, the laws have been scrubbed clean of racial qualifiers starting in the 60s. I'm questionning this whole thing about black separatism as the bottom line message in Reverend Wright's speeches. I think the racial separatist message is a means to get his people to think they are underprivileged, left out, un-cared for, in short, an underclass that has been cheated out of something that they are owed. What I think this is about is Marxism and class warfare.

Although Marx and Rousseau as an inellectual base for socialist politics have been discredited, the idea of the poor, the weak, the underclass, the abandoned, is a popular recurring theme. Is is fueled and has currency in our culture beyond the influence of those bygone ideas because of the ethics of Christianity.

We are not only supposed to love the weak, treat them fairly and give them a hand. We are supposed to turn the other cheek, love them no matter what it costs, and gauge our own self-worth based on whether or not we do that.

Reverend Wright is equal before the law. Some of his parishners are rich beyond measure. Michelle Obama is reported to be making $300,000 a year. Yet they talk like they have never gotten a break. This isn't about money. It is about political power - raw, nasty dirty power - the power to have the largesse that the government does unjustly and wrongly give out flow to them. His is a message based on nothing and asking for nothing. It is bitching for a purpose - feel guilty and because you feel sorry for him, you will give him something based on nothing other than your guilt.

Obama has erected his life on community organizing. A community organizer has to search for that place among a populace where he can get them riled up. His purpose is to bring benefits, ususally economic benefits, to the neighborhood in exchange for stopping the bellyaching. What he gets is influence and power over them.

Isn't it odd that this focussed on race? I think Geraldine Ferraro sacrificed herself (with the agreement of the Clintons who are probably repaying her) to get this started. The Left and Christianity demand sacrifice for the greater good. That has been its modus operandi from Day 1. The Clintons have to get your disgust level up against Obama so you will dismiss him, but the one thing they cannot point out is the underclass message. Why? Because it is their message too.

Notice how both Hillary and Obama tout the weakest, the poorest, the sickest, the most effortful efforts of the underclass of our society. They end their speeches with these kinds of remarks almost every time.

You, because you have been taught to turn the other cheek, don't yell when an injustice occurs, don't complain when the government has to have more money to take care of these poor people - you - are being counted on to keep your mouth shut. You have been silenced by what you consider the good. Is it any wonder that the bad, the foulest, the most crooked win whatever you have achieved when you take yourself out of the battle? WAKE UP!

Friday, March 21, 2008

BB&T Foundation Gives $2M to Establish Chair at the University of Texas

BB&T Donates $2 Million for Ayn Rand Research At The University of Texas at Austin
March 20, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — BB&T Corporation, one of the nation’s largest banks, has awarded $2 million to the Department of Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin to establish the BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism.
Tara Smith, professor of philosophy, has been named the first holder of the chair. Over 10 years, the gift will support research on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, as well as conferences, workshops, guest lecturers, visiting scholars and research on the moral foundations of capitalism.

Smith spearheads Objectivism scholarship in the university’s philosophy department. She has published several articles on Rand's philosophy and the 2006 book, “Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist” with Cambridge University Press. She holds the Anthem Foundation Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism and is organizing the interdisciplinary conference, “Objectivity in the Law,” April 4-5.

“Ayn Rand’s philosophy has been the subject of increasing academic interest in recent years, and this generous gift will allow us to deepen examination of her thought and engage leading scholars in other fields, such as law,” the Rand scholar said. “It’s an exhilarating opportunity and a testament to BB&T’s recognition of the vital importance of philosophy in people’s lives.”

Rand, a Russian-born American philosopher and novelist, is best known for her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged.” A joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that “Atlas Shrugged” is the second most influential book for Americans today, after the Bible. According to the Ayn Rand Institute, an estimated 20 million copies of her books have been sold.

“We believe that ideas matter. In this context, BB&T is trying to encourage a thorough and fair discussion of Rand’s philosophy and the moral foundations of capitalism on university campuses,” said BB&T Chief Executive Officer John Allison. “We are pleased to support the philosophy department's important work in the study of Objectivism at The University of Texas at Austin.”

BB&T Corp., headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a financial holding company with $132.6 billion in assets. With more than 29,000 employees, its bank subsidiaries operate more than 1,500 branch offices in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

For more information, contact: Jennifer McAndrew, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-4730; Tara Smith, professor of philosophy, 512-374-0532.

Here's another article from the Winston-Salem Journal.

Friday, March 21, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas - The BB&T Charitable Foundation said yesterday that it has given $2 million to the philosophy department at the University of Texas at Austin to establish the BB&T chair for the study of objectivism.

Tara Smith, a philosophy professor, has been named the first holder of the chair. The BB&T donation, over 10 years, will support research on author Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, as well as conferences, and guest lecturers on the moral foundations of capitalism.

BB&T, through its charitable foundation, has made similar $1 million-plus gifts that support programs in the moral foundations of capitalism to Appalachian State University
Duke University
N.C. State University
UNC Chapel Hill
UNC Charlotte
UNC Greensboro
UNC Wilmington.

With this kind of support universities will begin to appreciate the proper moral basis of capitalism. It was recent news that Marshall University of Huntington, WV received a million dollar grant to teach a course on the moral basis of capitalism using Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Clemson Universisty has also received a grant for setting up the BB&T Center for Economic Education and Policy Studies. One of its aims is to study the ethics of markets and capitalism. They have a summer program where an in depth study of Atlas Shrugged is taught. Principlex

Basic Types of Political Systems

I use the words socialism and fascism in describing particular political systems and actions. People react to these words. Frankly, since for me they have specific meanings, I don't get upset by the words.

Political systems break down into two primary categories. One places the individual as primary and the government's purpose is to protect the individual's inalienable rights. The other places the society as primary and subjugates the individual to the needs/purposes of the society as a whole. Who determines what those needs or purposes are? Those in power. I hope you didn't think that your one vote among millions and millions determined that.

Since man is a real being who must produce the requirements of his life in order to keep his life in existence, property is a primary concern. Who controls the property is the primary way to understand the system that one is in.

The first system is called capitalism. In capitalism, all property is privately owned. Ownership means the right to use and dispose of one's property.

The second system is called statism. Here the property is controlled by the state, hence the state has the right to the use and disposal of the property. This takes several forms:

If the property is owned by the state, the system is communism. If the title of the property is in the name of the individuals and yet it is regulated by the state, the system is fascism. The use and disposal of the property. i.e. the ownership, is according to the state's laws. In these two categories, the society is the good by which all laws are justified, so they are both forms of socialism.

Statist systems divide in other ways too: If the state is a kingdom, then it is a monarchy. In this case, the king's will is the justification for laws that he decrees. If the state is a church/religion, it is a theocracy and it is God's will that is the justification for laws the church leaders decree.

Finally there is a mixture of freedom and statism known as the welfare state. This unstable system moves toward full-fledged fascism or, at some point when it is clear that it is not working, it frees up, at least for awhile.

Democracy is not a political system at all although it is bandied about as if it were. A democracy is a state which uses a systematic means of legitimizing power by the vote of the citizens. Without a Constitution (i.e., a specific set of rights, government structure and rules) in the background, a democracy would be meaningless except possibly as a distraction to keep the masses mollified.

Another current term is "progressivism." A "progressive" is a person who thinks that the government should "progress" society according to a particular purpose or values. Having government do this means that it will be done by force and thus a progressive is a fascist by another name. The origin of this term is at the beginning of the 20th century. Woodrow Wilson was the first fascist/progressive president.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Dr. Wright, Obama's pastor is the racist du jour. Here are some Ayn Rand quotes on racism.

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage - the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemisty. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

"Racism claims that the content of a man's mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man's convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman's version of the doctrine of innate ideas - or of inherited knowledge - which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

"Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man's life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination."
["Racism," Virtue of Selfishness, 172: pb 126.]

"Today, racism is regarded as a crime if practiced by a majority - but as an inalienable right if practiced by a minority. The notion that one's culture is superior to all others solely because it represents the traditions of one's ancestors, is regarded as chauvinism if claimed by a majority - but as 'ethnic' pride if claimed by a minority. Resistance to change and progress is regarded as reactionary if demonstrated by a majority - but retrogression to a Balkan village, to an Indian tepee or to the jungle is hailed if demonstrated by a minority."
["The Age of Envy," The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution]

"A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race - and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin."
["Racism," Virtue of Selfishness, 174; pb 127.]

"Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowledge - for an automatic evaluation of men's characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment - and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-esteem).
["Racism," Virtue of Selfishness, 174; pb 127.]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Now Is The Time for the Mass Publication of the Danish Cartoons

Bin Laden is threatening Europe with serious punishment for publishing the infamous cartoons. He blames the Pope and the Saudi King for good measure.

Now is the time for all publications on a single designated day to print the Danish cartoons. The purpose is to demonstrate the following: "If you are going to punish those who demand their rights, then all of us are here for you to punish. We stand united in our inalienable right to speak our mind regardless if you are offended."

Ezra Levant is an incredible freedom fighter in this regard. A singular man, absolutely clear about the political freedom his life requires, unwilling to give an inch in this regard is a powerful and inspiring human being.

See him here at a hearing in Alberta, Canada where he defends his right:
First, his Opening Statement:

Then the Attributes of Free Speech:

And finally his Closing Argument:

You can find other segments of his hearing on YouTube.

How Do You Account for the Historical Birth of Capitalism from a Society that was Christian and Altruistic?

Without Relying on a Concept of God, What is the Standard by Which You Evaluate What is Right and Wrong, Good and Bad?

If You Advocate Morality, Don't You Have to Advocate the Old Testament?

Isn't Learning About and Teaching the Proper Function of the Mind the Main Thing We Need to Do?

Can We Apply Reason Without Giving Up the Idea of God?

Doesn't Advocating Reason in All Things Diminish or Destroy Spirituality?

How Does Reason and Religion Compare in Morality?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Cooked!

I listened to Obama's defining moment a few minutes ago. He never rose to the occasion.

He had to openly state his principle(s). That would take no longer than the Gettysburg address. I cannot tell you how much I wanted him to inspire me to my greater self.

He rambled, stirring his fingers in the minutae of a Marxist explanation of how the world works. He tried to get me worked up by blaming corporate America. He offered socialist shibboleths proven to fail the world over. It took 35 to 40 minutes. I thought is was really boring.

I predict a decrease of interest in Obama.

Is There Anything Wrong with Western Civilization?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Atlanta Tornado

I was on the phone. In mid-sentence, I said, "What the hell is going on?" The sound increased to a very loud level. I couldn't hear on the phone. Suddenly it went dead and the lights went out. A huge piece of cloth, a temporary covering for a large billboard west of me, was blowing east above the MARTA tracks. The tree outside my window bent every limb in line with the powerful wind. And then it was over.

The electricity returned. I turned on the TV and learned that we had experienced a powerful storm that had ripped a hole in the Georgia Dome, damaged the CNN center, tore the facade off Phillips Arena, sucked or blew some windows out of several hotels and the Georgia Pacific building. The lights went out and after getting bored reading by candlelight, I went to bed.

Saturday morning I saw the pictures on TV of the damage to Oakland Cemetary, the shearing of the top floor from the northwestern building of the Cotton Mill Lofts and the downed trees and ripped off or damaged roofs in Cabbagetown. Later even more became apparent. Apartments and homea north of Dekalb Avenue had been severely damaged, windows had been sucked out of the King Memorial MARTA station and some surrounding buildings. Electric wires were down along with trees to the point that the neighborhood north of Dekalb Avenue was impassable.

After walking around the neighborhood this afternoon, I can see how likely it could have been that this building that could have been damaged. I consider myself fortunate.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Forget It - The Economy Can't Be Fixed

Where did we get this idea that the economy can be fixed?

Let's think about this for a minute. The economy is the sum of all the economic acts of individual human beings. We each have needs and we have to produce or had to have produced something we can trade for what we need. We take what we have and we go to the market and look around at what is for sale and how much it costs. From that, we make our choice and trade what we have for what we want. That is what it means to take an economic action.

Who can fix that?

There is nothing wrong with the economy. It is doing what it needs to do and has to do. The politicians are essentially saying this, "We fear that you will get angry and riot if you lose money or lose your home; therefore instead of allowing you people to make rational choices, we will pass a law so you will have to make irrational choices." (See Brian Simpson's Markets Don't Fail, 2005

What this really says is: "We, the government, are incompetent to regulate the proper use of force. If we were competent, we would not fear a riot. We know that had the proper use of force been established, you would know better than to irrationally take your losses out on other people."

The government's purpose is the regulation of force, not the regulation of the economy. We will never be able to trust a politician until he talks straight about his job. When they say they are going to provide these other things for you, we know they are lying. They cannot do it except as a kind of "representation" of what they say they can produce.

So long as we believe that the government can fix the economy, we trade the rational choices of millions of people for the ignorance of a politician who can't do what he says he can do.

What is the solution? Get the government out of the way so we can make the full range of rational choices. In the meantime, vote for the idiot of your choice.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Distinguishing Empty and Meaningless

Empty and Meaningless, a term familiar to Landmark Education graduates, is the point at which you get in a course where you can now create something new. People go into the course to break through something that has stopped them in their lives. It can be in a relationship. It can be in one's progress in one's career. It can be in any area of life where one feels stuck.

After almost two days of deconstruction of the world that you have built, you come to a place in your mind where you are sufficiently clear of that to create a new future. You have seen where you've erred, interpreted events incorrectly, have taken into your being (i.e., adopted as a basic premise in your knowledge and/or evaluative structure) something that has been stopping you from moving forward.

This place, free of past attachment of any kind, is called "empty and meaningless." As a point to which one gets himself to be free to create something new beyond the way he has been able to create in the past, he has to let go of the meaning that the old way had for him.

The distinction I want to make is this. Life is not, I say NOT, empty and meaningless, and to think that it is has serious consequences. (Those consequences are for a later post.) Life is an aspect of particular kinds of entities - namely living ones. These entities are to be distinguished from stones, tables, books and all sorts of inert, lifeless entities. The existence of these lifeless entities just is. They cannot take action to prolong their life because they don't possess life. They are just "banged" or moved around in the universe based on their own identity and the identities of the entities around them via the law of cause and effect - rather like billiard balls.

Entities possessing life, however, have a completely different situation. They have to constantly take action that keeps their lives in existence. Life is not automatic. It is maintained by action consistent with what the life needs to exist.

In the lower animals, this is automatic in the sense that they act to maintain their life until they are killed or die naturally. But in humans, who are distinguished from the lower animals by the faculty of reason, this is not automatic. A human being can choose at any moment to end his life and take the action to do so. In other words, life, for a human being is something that he chooses to keep in existence or not.

Because of this fact, everything around a human being is imbued by him with meaning. The basic meaning is, "Is this for me or against me?" "Does this further or hinder my life?"

Man's life and his faculty of reason are part of his nature. His creation of meaning is automatic. He will create meaning regardless. It is said that "Man is a meaning creating machine." That's true, except that he isn't a machine, and he has no choice in this matter. Thus life is not empty and meaningless. On the contrary, life is everywhere filled with meaning.

Given that, the area where you have choice and control is the meaning that you give a particular situation, event or attribute. And the Landmark exercise is valuable in altering the meaning that you give something - especially events and situations that happened in your past.

A person can see a difficult childhood as bad or he can see it as good or some combination. There were things he didn't have and didn't experience. On the other hand, he learned to be strong in the face of that and those ways may lead to success in many areas of life.

The point of this distinction is to not blithely say, "Life is empty and meaningless" as a way to dismiss worrying about something or to dismiss another person's concern. The point is to get in there, take charge of and be responsible for the meaning you create. Each of us, after all, is responsible for this individual human capacity.

Distinguishing - The Heavy Lifting

The purpose of reason is to know reality - to observe the facts and to draw conclusions in order that one know what to do. Reality consists of the world external to oneself and oneself, the being whose needs are to be met in order to live.

The power one has in this process is known as "distinguishing." That is knowing one thing from the rest of reality such that it becomes distinct in your mind and you are able, therefore, to actually use what you know. I ran into this term in Landmark Education years ago and have been seeing it in other places although it is not highlighted as "distinguishing" as it is in Landmark.

Last night I went to a lecture by Dr. John Lewis, an historian, whose lecture was entitled, No Substitute For Victory. ( The audience of maybe 60 people was mostly Muslim and believe me, he had his work cut out for him to distinguish his thesis, stand for his thesis, and let the light bulbs come on. And, he wasn't exactly calm in this process either. He was intense and I could tell that he had to let the irrationality of some of the comments roll off him. And, they weren't benignly irrational either. They were meant to render him unfit to stand before any group and say what he was saying. The older Muslims were the most vehement in their intention to stop him in his tracks.

His point was that Islam is joined with the state and this is the essential problem. The history of what happens to a country when religion is one of the purposes of the state and the consequences for their people and for other states is voluminous. Furthermore there is only one way to handle this when it becomes a problem for other states: Destroy the government and rebuild a peace which specifically bans any connection between that government and religion. In each case where this has been done, a peace has been created which has been a huge benefit to the people who had to live under the "State as Religion" regime and because of free trade resulted in the prosperity of not only them but their trading partners. (He said he was writing a book about these historical results. Creating a structured peace has happened many times from ancient times through modern times. It just isn't well known or understood.)

Dr. Lewis had to go through this and distinguish his point from many onslaughts. In the beginning, people were identifying as Muslim and since he was saying that the regime in Iran had to be destroyed they naturally thought that he was saying that Islam had to be destroyed. No, he wasn't saying that. Any person is free to be a Muslim if he wants. His point is that it cannot be the function of the state to promote that or any other religion.

Another point he had to distinguish was that the Muslims attacked him although he was only quoting the radical Muslims down through the ages. Any attack on any Muslim was an attack on them and thus they had no power to call any Muslim to account. He used an example that if an Objectivist entered his house and tried to rob him with a gun, he would call the police and have him arrested. In other words, he wouldn't protect him because he was an Objectivist.

One of the widely held cliches held not only by Muslims but by many non-Muslims is "Violence begats violence." He then drew out examples from history where the opposite is true. Trying to get along with violence maintains violence. Squashing it completely and structuring a peace stops it. He gave the example of Sherman marching through Georgia. Had Sherman not squashed the power brokers of the South, we would still be having skirmishes and serious battles between North and South.

Link to an article by the same name by Dr. John Lewis:

One of the fundamental principles of distinguishing is that when there are two positions, one A and one non-A, any bridging between the two or rapprochement with the other side destroys one's ability to make the distinction. In that act, one has lost his case and the other side wins or is, at least, left to fight another day.

A turk illuminated this principle in a very startling and clear way. I have to say that I've appreciated Bush because he has gone after the Muslim Statists, exactly what I think he should do, but, this revelation had me hate him.

Turkey is a secular state, a fact that they are very proud of. There was never a wording about Turkey that suggested they were anything other than a secular state - until Bush got in office. He and the State Department referred to them as a moderate Muslim state. This characterized them as essentially a Muslim state and tied religion to the state. After 9/11 and because the United States blurred the principle of the separation of church and state, Turkey began having religious uprising. Now I don't know if these uprisings were simply due to the victory that 9/11 represented for Islam, or if they were fostered by America's acknowledgement that a religious state is OK. At any rate, because of Bush's Christian background and the importance he places on bringing religion into the state apparatus, he in his seemingly innocuous formulation threw out a basic principle on which this country and any peace is founded, namely the separation of church and state. This is unacceptable.

Here is a link to another case of distinguishing, this time around the subject of Libertarianism. To distinguish depends on knowing and knowing that you know. You have to know something all the way down to its roots in reality in order to be a powerful distinguisher. In this example, libertarianism throws away its roots and starts in midstream, namely with the principle that "the initiation of force against any man or his property is banned from social interaction."

A final note. The matter of distinguishing is not just something that is social. If you do not distinguish a particular value in your own mind, you cannot gain it. To gain a value, one must be absolutely clear as to what it is and what it is not. This requires one's ability to distinguish.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can't Be an Affirmative Action President - Reality Won't Permit It

Here is a letter I sent to the Wall Street Journal today.

Dear Editor:

Barack Obama is going to have to decide what it's going to be. Is he going to be the President of the United States, someone that we are called to elect primarily on merit or is he going to maintain the racial justifications for affirmative action? Is he going to actually be the man of change and hope, or is he going to say change and hope, but change nothing thereby yielding no hope?

When Michelle, who I've read makes a great salary and has the best of education, says that we can't get a break around here, do we believe our eyes or her words? Can one make malarky eloquent?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer, Hitler - What's the Difference?

Given that Spitzer was a brazen ruthless ruiner of men and was elected to his office in a landslide, do we now understand how America can elect a Hitler? And what does this say about the fascist underbelly of the Democratic Party?

I heard a colleague of his defending all the good things he had done in his short term as governor, trying to salvage something, anything, of Spitzer and the Democrats in New York. My ears were in rebellion. I wretched.

This fascist ugliness is just behing the drape in our current political drama. And this, I say, is the primary lesson in this matter. WAKE UP!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer, Arrrrggggh

Elliot Spitzer proves one thing. Being a hypocrite, that small potatoes thing that conservatives get entangled in, is nothing . You know what I mean: Advocating family values and damning homosexuality from the pulpit or the elective office and then having sex with a call boy.

Spitzer is worse: He championed the state, justice and the will of the people and advocated prison terms and huge fines to carry them out and did what he damn well pleased in violation of the law. He ran afoul of this moral: "When we the people invest you with certain powers of the state, you are given a privilege. You are to embody that privilige. Violate that and all privilege disappears." We the people then kick him to the curb and pour over his prostrate body at least two heaping dumptruck loads of disgust.

If the laws didn't criminalize victimless crimes, Spitzer would have found another way to violate his privilege. He is insufferably arrogant and flaunting - just to see if he can get away with it. Personally, I could barely stand to see his wife standing beside him. On TV, to puncture his pretentiousness, she should have bopped him up side the head and said, "You should have had a V-8, you bastard."

Given that Spitzer is a Democrat and given that the liberal Democrats eschew morality whenever possible (fearing dogmatic moral judgment in itself and fearing that is the only kind of morality there is), it is interesting to see them portray this as a human tragedy rather than a moral failing. Psychology is cited. Where is accountability?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Current Crisis

We all sense that things are going awry in some way. People are factionalizing into angry groups. Instead of people looking to reason to work things out, they are just getting angry and retreating into their most comfortable groups be they their race, their gender, their ethnic group or, in some cases, their country. If this process goes to its endpoint, the only people you will be able to trust is your family and you will definitely worry about some of them.

This is the breakdown of reason that Kant started (see my previous post entitled "Who Started This") in his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. A consequence of undermining reason is that people look to their feelings for guidance. Intuition, gut reaction, passion (emotional fervor) and other expressions of feeling become important. Without reason as one's guide, one returns to the places where one "feels" comfortable. Thus race, ethnic groups, and other groups become important. With reason, one crosses these barriers and expands outward. Without reason, one shrinks and moves inward.

With this increased dependency on the group, politics becomes everything. We are seeing this process happening in this country. In 1920, the only contact you were likely to have with the Federal Government was the Post Office. Now the Federal Government is into every part of your life - your food, your medicine, your buildings, your finances, your means of transportation, your personal behavior, everything. Everything has become political and you have to decide whether to acquiesce or fight. Hence our current state of affairs.

Everything being political gravitates to socialism. In other words, if we have to have the government decide everything, then the government has to have the power to cause their decisions to be real. But there is a problem. Socialism has failed on every front, both in theory and in practice. All that is left now is the emotional love of socialism propelling people into action but no reason for them to be propelled into action. This is the mob mentality.

Stephen Hicks in his book Explaining Postmodernism writes several paragraphs on this crisis. It always gets crystallized by the intellectuals first and then it spreads to the society. I quote:

"As modernists, socialists argued that socialism could be proved by evidence and rational analysis, and that once the evidence was in, socialism's moral and economic superiority to capitalism would be clear to anyone with an open mind.

"This is significant, because so-conceived socialism committed itself to a series of propositions that could be empirically, rationally, and scientifically scrutinized. The end result of that scrutiny provides another key to explaining postmodernism.

"Classical Marxist socialism made four major claims:
1. Capitalism is exploitative: The rich enslave the poor; it is brutally competitive domestically and imperialistic internationally.
2. Socialism, by contrast, is humane and peaceful: People share, are equal, and cooperative.
3. Capitalism is ultimately less productive than socialism: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer; and the ensuing class conflilct will cause capitalism's collapse in the end.
4. Socialist economies, by contrast, will be more productive and usher in a new era of prosperity.
These propositions were first enunciated by socialists in the nineteenth century, and repeated often into the twentieth before disaster struck. The disaster was that all four of socialism's claims were refuted both in theory and in practice.

" In theory, the free-market economists have won the debate. Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman have shown how markets are efficient, and they have shown, conversely, how socialist top-down command economies necessarily must fail. Distinguished Left-wing economists such as Robert Heilbroner have conceded in print that the debate is over and that the capitalists have won.

"The empirical evidence has been much harder on socialism. Economically, in practice the capitalist nations are increasingly productive and prosperous, with no end in sight. Not only are the rich getting fantastically richer, the poor in those countries are getting richer too. And by direct and brutal contrast, every socialist experiment has ended in dismal economic failure -- from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, to North Korea and Vietnam, to Cuba, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.

"Morally and politically, in practice every liberal capitalist country has a solid record for being humane, for by and large respecting rights and freedoms, and for making it possible for people to put together fruitful and meaningful lives. Socialist practice has time and time again proved itself more brutal than the worst dictatorships in history prior to the twentieth century. Each socialist regime has collapsed into dictatorship and begun killing people on a huge scale. Each has produced dissident writers such as Alexander Sozhenitsyn and Nien Cheng who have documented what those regimes are capable of.

"These points are well known, and I dwell upon them in order to project the depth of the crisis that this meant for Left-socialist intellectuals. By the 1950s, the crisis was being felt deeply.

"Instead of having collapsed in the Great Depression of the 1930s, as both the collectivist Right and the Left had hoped, the liberal capitalist countries had recovered after World War II and by the 1950s were enjoying peace, liberty, and new levels of prosperity. World War II had wiped out the collectivist Right - the National Socialists and the Fascists -- leaving the Left alone in the field against a triumphant and full-of-itself liberal capitalism. Yet while the liberal West's recovery and its rising political and economic prominence were distressing to the far Left intellectuals of the West, hope was still offered by the existence of the Soviet Union, the 'noble experiment,' and to a lesser extent by communist China.

"Even that hope was brutally crushed in 1956. Before a worldwide audience, the Soviets sent tanks into Hungary to stifle demonstrations by students and workers -- thus demonstrating just how strong was their commitment to humanity. And, more devastatingly, Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged publicly what many in the West had long charged -- that Joseph Stalin's regime had slaughtered tens of millions of human beings, staggering numbers that made the National Socialists' efforts seem amateurish in comparison.

"From The Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848 to the revelations of 1956 was over a century of theory and evidence. The crisis for the far Left was that the logic and evidence were going against socialism. Put yourselves in the shoes of an intelligent, informed socialist confronted with all this data. How would you react? You have a deep commitment to socialism: You feel that socialism is true; you want it to be true; upon socialism you have pinned all your dreams of a peaceful and prosperous future society and all your hopes for solving the ills of our current society.

"This is a moment of truth for anyone who has experienced the agony of a deeply cheerished hypothesis run aground on the rocks of reality. What do you do? Do you abandon your theory and go with the facts -- or do you try to find a way to maintain your belief in your theory?" (Stephen Hicks, pp 86-89)

So we have our current crisis . The evidence is in and the Left is unwilling to give up its long cherished belief. So we are seeing this vacuous hope and the anger of its frustration play out. One of the expressions of this is Obama's Hope and Change campaign.

Friday, March 7, 2008

California, The Fascist State

Homeschoolers' setback sends shock waves through state
Bob Egelko, Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, March 7, 2008

(03-07) 04:00 PST LOS ANGELES --
A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution.

The homeschooling movement never saw the case coming.
"At first, there was a sense of, 'No way,' " said homeschool parent Loren Mavromati, a resident of Redondo Beach (Los Angeles County) who is active with a homeschool association. "Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation."

The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschooling their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential.

The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year.

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home. (Read: The State Will Control the Curriculum of those that teach your children. SCB)

Some homeschoolers are affiliated with private or charter schools, like the Longs, but others fly under the radar completely. Many homeschooling families avoid truancy laws by registering with the state as a private school and then enroll only their own children.

Yet the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California's compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child's grade level.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws."

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.
"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue. (Read: We have the right to indoctrinate your children. SCB)

Union pleased with ruling

The ruling was applauded by a director for the state's largest teachers union. (Of course. Ever seen a union that liked competition? SCB)

"We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting."

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said the agency is reviewing the decision to determine its impact on current policies and procedures. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued a statement saying he supports "parental choice when it comes to homeschooling."

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which agreed earlier this week to represent Sunland Christian School and legally advise the Long family on a likely appeal to the state Supreme Court, said the appellate court ruling has set a precedent that can now be used to go after homeschoolers. "With this case law, anyone in California who is homeschooling without a teaching credential is subject to prosecution for truancy violation, which could require community service, heavy fines and possibly removal of their children under allegations of educational neglect," Dacus said.

Parents say they choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons, from religious beliefs to disillusionment with the local public schools. Homeschooling parent Debbie Schwarzer of Los Altos said she's ready for a fight.

Schwarzer runs Oak Hill Academy out of her Santa Clara County home. It is a state-registered private school with two students, she said, noting they are her own children, ages 10 and 12. She does not have a teaching credential, but she does have a law degree.

"I'm kind of hoping some truancy officer shows up on my doorstep," she said. "I'm ready. I have damn good arguments." (Sorry, an argument ends at the point of a gun. SCB)

She opted to teach her children at home to better meet their needs.
The ruling, Schwarzer said, "stinks."

Began as child welfare case

The Long family legal battle didn't start out as a test case on the validity of homeschooling. It was a child welfare case. A juvenile court judge looking into one child's complaint of mistreatment by Philip Long found that the children were being poorly educated but refused to order two of the children, ages 7 and 9, to be enrolled in a full-time school. He said parents in California have a right to educate their children at home. The appeals court told the juvenile court judge to require the parents to comply with the law by enrolling their children in a school, but excluded the Sunland Christian School from enrolling the children because that institution "was willing to participate in the deprivation of the children's right to a legal education."

The decision could also affect other kinds of homeschooled children, including those enrolled in independent study or distance learning through public charter schools - a setup similar to the one the Longs have, Dacus said. Charter school advocates disagreed, saying Thursday that charter schools are public and are required to employ only credentialed teachers to supervise students - whether in class or through independent study.

Ruling will apply statewide

Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the ruling would effectively ban homeschooling in the state.
"California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home," he said in a statement. But Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, which represented the Longs' two children in the case, said the ruling did not change the law. "They just affirmed that the current California law, which has been unchanged since the last time it was ruled on in the 1950s, is that children have to be educated in a public school, an accredited private school, or with an accredited tutor," she said. "If they want to send them to a private Christian school, they can, but they have to actually go to the school and be taught by teachers." Heimov said her organization's chief concern was not the quality of the children's education, but their "being in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who started this?

It seems that everyone is lamenting. We lament the state of political corruption and abuse of role. If you bring up someone's character, people look at you blankly. There are injustices everywhere and it's ho-hum. You think you have a point and can demonstrate it. Who cares? It's all beside the point. Who started all of this?

Depending on how far you want to go back, you can pick your starting point. I pick the point after the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution had gotten started and their successes were rubbing against the traditions and institutions of the past. The Enlightenment was centered in England. France got on board to some extent. But German intellectuals hated it. They liked faith, duty and ethnic identity. And that is where the problem started - particularly with the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Philosophers were wondering how we actually could know reality, the basic premise of the enlightenment. Hume, the empiricist, and the rationalists had raised questions. Kant was smart enough to see the opportunity in this, so he point blank stated that we could never know reality. He then erected a philosophical system to support his thesis.

But what does Kant have to do with us, you ask? "We live in a postmodern philosophical era. Just as the Enlightenment re-shaped the entire world, postmodernism hopes to do the same. Forming such an ambition and developing the arguments capable of mobilizing a movement to realize that ambition is the work of many individuals over several generations. Contemporary second-tier postmodernists, when looking for philosophical support, cite Rorty, Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida. Those figures in turn, when looking for heavy-duty philosophical support, cite Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wiggenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx -- the modern world's most trenchant critics and its most prophetic voices about the new direction. Those figures in turn cite Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Immanuel Kant, and to a lesser extent David Hume. The roots and initial impetus of postmodernism thus run deep. The battle between modernism and the philosophies that led to postmodernism was joined at the height of the Enlightenment. Knowing the history of that battle is essential to understanding postmodernism." (Explaining Postmodernism: skepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen R. C. Hicks, 2004, p.21-22.)

Hicks, cited above, explores why Kant is the turning point away from the Enlightenment. Here is his explanation: "Kant was the decisive break with the Enlightenment and the first major step toward postmodernism. Contrary to the Enlightenment account of reason, Kant held that the mind is not a response mechanism but a constitutive mechanism. (That is that we make it all up. SCB) He held that the mind -- and not reality -- sets the terms for knowledge. And he held that reality conforms to reason, not vice versa. In the history of philosophy, Kant marks a fundamental shift from objectivity as the standard to subjectivity as the standard.

"Wait a minute, a defender of Kant may reply. Kant was hardly opposed to reason. After all, he favored rational consistency and he believed in universal principles. So what is anti-reason about that? The answer is that more fundamental to reason than consistency and universality is a connection to reality. Any thinker who concludes that in principle reason cannot know reality is not fundamentally an advocate of reason. That Kant was in favor of consistency and universality is of derivative and ultimately inconsequential significance. Consistency with no connection to reality is a game based on subjective rules. If the rules of the game have nothing to do with reality, then why should everyone play by the same rules? These were precisely the implications the postmodernists were to draw eventually.

"Kant was thus different from previous skeptics and religious apologists. Many earlier skeptics had denied that we can know anything, and many earlier religious apoplogists had subordinated reason to faith. But earlier skeptics had never been as sweeping in their conclusions. Earlier skeptics would identify particular cognitive operations and raise problems for them. Maybe a given experience is a perceptual illusion - thus undermining our confidence in our generalizations; and so on. But the conclusion of those skeptical arguments would be merely that we cannot be sure that we are right about the way reality is. We might be, but we cannot guarantee it, the skeptics would conclude. Kant's point was deeper, arguing that in principle any conclusion reached by any of our faculties must necessarily not be about reality. Any form of cognition, because it must operate a certain way, cannot put us in contact with reality. On principle, because our minds' faculties are structured in a certain way, we cannot say what reality is. We can only say how our minds have structured the subjective reality we perceive. This thesis had been implicit in the works of some earlier thinkers, including Aristotle's, but Kant made it explicit and drew the conclusion systematically.

"Kant is a landmark in a second respect. Earlier skeptics had despite their negative conclusions, continued to conceive of truth as correspondence to reality. Kant went a step further and redefined truth on subjective grounds. ... If our minds are in principle disconnected from reality, then to speak of truth as an external relationship between mind and reality is nonsense. Truth must be solely an internal relationship of consistency." (Hicks, pp39-41.)

This is as clear a statement as to what is going on in the postmodern world and when the shift ocurred as I've read. Now we can see why people don't care whether something is true or not. We don't have to prove anything. All we have to do is enroll others into our point of view and go from there. Never mind whether it corresponds to reality or whether it will produce the result that you want. It's all beside the point. This captures the great cynicism of our age.

This blog is about exploring this, among other related topics, and being a force for transforming this point of view.

You are real. The world is real and there is a lot of it out here. Figure out what is going on. Strap on your wings and fly. Take what you want and pay for it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If Obama Were Great

Some people hold out the hope that Obama is a "racial healer." Part of the reason, they say, is because he is of mixed race - black and white. It is clear that although he has identified himself as black, he has attracted many whites. This is a good start.

But I'm not hopeful. Obama's history is that of a community organizer in South Chicago. I'm not aware that a community organizer has ever healed anything. Their means are usually guilt, victimhood, threats, extortion and raw power to get what they want. Obama's mentor was Saul Alinksy. Saul and his followers were/are "concerned with social justice without having socialism thought to be their primary agenda. Alinsky promoted greater awareness of community organizing in academic circles, and those affiliated with Alinsky trained a generation of organizers, including César Chávez."

All the socialists I know who rose to the heights of political power ended creating an "out" group of people that they either imprisoned or murdered. I'm not saying that Obama will go to this extreme. It's just that his background is not good for racial healing.

If Obama were a healer, I would expect something like this:

"Since the days of Civil Rights, we have labored to take our place in American society. Laws were passed that removed discrimination and laws were passed that gave us access to economic benefits that we did not have before. Although this was deserved and in some cases generous, we still labor under second class status. Today, I say, we are ready to step up and take our place, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of American society. We can. We want no more special privileges implying we aren't up to full participation and competition. We are ready to earn our way, not have it handed to us on a polite plate. And we can. We are, by the declaration of our independence, EQUAL and FREE."


Imagine the immediate shift that would take place in society. That tacky victimhood would be over. New challenges would open up. Respect would be present; before it was absent. However scarey for black and white, the fear would not last. The effect of such leadership would be enormous. Obama would be a great man.

One more thing: No white man can do this. The way for the black man's equality in every and all respects has been paved for over 40 years - with government discrimination being removed from the laws of the land. The final step, the step into his own power is something he must give himself. There is an old saying, "Take what you want and pay for it." Obama would grant a new moral sanction for every black man, woman and child. This would be an enormous gift and an enormous achievement not just for the United States, but for the entire world. This, in essence, would complete the racial struggle and the effect would roll down through the generations.

Using this as a standard, is Obama a "racial healer?" I am not hopeful.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Is This the Best Our Society Can Do?

On and on it goes - how we must take care of the poor and the weak and the least among us. Hillary and Obama focus on and emphasize this in every speech.

Here's the killer in the whole thing. They play on our authentic generosity and empathetic feelings and yet are willing to force every one of us to do what they want done. Hillary got into an argument over fining someone if they didn't have healthcare and had to be admitted to an emergency room. I can see the emergency room scene now: "Do you have government healthcare? No? You're under arrest! They'll fix that leg in jail." And this was right out there for all of us to see. She's not even interested in hiding her fascism. She's completely comfortable with it. Never mind the plans you had for your money or your time. You belong to Hillary. Shut up. Her dictator instincts, all justified by her concern for the "crisis ridden" populace and because she, and Obama, want to put nice-to-touch cat furr on everything, doesn't mean that the hardware isn't beneath the surface.

All in the name of the public good? I say, TO HELL WITH THE PUBLIC!! DON'T TREAD ON ME!!

Think of a better way. Those who care will create institutions to take care of these problems. No one has a duty to do it. Everyone has the right to do it.

"They won't do anything," you say?

Then maybe there is something we should stop pretending about human being. Are we willing to put up with the force so we don't have to face the fact that we don't give a damn? So, do we all really hate human beings at root? If you believe that, all I can say is that you are a product of the society of force not a reason for it.

How disgusting. Heave the tomatoes. Get the rake and drag them off the stage. Bring on someone who understands individual human dignity and the distinction that is America. These cats ain't it!!!