Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Earth II Discovered 40 Light Years Away

According to TG Daily:
The radius of the planet is about 2.7 times that of earth and its density suggests it's made of three quarter water and other ices and one quarter rock.
Since there's no free country left on Earth, and not too many places to hide, maybe this planet is the next best bet.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Moral Inversion, Part I

Judicial Watch has released its annual list of the most corrupt politicians of the year.

Even after reading the list and explanations one thing stands out: it isn’t the corruption that’s the chief source of social destruction. What Progressives do in the clear light of day – and actually boast about – is the real problem.

For example, taking a bribe from Angelo Mozillo is bad, true enough. But openly supporting Fannie and Freddie with unlimited funds is real corruption.

Taking a bribe from insurance executives to pass ‘health care reform’ that favors them is wrong; touting that health care reform initiatives are moral in the first place is true corruption.

Giving Federal money to ACORN is horrific. Praising their work as noble is worse.

Funneling the larger share of TARP money to Democrat-supporters is simple graft. Arguing that TARP was good (and that we need another) is wicked.

Selling your power for a buck (or more power) is immoral, to be sure. Enslaving 95% of the country in perpetuity while pretending it's for the benefit of the other 5% is far worse. But corrupting your soul and demanding that others corrupt theirs - and calling it the height of virtue - is pure evil.

It's the Robespierres of the world (the leader of the French Revolution who kept the guillotine busy for the sake of revolutionary 'purity') who do the most harm.

[Hat Tip Hot Air.]

Monday, December 28, 2009

Money, Regulation, And Progress

Why is the country in such doldrums? Given the daily crises foisted on us the past year by the Federal government, the answer might seem obvious. But I mean something a little different...

Republicans bear much of the blame for the messes that have been created the past 10 years, to be sure. But when you hear someone express that view, consider who bears how much. Consider the following...

When Democrats took power in Washington at the end of 2006 the deficit was $150 billion, the national debt $8.5 trillion. By the the end of 2008 the deficit had grown to $430 billion; the national debt to $10 trillion.

Now that Democrats control the entire Federal government the deficit at the end of 2009 is $1.5 trillion. The national debt stands at $12 trillion and is scheduled to rise another $2 trillion over the next few years, more if ObamaCare passes.

Those figures are just the debt, not the total budget. To anyone older than 40 the total sums spent or committed appear staggering, incomprehensible. Estimates of the unfunded liability of Social Security, to choose only one example, hover in the $17.5 trillion range. Medicare's unfunded liability is double that. Those figures are beyond the imagination of even the most Cassandra of pundits a generation ago.

That said, the problems we face are not fundamentally political or even financial, and they're not amenable to a purely political or financial solution. While I look forward along with millions of others to "throwing the bums out" come November 2010, just changing the ratio of R's to D's in D.C. won't solve those fundamental problems. Republicans are no strangers to spending other people's money or controlling lives that are none of their business.

Just to highlight one aspect, for example: Why does the Federal government spend so much money? Because whenever you talk about eliminating Social Security or Medicare, there's push back from both sides of the aisle. That's not a political issue, it's a social one, fundamentally of the dominant ethics. Too many have lost or at least watered down the value of self-responsibility, a virtue even in the face of severe adversity.

To glance at another aspect, the money spent is only the most visible rape of productive citizens. The crushing burden of regulations — now about to explode with the EPA set to hobble every business in the country — exacts a much greater toll. Irrational legislation, i.e. almost all of it, eliminates or at least reduces what comes into existence in the first place. What isn't created is never missed by the majority of the populace.

Consider, technical improvements and miniaturization/storage densification continue at a healthy pace — the iPod, digital cameras, and thumb drives come to mind as examples. But, has there been a fundamentally new invention in the past 30 years?

Think of some from the mid-20th century: radio and TV, jets, satellites, and birth control pills. Even the modern computer is now over 60 years old, PCs a full 35. The list could be extended for an entire post. Has anything remotely comparable from the past generation's worth of years come to market?

In a pinch, one could argue that the scanning tunneling microscope squeaks under the cutoff (1981). Genome sequencing technology might qualify, though its value has not yet been realized. Fuel cells (50 year old technology) await commercialization, somehow.

(Before you answer "the Internet," that was a — highly successful — commercialization effort, not a new invention, though I grant that HTML is only 20 years old. Still, the technology for computer networks existed nearly 40 years ago, even in the private sector.)

Anyway, what to do to get things moving again? A big question with a long answer. For now, a teaser of just four words: destroy Dewey, restore Aristotle.

More on that in a future post...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

National Strike Jan 20, 2010

An enterprising fellow has initiated the idea of a national strike on Jan 20, 2010. The specific form is still taking shape but, so far, it appears to involve a "starve the beast" strategy.

The idea is to strike against advertisers who contribute to statist politicians and organizations. There's only a short time to get things going, but Jan 20 is targeted to be the birth of The Strike, not a one-day event. The sponsoring organization is aligned with several Tea Party organizations and could use your support.

Whether it, along with the 10th Amendment Center will succeed on this one effort, it's good to see that many Americans are starting to wake up to the growing tyranny about to engulf their lives.

The time to move is now. Every year that passes without massive action in favor of freedom will make it that much harder to undo the damage. The Progressives are not about to give up without a long and arduous fight, even if they lose their dominance in Congress in 2010.

Please lend your support. With enough voices, saying the right things, we can shout the Federal tyrants out of existence for good. If you wonder what a revolution might be like, or just want to feed your soul, read Thomas Paine's "The Crisis" written as a series of articles during the Revolutionary War. Better voices now, than guns later.

It's something like this, or dictatorship within a generation.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Analyzing Progressive Pathologies, Part 17

Progressives are endlessly fascinating to anyone interested in the pathology of left-wing reasoning and ethics.

Jonathan Chait, editor of the Nation The New Republic - among America's foremost and oldest of Progressive publications - blames Republicans for the current extreme form of the health care bill. He argues, if you want to be generous with language and use that word, that they could have compromised at any time and gotten a less radical left-wing bill.

Interesting approach. The obstinate, uncompromising Republicans refused to embrace moderate socialism (this once), and therefore the Democrats were forced to embrace radical fascism. Fascinating.

I think I'll try that line of attack sometime.

[Update: I incorrectly stated Chait's employer. The correction is above.]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

G.K. Chesterton On The Current Congress

No, G.K. Chesterton never met Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska). Chesterton died in 1936. But he clearly had someone very much like him in mind when he said,
"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." - The Cleveland Press, 3/1/21
I can't think of any time in America's past, except possibly when the New Deal legislation was passed, when this was more true.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Clever Quip of the Day

"I would give the Copehangen Conference a good, solid B+."

(A paraphrase of a commenter on HotAir.)

Now that's witty. Someone should tell Oprah.

McConnell Tells It Like It Is on Health Care Debate

Sen. Mitch McConnell has a few words to say about the debate over the health care bill.
Senators on both sides acknowledge that the health care bill we're considering is among the most significant pieces of legislation any of us will ever consider.

So it stands to reason that we'd devote significant time and attention to it.

Indeed, some would argue that we should spend more time and attention on this bill than most -- if not every -- previous bill we've considered.

The Majority disagrees.

Why? Because this bill has become a political nightmare for them.

They know Americans overwhelmingly oppose it, so they want to get it over with.

Americans are already outraged at the fact that Democrat leaders took their eyes off the ball. Rushing the process on a partisan line makes the situation even worse.

Americans were told the purpose of reform was to reduce the cost of health care.

Instead, Democrat leaders produced a $2.5 trillion, 2,074-page monstrosity that vastly expands government, raises taxes, raises premiums, and wrecks Medicare.

And they want to rush this bill through by Christmas -- one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

And here's the most outrageous part: at the end of this rush, they want us to vote on a bill that no one outside the Majority Leader's conference room has even seen.

That's right. The final bill we'll vote on isn't even the one we've had on the floor. It's the deal Democrat leaders have been trying to work out in private.

That's what they intend to bring to the floor and force a vote on before Christmas.

So this entire process is essentially a charade.
He may be trying just to score points, or he may be completely sincere. Either way, my respect for Senator McConnell just rose by several points.

The Left Provides Cover for the 2010 Campaign

Howard Dean is upset over the current form of the Senate health insurance bill — the contents of which only a handful even knows. Call me a conspiracy nut, but I'm not buyin' it.

Dean is the former head of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of the socialist state of Vermont. This is cover for vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election in a campaign that will begin in a few short weeks. This way, all can say "See, the hard Left didn't like it. The hard Right liked it even less. So, it must be centrist! I'm a centrist. Vote for me."

And, for those who believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell.

On the other hand. Progressives — Dean in particular — have always been disconnected from reality, so who really knows for sure?

Basically, his complaint is that - absent a 'public option' - it still allows insurance companies to make money, rather than the Feds offering health care to anyone for free. This is merely a socialist complaining about fascism. When Dean says,
"Progressives understood that a public plan would give Americans real choices about what kind of system they wanted to be in and how they wanted to spend their money. Yet Washington has decided, once again, that the American people cannot be trusted to choose for themselves."
the irony is so thick you couldn't cut it with my chainsaw.

Since when have Progressives ever been in favor of individuals choosing for themselves when, where, and how to spend their money? Even more absurd, how is the inclusion of an individual mandate - an aspect about which Dean is entirely silent - allowing the American people to choose?

I'll say one thing for Howard Dean. In the midst of any serious issue, he's always a sure bet for some comic relief.

[Hat Tip: PowerLine.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sanity Quote of the Day

I don't consider myself a cynic — though some do — since I believe that none of the vicious nonsense going on today is inevitable, or "human nature," or the result of some ineradicable or inborn tendency toward evil, etc. Still, it's hard for me not to sympathize with the sentiment expressed in the following quote:
No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up. — Lily Tomlin

Monday, December 14, 2009

Progressivism Infects Mathematics Instruction

"The social life gives the unconscious unity and the background of all [the child's] efforts and of all his attainments. ... I believe, therefore, that the true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child's own social activities.
I believe that the study of science is educational in so far as it brings out the materials and processes which make social life what it is."
I believe, finally, that the teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.
John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed (1897)
From a recent column by Michelle Malkin, we glean more of Dewey's Progressive education legacy.
[from a review by James V. Rauff of Millikin University] Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers "is divided into four parts.

The first part is devoted to a broad view of mathematics that includes historical and cultural implications.

Part Two includes nine classroom narratives in which teachers describe lessons they have used that infuse social justice issues into their mathematics curriculum. Included here … an AP calculus lesson on income distribution.

The third part contains three detailed classroom experiences/lessons. These include a physical depiction of the inequitable distribution of the world's wealth, the results of a student investigation into how many U.S. presidents owned slaves, and a wonderful classroom game called 'Transnational Capital Auction' in which students take on the role of leaders of Third World countries bidding competitively for new factories from a multinational corporation. ...

Short lessons, provocative cartoons and snippets of statistics are scattered throughout 'Rethinking Mathematics.'

A partial list of topics includes racial profiling, unemployment rate calculation, the war in Iraq, environmental racism, globalization, wealth distribution and poverty, wheelchair ramps, urban density, HIV/AIDS, deconstructing Barbie, junk food advertising to children and lotteries."
The Progressive virus has now infected even mathematics instruction and the patient is suffering from a high fever. If not reversed, and soon, permanent brain damage will inevitably result.

Obama and Grade Inflation

When asked by America's most successful con-artist, Oprah Winfrey, to grade his performance for the first year, Barack Obama gives himself a "good, solid B+."

How about a “J” for jail? That’s where he and the rest of his gang belong.

America the Bankrupt, In More Ways Than Money

"No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Gideon J. Tucker in Final Accounting in the Estate of A. B. (1866)
That pithy quotation borrowed by Mark Twain has been proved with real force once again, courtesy of the recent $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill from Congress. Here are a few horrific highlights:
"The 1,000-plus-page bill brings together six of the 12 annual spending bills that Congress had been unable to pass separately because of partisan roadblocks even though the current budget year began Oct. 1. [emphasis added]
"The bill increases spending by an average of about 10 percent to programs under immediate control of Congress, blending increases for veterans' programs, NASA and the FBI with a pay raise for federal workers and help for car dealers." [emphasis added]
The legislation also:
    Includes an improved binding arbitration process to challenge the decision by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to close more than 2,000 dealerships.
    Renews a federal loan guarantee program for steel companies. [And,]
    Calls for federal worker pay increases averaging 2 percent."
Equally disturbing,
"First, while most people have focused on health care and cap-and-trade, discretionary spending has leaped by 25 percent since the Democrats took the Congressional majority three years ago — plus $311 billion in additional 'stimulus' discretionary spending.

This comes to $561 billion more in discretionary spending over these three years than if they had limited growth to the baseline inflation rate.

Worse, this new spending has pushed the 2011–2020 discretionary spending baseline $1.7 trillion higher than three years ago."
And all this while the spotlight is on so-called health care reform that is carried out behind doors closed even to all but a handful in Congress.

A Congress that ignores the will of its constituents while spending them into ruin, an Executive who cheers them on and calls for ever more spending more than a year into a severe economic downturn, and a Supreme Court that does literally nothing about any of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is dictatorship 21st century America-style, about a generation away from becoming it 1920s Italian style.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Enemy Has His Own Problems

On the brighter side, not all is gloom and doom this fine snowy Sunday. Borrowing a phrase from Robert Tracinski, who used it in relation to the jihadists in the Middle East, the enemy has his own problems. Progressives like Matthew Ygelesias are whining that "the progressive agenda has ground to a halt."

Oh, if only it were so!

Careful not to get too cheered by this. What they mean, of course, is that the headlong rush into all-out fascism has slowed by a measurable amount. Personally, I don't have a speedometer that precise, but the fact that Reid is still wrangling with Democrats over the precise form of the health care insurance takeover is some reason for hope, I suppose.

Conservatives are equally worrisome in the form of their response, however. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit approvingly quotes,
"If you hadn’t become seduced by the delusion that Obama is a ‘progressive’ and that last year’s election represented some kind of historic realignment in favor of ‘progressive’ policies you might have seen this coming."
Unfortunately, Obama is absolutely a Progressive and last year's election was absolutely an historic realignment of the electorate. Twenty years ago, perhaps even as little as ten, a man like Obama could never have been elected, and by a comfortable margin, even running against a nothing like McCain.

That the office, events, and the pale counter-currents of the opposition have caused Obama or Congress to delay Cap and Kill, struggle on "health care reform," send a few troops to Afghanistan, and so forth doesn't change that. That these things are the leading topics of debate and legislation in the first place is proof that the Progressive agenda is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Just because the enemy has to reload, and occasionally regroup, doesn't mean the battle — much less the war — for freedom is going well. I'm sure people like Glenn Reynolds know that, so this little bit of bravado seems very out of place. Optimism is one thing. Declaring the tide is running in your favor is quite another.

What would make me share Mr. Reynolds optimism? Well, there are many possibilities, but here are a few:
    If SCOTUS actually showed any life and started threatening to strike down just about everything Congress has done the past year, or even a part of it (such as the "individual mandate"),
    If Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, and Barney Frank all lose their jobs in 2010 [Admittedly, Reid is a definite possibility],
    If, instead of 100,000 Tea Party protestors in D.C. on one day there were five million that camped for a month until Congressional leaders surrendered their agenda of the past year, and last, but far from least,
    If the Progressives ruling the House and Senate actually had some principled, effective opposition [though I give Rep. Michelle Bachmann and a few others big points for trying].
Anyway, it is a fine snowy Sunday and it's time to listen to some Harry James and then watch John Wayne in The Fighting Kentuckian. I hope and trust you all have similar delights to keep you sane.

The Party is Over, says Pelosi

I'll have much more to say about the recent House Bill to cripple the financial services industry of the entire country in coming weeks. For now, I couldn't let pass unremarked this quote from Nancy Pelosi:
"We are sending a clear message to Wall Street," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). "The party is over. Never again."
Exactly so. By which she means, of course, that the freedom to make your own financial decisions is over. If she has her way, the Federal Government will be making them for you from now on. If so, let the funeral begin. I've no doubt that the vultures in Congress will be among the first to start picking over the corpse.

Progressives Take Over Education, A Late Warning

Big Hollywood has been almost floor to ceiling complaints lately about Howard Zinn's Progressive history book and the recent documentary (The People Speak) based on it. Michelle Malkin gets into the act, too.

I'm glad they're highlighting the Marxist nature of Zinn's book, and the Progressive goals of his 'students', like Matt Damon. Unfortunately, they're about 110 (or 40) years behind the curve (the number depending on where you want to start), and bearing much less firepower than is needed.

John Dewey created the philosophy – and in some cases the practical implementation – of Progressive education 110 years ago with the publication of The School and Society in 1899. He wrote extensively on the subject in later works, both philosophical and popular. He was, in a sense, the anti-Rand before she published a word.

I'll save for later a full explication of Dewey's philosophy. For now, a simple quote or four will do to convey the flavor. First, his views on morality:
"Moral and social problems, for Dewey, are concerned with the guidance of human action to the achievement of socially defined ends that are productive of a satisfying life for individuals within the social context.

Regarding the nature of what constitutes a satisfying life, Dewey was intentionally vague, out of his conviction that specific ends or goods can be defined only in particular socio-historical contexts. In the Ethics (1932) he speaks of the ends simply as the cultivation of interests in goods that recommend themselves in the light of calm reflection."
In line with Pragmatism, his ethics is essentially contentless. It's whatever 'society' decides at any given time. But the basic approach is key here and that approach is unwaveringly collectivistic. That's even clearer in statements like these:
"I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race.
I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child's powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself. Through these demands he is stimulated to act as a member of a unity, to emerge from his original narrowness of action and feeling and to conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group to which he belongs." [My Pedagogic Creed (1897)]
That translated easily into his view of the purpose of education, from a social or political standpoint:
"I believe it is the business of every one interested in education to insist upon the school as the primary and most effective instrument of social progress and reform in order that society may be awakened to realize what the school stands for, and aroused to the necessity of endowing the educator with sufficient equipment properly to perform his task." [ibid]
By the late 1960s, Progressive education (at least in public schools) was nearly the only kind there was. What we see today — with the near monopoly of the views of Greens, unionists, and other Progressive types in education — is the inevitable result.

Compared to Dewey — as measured by the standard of radical transforming destructiveness — Zinn and his followers are pikers.

So, while once again, I'm glad that BH and Malkin are exposing these clowns, I'll be much more impressed when they start attacking the root of the problem. Given the perpetual myopia of most conservatives — as well as their not-so-intellectual leaders' unfortunate tendency to populism — I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sarah Palin Visiting Sandpoint Today

Ms. Palin continues her "Going Rogue" book tour with a stop tonight in Sandpoint, Idaho, the town near where I live. I was thinking of sashaying down to chat with her.

If I get the chance, any questions you want me to ask?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Joke of the Day, Regrettably

My lovely Aunt sent me the following delightful Joke of the Day:
George Bush and Vladimir Putin die and go to hell.
They spy a red phone and ask what it's for. Beelzebub informs them it's for calling back to Earth.

Putin asks to call Russia and talks for five minutes. When he finishes the devil informs him the charge is a million dollars, so Putin writes him a check.

George Bush gets his turn and talks for an hour. When he's finished the devil tells him there's no charge.

Putin hears this and goes ballistic. "Why does he get to call America for free?"

Satan replies, "Well, ever since Obama walked into the Oval Office it's become a local call."
Humor often relies a grain of truth to succeed. Brother, don't you wish that was the most unfunny joke ever?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Update to Natl Bureau of Prostitution Plan

Art may imitate life, but there are times when reality goes beyond any parody I could devise. I recently proposed establishing a National Bureau of Prostitution to provide 'increased access' for the lonely guys (and gals!) who couldn't afford 'acceptable quality' nookie. Courtesy of the fine fellow at Gods of the Copybook Headings, it turns out that — not too surprising, I suppose — the Dutch are ahead of me here.
[T]he government's top advisory agency - the Raad van State - has indicated that physically handicapped people are also entitled to sexual relations, and at the government's expense, if necessary.
File this one under: "Just when you thought the world couldn't possibly get more absurd..."

Badgers Unite!

I bought a new Canon EOS not long ago and I've been having a great time getting to know it. Here's a self-portrait of me confronting a Progressive.

Kidding aside, the Badger is a superb symbol for the struggle for freedom. This little guy is pound for pound the fiercest fighter in the animal republic. Peaceful until threatened, he prefers pursuing the satisfaction of his wants but will fight to the death if blocked. He's particularly intolerant of those who would use their larger size or numbers to dominate him. And, by the way, the Badger is related to the Skunk with whom he tries to get along but, well, you know, that isn't easy.

Badgers unite! You have nothing to lose but your change.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Emperor Pelosi Declares CongressCare Constitutional

Noted legal scholar, Speaker of the House of RipoffandResentYourConstituents Nancy Pelosi has declared that the Congressional bills to enslave doctors, insurance companies, and patients are, in fact, constitutional. True. They're constitutional in the same way that a very deep enema is.

Here's her rationalization justification. Please try to suppress tear-inducing laughter long enough to finish reading the quote. There will be a quiz afterward.
MYTH:"Health insurance reform could be unconstitutional…or violate the 10th amendment."

FACT: As with Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government has the Constitutional power to reform our health care system.

The 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that the powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states… or to the people.

But the Constitution gives Congress broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce. Congress has used this authority to regulate many aspects of American life [note: Boy, is she ever right about that!], from labor relations to education to health care to agricultural production. Since virtually every aspect of the heath care system has an effect on interstate commerce, the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited.
We'll set aside for later discussion that Emperor Pelosi chooses to ignore the 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments in her answer. (Not to mention two and half centuries of law protecting property rights and the right of voluntary trade. So do most so-called representatives these days; we'll pass by that for now.) Instead, let's just take her argument on its own terms.

On this basis, there is absolutely no limitation whatever on anything Congress chooses to legislate, and Pelosi admits as much in the end. Yes, I know, I know. But while this totalitarianism is a sad fact of contemporary political practice, it doesn't make her argument sound. Madison wrote about this on many occasions, saying for example:
"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own...

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest...

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property so called...

A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward other species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor...

If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just government, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments." -James Madison, "Property", National Gazette
Further, Jefferson wrote, on Constitutional limits: "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."

With respect to the Commerce Clause on which so much of Congressional mischief* has relied for a century, Madison explains in Federalist No. 42 this:
A very material object of this power was the relief of the States which import and export through other States, from the improper contributions levied on them by the latter.

Were these at liberty to regulate the trade between State and State, it must be foreseen that ways would be found out, to load the articles of import and export, during the passage through their jurisdiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the latter, and the consumers of the former.

We may be assured by past experience, that such a practice would be introduced by future contrivances; and both by that and a common knowledge of human affairs, that it would nourish unceasing animosities, and not improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public tranquility.
In short, the meaning of the clause as used in the Constitution is the very opposite of what Pelosi and her ilk want to believe (and want even more for you to believe). It's purpose was to prevent the States from interfering with free trade or rigging the game by passing State-specific, State-advantageous import/export duties. It was not to allow the Federal government, Mafia-like, to simply takeover the whole racket.

Pelosi does admit that the Constitution limits the omnipotence of our Federal masters in at least one way:
The 10th amendment does place one significant limit on Congress and the federal government: Congress cannot “commandeer” state officials to administer programs. It must get the consent of state officials who are asked, e.g., to run health programs for the poor or to help build highways. Typically, Congress obtains that consent by providing financial support to the state...
In other words, they can't outright enslave State officials, but they can bribe them into doing the Feds' dirty work for them. Whew, how's that for safeguarding your liberty? Feel better, now?

So far, it will surprise no one who has been paying attention the past two generations, the Supreme Court has said nary a peep about the proposed rape of the health-care-related business owners and those who trade with them. Don't expect that discussion, much less a ruling, anytime soon. Most of them are taking their cues these days from the Pelosi(s) of the world.

*"In 1942's Wickard v. Filburn, the court held that the Commerce Power was broad enough to penalize a farmer growing wheat for his own consumption on his own farm." [ibid, Healy at the Washington Examiner.]

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Gambit

Suppose you find yourself debating a Progressive over the moral (in)validity of welfare legislation — because you're a masochist or you just have a penchant for wasting your time. Try the following gambit. (It won't work, but the results will be instructive, or at least amusing.)

You: "So, you think that it's justifiable to mandate paying taxes to support [the elderly/the poor/the sick/the (insert your favorite 'downtrodden' or 'powerless' group here)]?"

Progressive: "Yes. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, 'Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.'"

You: "And it's moral to force [derivatives traders/doctors/health insurance companies/[pick your favorite 'selfish, evil rich bastard'] to supply the money or the good or service in question."

Progressive: "Yes, of course. We are our brother's keeper, after all."

You: "Fine. Tell you what. Since quality sex is as vital to human well being as money or medical care, let's establish a National Bureau of Prostitution, with a branch in every town in America."

Progressive: "What? That's ridiculous. Get serious."

You: "I am serious. There are a lot of lonely, ugly, poor guys (and gals — let's not be sexist) out there who aren't getting any. Or, what they do get is below acceptable quality. [If pressed on the standard of 'acceptable' be very vague.] We need to improve their 'access' to quality quim.

"So, I propose we establish a tax to pay for prostitutes for them. Better still, since there aren't enough good looking hookers to go around, let's require some Hollywood babes to participate. 'Voluntarily', of course, unless they want to pay a fine or go to jail.

"Now, this being a government program, the time required will be minimal when the bill is passed, say only once per month. It will rise in a few years to once per week, then once per day. Sooner or later, half their time will be spent in the brothel. But that's only fair, after all. They happen to be blessed with gifts that nature hasn't granted everyone. So, they should do this, and if they won't they should be legally forced."

Progressive: "But, but, that would be pretty much the same as kidnapping and rape." [Granted, I'm really exaggerating here, because no Progressive would ever make the connection. If government does it, on his/her view, it can't be equivalent to the crime performed by a private individual. Thus, for example, taxation can never be theft.]

What do you suppose would be the response?

Now, this may seem like a fantasy debate, but I actually tried this once with a dyed-in-the-wool 'liberal' female, an extremely smart mathematician. (She also happened to be very unattractive and would never have been required personally to contribute her services.) She was, not surprisingly, outraged. She was, however, unable to find a single flaw in the argument.

Naturally, I'm a little worried about giving Rahm Emmanuel any ideas here. But, hey, if we're going to have a government program, it might at least be one I could, so to speak, get behind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Health Care Bill: Fraud At Its Finest

You have to give the Democrats in Congress credit. They're nothing if not risk takers. According to a recent IBD editorial discussing the projected bill for the proposed Health Care bill:
The $848 billion figure is based on a 10-year run beginning in 2010 when there will be little, if any, spending — even though the taxes that fund the new welfare state program will begin the next year. In fact, only 1% of the spending will come in the first four years of the 10 years the Democrats are counting, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Now, that's criminal masterminding at its finest.

I'm sure the Dems are betting the American electorate won't notice the sleight of hand, or if they do they won't pressure Congress enough to kill the scam (or pressure any future one to repeal it). And the Dems might well be right.

What IDB doesn't add is that if the Feds spent only a few thousand dollars it would still be a moral crime. If, by some impossible miracle the Feds' health care plan actually did lower costs and improve quality, they would still have imposed it by force. In the process they'll have violated the rights to life, property, and voluntary trade, making it an actual crime according to the now-defunct U.S. Constitution.

If the Progressives had any courage — yes, I know, don't laugh — they would agree to the following deal...

Want to bitch about the cost of national defense (a Constitutional activity), and argue that it justifies massive welfare spending (an unconstitutional one)? Fine. Make you a deal, Lefties. Let's make contributing to both completely voluntary. Then, after three years, let's sum up how much funding has been provided to each category.

Betcha a trillion dollars the highly trusted military* gets a million times more money from voluntary donations than Social Security and Medicare combined. So, going by the progressives' Rousseauian "its the will of the people" justification for all coercive social legislation, we should pretty much end welfare.

That's a gamble I'm betting the thugs in Washington will never take.

[*Note: According to several Gallup polls, the military is trusted "a great deal" more than organized religion by about 45% to 29%, with Congress down at 6%.]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, and A Word of Thanks to Producers Everywhere

My sincere and deep gratitude to all the productive people in the world, and to those who protect their efforts.

I thank you for making the effort to stir a brain cell and a muscle fiber to create all the goods and services I use and enjoy.

I regret that I can do so little to keep the parasites from your wallet, your body, and your soul, as well as those you cherish. But, for what it's worth, I'm extremely grateful and vow to continue doing what I can for as long as possible.

Once again, thanks.

Jeff Perren

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Progressive's Handbook of Argument

[Here's a little something I've been toying with in my spare time, a not entirely satirical review of my experiences in debating Progressives the past year. Feel free to add to the list.]

1. Lie. All the time.
[One morning, for example, I commented on Powerline about the health care issue, advocating deregulation. Not long after, one came back with:

"Sure, more deregulation, that always works, worked well with Wall Street and the banking industry.... United Healthcare reports record profits and revenue, based on charging more in premiums and delivering less care. Great system, need more like UH to squeeze more out of the middle class....."

The usual lies. I linked to Reisman's Myth that Laissez-Faire is to Blame... but I doubt the creature read it.]
2. Make broad claims and make no effort to substantiate them. That forces the opponent to argue against a case that has not been made, tying up his time and resources.
Case in point: [name redacted] who frequently comments on Pajamas Media articles and HotAir posts, the very prototype of a Progressive.

"AGW deniers generally share a common financial interest in promoting their views. That’s why I was not surprised that the first “reference” in the article is to a commercial outlet for Plimer’s book. Ian Plimer is a Professor of Mining Geology with a background in the mining industry. His expertise in climate science is questionable, to be generous – his financial and career interests are transparent.

Although his book has proven popular with a certain segment of the public, it has been widely panned in the scientific community, simply because the “science” content is nothing but a series of cherry-picked primary sources, selected without regard for accuracy or veracity.

The “technological revolution” that is needed to halt global warming is not “unimaginable” except to those whose imaginations have ceased to function. Without engaging in the work to bring about this revolution, we are doomed to a future of dwindling fossil fuel resources, ongoing climate disruption, and eventually a very nasty and rapid rise in sea level worldwide due to continued carbon emissions.

There is no downside in moving to a sustainable, carbon-neutral economy – it is in the end a cleaner and more cost effective way to power an economy once the investment in infrastructure is in place. Wholesale rejection of mainstream scientific thought (”I will never believe the British Medical Journal again, and I have real doubts about the Lancet. The journals Nature and Science have become shockingly corrupt and dishonest on global warming.”) is one of the sure signs of late-stage global warming denial.

If the GOP continues to ignore the overwhelming evidence of AGW, and relies on the pseudo-scientists of the world for support, it truly is one of the worst times for science. Peer-review and broad consensus are the basis of scientific knowledge, and AGW deniers fail miserably on both counts. There is no peer-reviewed evidence that refutes the well-documented long-term warming that has been observed since the beginning of scientific measurements, and the broad consensus supports theories that recognize the impact of human activity on the global environment.

It is the best of times, in the sense that science can identify and propose remedies for the damage that humans do to their environment, and technology provides the tools to made these changes. It is only the political mechanism that is paralyzed by oligarchy. But even the biggest players in the fossil fuel game can see the their future will be very different. It is not possible to deny the science forever, as the consequences of warming are becoming more obvious every year."

[Note the sly character assassination in the form of insinuating that all "AGW deniers" are motivated by commercial gain, unlike Progressives who are "pure." The usual slander. Notice, too, the number of points made with no supporting links. Take particular note of the casual dismissal of any scientist who disagrees, characterized here as a pseudo scientist. Viz. Dr. Tim Ball, Dr. Fred Singer, Dr. Sallie Baliunus, Dr. William Gray, Dr. Patrick Michaels, and many more.]
3. When the opposition makes an unassailable point, simply ignore it, and switch the argument to another point.

4. When your arguments are shown several ways from Sunday to be flawed, wait a little while, then repeat the argument as if nothing had ever been said to demonstrate its flaws.

5. When an argument is made with six different supporting facts or sub-arguments, pick the weakest and focus exclusively on this.

[I call this technique "crawling through the cracks," a specialty of Progressives, but widely used today.]

6. NEVER acknowledge any fact or argument that in the least weakens your case, much less admit you were wrong. Winning, truth be damned, is the goal no matter the costs.

[The sure sign not only of a dogmatist, but one of the Pragmatist variety, which encompasses most Progressives.]

7. When you cite statistics, it doesn't matter if the source never supports your case, even when the numbers are from a Progressive-friendly site.

[The stats either bear another plausible explanation or are simply a non sequitur. (Popular in discussions of both economics and climate.)]

8. When caught advocating something blatantly injurious to freedom, the pocketbook, or an individual's well-being, affect a wide-eyed "Who me?" tone and pretend that the plain meaning of your words wasn't what you meant.

9. As needed, assert that "Republicans/conservatives/Mr. X" did evil, therefore, Y is good. In short, use the fallacy of false alternative liberally (pun intended).

10. To sound authoritative, generally display a completely unearned nose-in-the-air attitude that suggests anyone who disagrees is a flyover-country moron.

11. When cornered, play the victim card and whenever possible whine about ad hominem, while issuing plenty of them at the same time.

12. When needed, pull the sympathy card. Cry about how allowing freedom in this or that issue will lead to old women dying in the streets as capitalists look on and laugh. Ignore that this is historically untrue and morally irrelevant.

13. When someone makes a statement such as "Rand was insightful at times" with which you disagree, spend no time whatever considering whether it's true and what might show it or contradict it. Instead, seek out instances where it was not so and then act as if these constitute proof of a universal premise.

14. Substitute snark for argument and evidence. This is something of a restatement of the above, but bears repeating in this different form.

15. [Added 1/30/2010] When all else fails, whenever discussing science or economics, devolve the discussion as quickly as possible into technical minutiae. Ignore any ethical or political implications of any facts, unless they support your case.

16. Like the old-time Communists from whom you evolved (to become new-style Fascists), always promote government power at the expense of individual freedom. Trot out any facts that might be useful for your purpose, as needed, regardless of their relevance.

17. Like Fascists everywhere, pretend to be in favor of freedom, while assiduously working to undermine it at all times.

[Take the view, for example, that you don't want to nationalize industry, just regulate it... until there's nothing but the smallest difference of degree between the two. Ditto every aspect of individual freedom of action. Never tolerate the idea that anyone could be allowed to make a free choice that isn't in line with your pusillanimous ethical posturing.]

[It's particularly this last that makes Progressives so disgusting. They know they can't win openly by touting their beliefs in undisguised form. In this respect, the Soviets and Italian Fascists of the 1920s were more honest.]

Progressives, like Puritans, simply can not tolerate individuals living as they please, without these noble saints directing them. They invent all sorts of rationalizations, pretending bad things inevitably follow from freedom, in order to justify their fear and hatred of choice. No amount of evidence showing how unfounded are their beliefs will dissuade them, as it never does for the truly zealous.

I'm compelled to conclude that it's time for a Reformation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Veronique de Rugy Discusses 2nd Stimulus Talk

The insanity to which I alluded in the previous post is nowhere more evident than in recent talk in Congress to foist a second 'stimulus' on the American people. Ms. de Rugy is well worth reading on this subject because she's one of the few prominent voices that not only knows the 'stimulus' didn't work, but that none ever could. She writes:
Everyday Brings a New Bad Idea
[by Veronique de Rugy at NRO]

And sometimes it even brings several terrible ones. Today is one of these days.

First, the Democrats are once again talking about a second stimulus, except this time they won't call it a stimulus (because the first one gave the word stimulus a bad name) but a "jobs legislation." I doubt it would make any difference to remind them that government spending can't create jobs; that with government spending comes waste, fraud, and abuse; and that most of the money from the first stimulus still hasn't been spent.

Also, the Democrats want to use $200 billion of unused Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, not to reduce the deficit, but to spend on job creation. Interestingly, because the brilliant lawmakers behind the idea don't read newspapers, and haven't kept up with the broken promises made by the administration in February about how the $789 billion would create 3.5 million jobs, they are claiming that this move would create 6 million jobs.

House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson (D-Conn.) said momentum is building among his party to take unused Troubled Asset Relief Program money and put it toward job creation, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he’s trying to figure out a way to get a jobs bill on the House calendar before the chamber adjourns in mid December. The Larson bill, called the Transparent Markets Act, could create six million jobs, Larson said.

The silver lining: Americans understand that this administration and Congress have no clue what they are talking about. According to a CBS News Poll, "While the White House insists about a million jobs have been created by the stimulus package, Americans simply don't believe it. A mere 7% say the stimulus has already created jobs, 46% say jobs will be created eventually, 42% say it will never create jobs."
Sadly, I can't entirely share Ms. de Rugy's optimism here, much as — believe it or not — I would like to. The American people may not believe it has worked, but they're not yet convinced it couldn't, and I dare say that's true even of most in that 42%. If 42% of the electorate believed that Keynesian economics was inherently impractical — not to say immoral — there would be a peaceful revolution that would cast all but a sliver of the Federal Government out of work.

After all, nearly all of their vicious activity is related in one way or another to 'improving on' or 'compensating for' the alleged ill-effects of freedom and capitalism (which is the idea underlying Keynesianism). That threadbare excuse has been working since the Sherman Antitrust Act, long before Keynes ever published a word, and it's still working today.

When 42% of American adults believe that freedom is both moral and practical, the major problems we currently face — not just economic or political, but cultural and social — will have been long solved. Let's continue to strive for that golden day.

Barrias' Nature Unveiling Before Science

Amid the daily waves of pointless and unnecessary insanity that characterize life in America today, it's good to remind oneself there are still enormous values in existence. This sculpture by Barrias, Nature Unveiling Herself Before Science (in the Musee d'Orsay), is one such.

[Image from Musee d'Orsay]

As the museum's website describes it:
The statue was commissioned in 1889 decorate the new medical school in Bordeaux. A young woman, the allegory of nature, is slowly lifting the veils she is wrapped in. When he had finished the first version in white marble for the school, Barrias designed a second statue in polychrome, for the ceremonial staircase of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, in Paris. He used marble and onyx from the newly reopened quarries in Algeria.

Carefully carved to enhance the decorative qualities of the materials, the various parts of the statue play on the veins in the ribboned onyx for the veil, the mottled effect of the red marble for the robe, the preciousness of lapis lazuli for the eyes and malachite for the scarab and coral for the mouth and lips.
Refresh your soul and remember, living well and being happy is the best way to drive Progressives insane. Better them than you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Random Thoughts on Vampires Old and Young

Is it just me, or is the following some sort of cosmic alignment?

On the same weekend when a silly teenage vampire flick pulls in $72 million, the bloodsuckers in the Senate are moving forward to drain the life out of every taxpayer in America... and make us pay for the transfusion.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here are a few of the taxes proposed to pay for the so-called health care reform bill about to enter debate.
[This list includes taxes in the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the bill the Senate is currently debating, and other taxes mentioned as a possible way to pay for health care reform.]

    An income surtax on taxpayers earning more than $500,000 a year,[1]

    An excise tax on high-cost “Cadillac” health insurance plans that cost more than $8,500 a year for individuals or $21,000 for families,[2]

    An excise tax on medical devices such as wheelchairs, breast pumps, and syringes used by diabetics for insulin injections,[3]

    A cap on the exclusion of employer-provided health insurance without offsetting tax cuts,[4]

    A limit on itemized deductions for taxpayers with a top income tax rate greater than 28 percent,[5]

    A windfall profits tax on health insurance companies,[6]

    A value-added tax, which would tax the value added to a product at each stage of production,[7]

    An increase in the Medicare portion of the payroll tax to 3.4 percent for incomes great than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married filers),[8]

    An excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages including non-diet soda and sports drinks,[9]

    Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and spirits,[10]

    A tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage of up to 2.5 percent of their adjusted gross income,[11]

    A limit on contributions to health savings accounts,[12]

    An 8 percent tax on all wages paid by employers that do not provide their employees health insurance that satisfies the requirements defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services,[13]

    A limit on contributions to flexible spending arrangements,[14]

    Elimination of the deduction for expenses associated with Medicare Part D subsidies,[15]

    An increase in taxes on international businesses,[16]

    Elimination of the tax credits paper companies take for biofuels they create in their production process–the so-called “Black Liquor credit,”[17]

    Fees on insured and self-insured health plans,[18]

    A limit or repeal of the itemized deduction for medical expenses,[19]

    A limit on the Qualified Medical Expense definition,[20]

    An increase in the payroll taxes on students,[21]

    An extension of the Medicare payroll tax to all state and local government employees,[22]

    An increase in taxes on hospitals,[23]

    An increase in the estate tax,[24]

    Increased efforts to close the mythical “tax gap,”[25]

    A 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery and similar procedures such as Botox treatments, tummy tucks, and face lifts,[26]

    A tax on drug companies,[27]

    An increase in the corporate tax on providers of health insurance,[28] and

    A $500,000 deduction limitation for the compensation paid by health insurance companies to their officers, employees, and directors.[29]

James Madison would simply not recognize his country now. But, then, given that there's more fantasy in Congress than Twilight today, who could blame him?

Wait 'til the fools in D.C. find out what kind of demons they're about to unleash. They'll be subsidizing garlic farmers to the tune of an ethanol-sized bill.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Barnes & Noble nook, Kindle Killer

Barnes and Noble has brought out a new eReader just in time for the holidays. They're already sold out. No wonder, once you see the specs on this unit.

About the size and weight of a trade paperback, it stores hundreds of books, and has a Micro-SD slot so you can store thousands. The battery is user-replaceable and rated to last 2-3 years. And, oh, it has an MP3 player built in. Love it.

I love gadgets to begin with, but I'm especially interested in the growth of the eBook market because the odds of my getting a novel published by a mainstream publisher are now between epsilon and delta. (For non-geeks, that's a calculus joke. It means my chances are zilch.)

I'm hoping an exploding eBook market will help compensate for the slump that has taken over the industry since the number of distributors collapsed some years back.

(It doesn't help that Progressives dominate all the mainstream houses, but they must go to sleep from time to time. That, or they get temporarily overcome by useful greed, since non post-modern novels do get published from time to time. Some of them do very well; in fact, they're practically the only ones that do, a Hollywood-film box-office bomb lesson that neither group has been willing to live by, to date.)

Anyway, check out this cool device.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Capitalism More Popular In Russia Than America

When Russian and East German young people favor capitalism more than their American counterparts, you know your culture is in trouble.

[Image: American Enterprise Institute]

Of course, anyone over 30 living there has direct experience with the practical effects of those ideologies - which this American generation is only beginning to see. (Even those under 30 can still understand the effects via their their parents.) And, while it may not be the official ideology, Russia isn't far from communism even today. The fascist system that currently dominates that country isn't much different in practice.

Will the rising generation here open their eyes in time?

Quote of the Day: Thomas Paine on Freedom

After the recent disastrous vote in the House on HR 3962, it's good to remind ourselves...
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it." --Thomas Paine, The Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Sunday, November 8, 2009

House Votes for Dictatorship

Following are the names of 220 Congressional traitors who voted to make the United States a de jure dictatorship.


Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown, Corrine

Carson (IN)
Castor (FL)
Connolly (VA)

Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
Donnelly (IN)

Edwards (MD)

Frank (MA)

Green, Al
Green, Gene

Hall (NY)
Hastings (FL)

Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.

Kilpatrick (MI)
Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Klein (FL)

Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe

Markey (MA)
McCarthy (NY)
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore (KS)
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick

Nadler (NY)
Neal (MA)

Pastor (AZ)
Pingree (ME)
Polis (CO)
Price (NC)


Rothman (NJ)
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Smith (WA)

Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)

Van Hollen

Wasserman Schultz
Wilson (OH)

Once the totalitarian principle is established that you can be forced on pain of fine or imprisonment to buy a service — contradicting the Constitution in at least three places — your life is no longer your own by law. It won't be long before a de jure dictatorship becomes one de facto. If the Senate approves the monstrosity of HR 3962 passed yesterday in the House, it's goodbye freedom in America unless a revolution reverses the country's course. Good luck getting a large enough number of your fellow citizens to go along with that.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

11:59 On the Dictatorship Clock, HR 3962

The Wall Street Journal outlines just a few of the horrendous aspects of the House bill on so-called health care reform.
• Sec. 202 (p. 91-92) of the bill requires you to enroll in a "qualified plan." If you get your insurance at work, your employer will have a "grace period" to switch you to a "qualified plan," meaning a plan designed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If you buy your own insurance, there's no grace period. You'll have to enroll in a qualified plan as soon as any term in your contract changes, such as the co-pay, deductible or benefit.

• Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a "qualified plan" covers and how much you'll be legally required to pay for it. That's like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income. Individuals and families earning less than these amounts will be eligible for subsidies paid directly to their insurer.


• Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement. [emphasis added]
Unconstitutional, immoral, and impractical. This isn't just a takeover of the health care insurance businesses; this is a takeover of you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Speculation on Fort Hood Shooting

This musing could be completely off the wall, but the news media appear to have forgotten, or never learned, the concept of "sleeper agent."

Hope I'm wrong. 'Cause, if I'm right, the shooter is unlikely to be the only one.


Apparently my admittedly wild speculation was not so wild after all. How depressing.
• Navy Signalman Hassan Abujihaad last year was convicted of tipping off al-Qaida to battle group movements in the Persian Gulf, including disclosing classified documents detailing the group's vulnerability to terror attack.

• Army Spec. Ryan Anderson in 2004 was convicted of leaking military intelligence to al-Qaida terrorists, including sensitive information about the vulnerabilities of armored Humvees.

• Army reservist Jeffrey Battle in 2003 pleaded guilty to conspiring to wage war against the U.S., confessing he enlisted "to receive military training to use against America."

• Army reservist Semi Osman in 2002 was arrested for providing material support to al-Qaida and pleaded guilty to weapons charges after agreeing to testify against other terror suspects.
So, even if this latest Islamist lunatic isn't a sleeper, others are. Great.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Random Thought About the NY-23 Election Contest

So, now that conservatives have chased Republican-lookalike Dede Scozzafava out of the race, how does that square with Barack Obama's recent statement that:
Democrats are an opinionated bunch. You know the other side, they just kind of do what they’re told.
But then, keeping track of the times Obama has been wrong has long since become impossible.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A New Health Reform Rallying Cry: NOYB

Progressive commenters on blogs often raise the counter-charge in discussions of health care reform that Republicans have no ideas. Well, here's an idea: None of Your Business.

How's that work?

When asked how you — or millions of uninsured — are supposed to acquire affordable health care, here is the only sensible answer: None of Your Business. That is, whether I'm sick or well, insured or uninsured, able to afford health care or not is my problem and no one elses. Ditto every other individual and family in the United States.

But what about the argument that my (and your, and hers, and his, and that other guy's) illness "imposes costs on Society?"

In one sense, this is an unanswerable argument. Either proximately or remotely, everything one person does has some effect on everyone else. Those pesky people on eBay who keep bidding up the price of Glenn Miller records are eating into my health care budget. Welcome to the real world.

But there's another answer to that argument, one more directly relevant and one whose implication is the exact opposite of what the Progressive wants. It's true that Peter's illness can cost Paul. So, stop forcing Peter to pay for Paul's medical care, or anything else.

The costs that you are paying for the other guy is a form of theft. The Federal Government takes money from you to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and other health or insurance related programs. Most of us don't volunteer to fund those programs, yet the money is taken anyway. In a rights-respecting society — one that wasn't suffused with or misdirected by the language of political correctness — that would be called theft.

When Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization," he was, in essence, arguing that government theft is the only way to have the benefits of an advanced society. You would think that a Supreme Court Justice, at least one serving 100 years ago, would know better. You would think he would know that freedom is practical, as well as the highest social good. But, as a man friendly to Progressivism, it was a truth he simply couldn't allow himself to recognize.

Likewise, today's Progressives can't allow themselves to acknowledge that freedom is the only solution to the alleged problem they pose. If any of those commenters mentioned above were truly interested in making health care more affordable in general they would be first on board to de-regulate the insurance sector.

That will never happen because that word, "de-regulate," is to a Progressive as garlic is to a vampire. And asking these blood suckers to give up draining your wallet — as an adjunct to draining your life in a hundred other ways — is about the same as asking vampires to "Just Say No."

So, instead of saying no, I propose saying "none." As in, None of Your Business.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Global Warming Myths Dispelled

...with a single letter: s.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, retired professor of physics Howard Hayden slays two recent viro myths with ease. Like zombies, they'll no doubt return, but arguments like these are hard to overcome.
It has been often said that the "science is settled" on the issue of CO2 and climate. Let me put this claim to rest with a simple one-letter proof that it is false.

The letter is s, the one that changes model into models. If the science were settled, there would be precisely one model, and it would be in agreement with measurements.

Alternatively, one may ask which one of the twenty-some models settled the science so that all the rest could be discarded along with the research funds that have kept those models alive.

We can take this further. Not a single climate model predicted the current cooling phase. If the science were settled, the model (singular) would have predicted it.

Let me next address the horror story that we are approaching (or have passed) a "tipping point." Anybody who has worked with amplifiers knows about tipping points. The output "goes to the rail." Not only that, but it stays there. That's the official worry coming from the likes of James Hansen (of NASA­GISS) and Al Gore.

But therein lies the proof that we are nowhere near a tipping point. The Earth, it seems, has seen times when the CO2 concentration was up to 8,000 ppm, and that did not lead to a tipping point. If it did, we would not be here talking about it. In fact, seen on the long scale, the CO2 concentration in the present cycle of glacials (ca. 200 ppm) and interglacials (ca. 300-400 ppm) is lower than it has been for the last 300 million years.
Prof. Hayden demonstrates here a superb method for convincing others: he uses facts to show how the assertion couldn't possibly be true, no matter what nuances one might consider. Or, more accurately, it's a superb method when the reader is open to logical persuasion. Whether that's true of someone willing to accept a job as EPA Administrator is a question I leave to another time.

[Hat Tip: Mises Institute via Peter Cresswell]

A Thanks, and A Welcome To New Shaving Leviathan Visitors

First, my sincere gratitude to Quin Hillyer of American Spectator for his recent mention of Shaving Leviathan. Thanks to that, hundreds of new readers have visited. I hope many find the material moves them to stick around.

In a related thought, one that's been noticed by lots of bloggers before me to be sure, it's fascinating to see where some of these readers come from.

In looking through the stats I've noticed individuals from as far as Gaborone, South-east, Botswana and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – places I didn't even know had Internet connections. No patronizing intended; just awe at modern technology.

Thanks to one and all for stopping in and please share your views in the comment sections.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Federal Government Circus

...coming to your town soon.

As he so often does, Thomas Sowell pegs the Obama administration precisely.
Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?
Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn't know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House?

Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government-- people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America's influence in the world.
Sadly, there are many who envisioned just this sort of thing one year ago, and much that is still to come. Even sadder, they were largely ignored by all but a small percentage of voters and commentators.

Just to give a putrid taste of the thrills-to-be not yet fully rehearsed:
    1. Cap and Trade is just getting warmed up in Congress and Obama is fully behind it. The EPA is already working to hobble the coal business even further.

    2. The discussions of tightening regulations on finance-related businesses is, so far, flying mostly under the radar. Here's a small sampling from Treasury Sec. Geithner and Lawrence 'tax 'em more than they own' Summers, Director of the National Economic Council:

    The administration's plan will impose robust reporting requirements on the issuers of asset-backed securities; reduce investors' and regulators' reliance on credit-rating agencies; and, perhaps most significant, require the originator, sponsor or broker of a securitization to retain a financial interest in its performance.

    The plan also calls for harmonizing the regulation of futures and securities, and for more robust safeguards of payment and settlement systems and strong oversight of "over the counter" derivatives. All derivatives contracts will be subject to regulation, all derivatives dealers subject to supervision, and regulators will be empowered to enforce rules against manipulation and abuse.

    Third, our current regulatory regime does not offer adequate protections to consumers and investors. Weak consumer protections against sub-prime mortgage lending bear significant responsibility for the financial crisis. The crisis, in turn, revealed the inadequacy of consumer protections across a wide range of financial products -- from credit cards to annuities.

    Once health care/insurance is socialized still further (which is likely even if the current bills are not passed), this will take center stage. Or, should I say, it will take the center ring in the thirty-three ring circus more commonly known as the Federal Government.

    3. TARP II is being floated as a trial balloon, even though it's now widely acknowledged that the money was wasted and will probably never be paid back. Some form of this Keynesian debacle will make it back into Congressional awareness in the next year or so. It has to, from their perspective, since employment figures are still headed south.

Those don't even touch on foreign policy issues, such as the way Obama is doing everything possible to lose the conflict in Afghanistan without losing any chance of re-election. And, with respect to Iran, he said recently, "I'm not interested in victory. I'm interested in resolving the problem."

Just a few of the many delights that freedom lovers can look forward to shaking their heads about in the next year. But neither the eminent Mr. Sowell nor anyone else paying attention need be surprised. (I'm sure he wasn't.) This is exactly what to expect when Progressives take power, and the exact reason they should never be allowed any influence whatever in the political system.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rate of Federal Spending Increases, Yikes!

In case you just want to wake up in a big damn hurry, here's a brief post from the ever-reliable Veronique de Rugy on the increasing rate of U.S. Federal spending:
[I]t took 16 years for the federal government to go from spending $1 trillion a year to spending $2 trillion a year (that's 28 years, if you look at the data in real dollars). It only took seven years for the federal government to go from spending $2 trillion to spending $3 trillion (that's six years in real dollars).

And now listen to this: Without taking into consideration how much health-care reform — or any of the other crazy new programs the administration is likely to come up with in the next few years — is going to cost, it will only take five years for the federal to go from spending $3 trillion to spending $4 trillion. And another five years to go from spending $4 trillion to $5 trillion...
Read it and weep... or hide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Goddess of the Market, Not So Worshipful

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That first line from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities might serve well to sum up Jennifer Burns' new biography of Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Market. The book, apparently by design, is a long series of contradictions — about Rand, her philosophy, and the people she affected.

"The most obvious contradiction," writes Burns in the Introduction, "lies on the surface: Rand was a rationalist philosopher who wrote romantic fiction." She continues on page 6: "The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes this not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts."

Those familiar with Rand's work will know that she would never have accepted a characterization of this kind, about herself or her philosophy. Much of her philosophy was devoted to eliminating invalid dichotomies of just that sort.

Yet, for all the interpretive differences Rand fans will have with Burns, the book does provide a wealth of detail on the novelist's life and thought. Those details provide numerous new historical snippets — courtesy of the substantial amount of archival-related material and other sources she uses — or at least a convenient compilation of them in one spot. Also helpful is that Burns writes with sufficient honesty and clarity that it's rarely difficult to separate what she relates about Rand from how she evaluates it.

That's particularly true of the first few chapters where she chronicles Rand's pre-Fountainhead days. In them, we discover in more detail than other biographies to date what life was like for Alissa Rosenbaum in Russia, and afterward for the young Ayn Rand in America. We get a fuller picture of her struggle to come to America, and the myriad difficulties she faced for the next two decades.

It's this early portrait that will likely be of most interest to hard-core Rand fans, since those years have been only sketchily drawn before. Her education isn't covered in as great a detail here as some might wish, but there is considerable information about her family life. Some of that is painted more prosaically than Rand did herself via We the Living, but there is a feel of authenticity about it nonetheless.

It's also in the chapters covering Rand's life up to about age 40 where Burns is more successful in suppressing her disdain for her subject.

She writes (on page 25 in Chapter 1), discussing Rand in Hollywood circa 1927, "This anger and frustration, born from her professional struggles, was itself the greatest obstacle to Rand's writing career." Not exactly complimentary, but nowhere near the sort of criticism we encounter later, as we'll see.

Commenting on Night of January 16th, Burns says, "Rand intended Bjorn Faulkner to embody heroic individualism, but in the play he comes off as little more than an unscrupulous businessman with a taste for rough sex." (Chapter 1, pg. 28.)

Needless to say, a Rand fan is likely to have a very different take. Still, the material covering the play's production is ample and thorough, a tribute to the many years Burns spent researching the book.

The subtle digs continue, though. Writing about Rand's manner of socializing in New York during the end of 1934/beginning of 1935, Burns says, "At any mention of religion, morality, or ethics she would transform from a silent wallflower into a raging tigress, eager to take on all comers. Neither persona made for pleasant company." (Chapter 1, pg. 30-31.)

That depended, of course, on the company she kept, something the history professor doesn't always detail. What's shown doesn't suggest her listeners were annoyed, however much Burns might be on their behalf.

Her take on Rand's involvement in politics in the 1930s contains similar statements. In Chapter 2 (pg 39), she says of the budding activist's efforts for Willkie during the 1940 presidential campaign, "Rand was suspicious of both democracy and capitalism." And, "Like any small-town booster she touted the glories of American capitalism and individualism."

Errors and contradictions — not to mention subtle insults — of that kind are sprinkled throughout the book. Even so, given the extensive and careful research displayed, most Rand fans will find Goddess a compelling read. The pace is lively, the new information fascinating, and it's rarely hard to separate the wheat from the locust clinging to the stalk.

One example of a mistaken interpretation easily dismissed is the biographer-cum-analyst's statement (on pg. 42) about the development of The Fountainhead. She asserts, "Her ideas also reversed traditional understandings of human behavior by exalting a psychological mindset utterly divorced from anything outside the self."

Solipsism of any variety is the last thing Rand would put forth or defend. But, here again, the material that leads Burns to this conclusion is presented clearly and the reader can make his or her own judgment.

Another example occurs soon after (on page 45) when Burns discusses Rand's attendance at the lecture of socialist intellectual Harold Laski, where the novelist took notes that would inform the characterization of Ellsworth Toohey. "Most of Rand's notes on Laski's lecture, and her resultant description of Toohey, showcased her distaste for all things feminine."

This — as an evaluation of the creator of Kira Argounova, Dominique Francon, and Dagny Taggart — is dumbfounding at minimum. (Readers would have to go all the way back to Jinx's "[W]omen are the bunk" in ‘Good Copy’ to find anything to support that view. Even in that story, unpublished during her lifetime, the message — taken in context — is clearly not misogynistic.)

Yet, right after, Burns writes, "Rand was repelled by the women in the New School audience, whom she characterized as sexless, unfashionable, and unfeminine. Apparently, in Burns' view, this is "misogyny," a criticism she levels more than once in Goddess.

There are similar mischaracterizations of Rand's literary output in Chapter 3. Writing about The Fountainhead, she asserts, "As Rand struggled to make concrete what she intended by the heroic, she described characters with icy emotional lives and distant, destructive relationships."

One can't help but wonder if Dr. Burns has ever heard phrases such as "creating drama through character conflict," "inner tension," and the like. Even with Roark, perhaps Rand's most 'icy' character, we see that at work. Think of his pained reaction when Dominique reveals her plan to leave him and marry Peter Keating. "I don't know how I'm going to live through tonight." Or, the scene where he sweeps Mallory's tiny cherubs onto the floor in outrage.

Burns soon goes on to contradict herself, anyway, by saying: "Although their passions for each other are all-consuming, in another sense the novel's characters never truly relate to each other." Apparently explicating just what comprises "another sense," she writes, "Lovers don't hold hands, they hold wrists. And then there is the infamous rape scene."

[She recognizes a little later, simultaneously subtly dismissing it, Rand's explanation that "If this is rape, it's rape by engraved invitation."]

Burns' dislike for Rand's ethical and political views comes in for the same dismissive treatment. In Chapter 3 (pg. 89) she says, "Rand was not the first thinker to criticize altruism or to suggest that noble sentiments often cloak base motives."

True enough. But she might have been the first to question whether or not those sentiments themselves were, in fact, noble. In one scene in We The Living, an argument between Andrei and Kira, the Communist says, "You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods." To which Kira responds, "I loathe your ideals." Burns even quotes the line, yet she doesn't seem to have absorbed its meaning.

Her interpretations of Rand's views are even more askew when she writes in Chapter 4 about The Moral Basis of Individualism. "Rand tried to resist the implications of this conclusion [that collectivism is based on exploitation of the more productive] and return to the egalitarianism of The Fountainhead." [Pg. 113]

How anyone could believe that Rand ever embraced egalitarianism in any form is something of a mystery. It's solved only, and only to a degree, by her view that Rand alternated between what she calls "elitism" and respect for the common man. This is yet one more of the false alternatives Rand rejected during this period of her development. Unfortunately, Burns' narrative clings to it far longer.

One possible explanation for why she does can be gleaned from a quote on page 122: "[Rose Wilder] Lane also rejected Rand's atomistic view of the world." To Burns, to advocate individualism is, apparently, to have an "atomistic view" of human relations. But by this time in her life Rand had largely discarded those elements of Nietzsche that influenced her earlier work.

The biographer is no fairer to Rand's approach to personal relations during this period of her life. In reviewing conflict-laden letters passed between Isabel Paterson and Rand, Burns writes, "No doubt her tone was partially inspired by her [Paterson's] mood swings, but Rand's failure to carefully tend the relationship had also drawn forth this dyspeptic and angry response." [Pg. 127]

In short, Rand — the much younger acolyte and, even by Burns' estimate, much less inclined to dyspepsia — bears at least equal if not more responsibility for difficulty getting along with her mentor. She mentions more than once how "tactless" Rand was to write her then-friend about her criteria of success: 100,000 copies of The Fountainhead sold, and her later joy in approaching it.

She makes the charge all the while quoting Wm. F. Buckley's assessment of Paterson (pg. 132): "intolerably impolite, impossibly arrogant, obstinately vindictive." Still, according to Burns, "the friendship's end speaks to Rand's weaknesses as well."

There's no hint in Goddess that Burns ever considers whether Paterson might simply have been jealous of Rand's growing influence and success.

But there are still larger errors in Burns' understanding of Rand and her philosophy. This whopper, for example: "Rand's theory of natural rights was based on fiat, on her stating it must be so." (Chapter 4, pg. 128.)

It's something of a mystery on what she bases this conclusion. We do get a hint on the prior page when she says, "Though rigorously abstract, Rand's discourse was in many ways aggressively anti-intellectual. She was uninterested in placing herself within the broader community of thinkers..."

That last is most definitely true. Objectivists and others sympathetic to Rand's philosophy may have a rather different evaluation of that fact, however. Rand certainly had little if any interest in being part of a "community," even of thinkers. But to criticize an avowed iconoclast and innovator for not being part of the crowd seems very odd indeed.

Her questionable assertions even extend to issues of basic logic. She writes (in Chapter. 5, on page 148): "Rand's focus on reason led her to declare that paradoxes and contradictions were impossible... a premise and a conclusion could never clash, unless an irrational thought process had been employed."

That view is hardly original with or limited to Rand, since it's employed by anyone who adheres to Aristotelian principles at all, which is to say just about anyone who isn't a blatant mystic, an Hegelian, or a polylogist.

Burns demonstrates a similar misunderstanding of the concept of "social metaphysics." She claims, "Cast as a psychological syndrome, the same idea [Roark's "stoic disregard for the opinions of others"] became dangerous, because it suggested that the abnormal should be normal. Essentially, 'social metaphysics' made everyday human concern with the thoughts and opinions of others problematic and pathological." [Pg. 154]

This, for the first time in the book, borders on sheer distortion of Rand's beliefs. Sadly, that theme continues with greater force in the second half of the book.

That's shown in such statements as: "Rand demonstrated a keen appreciation for capitalism's creative destruction... Ignoring the daily drudgery of economic life, Rand portrayds [sic] capitalism and capitalists as creative, even glamorous." [Chapter. 6, pg 165.]

The temptation to suggest that Dr. Burns speak for herself about daily drudgery is overwhelming. Clearly though, she is here and it remains easy to separate Rand's views from hers, for anyone who has read much Rand.

That last signals the only inherent danger in Goddess of the Market, but it's a minor one. Those wholly unfamiliar with Rand's novels and non-fiction will find a very unattractive Rand by looking through Burns' eyes. But few will approach her through a biography first and there are many counterweights readily available anyway.

So, for example, Burns writes: "Reviewers were right to notice that alongside its reverent depiction of capitalist heroes, Atlas Shrugged had a decidedly misanthropic cast." [Chapter. 6, pg. 172]

If to reverently depict inviolately honest, thinking producers as heroes and malevolent, statist parasites as villains is "misanthropic," this Rand fan can only wish for a great deal more misanthropy in literature, not to say the world.

If to believe that the statist parasites are all too prevalent and influential is "misanthropic," then the world of Atlas Shrugged — widely recognized today as uncomfortably like our current one — did us a service by predicting it, as a warning. As Rand explained not long after (when asked if Atlas Shrugged was prophetic or descriptive), one of her purposes in writing it was to prevent the prophecy from becoming a description.

It's at around this point in Goddess that the author really goes off the rails. As it progresses, we see less and less of Rand and more and more of Burns. She says, for example, (Chapter 6, pg. 172): Rand was "quick to divide humanity into world-shaking creators and helpless idiots."

Even given the essentialized — let's grant stark — view of the world presented in Atlas Shrugged, it's mysterious how the careful historian managed to overlook so many characters. No one would place in either group the bum on the train who talks with Dagny, the mother in Galt's Gulch, or any of dozens more minor characters who populate the novel. Eddie Willers is, if nothing else, the most obvious counter-example.

Outside the novel, considering Rand's frequent and decades-long praise for 'the average American,' Burns' error becomes completely inexplicable.

Those errors deepen as the book moves into its final chapters. In Chapter 8, the author makes a common claim. "Rand trumpeted her distrust of emotion in almost all her writing." [Pg. 225]

Setting aside that Dr. Burns seems not to have caught on to the method Rand used to create dramatic tension, it's curious how she reaches this conclusion. Rand had a definite view about the proper relationship — one could even say hierarchy — between reason and emotion. But to say she advocated repression — even inadvertently — is selective reading at best.

The closest examples that come to mind are a description of Rearden's "asceticism," or Dagny's thoughts during an early train ride when she could "just let herself feel." But this is a valid artistic tool — and contrasts brilliantly with their later sensuality during the affair.

That assessment certainly doesn't apply to Rand's philosophy, either, which is about as far from Puritanism as any could be. As is so often the case, Burns' reading seems to be a conventional one, and therefore misses Rand's take on the subject entirely.

A less generous reading of Goddess leads to the conclusion that, at least in later years, according to Burns, Rand was a sheer dogmatist. She says as much a little further on in Chapter 8: "There seemed to be two Objectivisms: one that genuinely supported intellectual exchange, engagement, and discourse, and one that was as dogmatic, narrow-minded, and stifling as Rand's harshest critic's alleged." [Pg. 235]

There are several examples throughout the book with this subjectivist tinge, of writing as if someone's view constituted reality. Fortunately, they're concentrated more near the end and even there don't burden the biography much.

Her view of Rand comes out clearly again when she says, "Rand could turn her charisma on and off at will, charming those who paid her proper homage while freezing out those that did not." [Pg. 235] Someone more inclined to admire Rand might translate this as "When she liked someone she was pleasant and friendly. When she didn't, she was indifferent."

In that form, Rand's attitude looks considerably more benign and it's hard to see the actual wording as a mere difference in style. That's revealed starkly in what is perhaps Dr. Burns' most illuminating statement. Talking about the period of the NBI lectures, she writes:

"The presence of Rand, a charismatic personality, was enough to tip Objectivism into quasi-religious territory, but Objectivism was also easy to abuse because of its very totalizing structure. There were elements deep within the philosophy that encouraged its dogmatic and coercive tendencies." [Chapter 8, pg 237.]

Putting it in the past tense doesn't let the author off the hook.

Let pass as just a matter of style that people, not philosophies, have tendencies. Here, Dr. Burns shows her tendency to the pragmatist philosophy clearer than anywhere else. We also see here — much more than with earlier hints in the book — with just what contempt the biographer views her subject and Objectivism.

Why she does is a little harder to divine, but it likely has much to do with this belief: "Although Rand celebrated independence, the content of her thought became subsumed by its structure, which demanded consistency and excluded any contradictory data derived from experience or emotion." [Chapter. 8, pg. 235]

How experience can include "contradictory data," Dr. Burns does not explain. Perhaps she's suggesting that data from reality (and emotions?) contradicted Rand's thought, which the philosopher — dogmatist that she was according to Burns — refused to consider. But that is just a guess. Vague, quasi-academic writing of that sort makes it impossible to be sure.

The interpretation of Rand's character she settles on is summed up in the Epilogue. Those who attended NBI lectures, she claims, would not be shocked by Rand's failings, apparently having seen them first hand. Yet, "to the outside world Rand emerged a deeply unsavory figure, manipulative, controlling, self-deceived, and wildly emotional despite her professed rationality." [Pg. 280]

If Dr. Burns disagrees with this view in the slightest she never says so, and most of the evidence points the other way. Regrettably, that point of view colors the entire biography. That, above all, is what nettles most — not the presence of criticism, which is here and there justified, but the near absence of high praise, which in the case of Ayn Rand and her work is wholly justified.

Nevertheless, whatever one thinks of Jennifer Burns' personal philosophy, or her evaluation of Rand as a person and thinker, her book offers a fairly comprehensive and detailed look at the life and work of Ayn Rand. It may not be the biography Rand fans could wish for, but it’s the best one so far, by far.

That, if anything, is what makes Rand's life — or at least its chronicling — "not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts."

[Note: The preceding review is pre-printed here by kind permission of Peter Cresswell, Editor/Publisher of Free Radical. It's scheduled to appear in the next issue.]