Thursday, May 27, 2010

Running instead of shrugging

George Will has a great op-ed out today spotlighting the impact of Atlas Shrugged:
EXCERPTS: Before what he calls "the jaw-dropping” events of the last 19 months — TARP, the stimulus, Government Motors, the mistreatment of Chrysler’s creditors, Obamacare, etc. — the idea of running for office never crossed Ron Johnson’s mind. He was, however, dry tinder — he calls Ayn Rand’s "Atlas Shrugged” his "foundational book” — and now is ablaze, in an understated, upper-Midwestern way. This 55-year-old manufacturer of plastic products from Oshkosh is what the tea party looks like. . . .

The theme of his campaign, the genesis of which was an invitation to address a tea party rally, is: "First of all, freedom.” Then? "Then you’ve got to put meat on the bones.” He gets much of his meat from The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages. And from a Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, whose "road map” for entitlement reform Johnson praises. Health care? "Mitch Daniels has the solution.” Indiana’s Republican governor has offered state employees the choice of consumer-controlled Health Savings Accounts, and 70 percent of Indiana state workers now choose them.

"The most basic right,” Johnson says, "is the right to keep your property.” Remembering the golden age when, thanks to Ronald Reagan, the top income tax rate was 28 percent, Johnson says: "For a brief moment we were 72 percent free.” Johnson’s daughter, now a nurse in neonatal intensive care, was born with a serious heart defect. The operations "when her heart was only the size of a small plum” made him passionate about protecting the incentives that bring forth excellent physicians. . . .
Here's the comment on the piece that I posted on

The message of Atlas Shrugged is: Altruism doesn't work. Human beings ARE individuals and have the right to live their own lives for their own sakes AS INDIVIDUALS.

And human beings are capable of living their own lives and getting what they want without hurting others. They are not incompetent monsters by definition who need to be controlled and cared for by the government. Reality IS intelligible and human beings ARE capable of understanding it by means of their own minds - by using Reason.

This means human beings are capable of moral reasoning and can decide for themselves how to live their lives - to survive and even thrive - without the help of any outside agent, supernatural or otherwise.

It is rational self-interest - properly understood - that is the truly benevolent way for human beings to live with each other. NOT altruism.

THAT is the message of Atlas Shrugged and the ultimate meaning of Freedom.

Rob Abiera

Monday, May 17, 2010

The United States of America is the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment

If you want to read the truth about the role the Enlightenment actually played in our country's founding, my highest recommendation goes to Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels.

Religious Right declares war on Thomas Jefferson

It had to happen eventually: religious conservatives who want to promote government involvement in Christianity would want to re-write history to edit out those Founding Fathers who don't fit their contention that the US was founded as a "Christian nation". Of course they would start with Thomas Jefferson - author of the Declaration of Independence, deist, and writer of a certain inconvenient letter to a church group in Connecticut.

According to American Atheists, a Religious Right faction on the Texas Board of Education wants to adopt standards for history textbooks that would downplay the role of the Enlightenment in our country's early development - including figures such as Jefferson - and focus more on the "positive contributions" of religion by spotlighting people such as John Calvin.

And according to a story in the Dallas Morning News, a member of the Board wants to take direct aim at the doctrine of the separation of church and state:
AUSTIN – A leading social conservative on the State Board of Education will push for further doubt to be cast on separation of church and state when the board goes back to work on proposed curriculum standards for social studies next week. . . .

The GOP-dominated board shot down an earlier attempt by Democrats to have high school students study the reasons the Founding Fathers barred the government from promoting any religion.

McLeroy now wants to include a requirement that eighth-grade history students study the issue from a different perspective.

Under his proposal, students would "contrast the Founders' intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term 'Separation of church and state.' "

The language reflects the opposition of social and religious conservatives to the legal doctrine of separation of church and state, which has been upheld multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court, including one far-reaching decision that outlawed school-sponsored prayer.

McLeroy and other board members contend that separation of church and state was established in the law only by activist judges and not by the Constitution or Bill of Rights.
Who's next? James Madison?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yes, government prayer is unconstitutional

Shame on the Tulsa World for claiming "There is nothing unconstitutional about the National Day of Prayer."

Prayer is a religious exercise. When the government calls for a day to recognize a religious exercise, that DOES qualify as establishing a state religion.

Karl Sniderman's letter in today's Tulsa World quotes Thomas Jefferson on the subject:
"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. . . . Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the general government. . . . Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the president of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Erosophia.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baptists then and now

Bruce Prescott contrasts the support of early Baptists for church/state separation with the attitudes of current Baptists who tend to favor government intervention in, and welfare for, religion:
Atheists More Conscientious than Baptists in Oklahoma

EXCERPT: When the U.S. Constitution was circulated among the thirteen original colonies for ratification, Baptists in Virginia refused to vote to ratify it until an amendment was added to secure liberty of conscience for every citizen. In a letter to George Washington, written on behalf of Virginia Baptists, evangelist John Leland explained why Baptists refused to ratify the Constitution until the First Amendment was added. He wrote:
When the Constitution first made its appearance in Virginia, we, as a society, had unusual strugglings of mind, fearing that the liberty of conscience, dearer to us than property or life, was not sufficiently secured. Perhaps our jealousies were heightened by the usage we received in Virginia under regal government, when mobs, fines, bonds and prisons were our frequent repast. (The Writings of John Leland, ed. L.F. Greene. New York: Arno Press & the New York Times, 1969, p. 53).
For early Baptists conscience was something sacred and inviolable.
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Theocracy in Oklahoma

Hmmm . . .

The National Day of Prayer rally at the State Capitol last Thursday drew 300 people.

The OKC Tea Party rally held on April 14th drew at least 10 times that many.

You would think that people who really support theocracy would show their support by attending a prayer rally at the Capitol. It's interesting that more people didn't turn out for the NDP rally.

Which leaves me wondering just how much support there really is for theocracy here in Oklahoma.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The political will to stick to a diet

Just came across this on Facebook:
Tom Cole helps launch task force to limit federal power
This could be huge: while far from perfect, it at least is a start, and certainly demonstrates that there are actually some legislators in Washington who may actually have the guts to stand up to the power-mongers.

The imperfection comes from an emphasis on the false issue of "states rights" versus "federal rights". Neither the states nor the federal government have rights: only individuals can have rights. BUT it's a place to start a genuine dialog about reigning in the federal government.

This should be interesting.

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Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Rational Jenn.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

YES: eminent domain is wrong!

This article about a victory against eminent domain in San Pablo, California says all the right things:
EXCERPTS: The San Pablo City Council this week dropped plans to extend its eminent domain authority, bending to a raucous groundswell of mistrust and resentment of city government that included threats of a recall. . . .

The officials contended that they need eminent domain, and only as a last resort, to assemble sites for commercial and residential development. Opponents, supported by the Virginia-based libertarian law firm Institute for Justice and its advocacy arm, the Castle Coalition, called eminent domain a cruel and brutal tool and accused the city of a secret agenda to kill working-class people's American dream of homeownership to accommodate out-of-town developers' vision of a gentrified San Pablo.

On Monday, several residents elaborated on that theme,

"Instead of being for the people, you are for the developers," said resident Adolfo Sanchez.

Handing the agency the power of eminent domain would be like "having your chicken house guarded by a pack of very hungry wolves," said resident Jai Sun.

"I want to live in a San Pablo where I feel safe and my home is safe," Sun said, imploring the council to "cease your hostile tactics." . . .

"It's absurd to think that any of these homeowners would take heart in the fact that the city is willing to sign a contract that says nothing more than that it will obey state law," said Christina Walsh, director of activism for the Castle Coalition. "The strongest guarantee is for eminent domain to not be on the table." . . .

By and by, council members acknowledged an underlying issue of communication and trust; residents agreed.

"We definitely have a trust issue," resident Pat Ryan told the council. "We just don't trust you." . . .
Via Institute for Justice on Facebook

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The Last Battleground

Is Jack Shepard meant to be an indictment of altruism? That seems to be the direction the writers of LOST are going with him. Unless of course, I'm reading my own wishful thinking into what I'm seeing.

But of course the response to altruism is that people have the right to choose their own form of happiness. The altruist argument against that is Original Sin: even if people do have free will they cannot be allowed to follow it because they will always choose evil. So much for free will.

Which leads us into the circular argument that if people must depend on other people to make their choices for them, how are they to rely on other people who are just as limited by Original Sin?

And this is where mysticism comes in to say, "You don't have to rely on other humans who are just as flawed as you are. You can invent your own fantasy to rely on."

But what if there was no such thing as Original Sin, and human beings are not monsters by definition? What if achieving your own selfish happiness here on Earth did not have to bring pain or suffering to anybody?

What then?

If Mankind is to have a future, if the battle against altruism is to be won, it is the right of individual human beings to choose the form of happiness that they will pursue which must be redeemed.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Ideas and the Coming Election

Excellent post by Sylvia Bokor, who participated in organizing the Albuquerque Tea Party:
EXCERPT: But when one stated that the growing intrusion into American lives shows that "we must demand a restoration of individual rights," political party officials and political candidates declared that "Voters are turned off by that philosophical stuff." One candidate said, "The only way you can get elected is to talk about fiscal accountability and transparency. Talking about ideas is a waste of time. Philosophical ideas are too abstract. People don't understand them. What they understand is their pocketbook."

Such fatuous remarks reveal the magnitude of the speaker's ignorance. Bookstores are doing a booming business selling books that deal with ideas. For example, "Total sales of Ayn Rand's novels reached 1.1 million in 2009. . . . Nearly half of those total sales were Atlas Shrugged," a novel that deals with philosophical ideas. During the first quarter of 2010, sales had not slowed. Her non-fiction work, such as the Virtue of Selfishness, is also reaching new highs in sales. Libraries have long wait lists for books that deal with ideas. Bloggers dealing with ideas have good-size followings. Articles posted on the net by columnists who deal with ideas generate hundreds of comments. Talk radio has grown large, with steady audiences. The questions phoned in are predominately thoughtful.
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