"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Friday, December 24, 2004
  Cox and Forkum - In Honor
Thursday, December 23, 2004
  The False Equation of Secularism with "Political Correctness"
Another press release, which I received today from the Ayn Rand Institute.

IRVINE, CA--The attempts by governmental bodies around the country to eliminate the term "Christmas" are being perpetrated largely in the name of "political correctness"--to avoid offending anyone, particularly Muslims, whose beliefs would exclude them from any Christmas celebrations.

"These efforts represent, not secularism," says Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, "but the standard liberal, subjectivist philosophy of multiculturalism, which seeks to prohibit any 'offensive' actions and words--and it is a philosophy that should be denounced."

Christmas can be celebrated as an entirely secular holiday, Dr. Brook maintains, and public schools should therefore be permitted to do so. The prohibition against the endorsement of religion by governmental entities, however, is an entirely different matter according to Dr. Brook: "It is a Constitutional issue of separation of church and state. While public schools may celebrate Christmas, they have no right to make it into a religious observance, by featuring explicitly religious themes like the Nativity."

The essential point that needs to be emphasized in this issue, Dr. Brook concludes, "is that the separation of church and state is a principle that is not synonymous with the politically correct notion of showing 'sensitivity' to everyone's beliefs. The government may--and should--engage in actions that offend certain viewpoints, such as the viewpoints that are hostile to freedom and individual rights; government must, however--in order to preserve freedom and individual rights--refrain from supporting religion."

Copyright © 2004 Ayn Rand® Institute, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA 92606. All rights reserved.
  Steroids, Fascism and Peter Keating
Brad at Contemporary History has added another good posting to his blog: Sports Have Their Mussolini.
  Moral Cowardice Prevents Winning the War
I received the following press release from the Ayn Rand Institute.
IRVINE, CA--The blame for the murder of 19 Americans in Mosul yesterday lies not only with the insurgents who initiated the attack, but also with the Bush Administration's suicidal policies, said Dr. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute. "The insurgency would have been crushed long ago, and yesterday's attack averted, were it not for America's altruistic policy of placing the lives of Iraqi civilians above its own self-defense.

"America must destroy the insurgency if we are to implement a non-threatening government in Iraq," said Dr. Brook. "This can be done, but to do so we must make the insurgency's complicit civilian population--those who harbor and support the insurgents--pay for the violence that they abet. We must enforce their complete surrender to our presence. Thanks to such a policy, during the occupation of Japan zero soldiers were killed by insurgents and the threat posed by the country was ended.

"Shamefully, the Bush Administration has been unwilling to make hostile Iraqi civilians pay for their crimes," said Dr. Brook. "Time and again, it has treated Iraqi lives as sacrosanct and American security and soldiers as dispensable. It is in the name of sparing civilians that our soldiers have been ordered to follow crippling rules of engagement that have cost hundreds of their lives. It was in the name of sparing civilians that we withdrew from Fallujah in April, and in November allowed thousands of insurgents to flee to places like Mosul. Such capitulations have preserved and emboldened the insurgents, while giving hope to Islamic terrorists worldwide.

"To win this war," concluded Dr. Brook, "we need a fundamental shift in our moral priorities. We need to see the military place the lives of Americans--including American soldiers--above the lives of Iraqi civilians. To those who insist that we continue to sacrifice for the sake of Iraqi civilians, I say that the death of 19 Americans yesterday, and the many more to come, are on your heads."

Copyright © 2004 Ayn Rand® Institute, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA 92606. All rights reserved.

  Cloning Cats
From the AP:
The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the United States is named Little Nicky, a 9-week-old kitten delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years.

The kitten cost its owner $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved cat, named Nicky, who died last year.

"He is identical. His personality is the same," the owner, Julie, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Although she agreed to be photographed with her cat, she asked that her last name and hometown not be disclosed because she said she fears being targeted by groups opposed to cloning.
I don't know if the cloned animal would be just like the original, but we'll let the market decide. If it were possible (since I am skeptical about the degree of volition a cat possesses), I think this is a wonderful thing; my wife's favorite cat is about 10, and she will be going soon. I'd love to be able to replace her for my wife, for sentimental reasons.

Of course, the usual suspects are in an uproar:
"It's morally problematic and a little reprehensible," said David Magnus, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. "For $50,000, she could have provided homes for a lot of strays."

Animals rights activists complain that new feline production systems aren't needed because thousands of stray cats are euthanized each year for want of homes.
  Oh, God...
Lew Rockwell demonstrates how some understanding of free-market economics does not a political philosopher make:
The second kind [of tyranny] is the tyrannus in titula. This is one who takes control through conquest or usurpation. In terms of degrees of legitimacy, this type is the most objectionable and the one most moral to resist, at least according the Western tradition of political thought from St. Thomas through Jefferson. Rule by military conquest is the prime example of tyrannus in titula. It is completely consistent with Western principles to resist, precisely as many are doing in Iraq.
This reminds me of Michael Moore's comparison between the savages fighting the US and the minutemen of the revolutionary war. What planet are these guys on? Of course, Rothbard (one of Rockwell's mentors) thought the Soviet Union was the victim of US aggression during the cold war, so I really shouldn't be surprised.
  Ayn Rand Mentioned by Instapundit
The Instapundit has updated his blog today with a link to a "remixed" version of the Christmas Carol, as if it were written by Ayn Rand.
  Required Reading
I just finished reading the latest edition of Imprimis, a periodical published monthly by Hillsdale College. This month's edition featured a stunning critique of President Bush by Charles R. Kesler, entitled Four More Years. Mr. Kessler presents about as good of a critique as a non-objectivist could make of the president, both on the prospects of freedom in Iraq and on Bush's domestic policies.

The following are two delicious tidbits, which I can't resist posting here (but definitely read the whole thing, it isn't long):
We can get some idea of how the Founders might have thought about the problem of Iraq or Afghanistan by considering their reaction to the French Revolution. Here was an attempt to create a republican government in a society that was quite different from England or British North America. It was a Catholic monarchy (and the Founders thought the religious difference pertinent) in which the people had no experience in self-government, no habits of self-government – e.g., of electing local sheriffs or town councils or magistrates – such as people in England and in the American colonies had had time out of mind. John Adams, in one of his famous bursts of purple prose, wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

I was as well persuaded in my view that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions people, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousands of them could neither write nor read, was as unnatural, irrational and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves, and bears in the royal menagerie at Versailles.

In other words, extremely unlikely to succeed.
And on the domestic side:
Bush hailed a “new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.” You might call these the four Cs. But missing was the fifth C – the Constitution. I am, of course, aware of Bush’s tax cuts and of his idea of an ownership society. This combines permanently lower taxes with partial privatization of Social Security and reform of education, healthcare and the tort system. In many ways, this is a farsighted agenda that Reagan would have approved. But so far, except for the tax cuts, it is a far away agenda. The only other parts of it that have been enacted are the No Child Left Behind Act and parts of the Faith Based Initiative, both of which are mixed blessings from the perspective of limited government constitutionalism. At present, the administration’s domestic legacy is sizeable increases in discretionary spending and a very expensive new Medicare entitlement for prescription drugs. These are not Reaganesque, to say the least. Admittedly, Reagan’s own record at cutting the size and cost of the federal government was not as glorious as he had wished. But at least he tried.
There definitely are some flaws in this piece, but in essentials it is right on the money, and well worth reading.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
  Meet the Scythians
A brief excerpt from my readings, which I found interesting:
Still farther north, along the shores of the Black Sea, wandered the Scythians, a horde of warriors half Mongol and half European, ferocious bearded giants who lived in wagons, kept their women in purdah seclusion, rode bareback on wild horses, fought to live and lived to fight, drank the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins, weakened Assyria with repeated raids, swept through western Asia (ca. 630-610 B.C.), destroying, and killing everything and everyone in their path, advanced to the very cities of the Egyptian Delta, were suddenly decimated by a mysterious disease, and were finally overcome by the Medes and driven to their northern haunts.*

- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 287

* Hippocrates tells us that "their women, so long as they are virgins, ride, shoot, throw the javelin while mounted, and fight with their enemies. They do not lay aside their virginity until they have killed three of their enemies....A woman who takes to herself a husband no longer rides, unless she is compelled to do so by a general expedition. They have no right breast; for while they are yet babies their mothers make red-hot a bronze instrument constructed for this very purpose and apply it to the right breast and cauterize it, so that its growth is arrested, and all its strength and bulk are diverted to the right shoulder and right arm."
The barbarism of the past never ceases to amaze me.
  I Too Will Be Watching...
Blue Mass. Group notes some interesting changes to the makeup of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
  Religious Persecution
Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine is arguing against the notion that Christians are being persecuted in America because they can't display a creche in city hall (and he's a Christian); he correctly notes that America is one of the few places in the world where Christians are free to worship as they please, without fear of government reprisals. His post isn't perfect, but many parts of it are spot on and good reading. Here's some excerpts:
No one is this country is being stopped from worshipping as they please. No churches or synagogues or mosques are being shut by mob or government edict. That would indeed constitute a war against Christianity and religion; that would be illegal, unconstitutional, unAmerican, and wrong. But I don't see that happening. And if I did, I would be fighting that with my full First Amendment fervor.

Ah, but you might say that you're prevented from putting a creche in front of city hall or singing Christmas carols in school. But be careful, for if you're using that as an argument of religious persecution, you end up arguing that you want city hall and the school to become a place of worship and that does raise issues. You can't have it both ways: You can't argue that the creche and the carol are harmless displays of culture and then argue that preventing them is religious persecution that prevents worship. That doesn't wash.
And here:
Next, if your argument is that there is a war against religion in this country because there are more signs of secular life and more people who reject religion -- well, folks, that is their right in this country. And so, that is a problem of marketing, not Constitutionality. If you lose converts it could well be because they don't like your message or how you deliver it. If Coke loses customers to Pepsi, Coke isn't being persecuted; it's facing competition. We believe in competition in America -- even for minds, yes, even for souls. That is the essence of the First Amendment: No one side gets an edge up thanks to government. And enforcing that is precisely what protects the free choice of worship -- for you don't want to find government endorsing George's church today but Hillary's tomorrow, do you?
  Quotations from the Chairman
I just finished reading over a revealing interview with FCC Chairman Michael Powell by the folks at Reason (hat tip: Instapundit). The following are some of the more interesting portions of the exchange:

The Chairman on the "Sovereignty" of the People
The indecency laws, first of all, are statutes. The people of the United States, through legislation, have made indecent speech between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. over only one medium, broadcasting, unlawful. They have invested in this commission authority to enforce that law. The commission does it in response to the complaints from the public. Many people have tried to argue that we should be like the FBI on indecency and be affirmative, that we should go out and listen to television and radio. We don’t do that. We wait for the American people to complain, and then we act on complaints. What has happened in the period you’ve identified is indecency complaints have skyrocketed.
The Chairman on the Status of the Airwaves
Reason: Do you think it’s appropriate that radio broadcasters have to meet a different standard than, say, a filmmaker when it comes to indecency or profanity?

Powell: This goes back to, do I think that the First Amendment should be less protective of broadcasting than it should be of cable? I don’t particularly.

I can make an argument that radio is free. I can make the argument the Supreme Court has made: It’s the one medium that uses a public asset and resource, as opposed to being purely private. The airwaves belong to the United States government and you license use. They’re the public’s airwaves.

Reason: Should the airwaves belong to the United States government?

Powell: That battle was over in 1920. You could’ve argued that there should have been a private property model of spectrum, and many people have written brilliant articles about how you could have done that. Ronald Coase won the Nobel Prize for arguing that. But I can’t live in every century. Nearly 100 years ago, Herbert Hoover as secretary of commerce decided the airwaves belong to the public.
The Chairman on Laissez-Faire and Antitrust
Reason: If Clear Channel suddenly owns six, seven, or, under a different regime, a dozen radio stations within the same market, is that something people should worry about?

Powell: Yeah, absolutely. It’s something the commission worried about. It’s rarely reported, but we tightened the radio rules. I hate when people describe my views as laissez faire, because I don’t think there’s any such thing. Capitalism would not work without the rule of law, and it would not work without certain understandings about rules and limitations.

I’m an antitrust lawyer. I completely accept that concentration at some measurable level becomes anti-competitive and harmful to the American consumer.

Reason: Can you give an example of that?

Powell: There’s Standard Oil.

Reason: Most of the revisionist histories of Standard Oil show that by the time it had its maximum market penetration, it was actually charging less for oil.

Powell: You may know more about the specifics of Standard Oil than I. But I do believe in the cases and the theories that show that at a certain level of monopolistic control people can extract monopoly rents and affect output in a way that harms the American consumer.

I think the United States, more than any other nation in the world, has got antitrust right. The presumption is business is OK. The presumption is mergers are not in and of themselves bad. People forget that monopoly isn’t even illegal. The only thing we’re looking for is whether the monopoly actually causes anti-competitive effects that are measurable on consumers. I’ve worked at the antitrust division. I’ve seen cases where we believed unequivocally that it did. You can find them. You could find the price increases, you can find the data that would demonstrate that and that you needed to do something about it.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
In the course of my life, there are several instances where I have hit setbacks that in the moment, led me to doubt not only the value of goal I was striving for, but even the possibility that I would achieve it. Such moments are when perserverance and dedication are most important, when the world seems to be falling apart. It is in this light that I was impressed when I read the following:
The decipherment of Babylonian baffled students for centuries; their final success is an honorable chapter in the history of scholarship. In 1802 Georg Grotefund, professor of Greek at the University of Gottingen, told the Gottingen Academy how for years he had puzzled over certain cuneiform inscriptions from ancient Persia; how at last he had identified eight of the forty-two characters used, and had made out the names of three kings in the inscriptions. There, for the most part, the matter rested until 1835, when Henry Rawlinson, a British diplomatic officer stationed in Persia, quite unaware of Grotefend's work, likewise worked out the names of Hystaspes, Darius and Xerxes in an inscription couched in Old Persian, a cuneiform derivative of Babylonian script; and through these names he finally deciphered the entire document. This, however, was not Babylonian; Rawlinson had still to find, like Champollion, a Rosetta Stone-in this case, some inscription bearing the same text in old Persian and Babylonian. He found it three hundred feet high on an almost inaccessible rock at Behistun, in the mountains of Media, where Darius I had caused his carvers to engrave a record of his wars and victories in three languages-old Persian, Assyrian, and Babylonian. Day after day Rawlinson risked himself on these rocks, often suspending himself by a rope, copying every character carefully, even making plastic impressions of all the engraved surfaces. After twelve years of work he succeeded in translating both the Babylonian and the Assyrian texts (1847). To test these and similar findings, the Royal Asiatic Society sent an unpublished cuneiform document to four Assyriologists, and asked them-working without contract or communication with one another-to make independent translations. The four reports were found to be in almost complete agreement.

- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 249
The next time you find yourself doubting your purpose, remember Henry Rawlinson, dangling from those ropes as he rigorously copied down three ancient inscriptions.
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