Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ayn Rand Center responds to the financial crisis

ARC has launched a new page on their website:
ARC's Response to the Financial Crisis

"One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary."
—Ayn Rand, 1975

These words were written more than 30 years ago, but they apply exactly to today’s financial crisis. Today’s problems are the result of a government-controlled financial and housing system that rewarded irrational behavior and punished responsible behavior. Yet they are being blamed on “the free market”—with more controls offered as the solution.

Why? For the same reason that the controls were passed in the first place. The dominant moral and political ideas in our culture lead Americans to believe that a free market, with its unfettered pursuit of self-interest, is immoral and destructive—whereas a government that controls and manipulates the economy in some indefinable “public interest” is seen as a source of economic security and prosperity.

On these pages, ARC experts clarify the fundamental issues involved in the current crisis—the controls that led to it, the ideas that led to the controls, the destructiveness of the government response so far. And they provide the antidote: an explanation of the true, benevolent nature of the morality of rational self-interest and the political-economic system of laissez-faire capitalism.

Meanwhile back at the ranch

The Institute for Justice today joined interior designers in Oklahoma to challenge the state's licensing law. Here's their "web release":
Hartford, Conn.—Should Oklahomans be forbidden from speaking without first getting permission from the government?

Not according to the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national public interest law firm that defends entrepreneurs and free speech. That is why today IJ joined with three Oklahoma interior designers to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, challenging the state’s licensing law that censors interior designers.

“The government has no business preventing interior designers from providing truthful information about their services to clients and potential customers,” said Institute for Justice Staff Attorney Jennifer Perkins.

The unconstitutional law is part of a nationwide campaign—exposed in Newsweek, Forbes and other national publications—to put thousands of designers out of work and silence countless others. A small, pro-cartelization faction of the industry, led by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), has successfully lobbied Oklahoma and other states to censor interior designers unconstitutionally through so-called “titling laws.” These laws permit anyone to practice design, but allow only a select few state license holders to call themselves “interior designers” or use the words “interior design” to describe what they do.

The advantages of such a speech monopoly are obvious: anyone who goes looking for an “interior designer” on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages will find only government-licensed cartel members, while overlooking all of the highly capable designers who do not first pass an expensive exam, meet arbitrary standards and pay the state for a license.

“In all my years of work not one client has ever asked me whether I’ve taken a special government-licensing exam,” said Kelly Rinehart, a lifelong Oklahoman and successful interior design entrepreneur with 13 years experience in the industry. Rinehart, who filed suit today with IJ and Oklahoma designers Maria Gore and Jeffrey Evans, continued, “I’m offended that the state thinks I’m unfit to speak without first gaining its permission.”

“ASID has spent nearly $6 million lobbying for regulations to create a monopoly that would exclude countless honest, hard-working interior designers,” said Patti Morrow, executive director of the Interior Design Protection Council, a nationwide grassroots network of interior designers who oppose cartelization of their industry.

IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily added, “Protectionist schemes like we see in Oklahoma do nothing to protect consumers and instead limit consumer choices, drive up costs and quash entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice has represented entrepreneurs nationwide who successfully fought discriminatory government regulations, opening up long-closed markets and securing free speech rights. IJ successfully challenged a similar titling law in New Mexico and has filed suit on behalf of interior designers in Texas and Connecticut.
Hat tip: The Journal Record.

Mary Fallin

Last week I wrote to my representatives in Washington about the bail-out. I actually received a response from Mary Fallin in my email today:

September 30, 2008

Mr. Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City, OK

Dear Mr. Abiera:

Thank you for contacting me about ongoing efforts to confront the crisis in our financial system. I share your deep concerns over this crisis. First, rest assured that Congress and the administration are continuing to work to develop legislation that will be both effective and prudent - and I am working with my colleagues in the House to that end. Our goal is to craft a bill that addresses both the immediate crisis and assures stability and responsibility in the out years. It is also absolutely vital that this legislation protects the taxpayers.

After much deliberation, I voted against the initial bill presented to the House on Monday, September 29. I felt - as did 227 other representatives from both parties - that the bill contained serious flaws and that it failed to shield taxpayers from being placed in a position of underwriting a massive bailout of organizations that had acted unwisely and irresponsibly. Our goal should not be a bailout; it needs to focus on a productive workout, plus reforms that will prevent such a crisis from happening again. As your representative, I cannot in good conscience sign a blank check without appropriate safeguards and assurances that those funds will return to the treasury once the crisis has passed.

In the end I agreed with the overwhelming majority of Fifth District residents who contacted me to express their views. They believe that government has a duty to act, but not at the expense of basic principles like common-sense financial discipline and individual responsibility. Our work is not yet done here in Washington, but I am confident we will be able to craft a bill that protects taxpayer interests and preserves the fiscal integrity and continued freedom of our financial markets.


Mary Fallin
Member of Congress

Since Congress is still working on another version of the bail-out, I thought I'd send her a reply. The House website is not responding, so I can't use the contact form on her site, but now I have her email address, so I simply sent it directly from my computer.

I included a letter by John Lewis which was posted on NoodleFood earlier today.

Dear Congresswoman Fallin,

Thank you for voting against the bail-out on Monday. I am writing to urge you to continue to resist any effort to use this situation as an excuse to extend the government's power over our economy. Please continue to vote against any kind of bail-out - what is happening now is not a failure of the market but a failure of government intervention. The free market will work if it is allowed to remain free.

Freedom is not just an "ideology". It works.

As further explanation, I am forwarding the following letter, which I am in full agreement with: now is not the time to extend the government's power, but to start repealing regulations.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City

Date: Monday, September 29, 2008
From: John Lewis
To: Congressman David Price of North Carolina
Subject: Reply from Congressman David Price

Dear Congressman Price;

Thank you for your frank and fast response. I should be clear. I am opposed to bailing out these firms. But what I am more opposed to is the entire political culture of regulation--including manipulation of interest rates, Sarbanes-Oxley, changes in accounting rules, the Community Renewal Act, and a scad of others--that has fostered this mess. Two weeks ago no politician in Washington knew this was coming. Suddenly, after several all-nighters, they have enough knowledge to grant a quarter of a trillion dollars to a government bureaucrat, to dole out as he sees fit--and to promise another half-trillion, should his actions make it worse.

Meanwhile, the country focuses on the allegedly evil CEOs, "speculators" (read "investors"), and loan initiators who were earlier damned for NOT making loan money available to high-risk borrowers. I remind you that the Community Renewal Act penalizes firms for not making such risky loans. Now, suddenly, those firms are villified for following the law. Well, that's government--it faces no penalties, except a periodic popularity contest, and can contradict itself with impunity.

Most of all, I resent the politicians and punditrs who are claiming, contrary to evidence, that it is now "impossible to get a loan" on Main Street. It is impossible to borrow millions on Wall Street, but regional banks that made prudent investors are not in danger--unless the government further coerces them.

The government is not saving Main Street--it is nationalizing it. Is it not true that, with the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government now holds paper on tens of millions of American mortgages? What does granting American citizens "equity positions" and "profits" in companies seized by the government mean, except communism? Don't we condemn Hugo Chavez for nationalizing oil companies?

I will also recall, as a student of economics, that the Great Depression was caused by a string of obnoxious legislation, and was then cruelly extended by massive government interference. Contrary to prevailing, but long-discredited, opinion, the government did not save us from that mess. It created, and prolonged, it. Twenty years earlier, JP Morgan ended the panic of 1908 in a few weeks--bankers in 1929 could not so act. Today, Morgan would have been jailed for the private pooling of assets he arranged. Is it not true that AIG was told by the Attorney General of New York that it would not be allowed to sell sound assets in order to save the holding company? Who is to blame for the collapse of a huge, and largely sound company, excpet those who forbhid its executives from acting?

You will forgive me if I have no respect for the likes of Senator Schumer, who started a run on a bank with his irresponsible statements and then claimed virtue for them, or Senator McCain, up to his neck in the Keating scandal, or Senator Dodd, whose reputation was on the rocks until this crisis saved him, or Senator Obama, who had not a clue at a White House meeting last week, and then went on-script before the press to cover his ignorance. You will please forgive me if promises of "oversight" by these PR men do not instill confidence.

I much more respect the CEOs who have spent their years in the business, and who face actual consequences for their errors. They do not have access to hundreds of billions of dollars of other people's money--and they do not expect their stockholders to approve busines plans that cannot foretell whether they will lose three-quarters of a trillion dollars, or get some of it back in five or twenty years. They do not have their hands in the pocket of every person who produces in this country.

The truly brave politicians are those who recognize that the government is largely to blame for this mess, and should start emergency repeal of regulations now. Only this can allow responsible CEOs to start making decisions based on sound economics, rather than fear of breaking a law.

John Lewis

Dr. John David Lewis
Visiting Associate Professor of Political Science, Duke University
I also sent Lewis's letter to Inhofe and Coburn.

Hey, Big Spenders!

The Ayn Rand Center & I seem to be on the same wavelength, judging from their latest press release:
Hey, Big Spenders!
September 30, 2008

Washington, D.C.--In Friday’s presidential debate, John McCain railed against government spending, trumpeting his opposition to earmarks.

“While McCain and Obama pose as opponents of government spending, they are not,” said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “To actually stem the torrent of government spending, it is not just pork that must be cut--but the massive welfare state entitlements that neither McCain nor Obama dares challenge.

“It takes little courage to denounce bridges leading to nowhere and buildings dedicated to campaign donors. Such projects are transparent examples of politicians using taxpayer funds to curry favor with special interests. But such projects make up only a tiny fraction--six-tenths of a percent--of the government’s $3 trillion dollar budget.

“The real spending spree isn’t to be found in government pork but in massive welfare state entitlements, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These are the programs that have led to soaring debt, a crushing tax burden, and economic stagnation.

“So long as America is forced to bankroll costly welfare programs, there is no way to meaningfully reduce government spending. What we need is a politician who will stand up for the ideals of the Founders: a government limited to its proper function of protecting individual rights; a government under which people are responsible for providing for their own needs--and are left free to do so. That would take real political courage.”

### ### ###

Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com 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 (The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, At Large with Geraldo Rivera), CNN (Talkback Live and the Glenn Beck Program), CNBC (Closing Bell and On the Money), 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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Senator Tom Coburn, Defender of the Free Market


Coburn has gone public with his intention to vote FOR the Wall Street bail-out.

According to a story on Yahoo!:
"A lot of people have misgivings," said Sen. Tom Coburn , R- Okla. , one of the Senate's leading conservative voices. "I have a lot of misgivings, but I'm still going to vote for it."
Coburn has also issued a statement which is posted on his website. In the statement, Coburn claims:
"This bill does not represent a new and sudden departure from free market principles . . . "
Well, finally, Coburn the champion of fiscal conservatism unmasks himself as an economic know-nothing. If he can say that increased regulation and government intervention represent "free market principles", then Senator Coburn does NOT know what "free market principles" are.

Or any kind of principles, for that matter. Obviously Senator Coburn has given into pragmatism. But then, what politician hasn't, these days? Well, there are the members of the House who voted AGAINST the bail-out and issued principled statements explaining why they did so. Perhaps Mr. Coburn should read some of them.

Unfortunately, I can't say I'm too surprised to see such craven behavior from Coburn. For years, Coburn has postured as a champion of fiscal conservatism by crusading against so-called "pork-barrel" spending and "earmarks". Certainly Congress wastes billions of dollars annually on vanity rojects which have no justification other than making some politician look good to the folks back home.

But Coburn has been curiously silent about the main causes of the ballooning federal budget, such as Social Security and Medicare, which eat up as much as a trillion dollars or more annually. Why? Could it be that it is much safer to make a show of campaigning against popular targets such as "pork" spending instead of taking on the perceived risk of exposing the threat to our economy posed by Social Security?

By doing things like voting for the bail-out and campaigning against politically safe targets like "earmarks" instead of going after Social Security - which is the real culprit when it comes to the runaway federal budget - Tom Coburn proves that he is no defender of Freedom.

Shame on you, Senator Coburn.


"Ask yourselves why you came here and vote with courage and integrity to those principles. If, like me, you came here because you believe in limited government and the freedom of the American marketplace, I urge you vote in accordance with your convictions," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, said.

"Stand up for limited government and economic freedom. Stand up for the American taxpayer. Reject this bailout and vote no on the emergency economic stabilization act," he said.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This letter in Saturday's The Oklahoman makes a good point:
What it means

In response to Berniece Dykeman (Your Views, Sept. 22): When people say, "Let's get government out of our lives,” they're not implying we should do away with government. Rather, they want to limit its ability to infringe upon our freedoms.

Let me put it this way: While you may enjoy a nice steak and salad for dinner, you don't want the farmer who produced these products telling you when, where and how you can consume them. That doesn't mean you want a "life without farmers.”

Kent Nuckels, Moore

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sally Kern vs. Ron Marlett

Sally Kern, the woman who achieved fame earlier this year for claiming that homosexuality was a bigger threat to this country than terrorism, is running for re-election. This time, she has an opponent. His name is Ron Marlett. His campaign website is at www.ronmarlettforhousedistrict84.com.

I think that people like Sally Kern having the power to force their views on others is a bigger threat to this country than homosexuality - or terrorism, for that matter. So long as Kern remains in office, she will be a walking, talking violation of the separation of church and state.

A story on the race in today's The Oklahoman quotes Kern as saying
" . . . I was running as a decidedly Christian candidate because I believed we were in a cultural war for the very existence of our Judeo-Christian values."
It is the separation of church and state which protects Kern's right to her values. It is Kern herself who is undermining that very protection.

The Wall Street bail-out: update

On Wednesday I wrote that I sent DeMint's press release to Senators Coburn and Inhofe. Since then I have also sent it to Representative Fallin, who apparently actually reads her emails from her constituents, according to a story in The Oklahoman:
Alex Weintz, press secretary to Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said, " . . . We truly are getting a wide range of opinions, from unconditional support of the bailout plan to complete opposition of any taxpayer-funded intervention in the economy."
" . . . complete opposition of any taxpayer-funded intervention in the economy." Hmm, that wouldn't be my email, now, would it?

AND I've gotten a request from Paul Hsieh to post my letter on NoodleFood! YAY!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Call Barney Frank now!

I've just read a report about the current situation regarding the Wall Street "crisis" and have come to the conclusion that the Republicans can do nothing further and the time has come to focus attention - and pressure - on the Democrats.

The key player is now Barney Frank. He is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and reportedly told Republicans this morning to "drop their revolt" against Bush on an agreement on legislation - legislation which undoubtedly expands regulation of the financial industry.

As much as I have admired Frank for his courage as a pioneering openly-Gay member of Congress, on this issue I have to say that Frank is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! EVERYBODY should call or write to him IMMEDIATELY and tell him to GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE ECONOMY NOW! His Washington office number is 202-225-5931.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Biddle coming to Oklahoma?

I've just received an email from Renee Morse, president of the Rogers State University Objectivists Club in Claremore, who writes that Craig Biddle, editor and publisher of The Objective Standard, will be coming to RSU - probably on October 20th but apparently that's not quite settled yet.

Andrew Bernstein spoke last year and RSU OBJ seems to be doing well in its second year.

Pipes in Tulsa

Darn! I just found out that Daniel Pipes spoke in Tulsa last night! Oh well, I probably wouldn't have been able to attend anyway, but still, I like to think I'm on top of what goes on in the state. Speaking of which, I wonder how the OK office of CAIR will respond to this?

Here's the report from conservative Tulsa blogger Michael Bates. I'm not going to reproduce the links to video and other sites - you can use the link to go to the original post for those.

Daniel Pipes: "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally"

My oldest son and I attended Tuesday night's speech by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

Following the speech, Pipes took questions from the audience. (Video is being uploaded.)

The Wall Street bail-out

I've just read Jim DeMint's statement on the Wall Street bail-out at NoodleFood and I was so impressed that I sent it to my senators, Coburn and Inhofe:

Dear Senator -

I am writing as a constituent to ask you to oppose the Bush Administration's request for $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. The healthiest thing for our economy would be to allow the market to work and let those firms deal privately with the consequences of their own actions. I don't believe in accepting responsiblity for other people's actions and I have no desire to see my taxes used to help some Wall Street firms out of a situation which they created, not me. The answer to the current economic situation is not handouts to Wall Street tied to more regulations. The answer is to get the government OUT of the economy.

I'm sure that I disagree with Senator DeMint of South Carolina on other issues, but on this issue I have seen no better statement of the truth about this situation than his recent press release.

In this instance, Senator DeMint speaks for me, as well.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City


Plan does not solve the problems that caused the current credit crunch, and could make them much worse

Washington D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) announced his opposition to the $700 billion plan proposed by the Bush Administration to bailout Wall Street.

"After reviewing the Administration's proposed bailout plan, I believe it is completely unacceptable. This plan does nothing to address the misguided government policies that created this mess and it could make matters much worse by socializing an entire sector of the U.S. economy. This plan fails to oversee or regulate the government failures that led to this crisis. Instead it greatly increases the role for Secretary Paulson whose market predictions have been consistently wrong in the last year, and provides corporate welfare for investment firms on Wall Street that don't want to disclose their assets and sell them to private investors for market rates. Most Americans are paying their bills on time and investing responsibly and should not be forced to pay for the reckless actions of some on Wall Street, especially when no one can guarantee this will solve our current problems."

"This plan will not only cause our nation to fall off the debt cliff, it could send the value of the dollar into a free-fall as investors around the world question our ability to repay our debts. It's also very likely that this plan will extend the cycle of bailouts, encouraging other companies to behave in reckless ways that create the need for even more bailouts, triggering an endless run on our treasury. This plan may make things look better for Wall Street in the next couple months, but the long-term consequences to our economy could be disastrous.

"There are much better ways of dealing with this problem than forcing American taxpayers to pay for every asset some investor doesn't want anymore. We should start by reforming government policies and programs that created this mess, including the Federal Reserve's easy money policy, the congressional charters of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act. Then Congress should pass a number of permanent and proven pro-growth reforms to encourage capital formation and boost asset values. We need to make permanent reductions in the corporate tax and the capital gains tax rates. We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, which encourages companies to take jobs and investment overseas."

"It's a sad fact, but Americans can no longer trust the economic information they are getting from this Administration. The Administration said the bailout of Bear Stearns would stop the bleeding and solve the problem, but they were wrong. They said $150 billion in new government spending using rebate checks would solve the problem, but they were wrong again. They said new authority to bailout Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would solve the problem without being used, but they were wrong again. Now they want us to trust them to spend nearly a trillion dollars on more government bailouts. It's completely irresponsible and I cannot support it."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Isn’t life grand!

"Isn’t life grand, to be able to design, build, and operate then just simply watch such a powerful piece of machinery perform exactly as expected."
Those are the words of Russell Blink, an employee of Armadillo Aerospace - builders of the engine for the rocket plane that will be flown in competitions organized by the Rocket Racing League.

The words are from his description of the first flight tests of the plane, which took place in late August at the Oklahoma Spaceport. That decription is part of a report on the construction and testing of the plane at the website of Armadillo Aerospace:

Bridenstine DKNY Rocket Racer®: Fabrication to first flight tests

(Hat tip: HobbySpace)

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Nightmare

I received the following press release from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights this morning:

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Nightmare
September 15, 2008

Washington, D.C.--Seven years into the Afghanistan war, America faces resurgent Taliban and Islamist forces carrying out more daring and increasingly deadly attacks on U.S. troops. Suicide bombings, once rare, are a commonplace in Afghanistan. According to news reports, the number of roadside bombs has been climbing (from 1,931 in 2006 to 2,615 last year). More Americans died in Afghanistan this year, so far, than did in the first three years of the war, combined.

Appearing before Congress, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported, with signal understatement, that he’s “not convinced we’re winning in Afghanistan.”

Why has this war--once thought of as the right war--gone so wrong?

U.S. military and intelligence officials have pointed to the tribal belt along the Afghan-Pakistan border as a source of the problem. The region is a safe haven for Islamists, where they train, plot and launch attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan (and on targets in the West). Many officials suspect Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, of colluding with the Islamists and allowing them sanctuary, and complain that Pakistan’s government--a supposed U.S. ally--has failed to do enough to root out the Islamists. The remedy now being pushed in Washington involves sending U.S. Special Operations forces on raids in the tribal areas (as recently happened) and deploying several thousand more troops in Afghanistan.

But while there’s reason to believe Islamists enjoy the support of Pakistan’s intelligence services and military, this is far from the fundamental reason why, despite a U.S. war against them, the Islamists are resurgent in Afghanistan. This nightmare is yet another result of Washington’s broader “compassionate” war.

From the beginning, our military was ordered to pursue Taliban fighters only if it simultaneously showed “compassion” to the Afghans. The U.S. military dropped bombs--but instead of ruthlessly pounding key targets, it was ordered gingerly to avoid hitting holy shrines and mosques (known to be Taliban hideouts) and to shower the country with food packages. And even more so today, according to a report by the New York Times, “vast numbers of public, religious and historic sites make up a computer database of no-strike zones” while Air Force lawyers vet all air strikes. The U.S. deployed ground forces--but instead of focusing exclusively on capturing or killing the enemy, they were also diverted to “reconstruction” projects for the sake of the Afghan population.

The Bush administration allowed the enablers of bin Laden to flee and find a welcome home in Pakistan’s tribal region, where they regrouped. Washington then passed off to Pakistan the dirty work of rooting them out. Given that Pakistan had helped create and put the Taliban in power, it should be no surprise that the Islamists there have grown stronger. (They feel themselves so safe that they hold press conferences and give interviews by cell phone.)

The half-hearted war in Afghanistan failed to smash the Taliban and al Qaeda. Instead of defeating them, Washington’s timid war scattered the Islamist forces and left them with the moral fortitude to regroup and launch a brazen comeback. What we need is a war policy that proudly places America’s interests as its exclusive moral concern and ruthlessly destroys our enemies.

### ### ###

Mr. Journo is a fellow of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He specializes in foreign policy and the Middle East. His writings have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Globe and Mail of Canada. He is also a contributing writer for The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of culture and politics. Mr. Journo has been a guest on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs.

Elan Journo is available for interviews on this topic.

Sharia by stealth

According to a report in The Times,
Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.
Notice the line: "The government has quietly sanctioned . . . "

If sharia ever comes to the US, this is how it will happen and why everyone who cares about the separation of church and state must be vigilant.

(Hat tip: NoodleFood)

Angst, the final frontier?

According to a post at io9.com, an actor in the upcoming Star Trek movie says the reason why Kirk joined Star Fleet is because he wanted to get away from the trauma of an abusive uncle.


Why can't Kirk join Star Fleet just because he loves space and wants to be with the thing that he values? By "space" I mean: the universe and the possibilities for exploring it, the stars, the planets, traveling between them, civilizations discovered and undiscovered, etc, etc.

This is why I don't care for J. J. Abrams and don't watch his shows, especially Lost, which strikes me as being just a bunch of fucked-up people treating each other like shit. It's all about showing that human beings are supposedly nothing but monsters and are not capable of doing anything but hurting each other and I don't want to have anything to do with it.

As far as I'm concerned, the real reason why Kirk joined Star Fleet is to be found in the way William Shatner intones the famous words that open every episode of the original Star Trek, beginning with: "Space . . . the final frontier . . . "

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An old letter

I'm in the process of going through the "back issues" of my website, GayOKC.com, in preparation for its 10th anniversary in October. I've been looking at archived copies of updates to the home page, and I discovered a letter I wrote in January of 2000 that I'm so proud of, I decided to re-post it here!

The letter was written in response to another letter about an article in the Oklahoma Gazette regarding the so-called "conversion therapy", which is claimed by its supporters to be a cure for homosexuality and by opponents to be a colossal fraud.

I definitely consider myself to be an opponent.

As I recall, the letter was printed by the Gazette, with some editing. Here it is:

I would like to respond to the letter by David Burrows in your Jan 19 issue. Mr. Burrows writes that "If moral laws exist . . . then a moral law giver must exist". Mr. Burrows goes on further to state that "Real morality saves us from having to reinvent the wheel of morality." I submit that this is, literally, mindlessness. Whatever it is that Mr. Burrows means by "real morality", it is not morality.

Reality is real and we have to live in it. The purpose of morality is to enable us to do that. The moral is the chosen. Where there is no choice there can be no morality. Moral principles are not given. To be properly used they must in a very real sense be discovered by the person who wants to use them. A person must discover what facts of reality give rise to a principle in order to understand how to apply that principle to the facts of his own life. The most anyone else can do is point you in the right direction. No one can do your understanding for you. This is why Ayn Rand said the moral is the understood, not the obeyed.

Morality arose precisely because Man is not hard-wired with a set of automatic reactions to the possibilities of life the way the lower animals are. Man can survive only by using his mind to discover how to respond to reality in the way that supports his life, rather than destroys it. It is the fact that Man possesses the faculty of choice that enables us to take what Nature gives us and transform it into something completely new and even multiply beyond anything Nature by itself could possibly provide. Choice is Man's glory and his responsibility. This is why it is every Human Being's responsibility to use his mind to make his own choices for himself. In a very real sense, every human being must reinvent the wheel of morality. If "life" is the standard, your life must be your standard.

The person who looks to "law givers" to make his choices for him has defaulted on the responsibility of being Human. This is precisely what happened to the people of Germany. They were taught to obey, not to understand, which is how they ended up with Hitler. They wanted a law giver and that is what Hitler gave them. For those who are really interested in understanding how this happened, read "The Ominous Parallels" by Leonard Peikoff.

Rob Abiera
Well, okay, I could do some nit-picking, but I still like what it says about my understanding of Objectivism at the time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Response to my last Oklahoman LTE

The Oklahoman has printed a response to my last LTE of August 27th. I'm not going to re-post it here - those who wish to read it may do so here (scroll down to "Inseparably interwoven").

I left the following in the comments section:
Paul Blair misquotes me: I did not write that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness aren't Christian principles and have nothing to do with morality.” I wrote that they have nothing to do with Christian morality. Big difference. I also do not believe that Man is wicked by nature or by definition or that morality consists of doing whatever your heart desires, though I do think people should be legally free to do whatever they want as long as it infringes no one else's rights. Morality requires the use of reason to determine where your best interests lie. It is entirely possible to do this without misusing other people, and that is why I say Man is not wicked. Political freedom is necessary because human beings have to make choices in order to survive.
Rob, Oklahoma City - Sep 12, 2008 8:49 AM
Wish I could have done better but I had just gotten up, though I am rather proud that I was able to make the point that since human beings can survive without hurting others, this means they are not monsters by definition.

I'm not saying that's all there is to it, but it is one piece of evidence.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Turning the lawyers loose on enivronmentalism

The Journal Record, an Oklahoma City business news paper, currently has several articles online about the potential for litigation over the so-called "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" or LEED program.

According to one article, "Losing green on green projects: In a fertile ground for lawsuits, lawyers spot LEED project pitfalls":
As LEED projects proliferate, lawyers foresee an era of green-construction lawsuits.

“If you’re selling this thing to your senior management because it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the community, and it’s the right thing to do, then when you eventually get beyond the love affair, this thing better produce,” said Donald Murano, a plaintiffs lawyer in St. Louis who serves on a risk-management task force with the Green Building Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Portland, Ore. “Over the next five or 10 years, you’ll see an exponential growth in litigation.”

Lawyers expect more lawsuits as building owners realize a green stamp of approval translates into good public relations, higher rents and tax breaks. When contractors or design professionals fail to deliver, owners may seek payback.

Frank Musica is a risk-management lawyer with Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc., the largest underwriter of professional liability insurance in the country. He said green-related claims are increasing against architects and engineers insured by his Chevy Chase, Md.-based company.

“When a developer has a problem with a project, he’s going to claim a number of things,” Musica said, “including, ‘You told me I’d get a certification, and I’m not getting it.’”
Also online:
Proof after plaques: Buildings may have to perform for LEED

Force of nature: Green building migrates toward mandatory as governments embrace LEED

Skeptics turn up heat on LEED ratings
Registration is required to view the articles online. It's free.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Tomorrow is the seventh anniversary. I can think of no better way of commemorating the occasion than by directing you to this week's Objectivist Round Up, hosted by Nick Provenzo at Rule of Reason.

Each post is the author's own commemoration of the occasion.

(I also recommend Mr. Provenzo's essay on Norman Rockwell's painting, "Freedom of Speech".)

I, for one, would like to mark this occasion by referring my readers to Leonard Peikoff's essay, "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism".

And how am I going to be spending this day?

By attending the annual meeting of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

I only hope it does not get too anti-American.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Liberty and libertarianism

A major American newspaper has published an editorial which not only denounces both major Presidential candidates, but asks the question:
When did the idea of freedom become a political orphan?
The author even makes favorable mention of selfishness.

Unfortunately, the author, Steve Chapman, describes himself on his blog as a libertarian.

Or rather, he says that
What readers can find here is an independent, libertarian perspective beholden to no party, candidate or dogma.
Sigh. Finally, somebody who gets it, and he turns out to be a libertarian. Oh, excuse me, someone who offers his readers "a libertarian perspective".

I've written an LTE and sent it to the Chicago Tribune. We'll see what happens.

Because, as genuinely momentous as this is, everything achieved by a major newspaper's printing of an editorial upholding freedom and selfishness and denouncing both major candidates for being opposed to freedom and selfishness could be undercut by placing it in the context of libertarianism.

And I don't want to sell the achievement this editorial represents short, because it is an achievement and it is momentous!

But if only it could have been written by someone who was not a libertarian!

(Hat tip: Paul Hsieh)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Emotions are not irreducible primaries

I'm seeing posts from Objectivists impressed by Sarah Palin's "moral self-confidence". Some have apparently been bowled over by her performance in her speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.

I did not see Palin's speech and would rather judge her by the content of her ideas than her performance before an audience. While moral self-confidence can certainly be impressive, it is not something I would judge a politican by all by itself. Given that I find so many of Palin's ideas repugnant, I am dismayed that any Objectivist could be positively gushing over her.

While moral self-confidence can certainly be worthwhile, it must be remembered that it is possible to have confidence in any morality, no matter how wrong, if one is willing to delude oneself that one's morality is correct. The ability to project self-confidence therefore says nothing about the validity of the morality one has accepted - though I suppose some moralities could facilitate a convincing projection of self-confidence better than others.

To judge a politician solely on the basis of her ability to project "moral self-confidence" without considering the content of her morality - much less her political positions - is emotionalism and I am having none of it.

(Update: I've done some editing on this since I posted it this morning.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Louisiana update

Let me say this as clearly as possible, so there can be no mistake about what I mean: there is no controversy. Just because a few misguided so-called scientists question the validity of the concept of evolution doesn't mean there is a controversy. ... The fact that some people believe nonsense does not give that nonsense scientific credibility. Any 'science' teacher who teaches that the earth might have been created about 6,000 years ago and that all the material evidence that it's billions of years old is controversial is simply incompetent.
That's American Society for Microbiology and Molecular Biology president Gregory A. Petsko referring to the Louisiana Science Education Act in the August, 2008 issue of ASBMB Today - as quoted in today's Evolution Education Update email newsletter from the National Center for Science Education.

That same issue also includes an overview by ASBMB policy fellow Angela Hvitved of the creationists' latest strategy of pursuing legislation to promote their agenda under the guise of 'academic freedom'.

Lobbying as petitioning

Gina Liggett has written an outstanding piece - posted this morning at NoodleFood - identifying lobbying as a form of petition:
But petitioning the government either as an interest group, private citizen, or corporation, is a fundamental right explicitly enumerated in the petition clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law.... abridging...the right of the people...to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

And according to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, lobbying is considered a form of petition (with no guarantee that the lobbyist will get what he wants) . . .
She identifies the crucial fact that corporate lobbying is the direct result of government intervention in the economy:
While some interest groups and companies improperly lobby for government handouts and preferences, and play the infamous "pork-barrel" game, this is not because the right of petition is wrong, but because the entanglement of government and the economy is wrong.
As the right to petition the government for redress of grievances is explicitly protected by the Constitution, the question becomes: who will decide which grievances private citizens may petition for the redress of? Is it not improper for the government itself to do so?

As petitioning the government is a form of speech, any limits on petitioning are limits on speech as well.

McCain and Obama are able to attack lobbying because they perceive it as being unpopular. They are able to do so with relative impunity because of a perceived sympathy by the public for government entanglement in the economy.

But is the mixed economy really that popular? Or does the American public go along with it simply because politicians offer nothing else? I believe that voter participation rates are telling in this regard.

When will the American public stand up to these politicians? When they learn to say NO to the mixed economy.

Which means saying NO to altruism and statism and YES to reason, egoism, freedom and laissez-faire Capitalism.

And learning to recognize that politicians who want to limit our freedom while also limiting our right to do anything about it are power-lusting hypocrites.

Teaching this to Americans will be primarily a moral crusade rather than a political one.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"New Atheism", same old mysticism

Alan Germani, in his article "The Mystical Ethics of the New Atheists" (from the upcoming edition of The Objective Standard), confirms for me what I suspected about the recent books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. I have not read their books and I do not plan to, based on remarks by the authors and reviews of the books elsewhere: I expected them to purvey the same old altruism, and I was disappointed by their mystical leanings. I do not see how anyone who relies on any kind of mysticism in any way can call himself an atheist.

Germani also reminded me that
In order to persuade religionists to abandon their dangerous beliefs, one must do more than show what is wrong with religion—one must provide something positive to fill the moral void.
It is obvious to me that it is also necessary to pursuade atheists to abandon their altruism.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Ayn Rand once quoted Emerson's line, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds", referring to someone who she considered to have "a very little mind". I don't remember exactly who it was, offhand, but I think it was Emerson, himself.

I referred to the quote in the title of my previous post to show that Richard Land was a very little mind to whom consistency must be a hobgoblin, indeed. In referring to a reporter's expectation of consistency as "asinine", Land betrays his true feelings about the supposed moral absolutism of a literal interpretation of the Bible.

But then, to a Christian, moral absolutism is a value subject to sacrifice, just like every other value. Also, Christians are, first and foremost, sinners, and as such are expected to violate absolutes, moral and otherwise.

Land's smugness in announcing his rejection of integrity seems dangerously close to pride - though pride is certainly much too clean a response to a situation this twisted.

And do I detect a note of viciousness in that smugness?

Of course, I would expect viciousness from someone who believes that values are to be upheld only so that they can be sacrificed.

Thus begins the road to nihilism.

(But is the end of that road the place where religion meets modern philosophy and declares its own impotence, and thus commits suicide? Or is there another possibility?)

Consistency, the hobgoblin

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, being asked about Palin in an interview in Christianity Today:

The enthusiasm gap has been closed considerably. Let me answer a question you haven’t asked me. I had two secular reporters ask me, ‘Dr. Land, you as a Southern Baptist believe that women are not to be pastors of churches and women are not to be head of the home. Wouldn’t it mean that if Sarah Palin were elected vice president, her husband would tell her what to do? And I said, ‘If you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an asinine question, but I’ll answer it.’ Mrs. Thatcher said that her husband was head of her home and she ran the country. Queen Elizabeth said that Prince Phillip was head of the home and she was head of the country. If Mrs. Thatcher had been an American, I would’ve enthusiastically supported her for president of the United States. The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church. That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.