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Archive | November, 2011

Three Myths About President Kennedy

Ross Douthat dispels the myths about the Lord of American Camelot in his op-ed, The Enduring Cult of Kennedy – NYTimes.com:

The first premise is that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. Few serious historians take this view: It belongs to Camelot’s surviving court stenographers, and to popularizers like Chris Matthews, whose new best seller “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” works hard to gloss over the thinness of the 35th president’s actual accomplishments. [...]

In reality, the kindest interpretation of Kennedy’s presidency is that he was a mediocrity whose death left his final grade as “incomplete.” The harsher view would deem him a near disaster — ineffective in domestic policy, evasive on civil rights and a serial blunderer in foreign policy, who barely avoided a nuclear war that his own brinksmanship had pushed us toward. (And the latter judgment doesn’t even take account of the medical problems that arguably made him unfit for the presidency, or the adulteries that eclipsed Bill Clinton’s for sheer recklessness.)

The second false premise is that Kennedy would have kept us out of Vietnam. [...] Actually, it would be more accurate to describe the Vietnam War as Kennedy’s darkest legacy. [...]

The third myth is that Kennedy was a martyr to right-wing unreason. Writing on J.F.K. in the latest issue of New York magazine, Frank Rich half-acknowledges the mediocrity of Kennedy’s presidency. [...] This connection is the purest fantasy, made particularly ridiculous by the fact that both Rich and King acknowledge that Oswald was a leftist — a pro-Castro agitator whose other assassination target was the far-right segregationist Edwin Walker. [...]

This last example suggests why the J.F.K. cult matters — because its myths still shape how we interpret politics today. We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. [...]

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Your Life Driven By The State

The Washington Times has an editorial on the U.S. government’s banning of the non-toxic light bulb.

Within four weeks, it will be a crime to manufacture a 100-watt version of Thomas A. Edison’s brilliant invention. Thanks to a Democratic Congress and the signature of President George W. Bush in 2007, anti-industrial zealots at the Energy Department received authority to blot out one of the greatest achievements of the industrial age. They’re coming for our light bulbs.

Know-it-all bureaucrats insist that foisting millions of mercury-laden fluorescent tubes on the public is going to be good for the planet. The public obviously does not agree. Voting with their wallets, people have overwhelming favored warm, nontoxic lighting options over their pale curlicue imitators. Beginning Jan. 1, Obama administration extremists will impose massive financial penalties on any company daring to produce a lighting product that fully satisfies ordinary Americans.

[...]

The reality is that this ban is yet another example of the sort of job-destroying regulations that enrich the administration’s friends at the expense of consumers. Specifically, the rules turn a 50-cent light bulb into a purchase of $3 or more.

Rampaging bureaucrats aren’t just satisfied with foisting inferior light bulbs on the public. The Energy Department uses the force of the federal government to redesign an entire suite of consumer products to meet their personal preferences. In nearly every case, their meddling makes things worse. Current regulations micromanage the function of ceiling fans, clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, faucets, freezers, furnaces, heat pumps, lamps, pool heaters, power supplies, refrigerators, room air conditioners, shower heads, stoves, toilets and water heaters. Enough is enough.

All of this is entirely unnecessary. The public is more than capable of encouraging the development of efficient products. [Time to stock up on light bulbs]

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Hallelujah! Conservatives Should Take Article VI of the Constitution Seriously

Richard Salsman on GOP Conservatives – Not Romney – Are the Real Flip-Floppers – Forbes:

In that answer Gingrich was directing his remarks about faith and
politics at Romney. Yet consider the hubris of Gingrich believing some
deity hears his prayers and responds with sound public policy advice.
The man can’t imagine an alternative to judgment apart from faith, even
though it is, obviously, judgment based on the facts of reality, using
reason and logic. The man says he cannot trust political leaders who
don’t pray, whereas in fact we should distrust those who don’t think. In
viewing candidates like Gingrich, one might be excused for uttering one
worthy prayer, as was spray-painted on a wall in D.C., in the wake of
9/11, a day Americans could not live free from religion: “God please
save us from all those people who believe in you.”

Mr. Romney spelled out his view of religion and politics in a speech, “Faith in America,” in December 2007:

“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good
reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state
interfere with the free practice of religion.” I am an American running
for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person
should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected
because of his faith.” “As governor, I tried to do the right as best I
knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not
confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of
the office and of the Constitution — and of course, I would not do so as
President.” I believe in what Abraham Lincoln called America’s
‘political religion’ — the commitment to defend the rule of law and the
Constitution.”

At this stage in America’s history, as it seems to be hurtling toward
bigger and bigger government, voters can probably ask nothing more from
a candidate than his plain pledge to at least try and abide by the U.S.
Constitution. In this regard it’s worth reminding both the religious
right and religious left among us that the Constitution never once
mentions a deity or Christianity and that in Article VI it specifically
requires officers of government in America “to support this
Constitution” and says “no religious test shall ever be required as a
qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Conservatives should grow up, cease their promiscuity in the GOP
primaries, and take Article VI seriously.

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The Missing Piece of the “Super Committee”

The failure of the “Super Committee” to reach an agreement concerning spending reductions of at least $1.2 trillion over ten years seems to symbolize the growing philosophical divide in America.  Despite the “marriage” between Grover Norquist and the Republican party, the Democratic party remains more consistent in their beliefs of expanding the size and scope of government than their Republican counterparts are about diminishing it.  A recent Wall Street Journal editorial by the Committee’s co-chair, Representative Jeb Hensarling, reveals the mindset of his Democratic counterparts:

“President Obama summed up our debt crisis best when he told Republican members of the House in January 2010 that “The major driver of our long-term liabilities . . . is Medicare and Medicaid and our health-care spending.” A few months later, however, Mr. Obama and his party’s leaders in Congress added trillions of dollars in new health-care spending to the government’s balance sheet.”

“Democrats on the committee made it clear that the new spending called for in the president’s health law was off the table. Still, committee Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements—Medicare and Medicaid—based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year.”

“The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose.”

“Democrats rejected this approach but assured us on numerous occasions they would offer a “structural” or “architectural” Medicare reform plan of their own. While I do not question their good faith effort to do so, they never did.”

“Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan “Protect Medicare Act” authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton’s budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.”

“This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.”

This article contains two unique components.  First, Democrats refuse to alter the manner in which their beloved programs operate–despite the looming fiscal peril.  Second, and likely in the hopes of sounding bipartisan, Mr. Hensarling does not challenge the merits of the entitlement state.  Essentially, Republicans agree that an individual’s rights end where someone else’s needs begins.  In attempting to promote the concept of the mixed economy, Mr. Hensarling continues:

“In the midst of persistent 9% unemployment, the committee could have enacted fundamental tax reform to simplify the tax code, help create jobs, and bring in over time the higher revenues that come with economic growth. Republicans put such a plan on the table…”

“Republicans were willing to agree to additional tax revenue, but only in the context of fundamental pro-growth tax reform that would broaden the base, lower rates, and maintain current levels of progressivity. This is the approach to tax reform used by recent bipartisan deficit reduction efforts such as the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission and the Rivlin-Domenici plan.”

“The Democrats said no. They were unwilling to agree to anything less than $1 trillion in tax hikes—and unwilling to offer any structural reforms to put our health-care entitlements on a permanently sustainable basis.”

Republicans fail these debates because, fundamentally, they concur with their Democratic colleagues; the entitlement state is a moral priority.  The matter on which the two parties disagree is the method for funding the entitlement programs.  As Mr. Hensarling argues, lower tax rates help “broaden the base, create jobs, and bring higher revenues.”  He does not say that wealth is created and earned as a result of production.  He does not argue that, in a capitalist system, all wealth is earned.

Instead of defending the utility of liberal economics in terms of funding entitlements, the politicians who want to stand against the socialist/liberals need to address the immorality of redistributing other peoples’ money.

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McDonald’s: Headquarters of the 2011 Anti-Industrial Revolution

From New York Post reporter spends night with Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park – NYPOST.com:

“I just talked to two gentlemen who were raped last night, and they don’t want to press charges because [authorities] wanted to take them in an ambulance and . . . do a rape kit,” she said. She passed on their account to the security force, while encouraging them to press charges.

“There was another girl raped by the same man,” she said from a table in the McDonald’s, which has become the headquarters of the revolution. It’s a place to meet, to get warm, to scarf down dollar-menu grub and to use the bathroom that becomes increasingly vile as the night goes on.

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Ayn Rand Altruist?

According to the Atlas Shrugged movie producers:

Atlas Productions LLC announced today its plan to replace more than 100,000 title sheets appearing on the Atlas Shrugged Part 1 DVD and Blu-ray versions sold through major retail outlets. These retail versions were packaged with an inaccurate synopsis of Atlas Shrugged. Not affected were the “Special Edition” versions sold online at AtlasShruggedMovie.com.

The 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, is known in philosophical and political circles for presenting a cogent argument advocating a society driven by rational self-interest. On the back of the film’s retail DVD and Blu-ray however, the movie’s synopsis contradictorily states “AYN RAND’s timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life…”

“It’s embarrassing for sure and of course, regardless of how or why it happened, we’re all feeling responsible right now.” says Scott DeSapio, Atlas Productions’ COO and Communications Director “You can imagine how mortified we all were when we saw the DVD but, it was simply too late – the product was already on shelves all over the Country. It was certainly no surprise when the incredulous emails ensued. The irony is inescapable.”

No worries though as buyers are supposed to get a corrected title sheet at no charge.

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Obama’s Christmas Tree Tax

Writes David S. Addington over at Heritage on Obama’s Christmas Tree Tax:

President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board.  The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)).  And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).

To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52).  And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.

[...] The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs.  Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?

And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government. [Obama Couldn't Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax]

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On The Nozickian Non-Argument: Gossip on Quora Based on Robert Nozick’s Failure To Grasp Ayn Rand’s Ideas

Forbes quotes a Ph.,d. candidate writing for Quora. Aside from the author using words like “nuanced” and “remarkably sensitive” — something which the author’s post is neither — the post is of little value as it simply sets up a second handed, straw man  attack of Ayn Rand’s ideas. As a purportedly professional academic, the author examines criticisms of Ayn Rand’s thought, without seeking to examine the actual material for Ayn Rand’s thought itself! In other words the author is dealing in academic gossip.

What is of value are some of the responses, most notably by philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger of HBL, which we present here:

After a lifetime of teaching Rand’s philosophy inside and outside the universities, I can say (and prove) that she wins the debate with Nozick.

Nozick’s criticisms of her proof of life as the standard of value reflect a total misreading of what she says. (I spoke to Nozick about this many years ago, and sent him a 6 page single-spaced letter on the subject. He said he hoped to read it eventually, but had too big a pile on his desk to get to it “soon.” I guess he never did get to it.)

Here’s the error in Nozick and this site’s post: Rand’s argument is NOT that you have to be alive in order to act. Everyone knows that trivial point. Her argument is that life–and only life–is what brings the phenomenon of values into existence.

Apart from the alternative of staying alive or going out of existence, there are only facts, not values, not good and evil, not helpful or harmful. A living organism’s need to act in order to survive is gives rise to the whole phenomenon of “good for” and “bad for,” “beneficial” and “harmful,” “valuable,” and “disvaluable” etc.

In Atlas Shrugged (no less) she states “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.” To support this, she gives in The Virtue of Selfishness the killer example of an immortal, indestructible robot which is impervious to all affects of its actions. Such a robot could move and “act” but could have no goals or values. Nothing could be good for it or bad for it. Facing no alternative in its own condition, it could have no “stake” in the outcome of its actions. This illustrates how “value” depends upon the agent facing an alternative in its condition–the fundamental such alternative being its continued existence as an acting agent (life) or ceasing to exist as such (death).

Nozick further misunderstands her proof’s methodology. The key steps of it are not deductive but inductive. In fact, the Objectivist epistemology holds that all new knowledge is inductive–deduction is essentially for the application of existing knowledge to new concretes. That view in itself is a radical departure from the (ironically) Platonic “methodology” of contemporary philosophers, who are mostly Empiricist in regard to the content of their ideas.

Rand’s thought is much more profound than that of her critics, who are playing games around the periphery without even grasping the fundamentals.

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Holleran: CBS Fights FCC and Wins in Philadelphia

From Scott Holleran: CBS Fights FCC and Wins in Philadelphia

In a victory this Wednesday for freedom of speech, an appeals court rejected the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to punish CBS for airing an expressive portion of Janet Jackson’s broadcast performance during the 2004 Super Bowl. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled by 2-1 (CBS Corp et al v. FCC, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 06-3575) that, by imposing a penalty, the FCC “arbitrarily and capriciously” departed from prior policy that exempted “fleeting” indecency from sanctions and that the FCC “improperly imposed a penalty on CBS for violating a previously unannounced policy”. The FCC released an antagonistic and harsh statement that says the federal agency is disappointed by the decision and intends to use “all the authority at its disposal” to force broadcasters to serve the public interest when they use the so-called public airwaves. A CBS spokeswoman said the network hopes the FCC will “return to the policy of restrained indecency enforcement it followed for decades.” The FCC fined CBS $27,500 for each of the 20 stations it owned when part of Janet Jackson’s anatomy was accidentally and briefly exposed during the halftime performance.

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Time Magazine Calls for Censorship, While Blaming The Victim?

Robert Spencer has some excellent commentary over at Jihad Watch

In my article at Front Page today I wrote this: “The worst aspect of this firebombing is that there are certain to be voices in the West over the next few days – some of them no doubt quite prominent and respected – who will call on Westerners to be more ‘sensitive’ toward Muslims, and to end this unacceptable hurting of Muslim feelings by drawing cartoons of him and making him the honorary editor-in-chief of a comedy magazine.”

And here we are. The reason why this is the worst aspect of the firebombing is that these pleas to be more “sensitive” to Muslims amount essentially to calls for restrictions on the freedom of speech and the creation of a special, privileged class that is beyond criticism. That is the death of free society and the road to tyranny, for the class that is beyond criticism will have a free hand to do whatever it wants, and what will anyone be able to say?

But Bruce Crumley of Time Magazine, like so many other enlightened liberals, camouflages his slouch toward totalitarianism in the guise of “sensitivity” and resistance to “Islamophobia.” The huge, gaping hole in his argument, however, is that he is making it after Muslims reacted violently to satire. Judaism and Christianity are lampooned on a regular basis, but Bruce Crumley never lifted a finger to call for “sensitivity” toward the religious feelings of others when Piss Christ was being displayed as a serious work of art. So Crumley’s argument boils down to saying that we should capitulate in the face of violent intimidation. This is not really about being sensitive. It is about doing what the thugs want so they won’t hurt us again.I’d rather die first.

“Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr,” by Bruce Crumley for Time Magazine, November 2 (thanks to Anne Crockett):

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and
destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait
Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t
going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because
not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they
also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their
authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common
good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting
belligerent reaction?

The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it
hard to have much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed
this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary
edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the
Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an
issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims)
with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet
Mohammed—depictions forbidden in Islam to boot. Predictably, the strike
unleashed a torrent of unqualified condemnation from French politicians,
many of whom called the burning of the notoriously impertinent paper as
“an attack on democracy by its enemies.”

We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for
your loss, Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate
response to your current edition. But do you still think the price you
paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient
parody on the logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good
luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring….

Read the rest of Time Magazine calls for censorship, blames victims of Islamic attack on French magazine that lampooned Muhammad.

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French Paper Charlie Hebdo Reprints Mohammad Cartoon

The French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, whose office was fire bombed after it printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad has reproduced the image defending “the freedom to poke fun” in the four-page supplement, which was wrapped around copies of the left-wing daily Liberation.

Writes Brian Love on the incident in Reuters “French paper reprints Mohammad cartoon after fire-bomb“:

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place hours before an edition of Charlie Hebdo hit news stands featuring a cover-page cartoon of Mohammad and a speech bubble with the words: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”

The weekly, known for its irreverent treatment of the political establishment and religious figures, bore the headline “Charia Hebdo,” in a reference to Muslim sharia law, and said that week’s issue had been guest-edited by Mohammad.

The incident pits Europe’s tradition of free speech and secularism against Islam’s injunction barring any depictions seen as mocking the prophet. The publication of cartoons of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper in 2005 sparked unrest in the Muslim world in which at least 50 people were killed.

By Islamists defending the Orwellian “religion of peace” i suppose, or perhaps “a few drunks”?

Here is the photo…

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