Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The death of compassionate conservatism

Michael Gerson tackles his critics in yesterday's column.
Far from being a vague, weepy tenderness, compassionate conservatism has a rigorous definition. It teaches that the pursuit of the common good is a moral goal. It asserts that this goal is best achieved through strong families, volunteer groups and communities that all deserve legal deference and respect. But it also accepts that when local institutions fail — a child is betrayed by a consistently failing school, a state passes a Jim Crow law, a nation is helpless to tackle a treatable disease — the federal government has a responsibility to intervene.

Instead of being a "romantic cult,” compassionate conservatism is often motivated by an ancient orthodoxy: that God is somehow found especially incarnate in the poor and weak. Instead of being a "sentiment,” it is a conviction: that government can be a noble enterprise when it applies creative conservative and free-market ideas to the task of helping those in need.

This, of course, implies a critique of traditional or libertarian conservatism. Tradition often contains stores of hidden wisdom — but in the absence of moral vision, it can become warped and oppressive. The free market is the best way to distribute goods and services — but its triumph is not always identical to justice. Conservatism is essential — and incomplete.

The moral commitments that underlie compassionate conservatism will not fade with the passing of a political figure, party or ideology, because these beliefs stand in eternal judgment of all ideologies, including conservatism. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot bury what cannot die.
"The moral commitments that underlie compassionate conservatism" - in other words, altruism - are directly responsible for the federal government ballooning out of control under Democratics and Republicans alike - including Bush - over the past 8 years. They are directly responsible for the current economic crisis and appear likely to be continued - well, at least the "compassionate" part - by Obama.

This situation would not have resulted under a federal government strictly limited to the protection of individual rights, as demanded by Objectivism's morality of rational self-interest.

Gerson does not mention it, but I have to wonder if he actually approves of this growth of government.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If Nature has Rights . . .

. . . It also has Responsibilities!

And just what might those be?

Check out the (hilarious) comments to an unnerving post on NoodleFood:
Nature Gets Legal Rights in Ecuador
Terrific intellectual ammunition, too!

An Oklahoman gets it

Here's a terrific letter in today's The Oklahoman. Mr. Harding just made my day!

It’s a mental illness

The Environmental Protection Agency is kicking around the idea of taxing cattle at $175 per head, due to concerns that methane gas produced by cows contributes to global warming. U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York says the idea stinks. No pun intended I’m sure.

Estonia has already passed such a tax. New Zealand kicked around the idea a year after joining the Kyoto protocol fiasco. The good news is that 650 dissenting International scientists from around the globe are set to challenge the climate change claims made by Al Gore and others. One of these scientists, a former Nobel Prize winner for physics, Ivar Giaever, states, "I am a skeptic ... Global warming has become a new religion.”

It’s not a new religion. It’s a mental illness that anti-capitalism socialists have seized upon. They’ve skillfully exploited those who are eager to believe humans (especially Americans), and now cattle, are to blame for climate change no matter how ridiculous the claims are. We’ve already seen the cost of goods and services driven up needlessly by unproven science.

It’s indeed time for change: Let’s get back to science based on facts, not opinions by those with political agendas.

David Harding, Moore

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wedge Strategy and the FCC

I would like to direct your attention to two posts from Adam Reed at Born To Identify:

First is Part Four of his series on Wedge Strategy. It's the final installment & I should have posted about it sooner - it's been up since Monday.

Second is a brand new post exploring implications of the FCC's "free" Internet proposal & why it might not be free at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No sale?

Indications I've seen point to continued opposition to bailouts on the part of the American people - which Congress continues to ignore.

One thing which occured to me as I read Walter Williams' op-ed on the subject this morning: if Congress bails out Detroit despite American opposition, what makes them think Americans will want to buy their cars? If Americans are opposed to the bailout, might that opposition lead them to reject Detroit's products?

If GM, Ford and Chrysler's sales tank as a result, what was the point of the bailout?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Whole Foods build healthy spines

A company is actually standing up to the government:
Whole Foods sues FTC, says agency violated rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Natural grocer Whole Foods is suing the Federal Trade Commission, saying the regulator violated its due process rights in an antitrust dispute.

Whole Foods Markets Inc. acquired Wild Oats Markets in 2007 but has been in legal battle with the FTC since then over the deal. An administrative hearing on the case was scheduled to be held in February.

Whole Foods says in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Monday that the FTC is pre-judging the facts and rushing the case to trial.

Lawyers for Whole Foods say it is the first case of its kind against the FTC in nearly 50 years.

Morality and politics

I received an email this morning that got me a little exercised. It contained the text of a letter to the editor that makes some points that I can agree with.

What I DO NOT agree with is the title:

Gay marriage not a moral issue

To the editor:

I am writing in response to recent letters to the editor that have questioned the rights of gay men and women in our country. Gay marriage is a civil liberties issue, a constitutional issue. It is not a question of who feels comfortable with homosexuality.

It is not a question about whether you are a tolerant person. It is not a question for churches to debate, nor is it a question of whether you think being gay is right or wrong, a choice or not, good or bad. Gay marriage is about granting human beings equality before the law. And equality in a democracy is supposed to be a given.

If Lyndon Johnson had put the Civil Rights Act to a public vote, it would have failed. Potentially, we would still live in a racially segregated world. My anger with the outcome of Prop. 8 is that the question of equality before the law was left to the public to decide.

The federal government, acting under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, needs to take the lead and pass the kind of legislation that Johnson did, legislation that was controversial in the same states where gay marriage is controversial but that no one today would question.

People in this country are free to think that those who are gay are somehow inferior to them. They can carry that hatred to their graves if they wish. What they can’t do is limit the rights of other citizens — the right to file joint tax returns, the right to name beneficiaries in their wills without question, the right to take leave from work when a partner is sick or dies, the right to be happy.

The issue is a legal one, not a moral one, and to be against gay marriage is to disenfranchise a large number of people in the same way women and African Americans were denied their rights for centuries. Someday we will look back on this era and feel ashamed for our stance. My hope is that that day comes soon.

Jennifer Sinor
Here is what I wrote in response (to the person who sent me the email):

Gay marriage is a moral issue - and it must be fought for on that basis as a pre-condition of any political progress.

Is it moral for two people of the same gender who fall in love and decide they are going to spend the rest of their lives with each other to desire marriage?


If it is not moral for two people of the same gender to marry, it is not moral for them to love each other - meaning it is not moral for them to be homosexual.

Is it immoral for anyone to seek to prevent two people of the same gender who love each other from getting married?


The person who would deny Gays and Lesbians their rights as individual human beings would deny any one else their rights. Such a person sees rights as conditional, not absolute - as privileges subject to society's whim, not requirements of survival demanded by human nature and the nature of reality.

If Gay marriage is to succeed as a political crusade, it MUST be upheld and defended by a moral crusade - which MUST be based on the recognition that HOMOSEXUALITY IS MORAL!

Rob Abiera

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oklahoma's Republicans

The national Republican Party suffered the consequences of former chair Ed Gillespie's declaration that "The Republican Party no longer stands for small government." Under the guise of "compassionate conservatism", the federal government under Bush expanded at an unprecedented rate. They thought they could have their cake and eat it, too - which resulted in disaster on Election Day.

If the Republican Party in Oklahoma goes down this same path, they will ultimately be forced to choose between smaller government and moral bureaucracy. They cannot have both. If they truly desire smaller government, they must give up their desire to impose their religious morality by force, which they cannot do without the additional bureaucracy required by moral police. If they truly desire moral bureaucracy, they must give up any thought of controlling the growth of government.

If the Republicans allow Oklahoma's government to expand out of control, they will suffer the same fate as the national Republican Party.

Republicans and religion in Oklahoma

While voters across the nation rejected the Republican Party in this year's election, Republicans in Oklahoma swept to a majority in both houses of the state's legislature. Emboldened by their victories, Oklahoma's Republicans have set their sights on the governor's mansion - now occupied by Democrat Brad Henry, whose second term ends in 2010. Among those Republicans reportedly interested in campaigning for the governorship are Mick Cornett and Ernest Istook.

While Cornett has done some Bible-thumping in the past, he has shown definite tendencies toward pragmatism: first as a city council person and then as Mayor of Oklahoma City. The most telling incident in this regard would be his willingness to appear on television with openly-lesbian Ellen Degeneres to talk about his anti-obesity campaign. However, it is assumed by some that in 2010, in order to win the Republican primary and the election, Cornett will have to do some serious courting of Oklahoma's Religious Right.

Ernest Istook's religious credentials are not in question: Istook has a long history of pushing his fundamentalism in the form of various bills which took the effort of a great many people to keep from getting passed.

Republican theocrats are not waiting for a new governor: bills are already being filed for the next session of the legislature, and - as we have already seen - Sally Kern has wasted no time in reviving the stealth creationism bill that Henry vetoed earlier this year.

And now comes word of a new movement afoot to pack the board of the Oklahoma County Library System with fundamentalists who would do everything they could to rid Oklahoma City's libraries of everything they found offensive. I'm sure these people could make Sarah Palin look like a piker if they were allowed to have their way.

It is evident to me that perhaps the most important question that can be asked since the election is: how far will the Religious Right go to attain the power of government to force their views on Oklahoma?

And what will it take to stop them?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Here we go again

Victor Hutchison, Oklahoma's evolution activist par excellence, emailed the latest edition of his OK Evolution newsletter today. It contains the news that Sally Kern is going to try to push her 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act' through the next session of the legislature again.

Unfortunately, she may succeed this time, given that both houses of the legislature are now under Republican control, making them veto-proof.

Here's what Vic says in his newsletter:
. . . Oklahoma moved even further to the right of the political spectrum with every county voting for the Republican candidate for President. For the first time in State history the Republicans now control both houses of the Legislature. In the past few years the Senate controlled by Democrats often was able to stop all but one of the bad bills that would have pushed religion into the public school curriculum. The one bill that did get through last year was Rep. Sally Kern's amendment to HB 2633 that would have established the 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act.'

This bill would have allowed the intrusion of religion into public schools, including creationism in science classes. Kern's original bill (HB 2211) was sent by the Senate leadership to the Rules Committee to die. However, on the Senate floor the amendment (modified somewhat from the original HB 2211) was moved. Before a vote could be taken, a non-debatable motion to move the original HB 2633 forward (thus stopping the amendment) was tied 24 to 24, strictly along partisan lines. The Lt. Governor, Jari Askins, could have broken the tie, but she was not called to do so. Thus the amended HB 2211 passed and went to the Governor.

Fortunately, Governor Henry vetoed the HB 2633. He could have waited a day and gotten a ''pocket vet' but decided to kill it outright, sending a strong message. Opposition to the original bill and the amended one was strong with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) playing a leading role. Press releases, messages, and statements to legislators and to the Governor came from many individuals and organizations, both State and National, including Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, OESE, Tulsa and Oklahoma Interfaith Alliances, Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists, American Association for Advancement of Science, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Oklahoma and National Office), National Association of Biology Teachers, and others. The main reasons the bill should have been defeated stated by these organizations were the same as those cited by the Governor in his veto message.

So, what can be expected this session? The Republican leadership has listed tort reform, changes in workers' compensation, and a 'pro-family agenda' as primary goals. Under the pro-family category we know what to expect – items on abortion, gay rights, religious initiatives such as Rep. Kerns' earlier bills with an antievolution, procreation slant that would further attack the separation of church and state.

Well, it has already happened. Oklahoma City Republican legislators Sally Kern and Mike Reynolds have filed House Bill 1001, 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,' essentially the same bill with the same title that was vetoed by the Governor after the last session.

In the Kansas dust-up over creationism in their State School Board over the past few years, Governor Sebelius pointed out that the bad publicity for the State ('What's Wrong with Kansas' comes to mind) was hurting the recruitment of scientists and high-teach industry to the State. Presidents of Kansas public colleges also came out to warn of the dangers. This point should be emphasized to legislators in Oklahoma.

All the individuals and organizations that have risen to the challenge in the past to stop the religious based attacks on good science in public schools will need to mobilize again, but with a stronger effort. We will post information on bills as they are introduced and proceed through the legislative process. Remember, NUMBERS DO COUNT in influencing actions on legislative bills. Individuals can have an impact.
Looks like those of us who care about Reason in Oklahoma have our work cut out for us.

Wedge Strategy, Part 3

How do you know when a wedge strategy is being used?

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage

And you thought you only had to worry about the religious ones. Impressive research by Flibbertigibbet.
Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 1

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 2

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 3

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 4
And here's a post on another issue involving something a marriage contract apparently doesn't cover -
Spousal Evidentiary Privilege

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Demand side management

The Oklahoman ran an editorial today in which an idea called demand side management was mentioned.
A side issue then was whether the power it would have produced (the proposal was rejected) was needed in the first place. Could reductions in demand negate the need for new generating capacity?

Utilities build new plants — or acquire existing ones — to meet projected demand. Failure to provide for expected demand wouldn’t be viewed favorably by consumers. But utilities also must contend with consumer reaction to increased bills to pay for new plants.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has taken steps to forge a policy that would encourage consumers to save power. It’s called "demand side management” and is part of a nationwide trend to provide incentives for customers to cut their need for power.
It will be interesting to see what kind of "incentives" the Corporation Commission comes up with. I can't help but wonder if they will be anything along the lines of Kim Holland's recently proposed "incentives" to get Oklahomans to buy health insurance.

I suspect that what "demand side management" really amounts to is rationing.

And even if electricity could be rationed and individual consumers cut their consumption, will that make up for the supposedly-desired growth in population and business? This is not even mentioned in the editorial.

This is definitely something I will be keeping an eye on.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wedge Strategy, Part 2

Adam Reed has posted the second installment in his series on Wedge Strategy.

Objectivist Round Up #72

Some great posts in this one!

Ultrasound update

ACLU speaks against Lamb’s bill

Local banks opt out

Arvest Bank opts out of Treasury’s capital purchase program

(Excerpt:) Arvest, Oklahoma’s third-largest bank based on deposits, is the latest local banking operation to announce that it will not participate in the Capital Purchase Program. Bank of Oklahoma, the state’s largest deposit-holder, and BancFirst, the third-largest bank, earlier said their strong capitalization would allow them to defer capital infusion from the Treasury.

Southwest Bancorp, parent of the state’s seventh-largest bank, Stillwater National Bank & Trust, will participate in the Treasury program.

However, Arvest will participate in the Temporary Account Guaranty Program, which provides full FDIC deposit insurance protection for noninterest-bearing accounts and for some deposit accounts that pay less than 0.5 percent interest, Sabin said. The expanded FDIC coverage will extend through Dec. 31, 2009.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

He stood looking at the portrait of Nat Taggart on the wall of her office--the portrait of a young man with a lifted head--until she returned, bringing a bottle of brandy and two glasses. He filled the glasses in silence.

"You know, Dagny, Thanksgiving was a holiday established by productive people to celebrate the success of their work."

The movement of his arm, as he raised his glass, went from the portrait--to her--to himself--to the buildings of the city beyond the window.

- from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rights are not excuses

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland is willing to do whatever it takes to "induce" Oklahomans to buy insurance, according to an article in Friday's The Oklahoman.

No health insurance, no football tickets.

Oklahoma must take drastic steps to improve its dismal ranking in the number of residents who have no health insurance, state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said Thursday during her agency’s Summit on the High Cost of Health Insurance. Barring a law requiring the purchase of health insurance, which Holland concedes would be a political long shot, "inducements” that penalize those who fail to insure themselves would help, she said.

Among the possible inducements Holland proposed was forfeiture of football season tickets to University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University games, forfeiture of lottery or gaming winnings, loss of state income tax deductions or licenses to drive, hunt or fish.

"None of those are very pleasant, but there needs to be a consequence,” Holland said.
What about the consquences of evading the facts of economics?

State Rep. Kris Steele, co-chair of the House Health Care Reform Task Force, said requiring Oklahomans to purchase health insurance is not a popular stance among lawmakers.

"I believe the place to start is to create a situation within our state that people are without excuse for not having health insurance,” Steele said. "Once we get to the point where people are without excuse, then we create the incentives.”
Excuse? Wanting to make your own choices about how you live your life - is that an excuse, Rep. Steele?

Holland said the use of inducements, such as revoking in-state tuition discounts for uninsured Oklahomans, would send a message. "We have developed this culture over the years that some don’t feel like they have to pay their medical bills,” she said.
Would that culture be called the welfare state?

Judging by the comments posted with this article, any move to "induce" people to buy health insurance would not be popular here in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately there is a movement afoot to require everyone in the country to buy health insurance, according to a post at the blog of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Somebody needs to remind Commissioner Holland and Rep. Steele that living your life the way you want to live it - including deciding not to buy health insurance if you can't afford it or don't want it - is a right not an excuse.

Update - Nov 22: Commissioner Holland seems to be doing some back-pedaling since the appearance of yesterday's story in The Oklahoman, which apparently motivated "dozens" of people to call and email the state Insurance Department. According to an article in today's edition, Holland now claims that some of her statements - such as the one involving preventing the uninsured from getting OU football tickets - were meant in "jest" and that she supports public discussion of "Oklahoma's heath insurance crisis".

None of the commenters who made posts on The Oklahoman's website,, regarding this story seem to be buying it.

Update - Nov 24: Paul Hsieh has picked up on this story at the blog of FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oklahoma chapter of Americans United needs people

An email from Jim Huff, executive secretary of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Chapter "members" and/or "interested individuals",

The Oklahoma Chapter has never been in a better financial status and had better numbers of supporters of the "separation" principle in Oklahoma. What we are lacking are individuals to take specific areas of Chapter Leadership responsibilities. The needs will become even more critical in 2009 as Oklahoma's House of Representatives and state Senate come under the leadership of the religious right. We need to have our Chapter organizational structure in place as soon as possible.

I hope you will mark your calendars for TWO IMPORTANT SATURDAYS.

Saturday, November 29th and Saturday, December 6th.
10:00am until noon each Saturday
Belle Isle Library – Northwest Highway and Villa

Each Saturday, there will be two 45 minute sessions:
The first session will be an orientation to Chapter Structure and leadership positions,
The second session will be training on key Separation of Church & State issues in Oklahoma.

OUR NEEDS are for 10 to 15 individuals to accept and carry out essential leadership roles in the Chapter: elected officers, committee chairs and members, specific Chapter project leaders.

As of our Annual Meeting in September 2009, the role of Executive Secretary will be dissolved. The office of Secretary will take on the traditional role as defined in the Chapter by-laws.

To hold leadership roles, the persons must be members of the Chapter. In order to give individuals time to evaluate their interests, their talents and their available time commitments, THE TWO SATURDAYS OF LOCAL CHAPTER ORIENTATION AND TRAINING ARE BEING OFFERED. To attend and participate, membership is not a requirement. But, deep concern for protecting the HISTORIC principle of separation of church and state is essential. No one attending is committing themselves to a specific leadership role.

The National American United (Beth Corbin) will conduct specific training for the Chapters in Oklahoma early in 2009. At that time, more specific commitment to specific leadership roles will be determined. The Oklahoma Chapter will elect new officers for two year terms and appoint committee chairs at our Annual Meeting in September of 2009.

There is no substitute for active leadership. I do not feel comfortable asking individuals to take on leadership roles unless they have an informed understanding of the role. Without the full structure of leadership roles being filled, we are reduced in our effectiveness.

PLEASE, "reply" and let me know (RSVP) if you can attend one or both of the Saturdays. I also solicit your questions and interests that should be included in the two days of preparation. September 2009 will be here much quicker than we would like.

I hope to hear from a good number of you by Wednesday, November 26th. Materials and refreshment decisions need to be made well before Saturday, November 29th. (Our meeting will be over long before the OU-OSU football game.)

Jim Huff
Interested persons can RSVP to Jim by emailing him at this address.

The Religious Right: where to now?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has an analysis of the Religious Right's impact on the election - and vice versa. Some excerpts:

After eight years of unprecedented access to the White House and (until 2006) in the halls of Congress, Religious Right organizations are about to lose a lot of clout with much of official Washington and could see their influence at the national level diminished.

But it’s unlikely any of these organizations will close down. Rather, they will organize to defeat individual-freedom initiatives put forward by President Barack Obama, and they will place more emphasis on state and local governments as a way to press their agenda forward.

. . .

Obama’s victory is a serious blow to the Religious Right. Top organizations had pulled out all of the stops to defeat him. Main tactics included hyperbolic claims of what to expect under an Obama presidency, the distribution of biased “voter guides” that heavily favored John McCain and an attempt to forge a church-based political machine that would promote McCain. While widely implemented, these efforts were not terribly successful.

. . .

. . . Obama’s electoral landslide does not mean the Religious Right is dead or even seriously wounded. The Religious Right has been part of the American political landscape for more than 30 years and is not likely to fade away simply because of a bad election cycle.

It’s important to remember that several of the Religious Right’s favored candidates won their races, and, more importantly, the referenda results on same-sex marriage shows that this issue remains a potent one for the Religious Right to exploit. With power changing hands in Washington, these groups will shift tactics, not shut their doors.

In short, it is probably too early to declare the culture wars over just yet.

Conditional Rights

The excellent Gina Liggett has an essay on NooodleFood on another cause of the growing 'conditionality' of rights:
The Loss of Values Due to Contradiction

Meanwhile back on the national level

That slap in the face I mentioned? It's got the Republican Party trying to figure out how to keep from becoming an Oklahoma fiefdom. This presents a sterling opportunity for everyone who has an idea on how the Party can spring back in 2010. I see Paul Hsieh's excellent LTE on the subject is getting noticed in places like Hot Air and Little Green Footballs.

I got a rather interestingly worded email today from the RNC:
As we as a Party regroup after our near miss in the presidential election, we must reflect on what our Party has done well and what we can improve moving forward. It is for that reason we have created a new Web site for you to share your thoughts on the direction of the Republican Party. Please take a moment to visit and create an account to begin the dialogue.

The Republican Party has always been the party of reason and hope, and I strongly believe we will continue in this tradition as we work to the future.
Republicans are the party of REASON? Who are they kidding? No mention of religion or values - especially their cherished "family values"? Oh wait, it does mention Sarah Palin elsewhere in the email.

Wow. How the mighty are fallen. And how the fallen are eager to sell-out the evangelicals. Or so we can only hope.

But the 'Party of Reason'?

I'm not holding my breath.

The real issue and the real stakes

I have come to the (provisional) conclusion that every expansion of government since this country's founding was caused by the desire to legislate morality. The desire on both the Left and the Right to impose their brand of collectivism on this country is ultimately grounded in altruism.

And I think that it is only a morality which rejects authoritarianism as such which can support a ban on legislating morality. I'm thinking specifically here of Objectivism's morality of rational self-interest. Objectivism holds that the moral is the chosen, not the obeyed. Those who wish to legislate morality seek to make morality the obeyed, not the chosen.

Does not every attempt to legislate morality violate someone's rights? Is this not one of the very reasons why rights have come to be held as conditional?

After the Gay-Marriage Debacle, Activists Rethink Tactics

On the Evangelical side, Mohler told TIME that religious conservatives see the threat from the gay rights' agenda as much broader than just an affront to traditional notions of marriage. "Full normalization of homosexuality would eventually mean the end to all morals legislation of any kind," he says, echoing the line of reasoning made famous by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent in the high court's 2003 decision striking down state laws that made gay sex a crime.
I hope to be able to expand on this in the future.


From an email posted to a list by a teacher at one of Oklahoma City's high schools:
Today at the big assembly ( . . . ) Kirk Humphreys, acting as the Emcee, introduced Cliff Hudson the former President of the OKCPS Board practically announcing he had chosen him for that post.

He then went on to praise the work of MAPS for KIDS, and made the following statement that I recorded:

"MAPS for KIDS had two fathers. It was Cliff Hudson and me. And we were equal partners."
Kirk Humphreys is the current president of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board. What really makes his statement funny is that a few years ago, Humphreys was the mayor of Oklahoma City, and, as mayor, once ordered the removal of light pole banners advertising the local Gay Pride Parade - leading to a successful lawsuit against the City.

Wedge Strategy

Adam Reed at Born to Identify has posted the first installment of his series on the favorite tactic of theocrats. I wonder if he'll have anything to say about Inhofe's "God, Guns and Gays" campaign?

Proposition 8

Wayne Besen:
. . . the rules of the Mormon, Catholic and Evangelical churches are now enshrined into civil law. We are all unofficial members of these religious institutions and captive to their narrow, sectarian rules. They have effectively hijacked the state and now govern our personal relationships and private lives -- whether we like it or not. I think people are finally awakened to this existential threat and willing to fight back.
I hope so.

Republicans take control of Oklahoma legislature

Republicans in the rest of the country may have been slapped in the face on November 4th, but here in Oklahoma, the situation is exactly the opposite. Republicans have taken the majority of seats in the Oklahoma House and Senate, and if their leaders are to be taken seriously, they intend to keep right on making the same religion-based mistakes that cost the Republican Party its stake in the federal government.

Newly-elected senators were sworn in today, and according to Senate president pro tem Glenn Coffee,
"I am excited about working with our leadership team and the entire Republican caucus to advance pro-family and pro-jobs issues in the state Senate," (emphasis mine)
Oklahoma's Republicans still seem to think that the road to victory is paved with religion - albeit, sugar-coated with a little economic freedom.

I don't know if it was the Left or the Right that came up with the stereotype that only Christians support Capitalism, but I do know that conservatives still buy into it and liberals still use it to attack conservatives. If the encroachment of religion into government is ever to be stopped, this false "package-deal" with Capitalism must be exposed.

Both the Left and the Right need to learn that Capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted at Rule of Reason.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


The Oklahoman ran my latest LTE today - guess I must have been under the word limit this time!
Protecing the economy

Michael McAlvain (Your Views, Nov. 5) asks, "Why are unelected officials setting monetary policy for our country?” They shouldn’t have that power, nor should elected officials. There is no free market in this country and there never has been, contrary to the assertions of those who point at people like Alan Greenspan. But Greenspan never practiced what he preached in those articles he wrote decades ago about the virtue of capitalism. Proof of that is the fact he accepted the post of chairman of the Federal Reserve in the first place.

America’s economy isn’t created by the government. It’s created by everyone who produces something of value and offers it for the public to buy. The more freedom they have, the healthier our economy is and the American people know that.

The best way for our government to protect the economy is to protect the rights of all individuals, including those individuals who create America’s economy. When government is restricted to the role of protecting the rights of individuals to their own lives, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, then and only then will we have a true free market.

If the process of reaching that goal requires closing the Federal Reserve and allowing banks to fend for themselves, so be it.

Rob Abiera, Oklahoma City

Friday, November 7, 2008

Do Americans understand Capitalism?

Dick Armey rebukes the Republican Party for its embrace of big government in the guise of "compassionate conservatism".
WSJ: 'Compassionate' Conservatism Was a Mistake
I remember when then-head of the Party Ed Gillespie said that it no longer stood for small government. The election is certainly a come-uppance for him and all those who agreed with him. Hopefully, those who believed that their religion required a bigger government will also get the message.

In his op-ed, Armey writes of
. . . an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms.
As I see it, the American public's opposition to the bail-out suggests that they do "understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms."

In other words, they do understand Capitalism.

Did Obama run a Capitalist campaign?

Hmmm . . .

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Social Security and the future of freedom

Paul Hsieh of NoodleFood has a post on some potential issues involving Social Security which may come up in the very near future. Social Security is one of the main factors driving the runaway expansion of the federal budget, and anything that affects it could have a huge impact on the country.

Objectivist Round Up #69: The Election

Here it is.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rejecting the Blank-Out

For some time now I have been convinced that many of the arguments against the right to abortion have rested on a fundamental evasion and that the fact being evaded was the existence of the mother.

Now I have learned - thanks to a posting on DemoOkie - of a new movement which seems to tackle that particular evasion head-on. It's a movement of pregnant women and those who choose to advocate for them, and their strategy amounts to - in effect - standing up and saying, "I exist, and I'm not going to let anyone get away with trying to pretend that I don't."

The movement was the subject of a recent blog entry by Sarah Wildman at Slate, which also mentions the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Pregnant Pause
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008 8:28 AM | By Sarah Wildman

I'm a pregnancy cliché, much of the time. Weepy one moment (hello, Obama-mercial), enraged the next (did you forget to buy milk!?). Most of the time I can ignore the emotional lability or laugh about it. But sometimes that righteous ire is for good reason. The obscene amount of unsolicited advice one receives, for example—all aimed at some kind of collective fetus care that totally eclipses the rights of an individual. (The other day a complete stranger reminded me I shouldn't take "hot baths" lest I hurt my child. Thank you!) But much more importantly: the legistlative means states have taken to ensure fetal rights.

Last night I received a new short video produced by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women that narrates the full impact the various fetal rights initiatives on ballots next week will have if they pass (it's six minutes but it's at minute one that the really intense bits creep in, after the pitch to vote "no"). Colorado has Prop 48, a definition of personhood amendment (McCain has come out in favor of it), which would define life—and, most importantly, human rights—as beginning at the moment of conception. South Dakota has measure 11, mostly banning abortion. Normally these measures are seen as simply means of chipping away at abortion rights, and it's true that's part of their intended impact. In the video Lynn Paltrow, executive director at the NAPW, explains how these amendments end up compromising the bodily integrity of all pregnant women.

NAPW is part of a grassroots movement of women from both sides of the abortion debate who are arguing for the rights of pregnant women not to be ignored or overtaken by fetal rights—something that sounds inherently intuitive but is, in many states, painfully most definitely not. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times two weeks ago, Paltrow explained that "Such measures are used to control, and sometimes punish, women who do not want unnecessary Caesarean surgery; who want to have vaginal births after previous Caesarean surgery; women who love their children but can't necessarily overcome a drug or alcohol problem in the short term of a pregnancy; and women who suffer unintentional stillbirths."

In the video, vignettes give anecdotes about the consequences of these legislative interventions: like the case of Amber Marlowe who, in 2004, discovered Pennsylvania had the right to represent the right of her fetus when her hospital, determining the baby would be too large to deliver vaginally, got a court injunction that superseded Amber's rights for the child, forcing legal, surgical intervention. Amber fled the scene and delivered without complication elsewhere. Laura Pemberton, in Florida, was arrested, put in handcuffs, and forced to have a ceasearan. Both women consider themselves pro-life and both were caught in the peculiar dragnet of fetal rights.

(Note: Sarah's original post contains links which are not reproduced here.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Let Them Fail

An Ayn Rand Center op-ed:
Let Them Fail
By Amit Ghate

Everywhere today politicians are blaring that they must save America’s financial institutions, alleging catastrophic risk to the economy were any to fail. Paulson and the entire Bush administration, in a discernible panic, are now pouring $700 billion into the big banks, having already bailed out AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Bear Stearns to the tune of $300 billion.

Capitalism doesn’t work, they declare, but fortunately the government is here to rescue us.

Sadly, they have it all backwards. The credit crisis is just more evidence that whenever the government supplants the free market and attempts to “manage,” i.e., control, the economy--disaster ensues.

Overlooked here is that in a free market business failures are not just normal, they’re crucial for the best products and ideas to emerge. Most restaurants fail in their first three years because customers have other preferences. Many mom-and-pop grocers go out of business because Walmart offers better selection and lower prices. Even whole industries--think typewriters, 8-tracks and horses and buggies--vanish because new inventions and competitors arise.

None of these failures are a problem, nor do they threaten the system. On the contrary, they are an inherent part of the progress which only capitalism makes possible.

So why would failures in the financial industry be any different?

Typically, the answer given is also the one used to rationalize the creation of the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the FSLIC and any number of other government agencies and regulations intended to “manage” the banking system: financial firms carry systemic risks for the nation’s economy and therefore can’t be allowed to fail. As evidence, bank failures from 1870 to 1913 (pre-Fed) are cited, followed by the assertion that their number was simply “unacceptable.”

But every business forms part of the economic system and thus has “systemic” impact. If Microsoft were to fail, thousands of suppliers, customers, and workers would be affected, as would their customers, suppliers, workers, etc. Yet this would be no reason to bail them out. We know that new businesses would arise to fill the void, better for having learned from Microsoft’s mistakes.

And as a historical fact, the U.S. economy during the period 1870 to 1913 grew significantly faster than it did after the Fed was established. True, there were many bank failures in this period, but there were also many business failures in general: banks were actually less likely to fail than were other businesses. The number of bank failures speaks to the dynamism of the period, not to anything fragile in the financial system. Precisely because market mechanisms were permitted to work, depositors, creditors and counterparties all kept a close eye on banks, monitoring leverage and withdrawing funds at the first sign of problems.

When the free market functions--and failure is allowed--people become viscerally aware of risk, with the result that they voluntarily assume less of it.

Conversely, when the government tries to “manage” the economy--when the consequences of risky behavior are shifted from self-interested actors to taxpayers, as was done by the creation of the Fed and its various insurance programs, or when weak financial firms are propped up rather than being allowed to fail--people take on risks they would not otherwise. Banks are less careful, depositors no longer evaluate their institutions, and risks are concealed and amplified until they become catastrophic.

So pre-Fed we had runs on banks, some undoubtedly severe--but with the Fed we’ve had the Great Depression, the S&L meltdown and now perhaps the greatest worldwide credit crisis ever.

An analogy may be helpful here. Historically certain types of forests naturally experienced frequent, but small, wildfires. Because their frequency kept deadwood at a minimum, the fires never grew into large conflagrations. However, when government forestry services instituted fire suppression policies, they eliminated most small fires, but caused deadwood and other fuel to accumulate. When at last a fire came that could not be suppressed, it grew into a devastating inferno.

Learning from their errors, forestry services have abandoned fire suppression policies.

It’s time for our government to do likewise. First, by immediately abandoning its bailout binge, and then by phasing out all of the economic controls by which it attempts to “manage” the financial system--from the FDIC to the Federal Reserve itself. Nothing less can reestablish the freedom essential for a sound and vibrant economy.

Amit Ghate is a guest writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Church and State: A Marriage Not Made in Heaven

An Ayn Rand Center press release:
Church and State: A Marriage Not Made in Heaven
October 31, 2008

Washington, D.C.-- Californians will soon have the chance to vote on Proposition 8, which would define marriage in the state constitution as being only between a man and a woman, denying marriage to same-sex couples. The proposition is heavily supported by the religious community. Said one religious leader who supports the measure, “We believe it is a religious issue as well as a political issue. That’s where we feel the Church must have a word.”

According to Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, “Regardless of how one thinks ‘marriage’ should be defined, there’s a much graver issue at stake: this is a flagrant attempt to inject religion into politics.

“As our Founders understood, religion is properly a private matter--not a legitimate basis for government action. The government’s only role is to protect our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Under our secular political system, individuals are free to hold any religious views they wish, but they cannot impose their views on the rest of us. That is the meaning of freedom of religion.

“Once we accept the view that the ‘Church must have a word’ in the political sphere, we are accepting a principle completely opposed to freedom. If gay marriage can be barred because, as one supporter of Prop. 8 put it, ‘I don’t think God has ordained it,’ then why, for instance, can’t speech that similarly offends religionists also be banned? Indeed, this is the very principle that motivates the religious right’s crusade against broadcast ‘indecency’--and the brutal principle that recently led the Afghani government to sentence a journalism student to 20 years in prison for blasphemy.

“The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of liberty. It protects our right to live by our own judgment, free from the dictates of ministers and mullahs. To protect that right, we should oppose any attempt to bring religion into politics.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Been there, done that.

Some people are just so behind the curve:
A Computer Program That is Pure Evil

A group of scientists is building the world’s most evil computer program. This isn't a B-movie setup: A team at Rensselaer Institute’s AI & Reasoning Lab is bringing personified evil to virtual life in the hope that they'll unlock the secrets of human morality.
Well, obviously none of these people have read Ayn Rand.

Um, hello? You want the secrets of human morality? Have you tried reading Atlas Shrugged? The Virtue of Selfishness?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Connecting the Disconnect

An exception to the disconnect between the American people on the one hand - who are vehemently opposed to the bailout, and the government and the media on the other - who are trying to pretend that the American people and their opposition don't exist, and even if they do, if people would just do as they're told and let the government fix everything it will all be just fine - no, really! - is this excellent piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal:
Another Bubble Bursts


Testifying before Congress yesterday, Mr. Greenspan pinned the crisis on mortgage securitizers, risk modelers and lending institutions, thus contributing to the Washington narrative that government had little to do with it. The Fed's monetary policy apparently gets a pass. The media and Members of Congress will use Mr. Greenspan's testimony to impugn the very free market principles that the former Ayn Rand protégé has spent his life promoting. It was a painful spectacle to watch.

As for the second bubble, this one began in August 2007 with the onset of the credit panic. This is Ben Bernanke's creation. The Fed chose to confront the credit crunch as if it were mainly a problem of too little liquidity, not fear of insolvency. To that end it flooded the economy with money, while taking short-term interest rates down to 2% from 5.25% in seven months. The panic only got worse, and this September's stampede finally led the Treasury and Fed to address the solvency problem by supplying public capital and numerous guarantees to the financial system.

. . .

The tragedy of the second bubble is that it has left the economy in a weaker position to ride out the housing slump and credit panic. The American consumer has been whipsawed with $4 dollar gas and food inflation, while entire industries have been put on the edge of bankruptcy. Detroit's auto makers have spent the last year taking down their truck and SUV assembly lines while gearing up to make hybrids and electric cars, even as their cash flow has been ravaged. Their new investments are based on the expectation that oil will stay high permanently, but will the market for hybrids exist if oil is $50 a barrel?

As Congress plumbs the causes of our current mess, the main one is hiding in plain sight: Reckless monetary policy that did so much to create the credit mania and then compounded the felony with a commodity bubble and run on the dollar whose damage is now becoming apparent. The American people intuitively understand what's been done to them, which is why they are so angry. If the next President ignores the monetary roots of our troubles, he is courting the same fate as George W. Bush.

(Emphases mine.)

More on Greenspan

Skimming through the comments to a blog post about Greenspan at the NY Times - mostly the usual rabidly anti-Capitalist emotionalism from people who are completely clueless about economics - I came across the following:
Missing from the analysis is that the government with ideologues of every stripe, whether libertarian Greenspan or the most oversight-averse (for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) Democrats, would be far worse arbiters and managers of risk.

After creating a $53 trillion unfunded liability and a $10 trillion deficit that will bankrupt this nation, launching an immoral and irrational bailout (opposed by over 100 economists from Ivy League schools), starting the Iraq War, severely undermining individual and civil liberties by voting in domestic surveillance and trying to foist on us the Real ID, and not to mention, injecting toxic loans into the financial system backed and promoted by government sponsored enterprises, lets not jump to the conclusion that government regulations subject to the whims of vote-pandering or special-interest owned or even well-intentioned (and hell-bound) politicians would be better. We cannot trust that free people will not indulge in irrational exuberance. But we do have a right to hope that the government won’t be the prime initiator and major cause of the problem.

Nothing that the private sector has ever done to the people of this country (even leaving aside the fact that it has created 100% of our wealth) can compare to the horrors of centralized power and decision-making.

— Filby

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alan Greenspan

Last night, after reading - with growing incredulity - some of the news stories about Greenspan's testimony before Congress yesterday, I wrote a draft of a blog post about it which I ultimately became dissatisfied with. Today I am relieved to see that there is no end of Objectivists blogging about this, and so, rather than posting something of mine which I regard as inadequate, I will simply refer you to Gus Van Horn, whose effort on the subject may be even more strongly worded than what I came up with last night. It is entitled, simply,
Alan Greenspan, Coward and Traitor
Hat tip to NoodleFood, where Diana Hsieh put it quite nicely when she wrote
Gun Van Horn gives Alan Greenspan a much-needed ass-kicking for his repudiation of free markets.
Yes, indeedy, many Objectivists, myself included, are extremely unhappy - to put it mildly - about Mr. Greenspan, who is still publicly associated with Capitalism and Ayn Rand, even though his actions tend to reflect and foster the opposite.

Thus, when Alan Greenspan falters, Capitalism and Rand get the blame. As Hsieh put it:
By continuing to associate himself with the free market ideas of his former mentor, even while thoroughly contradicting them in word and deed as Fed Chairman, and then publicly repudiating them based on a government-created financial crisis, the man has done more damage to Objectivism than Barbara and Nathaniel Branden.
Here's the Ayn Rand Center press release:
Greenspan Has No Free Market Philosophy
October 24, 2008

Washington, D.C. --Opponents of the free market are giddy at Alan Greenspan's declaration that the financial crisis has exposed a "flaw" in his "free market ideology." Greenspan says he is "in a state of shocked disbelief" because he "looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity"--and it didn't.

But according to Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, "any belief Greenspan ever had in truly free markets was abandoned long ago. While Greenspan long ago wrote in favor of a truly free market in banking, including the gold standard that such markets always adopt, he then proceeded to work for two decades as leader and chief advocate of the Federal Reserve, which continually inflates the money supply and manipulates interest rates. Advocates of free banking understand that when the government inflates the currency, it artificially increases prices and causes booms in certain sectors of the economy, followed by inevitable busts. But not only did Greenspan lead the inflation behind the .com bubble and the real estate boom, he blamed the market for their treacherous collapses. Greenspan should have recognized that what he wrote in 1966 of the boom preceding the 1929 crash applied here: 'The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market--triggering a fantastic speculative boom.' Instead, he superficially blamed 'infectious greed.'

"Should it be any shock that Greenspan now blames the free market for today's meltdown--rather than the Fed's policies, which fueled an inflationary housing boom, which rewarded reckless lenders and borrowers from Wall Street to Main Street? Greenspan didn't mention the word 'inflation' once in his testimony.

"Whatever Greenspan's economic philosophy is, it is not anything resembling a free market."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Objectivist Round Up

The latest Objectivist Round Up is now online at Nick Provenzo's "Rule of Reason"!

It includes my post: "My latest LTE"!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Comment by Robert Walker, Chairman, Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates, at a panel at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight 2008 (from notes taken by Clark Lindsey for HobbySpace):
Congress has gotten so dysfunctional, can't even get budgets done on time. This is a big problem for companies with govt. contracts and are trying to arrange their own budgets and spending schedule.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Tom Coburn was in Oklahoma City today for a "town hall meeting".

Here's the story from the AP in The Oklahoman:
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn defends bailout vote
By The Associated Press
Published: October 20, 2008

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn rigorously defended his vote in favor of the economic rescue plan Monday as he faced hard questions at a town hall meeting in Oklahoma City.

Coburn, R-Okla., told a crowd at the Oklahoma City campus of Langston University that he would vote to same way "time and time again," remembering the failure of the country's leaders to act soon enough to head off the Great Depression.

Coburn said, like it or not, the country already "is in the midst of a recession" that would "probably last for several quarters." He said the bailout was needed to put money into the financial system so funds could be made available for lending to everyday citizens and to hopefully reduce job losses.

Some members of the audience at Langston expressed their displeasure with the bailout.

"We should have let it go. We should have let it fail," shouted one man.

"Your option is way too painful," Coburn said.

He said there was danger that a without the bailout, the nation's economy could have dipped to its level in 1960.

"How many of you think you'd still have a job?" he asked.

"We got the best deal we could and it stunk," he said of the bailout. He said his mail, e-mails and telephone calls from constituents are running more than 50-to-1 against his vote.

Coburn, who is known for his conservative approach to funding issues, defended holding up bills to expand small business programs and other projects.

He said he would oppose such measures until Congress includes criteria to determine if the programs work.

Coburn said most federal programs are funded and reauthorized without adequate oversight by Congress.

"That's 80 percent of the federal government. They don't know what they are doing," he said.

On another subject, Coburn said he is "a good friend" of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, though he is a vigorous supporter of John McCain, the Republican nominee.

He called Obama "a good man" who "just has a different philosophy than I do."
Here's the comment I left at The Oklahoman's website:
Coburn was wrong to vote for the bailout and he is wrong to support Paulson, who should be fired. Paulson's armtwisting of healthy banks who don't need the government's help will make matters worse not better.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can't be reformed and should be closed: so long as they are around they will be in the sights of politicians who want to further their careers by promoting the fantasy of home ownership without responsibility.

And how can Coburn rail about pork - which makes up less than one percent of the federal budget - and say nothing about the out-of-control growth of Social Security and Medicare, which account for one-third of the federal budget?

All this scare-mongering about credit is nothing but an excuse for a power grab on an unprecedented scale, and Coburn is a willing accomplice. He knows nothing about free markets or principles and is no defender of Capitalism.
AND I posted the URL for Repeal the Bailout!

If you scroll down to the beginning of the comments section for the story in The Oklahoman, you can read a letter Coburn is sending to his constituents containing his excuses for his vote on the "economic stabilization legislation", a.k.a. the bailout.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Those with stock seed having no trouble getting more stock seed

This story in the Journal Record would seem to indicate - when considered along with reports that smaller banks are relatively healthy - that the banking industry is not quite as threatened with imminent collapse as the government would have us believe:
Oklahoma ag producers having no issues securing operational capital

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Building Flawed American Dreams

The NY Times examines the role of Henry Cisneros in the creation of the housing bubble and credit collapse which led to the current crisis.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Objectivist Round Up

Speaking of which, the latest Round Up is being hosted by Rational Jenn!

Objectivist Round Up #66

My latest LTE

I noticed the following letter in Wednesday's Oklahoman:
The root cause

The political mantra during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign is the same today: It’s the economy! Everyone’s focus is on the economy and returning stability and confidence to our financial markets and institutions. The economy is the issue that will determine the November election and the candidates are feeling its power and prominence.

The truth, however, is that our economic crisis is the result of moral decline and compromised values. Greed on Wall Street and in corporate offices, unscrupulous lenders, self-serving politicians and a lack of personal self-control have brought about our financial implosion. The government bailout that was full of political payouts that had nothing to do with the crisis, and new legislative regulations won’t solve our problems because it’s a matter of the heart. Until the moral issues
within our country and institutions are addressed, the stability of our nation will always be in peril.

The chant shouldn’t be "It’s the economy” but rather "It’s the morality.”

Mark Hiehle, Norman
Upon reading this letter, I thought his identification of morality as the base of economics was an opportunity to say something about which morality is more accurate that I just couldn't pass up - especially since I had passed the 42 day mark since my last LTE!

So here's what I sent:
Mark Hiehle, in his letter of October 16th, is correct when he says that morality is the underlying cause of our current economic crisis, but he is incorrect as to which morality is to blame. Western civilization was founded on reason, which, consistently applied, leads to freedom, individualism and a morality of rational self-interest.

Was it selfishness which led lenders to give mortgages to people who didn't qualify for them under any rational standard? If you say that the only reason they did it was because the government twisted their arms, what motivated the government to do that?

It was selflessness - as represented by the Community Reinvestment Act - which led the government to force banks to loan money to people who couldn't afford it, to buy homes they can't pay for. If a government motivated by selflessness caused this mess in the first place, how can we trust it to control the economy?

It is selflessness which motivated our political leaders and the media to ignore the public's response to the bail-out, which ranged from "No!" to "Hell No!"

Closing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - no, they can't be "reformed" - repealing the Community Reinvestment Act and firing Henry Paulson would be a good start on resolving the current crisis, but it would only be a start, and so long as selflessness is accepted, we will always end up right back in the same place: notice that on Monday when Paulson ordered the leaders of the 9 largest banks in the country to allow themselves to be taken over by the government, not one of them had the "selfishness" to stand up and say "NO". Their acquiescence gave the sanction of the victim to Paulson's takeover of the banking industry.

The time is long past to recognize that selflessness is an empty fantasy based on no factual evidence whatsoever. Giving in to selflessness will lead not just to the destruction of our economy but of our civilization.

Selflessness is a sacred cow which deserves to be exposed as such. It is the actual requirements of human life which lead to a morality of rational self-interest. Even those who can't afford to buy their own homes can benefit from this.

To those who wish to know more, I strongly encourage you to read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.

Rob Abiera
I sent it Thursday. Today I got an email from J. E. McReynolds, chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman - it consisted of my letter and this message:
Returned unread. Does not follow guidelines. Second notice. Do not resend.
I assume that "Returned unread" refers to The Oklahoman's policy of not considering letters which do not fit its guidelines, one of which is a limit of 225 words. I had hoped that, if my letter was too long, they would simply edit it down to fit. Guess I was wrong and they won't even consider letters that aren't already under 225 words.

Or do they? After all, the guidelines do say:
Why we edit letters
Editing is done for the benefit of our readers. We make every attempt to preserve the writer's essential meaning. Editing for length allows us to accept a greater number of letters. Letters most likely to be edited are those that are twice as long as needed to make a point and those that try to make too many points.
which certainly seems to imply that they will accept letters that are longer than the 225 word limit and edit them down.

Then again, there could always be another reason.

And I don't get the part about a "second notice", either, because I never got a first one.

Oh well. It will still make a good blog post. And I will send it to the usual email lists.

And I might even submit it for the next Objectivist Round Up!

Oh, and if anyone else wants to repost it, feel free!

Gift Certificates 4: Revolt of the Small Banks

Well, well, isn't this interesting. Looks like some people still have a spine after all.
Smaller Banks Resist Federal Cash Infusions


Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration's strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don't need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it's unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes.

But regulators said some banks will be pressed to take the taxpayer dollars anyway.

. . .

President Bush, in introducing the plan, described the interventions as "limited and temporary."

"These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it," Bush said
Did he steal that last line from Tom Coburn?
. . . in offices around the country, bankers simmered.

Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, said he was "much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government."

At Evergreen Federal Bank in Grants Pass, Ore., chief executive Brady Adams said he has more than 2,000 loans outstanding and only three borrowers behind on payments. "We don't need a bailout, and if other banks had run their banks like we ran our bank, they wouldn't have needed a bailout, either," Adams said.
Good for them!
The opposition suggested that the government may have to continue to press banks to participate in the plan.
Uh-oh. Not so good.
Federal regulators said they did expect some banks to volunteer, though none stepped forward yesterday. But they added that they would not rely on volunteers. Treasury will set standards for deciding which banks can be helped, and the regulatory agencies will triage the banks they oversee: The institutions faring best and worst will not receive investments. The institutions in the middle, whose fortunes could be improved by putting a little more money in the bank, will be pushed to accept the money from the government.

"We will encourage institutions to apply," said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who oversees most of the nation's largest banks.

In return for its investments, Treasury will receive preferred shares of bank stock that pay 5 percent interest for up to five years. After that, if the companies haven't repaid the government's initial investment, the interest rate goes up to 9 percent.
And here's the payoff:
(FDIC chair Sheila C.) Bair acknowledged that the new guarantees shelter banks from the immediate consequences of misbehavior because depositors and investors have no incentive to remove their money from an institution if they know that the government stands behind it.

But Bair said the government's first priority was to stabilize the industry.

"The risks of moral hazard were simply outweighed by the need to act and act dramatically and act quickly," Bair said.

(Emphases mine)
And how is demoralizing the industry supposed to stabilize it? By keeping the small fry in line, perhaps?

Will some banks be more "sheltered" than others? Could this be a tool for playing favorites and punishing those who get out of line? Hmm . . .

We'll see how that works out.

(Hat tip: Cox and Forkum via Repeal the Bailout)

Repeal the Bailout

Ayn Rand Avenged

Ed Cline has posted his own take on the takeover of the banking industry at The Rule of Reason.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gift Certificates 3: The Road to Fascism

From the Ayn Rand Center:
The Road to Fascism
October 16, 2008

Washington, D.C.--The government has announced that it plans to use $250 billion to buy ownership stakes in various U.S. financial institutions. According to the New York Times, nine major U.S. banks have already been forced into the program. “The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States . . . were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said they must sign it before they left. . . . ‘It was a take it or take it offer,’ said one person who was briefed on the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. ‘Everyone knew there was only one answer’”--even though at least one institution, the relatively healthy Wells Fargo, wanted to say no.

According to Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, “In herding banking executives into a room and making them an offer they couldn’t refuse, the Paulson regime took its latest and most disturbing step yet on the path to state control of the economy.

“If fascism means coercive state control over nominally private property, then there is no more chilling sign of creeping fascism in America than government’s encroachment on the lifeblood of the U.S. economy--its financial institutions. While the government assures us it will be a ‘passive investor,’ merely funneling cash into the banking system rather than dictating how banks function, this is a lie. Not only does the money come with strings attached--such as restrictions on executive compensation, dividend payments, and the types of investments banks can make--but politicians are already promising a web of further controls. As John McCain recently noted, ‘We will not merely inject billions of dollars into companies and walk away hoping for the best. We will require that those companies be reformed and restructured until they are sound assets again, and can be sold at no loss--or perhaps even a profit--to the taxpayers of America.’

“The Paulson shakedown is the latest in a rapid-fire series of government bailouts and interventions over the last several months. Our leaders claim that this virtual takeover of markets is economically necessary. But it was government control of financial markets that spawned the financial meltdown in the first place: an inflationary boom brought on by the Fed’s easy-money policies, a campaign to promote home ownership that encouraged risky loans, regulations that pushed banks to become dangerously over-leveraged, etc., etc. The response to the crisis should be to restore freedom and to disentangle government from the economy. Instead, the same mentality and the same central planners that created the financial crisis are being given far wider reign to manipulate and distort markets. We must tell our government to reverse this fascist course--now.
More than one of the executives for the banks in Monday's meeting felt that their institution was financially sound and on a solid footing. So how can John McCain's statement
We will require that those companies be reformed and restructured until they are sound assets again . . .
be anything but a vicious insult to them, if not outright slander?

If John McCain knew anything about the actual condition of those banks when he made that statement, then his statement is a lie, as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gift Certificates 2

One thing which comes to mind, when considering just how bad things have gotten in this country and how we got there - and what that says about the future - is that the people in power didn't get there all by themselves. What happened Monday is a case in point: as bad as it is for Paulson to be assuming the role of economic tyrant, not one of the 9 leaders of the country's largest banks called him on it. No one stood up and said,"NO".

Here, truly, is a classic example of the sanction of the victim.

What would have happened on Monday if one of those men had stood up and said "NO"?

Gift Certificates

Remember the passage in Atlas Shrugged where Floyd Ferris "asks" Hank Rearden to "give" Rearden Metal to the government - excuse me - "the country"?

The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. Monday. To their astonishment, they were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said they must sign it before they left.

But by 6:30, all nine chief executives had signed . . .
Are we all Venezuelans now?

And what would John Allison have done under these circumstances?

Read the gory details here.

Monday, October 13, 2008


From today's The Oklahoman:

Typical politicians

I’m disappointed in Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Mary Fallin for voting for the second bailout bill. I voted for Coburn and Fallin to stop pork-barrel projects and to uphold the Constitution, things they both swore to do when they got to Washington. I wanted someone who’d take a stand against corruption and wasteful spending in Washington, but Coburn and Fallin have become typical politicians.

Do they think the common people who contacted them in protest of the bailout didn’t know that this might hurt us for a while? It might have hurt us, but it was better than going down the road to socialism!

Michael Markum, Edmond
Here's one from Sunday:
Either way...

Regardless of how the economic vampires in the banks, their corporate and government minions and their buddies in the Fed are portrayed sympathetically by the media, they’re still thieves. Their apologists sanitize their past and present actions, attempting to justify bleeding our economy dry to pay for their fraud, waste and abuse. Government officials and journalists who aid and abet these thieves are accessories to the crime.

Officials in the government, corporate executives and the bankers who subsidize them insist that all hell will break loose if we common citizens aren’t made economic sacrificial animals. What they don’t tell us is that all hell will break loose if we give them what’s left of our economic lifeblood. Either way, we’re caught. The truth of our economy teetering on fake currency and widespread criminality is coming to light in spite of the whitewash.

Will we meekly consent to being bled by these vampires, fearful that if we rock the boat, we’ll lose what little we have left? Or will we educate ourselves as to what real money is, how a truly free enterprise system works, and stand up for our unalienable rights? Do we consider our lives worthy of economic and political freedom? Time will tell.

Ruth McReynolds, Oklahoma City

Are We All Socialists Now?

From the Ayn Rand Center:

Are We All Socialists Now?
October 10, 2008

Washington, D.C. --The Treasury Department, as part of its ongoing assumption of control over the financial industry, is preparing to inject cash into U.S. banks in exchange for preferred shares of bank stock.

“Are we all socialists now?” said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “Have we learned nothing from the devastation that socialist policies wrought worldwide in the twentieth century? Government intervention distorts markets and causes economic dislocations, no matter whether Uncle Sam controls private companies by regulation or assumes public ownership outright.

“A crisis doesn’t transform poison into medicine. Over decades, government manipulation of money, credit, and mortgages poisoned this economy and left it dangerously weak. Now Hank Paulson and his comrades are hooking up IV tubes filled with more of the same poison--bailouts, loan guarantees, cheap money, and more burdensome regulations--and hoping we will lie still and trust in their cure.

“But the real cure is capitalism, not more doses of socialism. We should act quickly to put government in its place, by rolling back the interventionist measures that caused the present emergency. Government’s proper role is to punish fraud and enforce contracts, not to own and manage the economy. We cannot achieve financial health unless we are willing to free the markets.”

### ### ###

Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He is a regular contributor to and a contributing editor of The Objective Standard. His articles have been featured in major newspapers such as USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Providence Journal and the Orange County Register. Dr. Brook is often interviewed on radio and is a frequent guest on a variety of national TV shows, having appeared in the new Fox Business Network, FOX News Channel, CNN, CNBC, and C-SPAN. Dr. Brook, a former finance professor, lectures on Objectivism, capitalism, business and foreign policy at college campuses, community groups and corporations across America and throughout the world.

To interview Dr. Brook or book him for your show, please contact Larry Benson:
949-222-6550, ext. 213

For more information on Objectivism’s unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Copyright © 2008 Ayn Rand® Center for Individual Rights. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lawsuit filed against ultrasound rule

From today's The Oklahoman:
Group opposes abortion rule on ultrasounds
Opponents say law will shut down Tulsa clinic

Published: October 11, 2008

A Tulsa clinic is challenging a state law that takes effect this fall requiring women to view an ultrasound of their unborn babies before getting an abortion.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court by the Center for Reproductive Rights, contends the law is overly vague and violates women’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

Sen. Todd Lamb, who helped write the law, said the lawsuit is misguided.

"This lawsuit was filed by a pro-abortion fringe group that opposes Oklahoma’s sensible regulations on abortions,” said Lamb, R-Edmond. "Their lawsuit seeks to undo important reforms that provide women with information that helps them give informed consent prior to receiving an abortion.”

Senate Bill 1878, which spurred the lawsuit, was passed into law in April, when legislators overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto.

The law goes into effect Nov. 1 and includes a specific regimen for administering the medical abortion pill and legal protection for health care workers who balk at being involved in abortions.

Henry refused to comment on the lawsuit, but his spokesman noted he raised concerns about the legislation with his veto.

Opponents said enforcement of the law would force Tulsa-based Reproductive Services — one of only three clinics in the state that offer abortions — to shut down. The clinic serves more than 200 women each month, according to a news release.

"Anti-choice activists will stop at nothing to prevent a woman from getting an abortion, but trying to manipulate a woman’s decisions about her own life and health goes beyond the pale,” said Stephanie Toti, the lead attorney in the case.

"Governments should stop playing doctor and leave medical determinations to physicians and health decisions to individuals."
Here's an excerpt from the press release by the Center for Reproductive Rights, who calls Oklahoma's new law the "Most Extreme Ultrasound Law in (the) Country":
In Oklahoma, if this law is enforced, Reproductive Services will be forced to close down. The clinic provides more than 200 women abortion services a month. If it shuts down, that means more than 2000 women a year throughout Oklahoma and surrounding states will have no access to abortion.

Nationally, this case has implications because the law at issue is among the first signs that anti-choice legislatures are beginning to take cues from last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003." Should this law be upheld, it could encourage copycat legislation around the country. In Gonzales v. Carhart, a case argued by the Center, the majority reasoned, "[w]hile we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptional to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow." The argument opened the door to measures based on the assertion that a woman lacks the judgment and independence necessary to make a responsible decision about her own pregnancy; and that abortion causes a woman to suffer mental and physical side effects—a claim recently refuted by an American Psychological Association study. No other state in the country requires a woman to hear the description of an ultrasound image; and Ohio is the only other state that has prohibited use of the ACOG-recommended regimen for medical abortion. Ohio's law is currently being challenged in federal court.
Notice that no mention is made of why "Governments should stop playing doctor and leave medical determinations to physicians and health decisions to individuals" except that it "goes beyond the pale" - in other words, "it simply goes too far".

This does not give me confidence that the Center will prevail in this case.

The moral of this story? It is not just their legal strategy, but their morality which supporters of abortion rights need to question.

Update - Oct 13: The Tulsa World's story about this has received over 100 comments so far.

Friday, October 10, 2008

OU Daily vs Boren

Last Friday, Oct 3rd, the staff of the University of Oklahoma's student newspaper, OUDaily, proved themselves to be better human beings than OU president David Boren by printing an editorial advocating against the bail-out. Boren was one of a number of Oklahoma "business leaders" who signed a statement begging Congress to vote for the bail-out.

Here is the students' editorial:
OUR VIEW: Dear representatives: Vote no on bailout
The Oklahoma Daily Editorial Board
Friday, October 3, 2008

Dear Reps. Fallin, Lucas and Sullivan:

You’ve taken a lot of heat over the past five days for voting against the bailout bill on Monday.

The president of our university e-mailed you and asked you to change your vote, and a group of Oklahoma business leaders released a statement Wednesday that called you out.

Now that it’s time for a statement of our own, we want to say: Vote no. Again.

The bailout represents a staggering violation of free-market principles.

In a true free-market economy, firms that engage in risky behavior suffer the consequences of their actions when investments go bad.

In this case, firms bought high-risk mortgage-backed securities tied to mortgages offered to individuals who probably shouldn’t have been buying those homes in the first place.

Now that people are defaulting on their loans, the institutions are watching the value of their assets shrink and some could be facing bankruptcy.

It’s never pretty to watch huge firms fail. But if the government bails out firms that are struggling now, it will undermine the idea that financial institutions must maintain responsible practices and take reasonable risks.

A bailout will not provide companies with any incentive to reform their policies and make better decisions in the future.

We understand that the failure of the bailout bill could send the economy into a recession.

But we think the dangers of recession have been overstated by our president and every other public figure who has invoked the memory of 1929 when talking about this crisis.

The Great Depression is famous because it was such a striking anomaly in the history of American recessions. According to economics experts, most recessions last a few quarters at most.

While a year or so of recession might make life difficult for those in certain industries, it won’t usher in a second era of soup kitchens and bread lines.

Oklahoma, with its firm grip on the oil and gas industry, might not even feel a national recession. And it almost certainly wouldn’t find its education, health and safety programs threatened, as the Oklahoma CEOs who released a statement earlier this week would have you believe.

A recession might be just the thing the country needs anyway. It won’t be pretty, but some economic pain might compel Americans to stop living beyond their means and force firms to stop making it so easy to do so.

We appreciate your stand against unjust federal intervention into the economy. We hope that when you have the opportunity to vote today, you cast another vote against the bailout and for fiscal responsibility on the part of this nation’s financial institutions.


The editorial board of The Oklahoma Daily
You can read Boren's response to this editorial here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008
Contact: Rob Abiera


Oklahoma City - Local website marks its 10th year online this month, according to the site's founder and editor, Rob Abiera. first went "live" in October, 1998. The site is located on the Internet at was founded to be an online resource for Oklahoma City's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons. For many years, it was updated with the latest GLBT news headlines - including local stories - several times a week and often more than once a day.

The idea for grew out of work Abiera was doing for the Oklahoma Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus at the time. One of Abiera's goals was to encourage the GLBT Community to use the Internet as a resource for overcoming obstacles to progress for Gays and Lesbians in Oklahoma City.

Some of the local stories covered by over the years include the rejection by Mick Cornett of an endorsement by a local Gay rights group, the controversy over the city's banner policy which resulted in a lawsuit by the Cimarron Alliance Foundation after its Gay Pride banners were removed from light poles, the election of openly-Gay political candidates to office in Oklahoma, including Jim Roth and Al McAffrey, the formation of local chapters of the Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans, the controversy over Gay-themed books such as King and King in the public libraries, and more.

Such stories required constant updates to the front page of as new developements occured. To commemmorate's 10th anniversary, copies of those updates of the front page have been placed back online in a new Page One Archive.

Another important story covered by was the effort by NW Classen High School teacher Joe Quigley to add protection for sexual orientation to Oklahoma City's school policies. This resulted in an enormous amount of documentation, all of which remains online. A new page has been added to to make access to those documents easier.

Also highlighted this month are the "State of Our Community" town hall meetings which presented in 2003, 2004 and 2006.

All of this information can currently be accessed through links on the front - or home - page.

Abiera says he intends to keep online to serve as a historical resource for Oklahoma City's GLBT Community. Appropriately enough, October is also GLBT History Month.


Abortion and Abolition

This is a terrific essay which nails virtually every important point about abortion rights:
Abortion and Abolition
by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Colorado is ground zero in a national battle over the morality of abortion, and the defenders of abortion rights are ceding ground.

The opponents of abortion declare that every human life is endowed by God with an inalienable right to life. To terminate a pregnancy, whatever the circumstances, is murder.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade, then "end abortion at the state level." His running mate Sarah Palin says she's as "pro-life as any candidate can be." She thinks "abortion [should] only be allowed if the life of the mother is endangered."

Colorado's Amendment 48 inaugurates a new strategy for ending abortion. Instead of restricting abortion via piecemeal government controls, the measure would usher in a near-total ban on abortion by defining a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights in the state constitution.

The opponents of abortion claim the sanction of divine morality, based on the premise that "life begins at conception." Many anti-abortionists now openly seek to ban not only abortion and most fertility treatments, but also the birth control pill, morning after pill, and IUD because they may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Amendment 48 would help them do that.

Given this all-out assault on reproductive rights, traditional defenders of abortion might be expected to launch a vigorous counter-attack. Instead, they've dodged tough questions and conceded basic principles, leaving reproductive rights with a flimsy defense.

When Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked when a baby gets "human rights," he famously declared the question to be "above [his] pay grade." Yet he will be called on to judge such matters if elected. His running mate Joe Biden accepts the teachings of his Catholic Church: the fertilized egg is a human person. Yet he regards abortion as "a personal and private issue" -- as if the state should allow every person to decide for himself whether or not to recognize the rights of others, so long as any killings happen behind closed doors. That's clearly wrong: if an embryo or fetus is a person, then abortion is murder. If not, then it's a woman's right.

In response to the threat posed by Amendment 48, the traditional defenders of abortion rights -- such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL -- organized a broad coalition to fight the measure. They persuasively argue that Amendment 48 would have disastrous legal consequences for abortion, birth control and in-vitro fertilization.

Yet their oft-repeated slogan of "it simply goes too far" is a whopping concession to their opponents. It implies that abortion, birth control and in-vitro fertilization could be and perhaps ought to be restricted -- just not as severely as Amendment 48 would do. Instead of upholding reproductive rights, the slogan implicitly welcomes further incremental controls on abortion.

Just imagine if the abolitionists of the 19th century had attempted to defend the inalienable rights of slaves based on the slogan, "slavery: it simply goes too far." Imagine Lincoln declaring the morality of slavery to be "above [his] pay grade." The monstrous evil of slavery would still exist today. The recognition and protection of the rights of slaves required an uncompromising defense of those rights based on the facts of human nature.

Similarly, the recognition and protection of abortion rights requires an uncompromising defense of those rights based on the all-important differences between a fetus and a baby.

Neither an embryo nor a fetus is a human person with a right to life. While still in the womb, it exists as part of the woman, wholly contained within and dependent on her. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as she lives, as an extension of her body. A fetus is only a potential person without a right to life.

That situation changes radically at birth. A baby lives his own life, outside his mother. Although very needy, he maintains his own biological functions. He breathes his own air, digests his own food and moves on his own. He can leave his mother to be cared for by someone else. He has a life of his own that must be protected as a matter of right, just the same as every other person.

During a pregnancy, the only person with rights is the pregnant woman. She has a right to liberty, including a right to use her body as she pleases. So she has every right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy -- for any reason. If an abortion will further her own life and happiness, then she ought to pursue that option with a clear conscience.

The growing faith-based opposition to abortion cannot be countered by vague appeals to choice and privacy. Roe v. Wade will be overturned and Amendment 48 (or its like) will be passed without a clear, consistent and positive defense of abortion rights. We must be as principled in our defense of a woman's right to her own body as were the abolitionists in defending the rights of slaves. Liberty cannot be won by any other means.

Diana Hsieh is the founder of the Coalition for Secular Government. Ari Armstrong is the editor of They co-authored "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life," available through