Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.
Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.
Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.
But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,” says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”
The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”
…The unrest surrounding Brown’s death has underscored the often-tense nature of U.S. race relations. But the gas station has stood out as a beacon, literally and figuratively, as nightfall has descended and chaos has reigned around it.
On Tuesday night, as police and soldiers took up positions in the parking lots of virtually every strip mall and big box store around it, the forecourt of the brightly lit gas station was busy with customers.
One, a 6-foot-8-inches man named Derrick Jordan — “Stretch,” as friends call him — whisked an AR-15 assault rifle out from a pickup truck parked near the entrance.
Jordan, 37, was one of four black Ferguson residents who spent Tuesday night planted in front of the store, pistols tucked into their waistbands, waiting to ward off looters or catch shoplifters.
Jordan and the others guarding the gas station are all black. The station’s owner is white.
Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town’s 21,000-strong population are black. By some accounts, the Brown shooting has heightened racial tensions in the city. But not at the gas station.
“We would have been burned to the ground many times over if it weren’t for them,” said gas station owner Doug Merello, whose father first bought it in 1984.
Merello said he feels deep ties to Ferguson, and if the loyalty of some of his regular customers is any indication, the feeling is mutual.
Writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Case for Police Reform Is Much Bigger Than Michael Brown:
As a longtime proponent of sweeping reforms to the criminal-justice system, I’m extremely apprehensive of the impulse to treat the killing of Michael Brown as a focal rallying point, even granting that the case has mobilized people and attention. His death is a perfect illustration of the need for dashboard cameras on every patrol vehicle and lapel cameras on every police officer in America. The way officials in Ferguson reacted to the protests over his death did illustrate the alarming militarization of U.S. police agencies. But when it comes to the problem of police officers using excessive force, including lethal force, against people they encounter, there are scores of cases that better illustrate the problem.
Why not start shifting focus to them?
One needn’t deny the disproportionate harm police abuse does in minority communities to see that it’s inaccurate to say that police abuse of whites isn’t a problem, too. Racism is far from the only factor here, and eliding that fact is surely counterproductive for reformers. Whites would be obligated to help reduce police abuse even if they were never subject to it, but the cold political reality is that people of every race have a purely selfish incentive to rein in law enforcement—even white people, whether they’re being assaulted by police with pepper spray or high-powered pepper plume or tasers … or literally beaten to death.
So what specific reforms are needed? Too many to list them all in this article. But here are a few measures, beyond video cameras, that would improve policing:
- Decisions about when to charge officers should be made by independent prosecutors, not regular district attorneys, who rely on police to testify in most of the cases they bring. That gives these district attorneys a perverse incentive to refrain from aggressively prosecuting misconduct.
- Police unions should be able to negotiate salary, benefits, and nothing else. Firing an abusive police officer should be easy.
- All police departments should have strong civilian oversight.
- The War on Drugs should end.
- Most military-grade police equipment should be returned to the federal government or destroyed.
- Civil asset forfeiture should be reformed.
- No-knock raids should stop in almost all cases.
The movement that grew in the wake of Brown’s death will need to pursue concrete, specific goals like these if their anger and outrage is to serve any purpose. Supporters with constructive criticism might improve the odds of success. The present course probably isn’t sufficient, despite the rhetorical support it enjoys.
Rich Lowry has an excellent editorial on The Inconvenient (and tragic) Truths | New York Post:
The bitter irony of the Michael Brown case is that if he had actually put his hands up and said don’t shoot, he would almost certainly be alive today. […] the credible evidence suggests that Michael Brown — after a petty act of robbery at a local business — attacked Wilson when the officer stopped him on the street. Brown punched Wilson when the officer was still in his patrol car and attempted to take his gun from him. […] Again, according to the credible evidence, [Brown] turned back and rushed Wilson. The officer shot several times, but Brown kept on coming until Wilson finally killed him.
[…] Aided and abetted by a compliant national media, the Ferguson protesters spun a dishonest or misinformed version of what happened — Michael Brown murdered in cold blood while trying to surrender — into a meme and a chant (“Hands up, don’t shoot”), and then a mini-movement. When the facts didn’t back their narrative, they dismissed the facts and retreated into paranoid suspicion of the legal system. The grand jury process was rigged, they complained, because St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch didn’t seek an indictment of Wilson and instead allowed the grand jury to hear all the evidence and make its own decision. Who could really object to a grand jury hearing everything in such a sensitive case?
Then there is the argument that Wilson should have been indicted so there could be a trial “to determine the facts.” If a jury of Wilson’s peers didn’t believe there was enough evidence to establish probable cause to indict him, though, there was no way a jury of his peers was going to convict him of a crime, which requires the more stringent standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Besides, we don’t try people for crimes they almost certainly didn’t commit just to satisfy a mob that will throw things at the police and burn down local businesses if it doesn’t get its way.
Comments Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:
“[Prosecutor Bob] McCulloch short-circuited the process — reinforcing a sense among African Americans, and many others, that the justice system is rigged. He almost certainly could have secured an indictment on a lesser charge simply by requesting it, yet he acted as if he were a spectator, saying that jurors decided not to return a ‘true bill” on each possible charge — as if this were a typical outcome. As has been repeated often in recent weeks, a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to.” [“Bob McCulloch’s pathetic prosecution of Darren Wilson”]
By “a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to”, Milbank admits to wanting to rig the system to indict Wilson despite their being no factual basis for doing so.
Yet, thanks to McCullough releasing all of the evidence, we that know Brown was in the wrong because several Black eye-witnesses who were on the scene confirmed Officer Wilson’s account of the events — and their statements were backed up by the physical evidence. This evidence is publicly available for any protestor or looter to study if they can take the time away from blocking streets, chanting slogans, and putting buildings on fire. (If you read the documents pay special attention to witness number 10, page 4).
For a Grand Jury to indict someone — whether a policeman or not — the facts need to cast at least some evidence of guilt. Whether one person or a mob of three million protestors are emotionally distraught has no say in the justice of the matter. The purpose of justice is not to appease an ignorant lynch mob that cries “no justice-no peace” and goes on a looting binge. Jonathan Turley at USA Today emphasizes this point:
“The law requires us to deal with facts, and when those facts do not support a criminal charge, prosecution is barred regardless of popular demand. In the end, it rings hollow to cry ‘no justice, no peace’ when you are rioting or looting. There can be no justice if it is merely the result of demonstrations rather than demonstrated facts. Otherwise, the scales of justice become just one more object to throw through the window of an appliance store.” [‘Jonathan Turley, “Ferguson needs facts, not passions”]
In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, police officer Darren Wilson spoke about the shooting of Michael Brown.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to withstand another hit like that,” Wilson said of the altercation with Michael Brown. “I had reached out my window with my right hand to grab onto his forearm ’cause I was gonna try and move him back and get out of the car to where I’m no longer trapped…I just felt the immense power that he had. And then the way I’ve described it is it was like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big this man was.”
Comments Lowry on the issue:
There is good reason for a police officer to be in mortal fear in the situation Officer Wilson faced, though. In upstate New York last March, Police Officer David Smith responded to a disturbance call at an office, when suddenly, a disturbed man pummeled the officer as he was attempting to exit his vehicle and then grabbed his gun and shot him dead. [New York Post]
Here is a video on that shooting in New York, which could have been Officer Wilson.
From the NY Daily News:
Officer David Smith, 43, was shot and killed after a crazed man grabbed his gun from his holster during a disturbance call Monday morning, according to police. An upstate New York police officer was shot and killed by a crazed man who snatched his gun from his holster during a disturbance call Monday morning, according to police. Johnson City Officer David Smith, 43, was shot multiple times outside an MRI office near Binghamton after a disturbed employee managed to grab his gun just after 7 a.m., said Police Chief Joseph Zikuski. The married 18-year police veteran, who has an 11-year-old son, had just arrived at Southern Tier Imaging when MRI technician James Clark, 43, wildly ran up to him before punching him several times as he was trying to exit his vehicle, said Zikuski. During the attack witnesses said Clark managed to somehow grab Smith’s weapon and repeatedly open fire until the 40-caliber duty’s magazine was spent.
Yes, racism does exist — on both sides of the “color-divide.”
Yes, there are cops who unjustly target people because of their race. Officer Wilson was not one of them.
Officer Wilson is the wrong person to target and blame for a situation he did not create — Michael Brown created that problem when Brown robbed a store, and then violently assaulted a police officer. Rather then saying “Yes, sir Mr. Officer. No sir.” He resorted to violence. Whether one takes up a fist or sword — to start up and initate violence — is evil. To use force, to defend oneself is the good.
Brown was the assailant; Officer Wilson is the victim.
Ask yourself if Officer Wilson was black would there be any of the rage over this incident? Would this even be an issue?
From the October 2008 issue of the libertarian Reason Magazine, Mike Flynn, Shikha Dalmia, and artist Terry Colon show what it takes to legally immigrate to America. Click on the image to see it full size.
Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We’re taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.
What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?
Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as “a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday.
From Peter Schwartz at The Huffington Post:
Conservatives largely oppose right-to-suicide laws. Many criticized Brittany Maynard’s decision. A Vatican official, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, called it “an absurdity,” declaring that suicide “is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and towards those around us.” The National Right to Life organization quotes a woman condemning physician-assisted suicide because “it does not strengthen the common good, but only alienates, separates and dismantles us as a people who truly care for one another.”
Here’s a radical thought for conservatives: Brittany Maynard has a right to life — to her life. And a right to one’s life requires, as an inseparable corollary, the right to terminate it. What else is a right to some action if not the freedom to choose whether or not to engage in it?
Read the whole thing here.
Once you watch the movie read her book: The Marva Collins Way.
This weekend, Eisner Award nominated cartoonist Bosch Fawstin joins The Flipside!! Don’t miss it! If you have not found where to watch in your local area, check the website. If it is not carried, be sure to contact your local station and ask them to carry The Flipside with Michael Loftus!
Also read his interview at Cap Mag: Art Against Jihad: An Interview with Bosch Fawstin Creator of The Infidel and Pigman!
Interview with James McConnell University of Michigan Department of Psychology (1961) — CSPAN2 – American Writers II
Self-sacrifice, Oriental mysticism, racial “truth,” the public good, doing one’s duty—these are among the seductive catchphrases that circulated in pre-Nazi Germany. In The Cause of Hitler’s Germany—previously published as part of his 1982 book The Ominous Parallels—Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s long-time associate, demonstrates how unreason and collectivism led the seemingly civilized German society to become a Nazi regime.
Preface by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston
Introduction by John Allison
Part 1: Do Businessmen Really Need Philosophy?
“Why Businessmen Need Philosophy,” by Leonard Peikoff
“Philosophy: The Ultimate CEO,” by Harry Binswanger
“Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
“The Businessmen’s Crucial Role: Material Men of the Mind,” by Debi Ghate
“The Money-Making Personality,” by Ayn Rand
Part 2: Why is Business “Public Enemy #1″?
“America’s Persecuted Minority,” by Ayn Rand (From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
“The Philosophical Origins of Antitrust,” by John Ridpath
“The Morality of Moneylending: A Short History,” by Yaron Brook
“Why Conservatives Can’t Stop the Growth of the State,” by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein
“The Philosophy of Privation: Environmentalism Unveiled,” by Peter Schwartz (from Return of the Primitive)
“Energy Privation: The Environmentalist Campaign Against Energy,” by Keith Lockitch
Part 3: Doesn’t Business Require Compromise?
“The Anatomy of Compromise,” by Ayn Rand (From The Objectivist Newsletter)
“Why Should One Act on Principle?” by Leonard Peikoff
Part 4: A Defense for Businessmen
“Atlas Shrugged: America’s Second Declaration of Independence,” by Onkar Ghate
“An Answer for Businessmen,” by Ayn Rand
“The Dollar and The Gun,” by Harry Binswanger
“You’re guilty of a great sin, Mr. Rearden,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
“The Sanction of the Victims,” by Ayn Rand (from The Voice of Reason)
“I work for nothing but my own profit,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
Afterword: “Modern Management,” by Ayn Rand (from The Ayn Rand Column)
Order Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist’s Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for under $3. We do not know how long this low price will last!