The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: November 2006

A Eurabian Roundup

Scientology convert and couch-stomping actor Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes in a 15th century castle in Italy in front of celebrity crowd of 150 guests and the rest of the world. Going by the media coverage of the event and the bizarre adulation of the thousands of obsessed bystanders gathered outside the castle, you could have sworn Zeus and Hera were reaffirming their marriage vows on Mount Olympus in an epochal event that would resound through the ages.

In the meantime, Europe dithered.

Thomas Sowell, in a recent Capitalism Magazine column, “Where is the West?” (November 17) observed that the sixty years of European peace was “due to American nuclear weapons, which was all that could deter the Soviet Union’s armies from marching right across Europe to the Atlantic Ocean.” He also noted that

“Two generations of being insulated from the reality of the international jungle, of not having to defend their own survival because they have been living under the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, have allowed too many Europeans to grow soft and indulge themselves in illusions about brutal realities and dangers.”

Sowell was remarking on European protests against Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and the alleged torture of Islamic prisoners of war held by Americans. One wonders how contemporary “soft and squeamish” Frenchmen view the execution of Pierre Laval, who as premier headed the collaborating Vichy government during the Nazi occupation and was tried and executed in 1945 as a traitor, or the public humiliation of French women who had fraternized with German officers while Laval was sending their countrymen off to work as slaves in German war plants. Perhaps they would claim Laval deserved a light sentence and a chance at rehabilitation.

Europe has had a double run of luck since the collapse of the Soviet Union. First, it did not need to over-worry about the Soviet threat. The U.S. and its military sidekick, NATO, were sure to protect it. Then the “evil empire” collapsed of its own postponed contradictions, together with an inability to keep pace with American military armaments, and that peril vanished virtually overnight.

No European nation, however, has had to set aside as much tax revenue for military purposes, in proportion to its gross national product, as has the U.S. Thanks to the American outlay, most European nations could afford to earmark their own tax revenues to establish profligate welfare states, which Democrats and other statists here in the U.S. envy and itch to emulate. Point this out to a European politician or an American Democrat, and he will say that it’s irrelevant. Welfare states, they would insist with self-righteous indignation, are a matter of social and economic justice, and have nothing to do with external enemies, imaginary or otherwise.

Welfare states, however, tend to go to war, chiefly out of the necessity to compensate for the wealth consumed in sustaining non-productive bureaucracies and growing populations of entitled dependents. Germany did it three times in the span of seventy years, beginning with the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

France will not be outdone. Successive French governments, together with its press and intellectuals, have for decades nurtured a simmering animosity towards Britain for being too recalcitrant about surrendering its sovereignty, independence and identity to an amorphous but tyrannical European Union. But Britain and France are at present like oil and water. Compare just the nominally Lockean legal system of Britain with France’s semi-Napoleonic system – or Britain’s with the byzantine European Union legal system, and one can begin to understand why Britain has been dragging its feet.

“Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, wants Britain to choose between being a ‘vassal’ of the United States, and embracing a French-led drive for European integration, her adviser on Europe has revealed,” reported the Daily Telegraph on November 20th (“Ségolène urges Britain to choose between Europe and America“)

Gilles Savary, a French Member of the European Parliament and Royal’s foreign affairs adviser, told the Daily Telegraph:

“Great Britain is absolutely indispensable to the European Union. It is a great nation, a global power. But the question the English have to answer is – do the English consider the English Channel to be wider than the Atlantic? We on the continent have the right to deplore the fact that Great Britain appears to consider the Channel is wider.”

Rephrased: We have a right to envy Britain. Dices of roast beef are indispensable to our Continental bouillabaisse, for flavor and consistency.

And the Atlantic between Britain and the U.S. is narrower? So be it. In short, Britain must decide whether to remain a rhetorical “vassal” of the United States, or an actual vanquished “vassal” of European Union bureaucracy.

Such talk seems calculated to offend Britain and guarantee its alienation. If Britain has any pride, it should continue to regard the Channel as wider than the Atlantic, and refuse to accept the role of whipping boy for the U.S. France wants to eat Britain and have it, too. So does the European Union. Like any gang of bullies, the Continentals view Britain as a reproach and a nemesis that must be persuaded to join, or be conquered, or at least be humbled through political and economic ostracism. They cannot tolerate a stand-alone.

A Britain absorbed into the undifferentiated mass of the European Union would also destroy the “special relationship” between Britain and the U.S. Britain certainly has problems – among other things, a Muslim population that wants to be separate but equal, a bureaucracy that rides roughshod in a demonstrably anti-Lockean manner over a variety of rights and liberties, a Scotland that wants to end its 300-year union with England – but it remains the most un-European of European nations.

In reporting the details of Royal’s EU policies, Savary said that “Britain would be asked to sign up to the new treaty, but if it rejected calls for increased protectionism, an EU foreign minister, convergence on tax rates and moves to create a European army, then France and her allies [tentatively, Germany, Italy and Spain] would agree to a treaty among themselves.”

The “new” treaty Savary spoke of would replace the EU constitution that was shot down by French and Dutch voters last summer. But, one must wonder: Protectionism – against whom? A convergence of tax rates – with what nation paying the most, because it is, among European nations, the freest and most prosperous? Is Royal’s goal to guarantee the egalitarian impoverishment of all?

A European army? To defend what political entity against what enemy? And generaled by a bureaucracy, modeled, perhaps, on the Pentagon, which is no longer concerned with winning wars, but instead “hearts and minds”?

Meanwhile, from across the expanse of Eurabia, the long arm of President Vladimir Putin’s SMERSH-like Federal Security Bureau has struck in London as well as in Moscow. Alexander Litvinenko, a former colonel of the Russian secret service and an outspoken critic of Putin, was poisoned with thallium in a restaurant while meeting an unknown female journalist who claimed to have evidence concerning the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October. The evidence, if authentic, probably pointed to Putin’s FSB. If bogus, it was an element of an elaborate plot to exact revenge on Litvinenko, regarded as a traitor in Russia.

Complicating the assassination attempt on Litvinenko is that he is now a British citizen. Politkovskaya was the thirteenth Russian journalist to be assassinated. Her editor, Yuri Shchekochkhin, was poisoned with dioxin in 2003. In 2004 Viktor Yushchenko, a presidential candidate in the Ukraine, was poisoned with dioxin, as well. He survived the attempt on his life, won the election, but remains disfigured. It would be interesting to know how many individuals have been poisoned, shot, garroted, jailed, and kidnapped and never heard from again by Putin’s agents since he rose to power.

Vladimir Putin is an incarnation of an Ian Fleming villain. His face is an icy mask of ascetic evil. In addition to directing the murderous projects of the Siloviki, his SMERSH-like faction in the Kremlin (staffed largely with former KGB colleagues) he could just as well be the head of SPECTRE, or the “Special Executive for counter-intelligence, terrorism, revenge and extortion.” Putin has practiced all those arts in his bid to consolidate power and to restore Russia as a major player in global politics, using oil as both a bargaining chip and a tool of extortion. Rivals in tyranny, such as the Muslim separatist movement in Chechnya, and free press and capitalists in Russia itself, have been crushed and scattered as efficiently by his brutality as was any opposition to the Czars in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In footage of Bush’s recent visit to Russia (on his way to Hanoi) Putin, purportedly an “ally” in the “war on terror,” welcomed the president with a pat on the back. It was the gesture that condescends to welcome a useful idiot.

In the Mideast, assassination is also a popular tool of repression, though less subtle than poison. Just this week, Pierre Gemayel, a Christian, member of the Lebanese cabinet, and critic of Syria’s (and by implication, Hezbollah’s) influence in Lebanon’s affairs, was shot and killed outside of Beirut by three gunmen who used, appropriately, silencers.

And in the Gaza, the life of Mohammed Baroud, a leading Palestinian terrorist, was spared extinction by an Israeli airstrike when hundreds of Palestinians formed a “human shield” inside, in front of and atop his home. The Israelis, who have adopted the “humane” policy of warning “militants” that they are about to strike in order to avoid civilian casualties, in this instance telephoned Baroud with a ten-minute warning. Israel cancelled the airstrike. The Palestinians cheered. Baroud will live on to oversee continued rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. (Daily Telegraph, November 20).

In a militarily absurd explanation for the cancellation, a spokesman for the Israeli military said, “We don’t want to hurt uninvolved civilians. The terrorists are using uninvolved civilians as human shields.”

Uninvolved? Hundreds of Palestinian cretins rush to protect a killer, and they are considered “uninvolved”? Every one of them deserved to die in that airstrike. They are as much Israel’s enemies as the gangsters of Hamas. Who do you think will swarm over the carcass of Israel in orgies of murder, rape and looting if Israel ever succumbs to Ahmadinejad’s nuclear blackmail?

If Israel wishes to survive, it must abandon the U.S. warfighting policy of treating enemy populations as “innocent” and blameless, and treat “human shields” as weapons to be eliminated as ruthlessly as are tanks, rockets and gunmen.

Fretful Friendships

Revisiting one of my favorite satirical plays, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Critic, I was prompted to note a parallel between Sir Fretful Plagiary’s anxious protestations against the charge that he is a talentless playwright (and a plagiarist, as well), and the anxiety of the Bush administration’s stance on the Middle East, especially about its relationship with Israel. Lacking any first-hand knowledge of plot, dialogue, and dramaturgy, Sir Fretful rebuffs every criticism of his play by critics who are equally ignorant of dramaturgy, and leaves the stage in furious dudgeon, while his critics, Sneer and Dangle, snicker at his mortification.

Lacking any guiding principle, except that of pragmatism (if that can be called a guiding principle) and the court of “world opinion,” the U.S. cannot decide whether to confront Iran, Syria, and their client terrorist groups (Hamas and Hezbollah) and stand without reservation behind Israel and its right to exist, or to force Israel to make concessions with the Palestinians in order to end the ceaseless conflict and tension in the Middle East. Israel, too, has lost its self-confidence; it was U.S. pressure on Israel that it fight Hezbollah on its own terms last July, and as a consequence Israel lost the war in Lebanon.

On November 10th, in London, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain gave a speech in which he verbalized what President Bush dare not say in public. His theme, centered on the ongoing chaos in Iraq and the U.S.’s inability to “stabilize” a country whose inhabitants are at each other’s throats in a struggle for religious and political supremacy, was “constructive engagement.”

It could only mean that while Bush has sworn never to deal directly with Hamas or any other terrorist group, he has effectively signaled to willingness to negotiate with them through third parties.

“A major part of the answer to Iraq lies not in Iraq itself but outside it, in the whole of the region where the same forces are at work and where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found.” (The Daily Telegraph, November 14).

The essential point of his speech was that the U.S. should work to form a diplomatic coalition of the “moderate” Arab states to bring about the desired goal. The chief members of that coalition would be Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Never mind that there are no “moderate” Arab states on the question of Israel, and that the Daily Telegraph headline of the story which contained Blair’s speech was “Iran Plotting to groom bin Laden’s successor.”

The thorny problem facing Bush, Blair, and others is: How to bring the antagonists together (Saudi Arabia and Iran are, on Islamic religious terms, mortal enemies) to achieve a lasting solution? That is, how to give the Arabs and Iranians everything they want except the eradication of Israel, and also secure Israel’s shrinking borders?

The simplest solution to bringing peace to the Mideast would be to blast into oblivion the “roots where global terrorism are to be found” – that is, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. But to Bush, Blair and others, that is an unacceptable solution. It might, after all, enrage world opinion, especially Muslim opinion. So the solution they will settle on is to cobble together the antagonists in an alliance to work out a compromise.

In the Heraclitean, “realist” universe of professional pragmatists, there are no absolutes. Nor, apparently, should there be. And since they reject the necessity of absolutes – for example, of acknowledging that Hamas and Hezbollah are gangs of killers that should never be brought into any civilized discourse – all they can do is brood and agonize, interminably ponder the crisis, and fret over and over again: “What to do?” and settle for an indefinable “middle course” that itself is an elusive non-absolute solution.

The conflict is insoluble because the U.S. lacks the courage to acknowledge the existence of evil. Evil, presumably, can be cajoled into becoming a “good” through “constructive engagement.”

An article by Steven Erlanger of The New York Times in the International Herald Tribune (November 14), underscores Israel’s fretful dilemma and U.S.’s fretful vacillation.

“Many Israelis feel that the free world under the leadership of the U.S. is facing a similar situation to Europe in the 1930s, when they watched the rearming of the Nazi Reich,” Yuval Steinitz, a member of the Israeli Parliament’s foreign and defense committee, is quoted in Erlanger’s article. “No one could predict the global catastrophe ten years later, and Iran may be the same.”

Erlanger writes:

“Bush says his stance over Iran is unchanged: He will never accept a nuclear-armed Iranian state. Yet Israelis have been increasingly anxious about the Bush approach to Iran, seeing recently a tendency to delay confrontation through further negotiations. They worry that because of Iran’s ability to further inflame Iraq, Bush is hesitant to take any steps that could lead to confrontation. And Israelis are worried about what concessions an administration seeking to build an anti-Iran alliance in the Arab world might ask of them on the Palestinian question in order to bolster that alliance.”

The midterm elections were watched closely and anxiously by Israel and its Islamic enemies. Islamists abroad and in the U.S. hailed the Democratic sweep of Congress as a victory, especially since a Democrat and Muslim, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, was elected to the House, and also because the Republicans even boast of an “anti-Israel” representative, Darrell Issa of California, who is booster for Hezbollah.

Erlanger writes:

“No Israeli knows if the next American president will be as tough on Iran or as loyal to Israel as Bush. If Bush does not act, Israelis say, by the time the next president takes office in January 2009, Iran will be well on its way to a bomb, and Washington may not back Israeli responses.”

It is news to me that Bush has been “tough” on Iran. “Tough” on Iran, in rational, practical terms, means destroying Iran’s nuclear fuel-producing facilities and removing its theocratic government, and letting the Iranians sort out the mess, just as the U.S. should have removed Saddam and left the Iraqis to butcher each other. Bush’s notion of “tough” is to lapse into a state of denial, coached by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other champions of compromise.

Erlanger cites Yossi Alpher, a former Israel-Palestinian negotiator, who said that if Bush succeeds in beginning talks with Iran, “we need to ensure that the U.S. doesn’t sell us down the river…. [I]f the world solves it diplomatically, will it be at our expense?”

He can bet on it. History has taught us that postponing moral crises will only result in the crises blowing up in our faces. In the gnawing, fretful world of unprincipled diplomacy, nothing is surer than failure, betrayal, and catastrophe.

The Intellectual Activist’s lost guide

Robert W. Tracinski, editor of The Intellectual Activist, has taken a public stand that makes clear the gulf between his thinking and the philosophy of Objectivism that he had previously claimed to espouse. He recently states in Part 3 of his position, “What Went Right?” that “every thinking man who does honest work in his own field is our ally and is helping to move civilization forward. The work of such men is not mere cultural ‘momentum’ from a previous era, but an active addition to human knowledge and achievement. And whatever their philosophical errors, in their professional work these men are creating valid and important ideas that do change the course of events.”

Counterpoint: Such men are today working in a philosophical vacuum. Unless a philosophy of reason salvages our culture and civilization, civilization cannot move forward and the work of such men will be for nought. Their work will constitute the rubble of a civilization that committed suicide because it rejected a fully consistent philosophy of reason.

“But philosophy does not and cannot dictate the content of a specialized field.”

Counterpoint: Yes, philosophy can and will dictate the content of any specialized field. Until men subscribed to reason – reason anchored to reality – they floundered for centuries trying to explain reality and the universe. Much of what constituted knowledge in antiquity was lost in the Dark Ages. It had to be rediscovered – by a philosophy of reason. This philosophy of reason was an incomplete system. Nevertheless, that incomplete philosophy of reason allowed men to abandon attempts to turn lead into gold and discover physics and chemistry. A philosophy of reason allowed them to discover the true properties of lead and gold.

To illustrate his claim that philosophy cannot sire all the “details” of specialized fields, Tracinski quotes Dr. Peikoff from p. 453 in the Epilogue of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand:

“Philosophy is not the only cause of the course of the centuries. It is the ultimate cause, the cause of all the other causes. The books of philosophers are the beginning. Step by step, the books turn into motives, passions, statues, politicians, and headlines.”

This is an incomplete, and dishonest quotation. The full quotation should have been:

“Objectivism does not deny that ‘many factors’ are involved in historical causation. Economic, psychological, military, and other forces play a role. Ayn Rand does not, however, regard all these forces as primaries.

“There is no dichotomy between philosophy and the specialized factors. Philosophy is not the only cause of the course of the centuries. It is the ultimate cause, the cause of all the other causes. If there is to be an explanation of so vast a sum as human history, which involves all men in all fields, only the science dealing with the widest abstractions can provide it. The reason is that only the widest abstractions can integrate all those fields.

“The books of philosophers are the beginning. Step by step, the books turn into motives, passions, statues, politicians, and headlines.

“Philosophy determines essentials, not details….” (Dutton edition)

And without a determination of the essentials, details will be contextless, unintegrated, and random, as they were in the Dark Ages, and as they are to any modern child or adult until he grasps the role of reason. It was the discovery of essentials by men that allowed them to abandon alchemy and found the sciences of chemistry and physics. And the integrator of essentials is philosophy. The full quotation of Dr. Peikoff’s excerpt blows Tracinski’s assertions to pieces. Tracinski omitted those parts of the quotation that did not fit his thesis.

Tracinski follows his dishonest quotation of Peikoff with this assertion:

“This is a kind of trickle-down theory of intellectual influence, in which the philosopher is the originator and only source of the ideas that drive the course of history, while the public intellectuals and the men in the specialized sciences are mere transmitters and translators of those ideas.”

How would one then explain the “trickle-down” intellectual influence of Kant and his successors in philosophy? Tracinski dwells on “fact-driven” knowledge in the sciences and in the headlines, but discards the ultimate philosophical causes of those facts. If men defy reality and pursue the irrational, regardless of the consequences in reality – such as the Democrats wishing to impose socialism on America or Bush refusing to acknowledge this country’s foreign enemies – what will govern and explain the “new” facts of the impoverishment of Americans and Iran’s Ahmadinejad developing nuclear bombs? What will explain suicide bombers, or the Amish forgiving the killer of schoolgirls? What would explain advances in stem cell research, or its prohibition by government?

Tracinski is on his way to rejecting Objectivism. The very first sentence of OPAR, in Chapter 1: Reality, reads: “Philosophy is not a bauble of the intellect, but a power from which no man can abstain.” Tracinski is following a path of logic that will lead him to more or less state: “Yes, philosophy is a bauble of the intellect. It has its uses, but the true referent is reality and men can abstain from taking it too seriously.”

Hailing the investigations and reporting of Internet bloggers versus the standard fare of the news media, Tracinski writes:

“Theirs is a career path with one healthy epistemological consequence: the work of these intellectuals is relentlessly fact-driven. Every day brings new events whose causes and consequences they have to explain.”

Explain how? Are they the heirs of Aristotle, or of Kant? While it is not necessary for a journalist to be able to trace the ultimate origin of a fact, the fact remains that philosophy is the origin of facts. If the fact-driven epistemology of a 21st century American is healthier than that of a feudal serf (or of most modern journalists), what can explain the difference?

In trying to explain how philosophy is a kind of “adjunct” to reality, Tracinski writes:

“It is worth noting that the first great pro-reason philosopher, Aristotle, was also his era’s greatest biologist and an inheritor of several centuries of progress in Greek science. Or, in a modern context, consider where the defenders of reason would be without Newton and Darwin, men who provided natural, scientific explanations for the nature of the universe and the origin of man, two questions that had traditionally been the exclusive domain of religion.”

Counterpoint: Aristotle was a pioneer in his fields and applied reason to them (not always consistently, since, as Rand and Peikoff noted, there were still elements of intrinsicism in his thinking). And, it was the advocates of an incomplete philosophy of reason that allowed Newton and Darwin to accomplish what they did, advocates who lived and wrote before Newton’s and Darwin’s times.

As for the alleged dependence of the defenders of reason on the discoveries of “fact-driven” scientists such as Newton and Darwin, the philosophy of reason did not have a fully consistent defender until Ayn Rand, from the Renaissance to the 20th century. What validated Newton’s and Darwin’s discoveries? A philosophy of reason.

‘God-fearing’ Literature

Islamists wish to besiege and destroy Western civilization, physically for certain, but also by taking a leaf from Vladimir Lenin and obliging the West to use the rope of multiculturalism to hang itself. That is proving to be a very effective strategy against a culture that proclaims pride and self-assertion as “imperialistic” sins. And when such a culture settles for paying Dane geld or tribute to the barbarian hordes outside its gates, all it can expect in the end is conquest and destruction.

Non-Islamic university professors of literature, as well, bear an animus for Western civilization. Under the postmodernist tie-dyed banner of deconstruction, feminist criticism, and other non-objective literary theories, they are responsible for having virtually banished the “canon” of Western literary classics from the curricula in middle and secondary schools, in community colleges up to the Ivy League schools. And where the classics haven’t been banished, they are subjected to relativistic vivisection. Instead of instilling in students an appreciation of great literature, courses now mostly disparage “great” literature and uphold mediocrity.

Conservative literary “theory,” however, has a unique “counter-revolutionary” color to it. I received via email an ad for a book being promoted by the Human Events Book Service, The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, by Elizabeth Kantor. “What politically correct English professors don’t want you to know,” reads a boxed promo next to a picture of the book’s cover. At first glance, the lead copy about the book looks benign and inviting.

“The study of literature is essential to preserving Western Culture and transmitting it to future generations. Yet today’s English departments have come under the control of people who teach anything but the English and American literary classics. Even when the subject is Shakespeare or Faulkner, the professor’s own politics – Marxism, feminism, or some other radical agenda – will be the real content of the course. Meanwhile, today’s politically correct professors are busy replacing the ‘dead white males’ of the traditional literary canon with the authors of the 1980s bestsellers that hit all the politically correct themes.”

The charges are indisputable. Kantor’s book is a purported overview of the classics, what they are about and not about. A bulleted list of its value to readers, among other things, asserts that it “empowers you to see through every variety of politically correct ‘literary theory,’ such as ‘deconstruction,'” and also “explains the real purpose of studying English and American literature.”

Going by bulleted highlights of the contents, however, beginning with Beowulf and ending with Flannery O’Connor, the purpose of studying that literature is to discover or reaffirm its alleged Christian roots.

Of Christopher Marlowe: “Being ‘transgressive’ will take you only so far – in art, and in life.” Marlowe, playwright and a contemporary of Shakespeare, was an atheist and something of a hellion who died in a tavern fight.

Of John Milton: “Our intellectual freedoms are Christian, not anti-Christian, in origin.” Milton was a Christian, but I doubt he would agree with that assertion.

Of the Romantic poets: “Intelligent radicals become conservatives when they grow up – if they grow up.” There are a number of conservatives at large today in the intellectual and political world who were intelligent left-wing radicals, David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens being two of the better-known “grown-ups.”

Of the avant-garde and modernist literature: “Christianity trumps the edgy art world.” This is a baffling assertion. Picasso paints a recognizable Virgin Mary? John Cage composes a melodic Mass? Ezra Pound writes a mystery play?

Of Evelyn Waugh: “Without religion, human beings are disgustingly selfish and shallow – and in abandoning Christianity, our culture will shrivel and die.” I counter by pointing out that America is nominally Christian, and its culture is still shriveling and dying. So, there must be another explanation for its condition. Also, being selfish is not synonymous with being shallow, and selflessness can only lead to shallowness – and death.

Of T.S. Eliot: “Tradition is necessary to culture.” But not thinking men? Leave it to a conservative to shill for tradition.

Of Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, and Twain: “Evil isn’t ‘back there’ or ‘out there’; it’s in the human heart.” To which I would reply: Speak for yourself. What is evil is the concept of original sin.

Of William Faulkner and Southern literature in general: “Civilization is valuable. A fatally flawed culture beats no culture at all.” Such as the stifling religious culture that dominated the Dark Ages? It was such a flawed culture that the men of the Renaissance and Enlightenment escaped from or rose above.

Of Flannery O’Connor: “Even modern American liberals aren’t immune to original sin.” O’Connor, a devout Southern Catholic, wrote “Gothic” novels with pungently surreal religious themes as horrifying as “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

I do not plan to read this book, but I am betting that Ayn Rand’s “classics” are not discussed in it. A conservative, religious take on literature is as invalid, bizarre, and irrational as that of any deconstructionist’s or postmodernist’s.

Post election soul-searching—and the rise of censorship

The midterm elections are passed us, and the Democrats have swept back with an unbecoming vengeance into Congress and power over the U.S. They give one the sense that they are barbarian hordes riding into Rome with every intention of sacking it. They remind us why drooling and gloating are unsightly and repulsive. Objectivists and non-Objectivists alike know they are up to no good.

Many of them voted Democratic chiefly as protest against the failure of Republicans to properly prosecute a war against a dedicated enemy, for having waged a kind of fruitless “phony war” that is costing incalculable blood and treasure. It is doubtful that the Republicans will learn anything from the rejection. In search of an answer to why they lost, they will agonize over polls, demographics, income and gender brackets, but will never address fundamental ideas or principles.

And many Objectivists and non-Objectivists voted Republican in protest of the obvious agenda of the Democrats to renew its sacking of the country, and also because they believe that President Bush had the right “war-fighting” principles but was not competent enough to apply them.

Not an issue with them was that the Bush Administration has done just as thorough a job of sacking the country, in terms of the national debt and the expansion of the federal welfare state, as any Democrat. By some estimates, Bush in his six years in office has outdone Bill Clinton in his eight, and many commentators are beginning to realize that, even though they pose as defenders of freedom and capitalism, the Republicans subscribe to every tenet of the Progressive Party manifesto of top-to-bottom socialism, with a twist of religion to give it a moral flavor.

The Democrats offer socialism straight up, no ice, no lemon. Examine the agenda of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose prime movers include Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman of the People’s State of California. The only difference between it and the Republican reactive “platform” is the speed with which the Democrats wish to impose top-to-bottom socialism.

Well, not so much “top” as “bottom.” The elective oligarchies of both parties usually ensure that they are insulated from the consequences of legislation intended for the rest of the country. The salaries, perks, medical and other fringe benefits, exemptions and privileges all together rival the best compensation packages and golden parachutes of CEOs in the private sector. There isn’t a Senator or Representative who isn’t a millionaire – at taxpayer expense – but who has produced nothing but law and paper.

One favorite accusation of the Democrats is that Bush and Company are incompetent. Parenthetically, I find the charge of incompetence by either Party absurdly disingenuous, considering that it is made by career politicians who have never in their adult lives held a job that required competence or a fig of measured productive skill. So, one must contest that charge. In terms of abiding by and applying his moral beliefs, Bush has been eminently successful.

As Dr. John Lewis remarked to me recently, “Words mean what they refer to in reality. What the ‘defense of freedom’ means to Bush is the slaughter of our soldiers for the toilet needs of foreigners throwing bombs.” Jesus is Bush’s favorite philosopher, and he is as committed to Jesus’ morality as the jihadists are to Mohammad’s. Sacrifice has been the operating principle of Bush’s military philosophy, in order to protect the “innocent” as an aspect of “humanitarian” war-fighting.

Ellsworth Toohey put it brilliantly and succinctly in The Fountainhead: “Fight the doctrine which slaughters the individual with a doctrine which slaughters the individual.” That has been the sum of the conflict between the Republicans and Democrats at home and abroad.

All else is deliberate obfuscation.

The “British disease” is insinuating itself into American politics. The “disease” is a blinkered estimate of the influence of Islam. Bush regularly invites Islamic leaders to the White House for dinner, most recently to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Now it is the Democrats’ turn to buddy up to Muslims. Minnesotans elected Congress’s first Muslim representative, Keith Ellison, whose close ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Louis Farrakhan’s racist and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam were not closely scrutinized or questioned by the news media, most likely because no journalist wants to be accused of bigotry. What is forgotten is that when criticisms are leveled against Islam, it is leading Muslim spokesmen who play the race card. Ellison celebrated his victory Tuesday night before a crowd that chanted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”), which is what the 9/11 hijackers and killers yelled as they crashed their planes. Ellison will be a keynote speaker at CAIR’s annual banquet on November 18th.

And, in Michigan, David Turfe, a supporter of Hezbollah and also a Muslim, was elected district court judge in Dearborn Heights’ 20th district. (For details on his career, see This is not the same as a Presbyterian or a Methodist donning robes to administer justice in a secular courtroom. If Turfe is a faithful, consistent Muslim, how can he reconcile Sharia law with infidel law? Fundamentally, he can’t, but one supposes that his “spiritual” leaders will grant him dispensation (the colloquial term in Christendom would be “slack”).

Turfe, founding chairman of a Muslim “cultural” center (surely an oxymoron), proclaimed to an enthusiastic crowd that “only a few thousand Jews will survive Armageddon.” Armageddon is what Ahmadinejad of Iran is promising Israel and the West once he has an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

It is almost a certainty that both Ellison and Turfe will seek to expand the meaning of “hate crime” to include anything untoward said about Islam or Muslims. Which, of course, will sneak censorship into law under the cloak of “civility.”

Yes, the “British disease.” The British are trying to find an antidote to it and to counter decades of tolerance of harboring, under the cloak of multiculturalism, the growth of Islamic jihadism. MI5 chief Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller warned recently (the Daily Telegraph, November 11) that thousands of young Muslims are being recruited and trained by Al-Qada and other terrorist organizations in Britain’s schools. But, even she doesn’t get it. Terrorists are “extremists” who have little to do with “peaceful” Muslims. Never mind that the Koran advocates jihad. This fallacy has been discussed before.

In response to the recent acquittal of two British National Party members accused of stirring up racial hatred (the Daily Telegraph, November 12), Gordon Brown, Chancellor, stated that new race hatred legislation was needed. I do not know what else the BNP stands for, but all the two defendants were charged with was saying, in private party meetings (secretly filmed by the BBC and then broadcast), that Islam was a “wicked, vicious faith” – certainly not an exaggeration, but then, one could just as easily say that about Christianity – and that Muslims were turning Britain into a “multi-racial hell hole.” The latter statement probably indicates an unsavory political premise, which I would not endorse.

Still, British speech law is nearing the state of outright censorship. The BNP episode reminded me of the trial of the Pippins in Book Two of Sparrowhawk, when a club of freethinkers in London is charged with and tried for “blasphemous libel,” that is, over things the members said in a private meeting on private property about King George II, Parliament and religion.

There is no reason to think that British censorship by edict or by lawsuit won’t infect American jurisprudence and further emasculate the First Amendment. The Saudis are particularly active in bringing suits against writers who dare expose their role in jihad. For example, American writer Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of an unpublished book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, faced a ruinous lawsuit in Britain by a Saudi because a chapter of her book appeared on the Internet and was downloaded by Britons.

“Writers are now subject to intimidation by libel tourists,” reports Samuel A. Abady and Harvey Silverglate in The Boston Globe (November 7). “Little wonder that the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Association of American Publishers, and 14 other media groups have filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief to support Ehrenfeld’s quest to raise her First Amendment defense now. Until she is able to do so, she will have problems finding American publishers willing to risk publishing her research and writing.”

A judge of the Southern District Court in Manhattan dismissed Ehrenfeld’s case, claiming he had no jurisdiction over it. “Ehrenfeld is filing an appeal and faces a daunting challenge of raising enough money to support a case that she believes will help determine whether or not American writers will be able to continue to expose America’s enemies.”

One of my unpublished novels, We Three Kings, features an American entrepreneur whose Constitutional protection against the murderous depredations of a Saudi prince is stripped from him by the State Department. In the current multicultural climate, it is not likely it will ever be published here. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, neither the brave nor the free are much valued anymore, in fact or in fiction.

A Great Divide

Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s announced position on the fall Congressional elections this coming November 7th has inaugurated a debate on various discussion lists and blogs between Objectivists. Some individuals have sided with Dr. Peikoff and agree with him that, in terms of ensuring the country’s survival, and taking into account the expenditure of the Left’s Marxist credibility, voting the straight Democratic ticket will serve to repudiate the Republican establishment and help to block its more perilous theocratic agenda. There is some substance to justify this fear. Virtually ever news item over the past two weeks has focused on the role of the evangelical bloc of voters, and President Bush solicits that bloc’s support.

Others discount the religious threat and counter that helping the Democrats regain their hegemony in Congress will only encourage them to accelerate the pursuit of their Marxist, nihilist ends, such as a total welfare state, environmentalism and multiculturalism.

In reality, the triumph of either party, now or in the 2008 presidential race, will move the country closer to undiluted statism or dictatorship.

Ayn Rand, delineating modern politics in terms of fundamentals governed by philosophy, would probably interpret the conflict in what she characterized as one between Attila and the witch doctor, between the mystics of muscle and the mystics of the spirit. Dr. Peikoff asserted, quite rightly, that we are faced with a decision on which gang will do us the least harm in the short run. And, there is another gang of murderous witch doctors he neglected to account for in his projection, which are Islam and its jihadists.

During all this discussion, someone had the foresight to point out that there is a crucial link between the spread of Islam and environmentalism, e.g., that the Democrats especially, when they oppose off-shore drilling, advocate the expropriation of oil company profits, or block the construction of nuclear power plants, simply render the U.S. more dependent on oil supplies coming from countries mostly hostile to the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The Saudis especially have as much a vested interest in the perpetuation and expansion of American environmental law as Prohibition Era gangsters had in the perpetuation of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Other blogs, such as Jihad Watch and Infidel Bloggers Alliance, have documented which persons in Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are in thrall to Saudi petro-dollars or susceptible to the lobbying of such Islamist organizations as CAIR and the Muslim Council of America.

But, this particular peril has been discussed before, and I do not believe any thinking Objectivist (or is that a redundancy in terms?) can question or dismiss the seriousness of the Islamist threat, especially when he is certain that President Bush will do nothing to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or to stop North Korea from selling its nuclear weapons and delivery systems to Islamist terrorists. If the Republicans will not defend the country, how can we expect the Democrats to, when it is obvious that they hate it?

However, what I have not heard anyone mention yet is the prospect of censorship. Either party is capable of imposing it. In fact, both parties have held hands over the decades in passing legislation that violates the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court has done little or nothing to declare such stealthily incremental legislation unconstitutional.

“Censorship,” wrote Rand in “Have Gun, Will Nudge” in The Objectivist Newsletter in 1962, “in its old-fashioned meaning, is a government edict that forbids the discussion of some specific subjects or ideas – such, for instance, as sex, religion or criticism of government officials – an edict enforced by the government’s scrutiny of all forms of communication prior to their public release.”

We are approaching that level of censorship; that is, some officials and bureaucrats have proposed that the government have the power to make such an edict. Neither party, however, has the brazenness yet to move in that direction; they know they would not yet get away with it. Rand could not have predicted it, of course, but the Internet, which did not exist in 1962, is certainly scrutinized by the CIA, NSA and other federal agencies, not exclusively on the track of Islamist terrorists residing in this country.

Certainly if one sent an email letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling her (justifiably) delusional, anti-Semitic, and an appeasing enabler of Islamic terrorism, one could expect a knock on one’s door, or at least strange things begin to happen to one’s bank account or employment status. One cannot count on the demonstrable incompetence of the “security” agencies charged with defending this country, and be certain that nothing would happen.

That being said, Rand did forecast the possibility of de facto censorship. In that same article, she wrote:

“But for stifling the freedom of men’s minds the modern method is much more potent; it rests on the power of non-objective law; it neither forbids nor permits anything; it never defines or specifies; it merely delivers men’s lives, fortunes, careers, ambitions into the arbitrary power of a bureaucrat who can reward or punish at whim….”

One can count the ways in which such de facto censorship has been implemented in the U.S.: the PAC law; the Federal Election Committee; the ban on tobacco advertising over the airwaves, not to mention the regulation of print advertising of tobacco and other products, such as food; the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and so on, all of which, with more certainly to come whichever party dominates Congress, prove the pernicious effect of non-objective law on the freedom of men’s minds.

What we are witnessing in the U.S. today is the indivertible implosion of over a century of irrationality in domestic and foreign policies. The irrational cannot make reality work; reality will not tolerate unreason. Most people with a nominal fealty to reason know that doing the Hokey Pokey or praying to Wantonka the Automotive God in front of one’s car will not start it or fill it with gas. Too many of them, however, believe that going “back to God” or “back to nature” (and Rand dramatized both false alternatives in Atlas Shrugged), which are much the same things, will make all things right. Dr. Peikoff himself stressed this point years ago in a course, that ours is an age of pre-reason.

The country is coasting on the vestiges of the commitment to reason which founded this country, but which vestiges both Republicans and Democrats are working diligently in their special ways to eradicate. Reason is lost in a masking deluge of inconsequential and irrelevant issues. No one in public life – not in government, not in the press or news media, not in academia – is advocating a return to reason, or even its rediscovery (or, as someone pointed out, its discovery). Advocates of reason can be likened to some of the survivors of the Titanic, struggling desperately to avoid being sucked into the swirling vortex of a sinking giant.

It is difficult for an advocate of reason not to succumb to pessimism and doom-saying in these times. But, I, for one, am confident that in the end, reason and truth will out, if only enough of us will invest the effort to promote them. I have been doing my “bit” for decades, culminating in the epic of Sparrowhawk, and that has been at cost to me and with very little reward, pecuniary or otherwise, except in the volume of my fan mail. That particular reward is to have been proven right, that readers are receptive to ideas presented in the series, and that it is helping to point them in the right direction.

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