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    We here at Robbservations have been remiss in diverting our readership with penetrating, and yet scintillating analysis of world events, so we return with a few peeks into the darkened corners of the intelligence world, as recounted in this story ("Russia uses dirty tricks despite U.S. ‘reset’") that appeared today:

    In the past four years, Russia’s intelligence services have stepped up a campaign of intimidation and dirty tricks against U.S. officials and diplomats in Russia and the countries that used to form the Soviet Union. U.S. diplomats and officials have found their homes broken into and vandalized, or altered in ways as trivial as bathroom use; faced anonymous or veiled threats; and in some cases found themselves set up in compromising photos or videos that are later leaked to the local press and presented as a sex scandal...
    Some would say that Russia is our "friend".
    Despite a stated policy from President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of warm U.S.-Russian ties, the campaign of intelligence intimidation -- or what the CIA calls “direct action” -- has persisted throughout what both sides have called a “reset” in the relations.
    Well, Obama does have warm relations with Russia. He's working for Putin as a deep cover mole. Explains a lot of his actions toward the country he pretends to lead, doesn't it? Especially his desire to ruin the U.S. economy with unfettered TARP spending ($1.5T), Obamacare ($1T/year), QE1, QE2, (QE3, QE4... $T and $T more), trillions  to European banks (concealed but recently revealed), and his insistence on tax increases in a time of catastrophic national unemployment ($5T over the next 10 years with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, but Obama wanted much more).

    To be sure, his 50% cuts in defense spending offset that spending a terabuck or so (ie, $1T, for those of you uninitiated in the new world of high stakes finance), but he's increased spending so much, what's a trillion here or there in savings going to hurt?

    Well, that's what the recent debt deal in Congress purports to save, that's what. But if you're trying to help out Russia, it's well worth the price, not that the Russians didn't make out like bandits with a START treaty that requires us to decrease our missile forces by 2/3, and allows them to increase their missile forces 30%. Yes, that's right.  We're pursuing nuclear parity with a dictatorship run by a killer with delusions of world domination.  It will be such a boon to world peace. Three cheers to Obama and Hillary's State Department!

    Back to our story.
    The most brazen example of this kind of intimidation was the Sept. 22 bombing attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. [The CIA and] A National Intelligence Council assessment sent to Congress last week confirmed that the bombing was ordered by Maj. Yevgeny Borisov of Russian military intelligence, said four U.S. officials who have read the report.
    But over at Foggy Bottom, they decided "warm relations" were more important than the truth:
    The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research assessed that Mr. Borisov was acting as a rogue agent, these officials said.
    Among the sex scandals,
    According to a Jan. 30, 2009, cable from U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle disclosed by WikiLeaks, USAID employees received an email with a doctored photo of the NDI official reclining with an underage girl. The email [was] from someone purporting to be a Russian citizen [and] accused the official of raping her 9-year-old daughter.
    Most reporters today need a moral compass, but this guy needs a grammar checker.
    Since 2007, according to two U.S. intelligence officials, American posts in Belarus, Russia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan have complained about instances in which junior Foreign Service officers have come home to find jewelry rearranged, cigarette butts stubbed out on the kitchen table, defecations in the bathroom, and break-ins with nothing of value stolen.
    “It’s meant to limit a diplomat’s ability to meet with individuals by aggressively demonstrating that they are being watched."
    Sort of like Facebook, actually.
    In August 2009, two Russian newspapers printed stories based on spliced video footage of Mr. Hatcher [a U.S. diplomat] at a hotel room, claiming he was employing the services of a prostitute... “They intercepted some phone calls he made and spliced them in a way that made them look strange. Then they took footage of him in a hotel room or something. They made it all look like they had footage of him in sex acts with prostitutes in a hotel,” one of those officials said.
    And so it goes. Right out of a James Bond movie. But then, Ian Fleming used to be a spy... he knew. As he wrote in 1956, in his introduction to From Russia, With Love,
    Not that it matters, but a great deal of the background to this story is accurate. SMERSH, a contraction of Smiert Spionam--Death to Spies--exists and remains today the most secret department of the Soviet government.
    At the beginning of 1956, when this book was written, the strength of SMERSH at home and abroad was about 40,000 and General Grubozaboyschikov was its chief. My description of his appearance is correct. Today, the headquarters of SMERSH are where, in Chapter 4, I have placed them, at No. 13 Sretenka Ulitsa, Moscow. The Conference Room is faithfully described and the intelligence chiefs who meet round the table are real officials who are frequently summoned to that room for purposes similar to those I have recounted.
    That is, murder.
    Two U.S. officials familiar with the incident, who asked not to be named, said the U.S. intelligence community saw this as the work of the FSB.
    No surprises there. But that's just for domestic operations -- the FSB is the equivalent of our own FBI. With the fall of the Soviet Union (sort of), the Russian SVR replaced the KGB in handling foreign operations for things like moles, such as Obama. (Intriguing side note: Given George Soros' role in getting Obama elected, he's likely worked closely with the SVR/KGB for decades.)
    Moscow’s intelligence services long have played dirty tricks on U.S. diplomats. In the “Spy vs. Spy” world of the Cold War, operations known as “honey traps” -- a young, attractive woman woos a U.S. Foreign Service officer into state of semi-undress where he can be photographed and blackmailed later -- were commonplace.
    That was exactly the plot of "From Russia, With Love", by the way. SMERSH launched an operation to embarrass the Western intelligence services by trapping Bond with a beautiful Russian spy, and then intended to kill him and the spy and publish the lurid details in the press. Fortunately, Bond prevailed.

    If only we had our own Bond to prevail in Washington.  But all we have are counterfeit T-bills flushed from the Fed.
    The KGB-trained services also on occasion would deliberately break into the hotel room or residence of visiting dignitaries. In some cases, these incidents escalated and U.S. diplomats found their pets killed.
    As you can see, they can be pretty ugly.  This is the Russia we are dealing with today -- one run by
    Mr. Putin, a former FSB director, is widely regarded as the real man in charge of Russia’s elite establishment of current FSB and former KGB officers.  In 2006, sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya produced a study that found 78 percent of Russia’s current elite had ties to the KGB or FSB.
    As I said, the demise of the Soviet Union was only "sort of". But let that not diminish your Hope for Change:
    Mr. Obama was far more optimistic last week in an interview with Russia’s official ITAR-Tass news agency.
    “Well, first of all, I think it’s important for us to look back over the last two years and see the enormous progress we’ve made.
    Yes, indeed he has.  Made "progress", the root of "progressive", the euphemism and code word for "communist".
    "I started talking about reset when I was still a candidate for president, and immediately reached out to President Medvedev as soon as I was elected. And we have been, I think, extraordinarily successful partners in moving towards reset,” he said.
    But what is he "resetting"?   In this world, phrasing is everything.
    An administration official who defended Mr. Obama’s 'reset' policy stressed that the political leadership of Russia was sincere in wanting to improve ties with the United States.
    Yep.  I'm sure they'd like real close ties, though I'm not sure Obama will get that job as Commissar of the North American Satellite of the Russian Federation.  Professionals tend not to trust starry-eyed idealists, and I think Obama would be among the first admissions to Putin's gulag on the archipelagof the North American continent.  If he survived that long.

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  • 08/14/11--15:48: Dodging the Apocalypse
  • A friend forwarded this LA Times story about presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, alleging that Bachmann is opposed to the Renaissance and an advocate of the Dark Ages. Well, the Times' story doesn't really support that contention, but that's because their story is such apoor summary (an attempt at a hatchet job, actually) of a much longer story in The New Yorker, which rambles a lot over irrelevancies in Bachmann's past, but it does provide more useful background information for assessing Bachmann, most of it in the latter half of the long article.

    To sum up: Bachmann is a certifiable evangelical nut-case (no surprise), an advocate of creationism, former abortion clinic protester, potential theocrat, and former IRS litigator -- but a slacker who stayed home most of the 4 years she worked there because she was on maternity leave. She worked on only six cases and tried exactly one case in court: 1992 Bachmann sought six thousand dollars in taxes from a Chippewa Indian who failed to report three years of income from Youth Project, Inc., a community-organizing nonprofit dedicated to "social justice and peace."
    If only she had done the same to a community organizer just getting started in Chicago at that time.

    If you read the New Yorker story, you'll see there is evidence for the contention that Bachmann's evangelism extends not only to disdain for the Renaissance, but also leans toward a form of religious theocracy.  The evidence revolves around her admitted respect for an evangelist/filmmaker named Francis Schaeffer, who has been called a key figure in the rise of the Religious Right in politics. According to New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza,
    This spring, during one of her trips to Iowa, Bachmann asked the audience if anyone had heard of or seen How Should We Then Live? Many people applauded. She continued:
    That also was another profound influence on Marcus’s life and my life, because we understood that the God of the Bible isn’t just about Bible stories and about Bible knowledge, or about just church on Sunday. He is the Lord of all of life. Every bit of life, including sociology, theology, biology, politics. You name the area and walk of life. He is the Lord of life. And so, as we went back to our studies, we looked at studying in a completely different light. Not for the purpose of a career but for a purpose of wondering, How does this fit into creation? How does this fit into the code and all of life that is about to come in front of us? And so we had new eyes that were opened up as we understood life now from a Biblical world view.
    Schaeffer “was a tremendous philosopher,” Bachmann told me. “He wrote marvellous books and was very inspirational.” She said that Schaeffer “took Christianity beyond the Bible,” and that he showed “how the application of living according to Christian principles has helped the culture for the better.” She added, “He really tried to call Christians to do more than just go to church...
    So what was Schaeffer's film? It consists of
    ...ten episodes tracing the influence of Christianity on Western art and culture, from ancient Rome to Roe v. Wade. In the films, Schaeffer... condemns the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Darwin, secular humanism, and postmodernism. 
    Well, I can't criticize any criticism of post-modernism, but it doesn't get more obscurantist than that. (Note: a proper definition of "obscurantist" is "opposition to human enlightenment and knowledge", but many on-line definitions are badly corrupted.)
    The first five installments of the series are something of an art-history and philosophy course. The iconic image from the early episodes is Schaeffer standing on a raised platform next to Michelangelo’s “David” and explaining why, for all its beauty, Renaissance art represented a dangerous turn away from a God-centered world and toward a blasphemous, human-centered world. 
    Well, yes, that was the point, after all.  This is actually old stuff for the creationist/evangelist crowd...   500 or 1000 years old.
    ...the film shifts in the second half. In the sixth episode, a mysterious man in a fake mustache drives around in a white van and furtively pours chemicals into a city’s water supply, while Schaeffer speculates about the possibility that the U.S. government is controlling its citizens by means of psychotropic drugs. The final two episodes of the series deal with abortion and the perils of genetic engineering.
    So you can see, it starts getting a little weird.  Conspirializingly weird.  Schaeffer died in 1984, but his son said,
    “Those first episodes are what Francis Schaeffer is doing while he was sitting in Switzerland having nice discussions with people who came through to find Jesus and talk about culture and art,” he said. But then the Roe decision came, and “it wasn’t a theory anymore. Now ‘they’ are killing babies... 
    And weirder yet:
    "We had been warning that humanism followed to its logical conclusion without Biblical absolutes is going to go into terrible places, and, look, it’s happening right before our very eyes. Once that happens, everything becomes a kind of holy war.."
    And even weirder:
    Francis Schaeffer ...was a major contributor to the school of thought now known as Dominionism, which relies on Genesis 1:26 [sic]...
    According to the Wiki,
    And God blessed [Adam and Eve] and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
    Christians typically interpret this verse as meaning that God gave humankind responsibility over the Earth, although theologians do not all agree on the nature and extent of that "dominion".
    And the same Wiki defines "Dominionism":
    ...(also called subjectionism) is the tendency among some conservative politically-active Christians, especially in the United States, to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action. 
    Lizza quotes a woman named Sara Diamond,
    ...who has written several books about evangelical movements in America, has succinctly defined the philosophy that resulted from Schaeffer’s interpretation: "Christians, and Christians alone, are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns."
    Lizza continues,
    In 1981, three years before he died, Schaeffer published “A Christian Manifesto,” a guide for Christian activism, in which he argues for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed.
    Then we get to Nancy Pearcy, another author that Bachmann likes so much: 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Bachmann what books she had read recently, she mentioned ...Pearcey’s [book, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity”] which Bachmann told me was a "wonderful" book.

    Today, one of the leading proponents of Schaeffer’s version of Dominionism is Nancy Pearcey, a former student of his and a prominent creationist. Her 2004 book... teaches readers how to implement Schaeffer’s idea that a Biblical world view should suffuse every aspect of one’s life. 
    In the Wiki link for Pearcy, she disputes being a Dominionist:
    Ryan Lizza described Pearcey as a leading proponent of Dominionism and a prominent creationist; Pearcey disputes the label "Dominionist", noting that she had never heard the term before reading Lizza's New Yorker article...
    I note that this comment had to appear today -- the New Yorker story is dated tomorrow (August 15). So, clearly Pearcy is keeping tabs on things.  Maybe a little more research into Schaeffer's alleged association with Dominionism is needed.  I note that a search of "Francis Schaeffer Dominionism" turns up many links that dispute the Dominionist label, and blame Sara Diamond for inventing it.  For instance this one picked at random:
    Others might bring up Schaeffer’s book, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, 1981). For the Dominionist watcher Sarah Diamond, this book, and this book alone, seems to be the reason she labels Schaeffer a Dominionist. But did she read the book with an open mind, or did she just read it as source material for a term that she invented (Dominionism). From reading her writings it seems as though she needed to divide all the people involved with the Christian Right, a political movement, into different categories. I would probably have done the same thing if I had been in her shoes. We need to categorize different political groups so that we have an educated and well informed electorate. But with Schaeffer, it can be proven that she has put him in the wrong category. There has been too much read into what people think Schaeffer was writing about in A Christian Manifesto. For what this book is mostly about is how to construct a Christian legal foundation for fighting abortion. If you want to call Schaeffer a "godfather," don’t call him the "godfather of Dominionism." Call him "the godfather of the anti-abortion movement/Pro Life Movement." If you read A Christian Manifesto from that point of view, things will start to fit together in your understanding of Schaeffer’s Christian Worldview.
    True or not, there is certainly a great deal to dislike about Schaeffer, Pearcy and their admirer, Michele Bachmann.  But is there anything to offset these negatives if our choice in the 2012 election becomes Bachmann vs. Obama?

    Bachmann believes in charity, being a foster mother:
    ...the Bachmanns took in twenty-three girls; I spoke with one of them (she did not want her name used), who stayed with the Bachmanns for three and a half years and now lives in Colorado. She said, "I owe the Bachmanns everything. They offered me the structure I needed and taught me how to figure out goals. They really encouraged me to figure out who I was rather than who I was becoming. I turned my life around one hundred and eighty degrees."
    That's a lot of girls.  But the weird part (yet again) is that almost all these girls had eating disorders.  Eating disorders?  Go figure.  I wouldn't condemn anyone for charitable acts, and foster-parenting could be a legitimate value to someone for various reasons.

    Maybe Michele had an eating disorder and simply wants to help these girls, but suspect the greater motivation is that she takes her evangelizing seriously enough to indoctrinate 23 girls into Christianity.  It doesn't sound like they had to endure too many exorcisms, but personally, I'd take bulemia over Christianity any day, month or year.

    What else can we say about Michele?  According to TheNew Yorker, she and her husband helped start a school with some others. Ostensibly non-denominational, but both Bachmann's left the administration of the place after objections that their religious agenda was violating the school charter. 
    I'm running short on good things to find, but here's something, depending on your interpretation of it:  Bachmann's a typical Religious Right in being mixed up about the relation between religion and freedom:
    “If there was one word on a motivation or world view, that one word would be ‘liberty,’ ” Bachmann told me in early August, when I asked about her world view. “That’s what inspires me and motivates me more than anything—just the concept of freedom, liberty, what it means. Whether it’s economic liberty, religious liberty, liberty in our finances, liberty in being able to choose the profession we have. That’s what inspired my relatives to come here back in the eighteen-fifties. It was the concept of liberty. That’s what motivates me today as well."
    Maybe it's pandering to get the Tea Party vote, maybe not. She appears deeply opposed to slavery,
    ...the latest Bachmann controversy: an interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which she defended an earlier statement that the Founders worked tirelessly to end slavery. ...In “Christianity and the Constitution,” the book she worked on with Eidsmoe, her law-school mentor, he argues that John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams “expressed their abhorrence for the institution” and explains that “many Christians opposed slavery even though they owned slaves.” They didn’t free their slaves, he writes, because of their benevolence. “It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible.”
    Though The New Yorker tries to suggest that Bachmann is actually rationalizing for slavery, I don't buy it.

    She seems opposed to Socialism:
    In one pamphlet, she wrote that federal education law “embraces a socialist, globalist worldview; loyalty to all government and not America.” In another, she warned of a “new restructuring of American society,” beginning with “workforce boards” that would tell every student the specific career options he or she could pursue, turning children into “human resources for a centrally planned economy.”
    But Bachmann in 1976 supported the election of evangelical Democrat/Socialist Jimmy Carter. Go figure.

    Etc. I think I've got the picture. It ain't pretty, but is she Count Dracula?  Despite the potential "Dominionism" aspect (I'm just not knowledgable enough about contemporary Christianity to pass judgment on it), I suspect she's more like an evangelical Elmer Fudd. Lot's of passion for killing bunny rabbits, but largely clueless about which end of the gun to use.
    We turn to the underlying point to all this. 

    I know we can't survive another term of Obama.

    It's certainly best to do everything possible to keep her from being nominated and get a secular candidate (though a Mitt Romney strikes me in some ways as a worse candidate), but what if we don't?  You're in the voting booth, the two choices are before you:  Obama or Bachmann? 

    You think:  Obama is destroying the economy, eviscerating the military, denuding our freedom, leading us into global war--and he'll complete the job in a second term.  What will Bachmann do?

    I'm going out on a limb here and say I'm pretty sure we could survive a President Bachmann -- because anything overtly religious that she tried to impose would be stopped (including any attempt to repeal abortion). The danger of a Christian theocracy is decades from now, not the next election. And in that time, if Objectivism takes hold, the Religious Right will find a much more capable opposition.

    Many people I know are arguing that we must vote for Obama instead of any Christian because the Christians will impose a theocracy--but it does no service to the country to exaggerate their danger in the next election. If Obama wins, it is not an exaggeration to say: you can kiss this country goodbye.

    I've said it till I'm blue in the face, but since I was the only one to correctly predict how destructive Obama would be, I'll say again just how destructive his second term could be: it may well lead to the complete end of all businesses in America, mass starvation, rampant riots (the riots in Britain are barely a taste), world war and death on a scale you can hardly imagine.

    That's the short answer, but it's a reasonably high probability scenario. Maybe not 50%, but high enough.  Do you want to roll those dice?

    You say: Robb's going off on his rant again. Someone get him a Xanax.

    For those of you who think that, ask yourself: what would you have thought would happen to the world in 1938? I'd bet you would have considered World War 2 and the death of 100 million people in the next 7 years... inconceivable.

    To borrow a line from Inigo Montoya, that word may not mean what you think it does.

    Re-read Atlas Shrugged. Was Ayn Rand any less pessimistic than I am?

    So gauge your decision in that light:  Obama is certain destruction, but Bachmann is potential destruction-- someone who sounds like she might like to impose a theocracy, and doubtless a lot of Christian supporters would be pushing her toward that end.  But can she get away with it? 

    In a recent podcast, even Leonard Peikoff has admitted he underestimated Obama's danger to the survival of the country, and advocated voting for Republican's across the board in the mid-term election we just had. His point was essentially the one I've been making for a longer time: it does no good to claim a moral righteousness for opposing religion if you're dead.

    You can listen to his comments here if you need proof ("Is religion more dangerous in America than socialism or collectivism", July 20, 2009).

    Contrast to his comments on May 17, 2010, only 10 months later ("Given the Obama Administration and your stand on Republicans, will you support a vote for a Republican in November?").

    So before anyone gets too wrapped up in demonizing every candidate who ever went to church, spoke in tongues and shouted "hallelujah!", consider the alternative: one candidate is a man who is working by conscious, deliberate intent to destroy the United States as rapidly as he can--Obama.

    Then concretize the worst consequences of the worst Christian candidate out there right now -- Michele Bachmann (no, it's not Palin).

    One candidate will destroy by malice aforethought, using nuclear weapons (possibly literally). One will stumble forward in a religious ecstasy, erecting random crucifixes, ranting about God, creating a few random programs to advocate for religion, but in the end doing very little that will materially affect your life.

    The other will destroy your life.

    ON the upside (if there is one), should the prospect of a President Bachmann materialize, I think she will at least buy us a few years time to spread the right ideas, especially among the Tea Party.

    I can't say the same about Obama.  Where Bachmann will try to impose some early steps toward theocracy, Obama is already imposing many steps toward a communist totalitarianism.

    For another upside, in a certain very important sense, where Obama's election provided the chance to permanently discredit the Marxist Left (when the NY Times turns on you, as they have, you're done) and galvanize the secular Right, there is likewise an argument to be made (I offer it guardedly) that a President Bachmann will discredit the Religious Right and galvanize the secular Left--and that would leave the field open in 2016 (maybe) for someone more rational.  

    I'm not saying it is certain Bachmann will be nominated. I very much hope she won't be, and she should be opposed at all costs.  But if she is nominated, how would you decide to vote? That's the issue. Some people I know are campaigning on a platform of "everyone has to vote for Obama instead of any religious candidate from the Right!"

    But that's almost a vote of suicide.

    In my view, a second Obama term is so dangerous to the existential survival of the country that there's very few candidates I won't vote for. Huckabee would be one, but he's dropped out (for now--I'm betting he fishes for a vice-presidential slot). Maybe I'm underestimating the danger of Bachmann--possibly;  I might change my mind in the coming months.  But if it gets so bad that I have no choice in the coming election for anyone who offers me any advantage over suicide under Obama--it will be time to get out of Dodge.

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  • 09/02/11--13:24: Atlas Shrugged Day
  •       "Who is John Galt?"
      The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum's face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still--as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him.
      "Why did you say that?" asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense.
      The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky.
      "Why does it bother you?" he asked.
       ...[Eddie] walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster.
      He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky.
      It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening's sunset, the rectangle said: September 2.
    This date, and meaning, runs throughout the story of Atlas Shrugged. It's also today, as I write this.
      ...The calendar in the sky beyond the window of her office said: September 2. Dagny leaned wearily across her desk. The first light to snap on at the approach of dusk was always the ray that hit the calendar; when the white-glowing page appeared above the roofs, it blurred the city, hastening the darkness.
      She had looked at that distant page every evening of the months behind her. Your days are numbered, it had seemed to say--as if it were marking a progression toward something it knew, but she didn't. Once, it had clocked her race to build the John Galt Line; now it was clocking her race against an unknown destroyer.
      ...She raised her head, as she finished reading his pages. The calendar in the distance said: September 2. The lights of the city had grown beneath it, spreading and glittering. She thought of Rearden. 
    In a few days, Obama (I can't call him "President" — it's too much of a desecration of that title) will be speaking to the nation.
      ...The last event of the day had been a large dinner reception at the home of Senor Rodrigo Gonzales, a diplomatic representative of Chile. No one had heard of Senor Gonzales a year ago, but he had [been described]... as a progressive businessman. He had lost his property--it was said--when Chile, becoming a People's State, had nationalized all properties, except those belonging to citizens of backward, non-People's countries, such as Argentina; but he had adopted an enlightened attitude and had joined the new regime, placing himself in the service of his country. His home in New York occupied an entire floor of an exclusive residential hotel.  He had a fat, blank face and the eyes of a killer.
      ...[He had mentioned] that by agreement with the future People's State of Argentina, the properties of d'Anconia Copper would be nationalized by the People's State of Chile, in less than a month, on September 2.
    I'm not saying that's what Obama's speech will be about — except in spirit.
      [Dagny] shuddered and walked faster--but ahead of her, in the foggy distance, she saw the calendar above the roofs of the city--it was long past midnight and the calendar said: August 6, but it seemed to her suddenly that she saw September 2 written above the city in letters of blood--and she thought: If she worked, if she struggled, if she rose, she would take a harder beating with each step of her climb, until, at the end, whatever she reached, be it a copper company or an unmortgaged cottage, she would see it seized by Jim on some September 2 and she would see it vanish to pay for the parties where Jim made his deals with his friends.
    But the party can only go on so long before it's over.
      ...On the morning of September 2, a copper wire broke in California, between two telephone poles by the track of the Pacific branch line of Taggart Transcontinental...
      "Copper wire?" said James Taggart, with an odd glance that went from her face to the city beyond the window. "In a very short while, we won't have any trouble about copper."
      "Why?" she asked, but he did not answer. There was nothing special to see beyond the window, only the clear sky of a sunny day, the quiet light of early afternoon on the roofs of the city and, above them, the page of the calendar, saying: September 2.
    And from there the effects ripple outward.
      "Ladies and gentlemen!" the voice of the radio speaker leaped forth abruptly; it had a tone of panic. "News of a shocking development has just reached us from Santiago, Chile!
      "...The seizure of the multi-billion dollar d'Anconia Copper was to come as a munificent surprise to the country. [But] on the stroke of ten, in the exact moment when the chairman's gavel struck the rostrum, opening the session--almost as if the gavel's blow had set it off--the sound of a tremendous explosion rocked the hall... The chairman averted panic and called the session to order. The act of nationalization was read to the assembly, to the sound of fire alarm sirens and distant cries.  But more terrible a shock came later, when the legislators called a hasty recess to announce to the nation the good news that the people now owned d'Anconia Copper. While they were voting, word had come from the closest and farthest points of the globe that there was no d'Anconia Copper left on earth. Ladies and gentlemen, not anywhere.
      "In that same instant, on the stroke of ten, by an infernal marvel of synchronization, every property of d'Anconia Copper on the face of the globe, from Chile to Siam to Spain to Pottsville, Montana, had been blown up and swept away.  In place of the golden dawn of a new age, the People's States of Chile and Argentina are left with a pile of rubble and hordes of unemployed on their hands!"
    Call it the work of anti-social misanthropes, or just the natural consequence and end-game of looters everywhere.
      [Dagny] saw the glare of the explosion in every face she met through the rest of the day-and in every face she passed in the darkness of the streets, that evening. If Francisco had wanted a worthy funeral pyre for d'Anconia Copper, she thought, he had succeeded.  ...She saw it in the face of Hank Rearden, when she met him for dinner that evening. ...She knew whom he meant, when he said suddenly, his voice soft and low with the weight of admiration, "He did keep his oath, didn't he?"
          "His oath?" she asked, startled, thinking of the inscription on the temple of Atlantis.
          "He said to me, 'I swear--by the woman I love--that I am your friend,' He was."
          "He is."
          He looked away, out at the city. They sat at the side of the room, with a sheet of glass as an invisible protection against the sweep of space and streets sixty floors below. The city seemed abnormally distant: it lay flattened down to the pool of its lowest stories. A few blocks away, its tower merging into darkness, the calendar hung at the level of their faces, not as a small, disturbing rectangle, but as an enormous screen, eerily close and large, flooded by the dead, white glow of light projected through an empty film, empty but for the letters: September 2.
    The meaning is a tocsin -- an alarm bell warning of great danger.
      "How could he? How could he?" a woman was demanding with petulant terror. "He had no right to do it!"
      "It was an accident," said a young man with a staccato voice and an odor of public payroll. "It was a chain of coincidences, as any statistical curve of probabilities can easily prove. It is unpatriotic to spread rumors exaggerating the power of the people's enemies."
      "Right and wrong is all very well for academic conversations," said a woman with a schoolroom voice and a barroom mouth, "but how can anybody take his own ideas seriously enough to destroy a fortune when people need it?"
      The muffled scream of a woman across the room and some half grasped signal on the edge of Dagny's vision, came simultaneously and made her whirl to look at the city.
      The calendar was run by a mechanism locked in a room behind the screen, unrolling the same film year after year, projecting the dates in steady rotation, in changeless rhythm, never moving but on the stroke of midnight. The speed of Dagny's turn gave her time to see a phenomenon as unexpected as if a planet had reversed its orbit in the sky: she saw the words "September 2" moving upward and vanishing past the edge of the screen.
      Then, written across the enormous page, stopping time, as a last message to the world and to the world's motor which was New York, she saw the lines of a sharp, intransigent handwriting:        
    Brother, you asked for it!  Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Anconia 
    In one sense, the entire story of Atlas Shrugged is one of contrasts between two numbers:  the number "2" -- and the zero.  The first is a response to the latter.  As John Galt told the world,
       "This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero. ...You who are worshippers of the zero--you have never discovered that achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.
      " can no longer say to me, the builder: 'Produce, and feed us in exchange for our not destroying your production.' I am answering in the name of all your victims: Perish with and in your own void. ...Perish, because we have learned that a zero cannot hold a mortgage over life. 
      "...You dart in panic through the trap of your days, looking for the exit you have closed, running from a pursuer you dare not name to a terror you dare not acknowledge... The purpose of your struggle is not to know, not to grasp or name or hear the thing I shall now state to your hearing: that yours is the Morality of Death. pursue a course of action that does not taint your life by any joy, that brings you no value in matter, no value in spirit, no gain, no profit, no reward--if you achieve this state of total zero, you have achieved the ideal of moral perfection. 
      "A morality that holds need as a claim, holds emptiness-nonexistence-as its standard of value; it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness, inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster, the lack, the fault, the flaw-the zero. 
      "...It is only the metaphysics of a leech that would cling to the idea of a universe where a zero is a standard of identification. 
      "...All actions are caused by entities. ...An action not caused by an entity would be caused by a zero, which would mean a zero controlling a thing, a nonentity controlling an entity, the non-existent ruling the existent--which is the universe of your teachers' desire, the cause of their doctrines of causeless action, the reason of their revolt against reason, the goal of their morality, their politics, their economics, the ideal they strive for: the reign of the zero. 
      "...When a savage who has not learned to speak declares that existence must be proved, ...he is asking you to step into a void outside of existence and consciousness to give him proof of both--he is asking you to become a zero gaining knowledge about a zero...  
      "You who've never grasped the nature of evil, you who describe them as 'misguided idealists'--may the God you invented forgive you!- they are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they're after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man. 
      "...It is a conspiracy of all those who seek, not to live, but to get away with living, those who seek to cut just one small corner of reality and are drawn, by feeling, to all the others who are busy cutting other corners--a conspiracy that unites by links of evasion all those who pursue a zero as a value: 
      "This idol of your cult of zero-worship, this symbol of impotence-- the congenital dependent— is your image of man and your standard of value, in whose likeness you strive to refashion your soul.  
      " help a man who has no virtues, to help him on the ground of his suffering as such, to accept his faults, his need, as a claim --is to accept the mortgage of a zero on your values. ...Be it only a penny you will not miss or a kindly smile he has not earned, a tribute to a zero is treason to life and to all those who struggle to maintain it. It is of such pennies and smiles that the desolation of your world was made."
    The full meaning of the number zero is concretized in the following discussion between Galt and Mr. Thompson, the leader of the country who wants Galt to save everyone from themselves-- but Thompson finds there is no common ground he can offer in trade:
            "Well, what on earth do you want?"
    "What on earth do I need you for?"
    "What have you got to offer me that I couldn't get without you?"
    There was a different look in Mr. Thompson's eyes when he drew back, as if cornered, yet looked straight at Galt for the first time and said slowly, "Without me, you couldn't get out of this room, right now."
    Galt smiled. "True."
    "You wouldn't be able to produce anything. You could be left here to starve."
    "Well, don't you see?" The loudness of homey joviality came back into Mr. Thompson's voice, as if the hint given and received were now to be safely evaded by means of humor. "What I've got to offer you is your life."
    "It's not yours to offer, Mr. Thompson," said Galt softly.
    Something about his voice made Mr. Thompson jerk to glance at him, then jerk faster to look away: Galt's smile seemed almost gentle.
    "Now," said Galt, "do you see what I meant when I said that a zero can't hold a mortgage over life? It's I who'd have to grant you that kind of mortgage--and I don't. The removal of a threat is not a payment, the negation of a negative is not a reward, the withdrawal of your armed hoodlums is not an incentive, the offer not to murder me is not a value."
    "Who... who's said anything about murdering you?"
    "Who's said anything about anything else?
          ...There was a long pause.
    "Well?" said Galt. "What are your orders?"
    "I want you to save the economy of the country!"
    "I don't know how to save it."
    "I want you to find a way!"
    "I don't know how to find it."
    "I want you to think!"
    "How will your gun make me do that, Mr. Thompson?"
            Mr. Thompson jerked suddenly into bustling, unnecessary motions, as if he were in a hurry, "I've got to run along," he said. "I... I have so many appointments. ...[He] paused at the door, turned to look at Galt for a moment and shook his head. "I can't figure you out," he said. "I just can't figure you out."
    Galt smiled, shrugged and answered, "Who is John Galt?"

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  • 09/23/11--23:40: Dupes of the Collective
  • Reading this article about Nobel-prize winning physicist Hermann Muller (1890-1967), it says
    Nobel prize winner Hermann Muller knowingly lied when he claimed in 1946 that there is no safe level of radiation exposure... his decision not to mention key scientific evidence against his position has had a far-reaching impact on our approach to regulating radiation and chemical exposure. 
    Muller himself served on the NAS’s Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) committee, through which the linear dose-response approach to risk assessment became firmly entrenched. The two successfully suppressed last-minute evidence from the fruit fly experiment conducted in Stern’s lab by postdoctoral researcher Ernst Caspari, and the rest is history, Calabrese says. It marked the “transformation of a threshold-guided risk assessment to one now centered on a linear dose-response."
    ...Muller was awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery that X-rays induce genetic mutations. This helped him call attention to his long-time concern over the dangers of atomic testing.
    It was a lie that led to many restraints on medical uses of radiation even today, but also bans on the testing and development of nuclear weapons by the U.S. government--so I immediately had to ask myself: was Muller a communist?

    Was he doing it on behalf of a Soviet agenda, which frequently manipulated academic trends and science to the end of weakening the U.S.?

    For instance, the dangers of nuclear weapons causing a planet-wide "winter" was initially a Soviet "psy-op" to manipulate the Left in this country, with the goal of influencing U.S. policy to halt weapons testing and production, as well as promoting disarmament treaties that would be beneficial to the Soviets (and now Russia).  But when the nuclear winter hypothesis fell apart, it morphed into anthropogenic global warming (AGW), as a means of crippling the economies of Western countries.  (In my opinion, the various attempts to limit CO2 emissions were ultimately Soviet/Russian orchestrated efforts.)

    To show that this strategy wasn't limited to nukes, I think there could be credible evidence that Keynesianism was a theory with KGB origins, intended to cripple Western economies--Keynes was an avowed socialist, but he openly admired communism.  For instance, he is quoted here as saying
    Until recently events in Russia were moving too fast and the gap between paper professions and actual achievements was too wide for a proper account to be possible. But the new system is now sufficiently crystallized to be reviewed. The result is impressive. The Russian innovators have passed, not only from the revolutionary stage, but also from the doctrinaire stage.
    There is little or nothing left which bears any special relation to Marx and Marxism as distinguished from other systems of socialism. They are engaged in the vast administrative task of making a completely new set of social and economic institutions work smoothly and successfully over a territory so extensive that it covers one-sixth of the land surface of the world. Methods are still changing rapidly in response to experience. The largest scale empiricism and experimentalism which has ever been attempted by disinterested administrators is in operation. Meanwhile the Webbs have enabled us to see the direction in which things appear to be moving and how far they have got.1

    ...It leaves me with a strong desire and hope that we in this country [Britain] may discover how to combine an unlimited readiness to experiment with changes in political and economic methods and institutions, whilst preserving traditionalism and a sort of careful conservatism, thrifty of everything which has human experience behind it, in every branch of feeling and of action.
    Keynes was very probably a Fabian--a secret society of communists pretending to be socialists, working to promote communism. (Under Marxist dialectic, socialism is merely a stepping-stone to communism.)  A well-known British political theorist and economist in the 1930's and 1940's, Harold Laski, was publicly a Socialist and much later revealed as a communist Fabian -- he was highly influential, and the architect of post-war Socialist India, as well as the model for Ayn Rand's fictional character Ellsworth Toohey.

    So as I read the above story, which says that Hermann Muller's lie led to restrictions on U.S. nuclear weapons development, I had to ask if he was a communist.  Sure enough.  Typing "Hermann Muller communist" into Google brings up this biography, which says
    Hermann Muller was born in Manhattan in 1890 and grew into a 5'2" science geek. His father... influenced Hermann with his socialist ideals and a love of science. ...Upon graduation from Morris High School in 1907 at age sixteen, Muller attended Columbia University and was attracted to the emerging field of genetics. 
    ...In the 1920s, Muller performed his Nobel prize-winning research showing that X-rays could induce mutations and he became instantly famous. Muller used his fame to caution against the indiscriminate use of X-rays in medicine, but despite his warnings, some physicians even prescribed X-rays to stimulate ovulation in sterile women. His warnings angered many doctors and were largely ignored. 
    Muller's outspoken views on socialism also got him in trouble with the Texas administration. He helped publish a Communist newspaper at the school, and the FBI tracked his activities. Feeling that U.S. society was regressing during the Depression, Muller left for Europe in 1932.
    A move to the Soviet Union in 1934 seemed to have cured Muller of his Communist sympathies, although he always remained a socialist.
    Well, maybe.
    By the time he left in 1937, several of his students and colleagues had "disappeared" or been shipped to Siberia.
    How many people got out of Russia while it was under Stalin, simply by asking to be let out?

    So I think we can safely say Muller was not only a communist, but he was working for the Soviet spy apparatus, in some capacity.  In fact, his zeal for the dangers of radiation seemed to grow after he came back to the West, and
    World War II forced Muller to leave Scotland in 1940 and he eventually found a permanent position at Indiana University in 1945. A year later, Muller won the Nobel Prize for his work on mutation-inducing X-rays and he used the opportunity to continue pressing for more public knowledge about the hazards of X-ray radiation.
    Given that, I would say with very high probability that his lie about the dangers of radiation -- in 1946, one year after the bombs were dropped on Japan -- was part of a KGB operation to scare people in this country away from using anything associated with the word "nuclear".

    It offers some insight into how the Soviets operated then, and how Russia operates today, under Putin (who is ex-KGB/FSB). Or possibly how Obama (a closet communist, in my firm opinion) pursues destructive economic policies such as "stimulus", tax increases, crippling regulations, and healthcare laws (a trillion dollars annually when fully implemented) -- all with the object of stressing the U.S. economy to the breaking point.  Or his aggressive pursuit of the new START disarmament treaty, which reduces U.S. nuclear stockpiles by 2/3, while letting the Russians increase their stockpiles.

    Muller was also an advocate of government-run eugenics to improve the Soviet breed and eliminate weakness in their people.  See his rather long-winded letter to Stalin, where he seeks to persuade Uncle Joe of the need for such an effort. I greatly condense it, but include portions mainly to show Muller's deep committment to communism and some indication of his naive adherence and philosophical approach, which attempts to unite Marxist theory with practice; ultimately it shows he was little more than a dupe for the Collective:
    To Comrade Joseph Stalin,
    Secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.,
    The Kremlin, Moscow
    Dear Comrade Stalin, 
    As a scientist with confidence in the ultimate Bolshevik triumph
    throughout all possible spheres of human endeavor, I come to
    you with a matter of vital importance arising out of my own
    science – biology, and, in particular, genetics. The matter is
    clearly such that it should be referred to you yourself, primarily.
    For, on the one hand, it involves such limitless potentialities of
    progress. And on the other hand the passing of judgment
    concerning it requires your farsighted view and your strength in
    the realistic use of dialectic thought. 
    The matter is none less than that of the conscious control of
    human biological evolution – that is, the control by man of the
    hereditary material lying at the basis of life in man himself. This
    is a development which bourgeois society has been quite
    unable to look squarely in the face. Its evasions and perversions
    of this matter are to be seen in the futile mouthings about
    “Eugenics” current in bourgeois “democracies,” and the vicious
    doctrine of “Race Purity” employed by the Nazis as a weapon in
    class war. These spurious proposals are offered as a substitute
    for socialism, i.e., as a decoy to mislead and divide workers as
    well as petit bourgeois. 
    In opposition to these bourgeois misconstructions, geneticists
    of the political left recognize that only a socialized economic
    system can provide the material basis and the social and
    ideological framework necessary for a really sound policy with
    regard to human genetics, for a policy which will guide human
    biological evolution along socially desirable lines. They
    recognize further that sufficient biological knowledge and a
    sufficiently refined physical technique already exist for the
    production of very noteworthy results in this field even within
    the span of our own lifetimes. And they are aware that both the
    immediate and the ultimate possibilities of a biological kind
    thus opened up under socialism so far outdistance the
    biological aims hitherto envisaged by bourgeois theorists as to
    make the latter appear quite ridiculous. True eugenics can only
    be a product of socialism, and will, like advances in physical
    technique, be one of the means used by the latter in the
    betterment of life....

    ...The science of genetics has made it clear that there is one
    means and only one whereby a worthwhile beginning may be
    made in the direction of providing more favorable genes. This
    is not by directly changing the genes, but by bringing about a
    relatively high rate of multiplication of the most valuable genes
    that can be found anywhere. For it is not possible artificially to
    change the genes themselves in any particular, specified
    directions. The idea that this can be done is an idle fantasy,
    probably not realizable for thousands of years at least. 
    ...The process by which such biological progression may be
    accomplished artificially, with the minimum disturbance of
    personal lives, is by allowing all people who wish to take part in
    the production of children that have the best genetic
    equipment obtainable, to obtain appropriate reproductive
    material, for use by artificial insemination. No doubt this
    method would first of all be sought after by women who for
    some reason have been forced by circumstances to remain
    unmarried. Statistics show that there are regions having a
    considerable excess of female population, women who never
    have had a chance to marry and probably will never have this
    In this connection it should be observed that there is no
    natural law which rules that a person instinctively wants and
    loves exactly the product of his own sperm and egg. He
    naturally loves, and feels as his, that child with whom he has
    been associated and who is dependent upon and loves him, and
    whom in its helplessness, he has taken care of and brought up....
    ...True we have today, rooted in traditions from the bourgeois
    society in our past, the idea that our child must be derived from
    our own reproductive cells.

    ...These feelings would rest upon a higher and increasingly
    strong basis of morality: that morality in which the individual
    finds his greatest satisfaction in the consciousness of being
    instrumental in making an especially valuable contribution to

    ...After 20 years, there should already be very
    noteworthy results accruing to the benefit of the nation.
    And if at time capitalism still exists beyond our borders,
    this vital wealth in our youthful cadres, already
    strong through social and environmental means, but
    then supplemented even by the means of genetics, could not
    fail to be of very considerable advantage for our side.
    ...All the above represents quite the antithesis of the “Race
    Purification” and so-called “Eugenics” of the Nazis and their
    kin, who set up artificial hierarchies of races and of classes,
    branding as inferior those whom capitalism wishes to oppress,
    and brandishing against them the knife of sterilization, or
    restriction. The social way, on the other hand, is positive, and
    works for a surplus reproduction that combines the highest
    endowments of every race, as found in a classless society...
    Many a mother of tomorrow, freed of the fetters of religious
    superstitions, will be proud to mingle her germ plasm with that
    of a Lenin or a Darwin, and to contribute to society a child
    partaking of his biological attributes. act upon this recognition is but to
    be realists and to unite our theory with our practice. It is
    especially important that our practice to right in this field, for
    what material is as important to us as our human material? And
    it will be acknowledged that in deciding the production of
    children, the chief interests are the interests of the children
    themselves, and of the children’s children. Theirs is the need,
    to which we should give in proportion to our own ability. 
    ...The above, in brief, is what appears to me to be the dialectic
    view of the relations between biological and social evolution,
    and a real Bolshevik attack upon the matter will be based on
    the full recognition of these relations. In view of the
    immediately impending rise of discussion on matters relating to
    genetics it is important that the position of Soviet genetics on
    this subject should soon be clear. It should have its own
    standpoint, the positive, Bolshevik standpoint, to set against the
    so-called “Race Purification” and perverted “Eugenics”
    doctrines of the Nazis and their allies on the one hand and
    against the “laissez faire” and “go slow” doctrines of the
    despairing liberals on the other hand. Most liberals take an
    attitude of practical hopelessness and impotence with regard to
    human biological evolution, declaring that little or nothing can
    be done. This is in line with their political individualism and
    hopelessness. And even some communists, lacking a sufficient
    biological background, or influenced by liberal thought, have
    drifted to the pessimistic liberal position. 
    ...There are of course many important points of principle and
    practice involved in these proposals for which the present letter
    did not have space. Some of these are taken up in the book
    above mentioned, of which I am sending you a copy separately.
    I should be glad to go into any further details on these subjects,
    if that would be desired. 
    With deep respect,
    In a brotherly spirit,
    H. J. Muller
    Senior geneticist of the Institute of Genetics of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Moscow,
    Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States,
    Member of the Foreign Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.,
    May 5, 1936

    Reportedly, Stalin ignored Muller. As the introduction to the previous letter says,
    Muller’s letter is an enormously important historical text, and had it been received positively by one man it would undoubtedly have become one of the single most important documents of world history.
    Maybe Stalin did ignore Muller--or maybe someone remembered his letter. In 1959, experiments were conducted in Siberia to breed tamer foxes -- and more vicious ones.  (I recommend the full BBC documentary of which the following is merely a clip from The Secret Life Of The Dog.)

    0 0

    Reading the transcript of a talk by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, it has some interesting statistics concerning the decline in violence throughout human history, but as Twain once said, there are "lies, damned lies, and there are statistics." It starts from the ridiculous assertion that
    "The extraordinary 65-year stretch since the end of the Second World War has been called the "Long Peace", and has perhaps the most striking statistics of all, zero. There were zero wars between the United States and the Soviet Union (the two superpowers of the era), contrary to every expert prediction."
    He conveniently ignores an awful lot of very bloody wars. Picking a few at random (and including WWII just for reference),
    1939-45: World War II (55 million) [note: other sources put the toll at up to 100 million]
    1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
    1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000)
    1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
    1949-50: Mainland China vs Tibet (1,200,000)
    1950-53: Korean war (3 million)
    1958-61: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (38 million)
    1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)
    1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir
    1966-69: Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (11 million)
    1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
    1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
    1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
    1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
    1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
    1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
    1976-93: Mozambique's civil war (900,000)
    1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
    1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
    1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
    1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million)
    1998-: Congo/Zaire's war - Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
    I have to note that the source for this is so uniformly optimistic as to be ludicrous itself. One should double or triple many of those figures. It lists Stalin's purges, for instance, as 10 million dead, when better figures are at least 20 million, and some are over 30 million.

    The way Pinker's thesis works is this: calculate violence on a per capita basis, and violence around the world has dramatically reduced over history; your chance of dying is less today.

    Of course, on a non-per-capita basis, the number of deaths from violence has been going way up, and it isn't in the least clear to me whether he's including all the consequences of violence and statism, such as starvation, etc.  How he explains his decision goes like
    The denominator here is the world population, not the population size of countries involved in each war. There are arguments for doing it either way. The problem is that you can make the numbers go all over the place depending on the choice of the denominator, whether you choose the country that initiated the war, the collateral damage in other countries, the neighboring countries, and so on. So in all cases I've plotted deaths as a proportion of world population.
    So if you're going to make your numbers go all over the place, why not make them go all over toward your thesis?  That is, the epistemology of a self-licking ice cream cone.

    As to why there's been "no wars" since WWII, he says,
    "Specifically, the number of democracies has increased since the Second World War and again since the end of the Cold War, relative to the number of autocracies...."
    I suppose if you consider the Soviet Union and Communist China "democracies".
    "...There's been a steady increase in international trade since the end of the Second World War."
    More on that shortly.
    "...There's been a continuous increase in the number of intergovernmental organizations that countries have entered into. And especially since the end of the Cold War in 1990, there's been an increase in the number of international peace-keeping missions, and even more importantly, the number of international peace keepers that have kept themselves in between warring nations mostly in the developing world."
    Again, more on that shortly.
    "Nuclear weapons, paradoxically, are so militarily useless that they haven't really affected balance of power considerations. This is not to deny that deterrence has been important, just that the massive amount of destruction that countries like the U.S. and the USSR could inflict with conventional weaponry made each very nervous about the other even if neither side had had nuclear weapons. World War II in Europe didn't involve nuclear weapons, but was a kind of destruction that no one wanted to see again. The theory of the Nuclear Peace is quite popular, but I’m skeptical."
    Well, I'm skeptical of a lot, too.  Then there is his statement that slavery has been reduced around the world:
    "...just fifty years ago, slavery was still legal in Saudi Arabia... The last countries to abolish it were Saudi Arabia in 1962..."
    Even our own State Department might dispute that.
    SAUDI ARABIA (Tier 3)
    "Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and to a much lesser extent, forced prostitution. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as the withholding of passports or confinement to the workplace. Recent reports of abuse include the driving of nails into a domestic worker’s body... 
    ...The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.
    Again, this report significantly understates the slavery problem in Saudi Arabia; they still hold slave bazaars, albeit no longer for public display. But Pinker's argument is that the slavery is less of the old-fashioned "yes, massuh" flogging variety. I suppose, as long as you don't have nails driven through your palms.

    This was all part of a pattern of sophistic argument and presentation that left in me that lingering feeling of E coli poisoning, so I simply had to dissect it. His thesis, to summarize, is that the cause of the historical reduction in violence is: empathy, literacy, the rise of the State, the decline in individualism, and, if you can believe it, the rise in international commerce.

    I think the real sub-text to this may be advocacy of a one-world state and some other silly nonsense.  He talks of the rise of the "pacifying force of reason" -- which would be meaningful if he used that term properly -- but he defines it as
    "...the cognitive faculties that allow us to engage in objective, detached analysis. ...People will be tempted to rise above their parochial vantage point, making it harder to privilege their own interests over others."
    Ie, apart from any self-interest. Keep in mind this is from an alleged psychologist.  If you want to understand where he gets this viewpoint, he makes a confession:
    "So what are the immediate causes of the Long Peace [after WWII], and what I call the new peace (that is, the Post-Cold War era)? They were anticipated by Immanuel Kant in his remarkable essay, "Perpetual Peace" from 1795, in which he suggested that democracy, trade and an international community were pacifying forces."
    No major surprises there. For anyone who doesn't know what Kant stood for, I offer as exhibit A:  Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Communist China, and most of the deaths in that list up above.

    The most curious incongruity in Pinker's thesis is the contention that international commerce (or what he calls the "theory of Gentle Commerce", from Tocqueville) has been a great pacifying force. This is somewhat conventional (a lot of people believe it) but keep in mind we're talking about a Harvard academic who admires Kant. I think the not-obvious but real sub-text here is the conventional Leftist line about the pacifying power of the welfare state, and I go back to my previous statement that he implicitly is advocating for the pacifying power of a one-world government free of individualistic concerns. He is not advocating for Capitalism:
    "What were the immediate causes of the humanitarian revolution? A plausible first guess is affluence. One might surmise that as one's own life becomes more pleasant, one places a higher value on life in general. However, I don't think the timing works.
    This would seem to contradict my statement that he is implicitly arguing for a welfare state, but I think the difference is what he believes are the causes of affluence. He rejects the Industrial Revolution (the rise of Capitalism) as a cause because the timing "doesn't work", mainly by simply redefining it as a 19th century phenomenon:
    "Most economic historians say that the world saw virtually no increase in affluence until the time of the Industrial Revolution starting in the early decades of the 19th century. But most of the reforms that I've been talking about were concentrated in the 18th century, when income growth was pretty much flat."
    Well, affluence increased from near-zero to something a lot more than near-zero, if you want to call that "flat", while mortality from disease and starvation declined precipitously and world population grew exponentially.

    When he speaks of "commerce" as reducing violence among peoples he seems particularly confused. His definition of commerce is:
    "a development of the institutions of money and finance, and of technologies of transportation and time keeping."
    Whenever you see someone define a key concept in terms of non-essentials, you have to wonder what essentials they are trying to evade. What makes commerce possible? Possibly—freedom, ie, individual rights, and governments that protect individual rights. On those terms, only some kinds of governments can have commerce. But when you define it in terms of "transportation" and "time-keeping", even a totalitarian state can have "commerce" (so long as there is a capitalist to make the trucks and keep their clocks functioning).

    He even says
    "The result was to shift the incentive structure from zero-sum plunder to positive-sum trade."
    Well, that sounds good, but here is how he interprets trade:
    "We will hear more from both Leda and Martin that reciprocal altruism, such as gains in trade, can result in both sides being better off after an interaction."
    Putting aside that he feels the need to let Leda and Martin take all the heat for such a ludicrous definition, he is trying to smuggle in the idea that trading is "reciprocal altruism", not self-interested profit. "Positive-sum trade" becomes "positive-sum altruism" for Pinker.

    That has implications. My interpretation: his view of a proper government is one which enforces "reciprocal altruism" at the point of a gun, ie, Collectivism.

    He says statistical studies show "that countries with open economies and greater international trade are less likely to engage in war, are less likely to host civil wars, and have genocides."

    Again, the meaning of his terms is important. Like Kant, I think that, for Pinker, A is not A, reason is post-modern enlightenment ("empathy", "altruism", anti-individualism, etc), commerce is state-controlled, trade is altruistic, etc. The "timing doesn't work" for freedom to have reduced violence, but for him it does happen to correlate with the rise of Marxism and the "Long Peace" after WWII, when (he repeats himself) nuclear weapons were never used.

    Never mind that they weren't used because the Soviet Union didn't dare to use them because they faced annihilation by the United States.

    He makes other points that sound good superficially, but are really insidious in how they attempt to undermine genuine ideas. He speaks of the civilizing influences of book production, literacy and academic schooling, which gives rise to reason and "the expanding circle of empathy", and he lumps this under the term "cosmopolitanism".
    "...literacy gives rise to cosmopolitanism. It is plausible that the reading of history, journalism, and fiction puts people into the habit of inhabiting other peoples' minds, which could increase empathy and therefore make cruelty less appealing."
    Curious choice, that. The correct definition of "cosmopolitan" is "worldly". As he argues, the violence declined with the rise of the State, and with fewer warring groups. As he says,
    "In the transition from Middle Ages to modernity there was a consolidation of centralized states and kingdoms throughout Europe."
    The point is actually more subtly woven into his thesis. He says
    "What is the rate of death by violence in people who have recently lived outside of state control, namely hunter-gatherers, hunter-horticulturalists, and other tribal groups?"
    "There's the drive toward dominance, both the competition among individuals to be alpha male, and the competition among groups for ethnic, racial, national or religious supremacy or pre-eminence."
    He also speaks of the reduction of violence from "fewer interstate wars".  He discusses this somewhat at length, while rationalizing the rise in civil wars as due to the "superpowers," but the implication is clear: fewer groups, less violence; fewer governments, less violence.  To complete the syllogism, one government, no violence.

    He also argues that the proliferation of "intergovernmental organizations" was a key factor. In my opinion, again, code for institutions like the U.N. and "one-world government".

    What ideology advocates for centralized, one-world government today?

    Let's move on.

    Pinker argues there are five basic causes of violence:
    1. "Desire for exploitation... seeking something that you want where a living thing happens to be in the way; examples include rape, plunder, conquest, and the elimination of rivals..."
    2. "Dominance... competition among individuals... competition among groups..."
    3. "Revenge... vendettas, rough justice, and cruel punishments..."
    4. "Ideology... which might be the biggest contributor of all (such as in militant religions, nationalism, fascism, Nazism, and communism)..."
    That's right, he said there were five, but only listed  four. I might add, "irrationality".

    Note a common thread in these: "seeking something that you want", "competition among individuals", "cruel punishments", "ideology". I think the common denominator here is "cruel individuals pursuing their self-interest and exhibiting independent judgment, moral certitude and no ideology."

    I know, I know. What a reach. But consider it in the context of everything else. For instance, he says
    "...people tend to exaggerate their adversary's malevolence and exaggerate their own innocence. Self-serving biases can stoke cycles of revenge when you have two sides, each of them intoxicated with their own sense of rectitude and moral infallibility."
    Then he lists the four factors which inhibit violence: "self-control", "empathy", "moral sense", and "the escalator of reason".

    Ah, yes. It's just like going to the shopping mall as a child: we commit violence because of our fear of taking the first step on the moving stairs of reason.
    "Reason leads to the replacement of a morality based on tribalism, authority and puritanism with a morality based on fairness and universal rules."
    Fairness to whom? According to what universal rules? No answer.

    What is "reason" to Pinker? It is people rising
    "...above their parochial vantage point, making it harder to privilege their own interests."
    So you see he takes his escalator analogy seriously. How are they rising? Literacy that makes them more "cosmopolitan" and prepared to engage in the "gentle commerce" of "reciprocal altruism".
    "Why should literacy matter? A number of the causes are summed up by the term "Enlightenment." For one thing, knowledge replaced superstition and ignorance: beliefs such as that Jews poisoned wells, heretics go to hell, witches cause crop failures, children are possessed, and Africans are brutish. As Voltaire said, 'Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.'"
    So literacy = reading Voltaire and knowing that Africans aren't brutish.
    "Also, literacy gives rise to cosmopolitanism. It is plausible that the reading of history, journalism, and fiction puts people into the habit of inhabiting other peoples' minds, which could increase empathy and therefore make cruelty less appealing. This is a point I'll return to later in the talk."
    Back to the four factors. What is "self-control" to Pinker? Not doing violence. What is "empathy"? Following your emotions. What is "moral sense"? Altruism. He implies we're not supposed to exhibit independent judgment or have an ideology, but exhorts us to practice reason...

    Hmmmm. In addition to altruism, it sounds a lot like some kind of rationalization for multiculturalism and relativism — sacrifice for other cultures — with a dash of Rodney King to end the violence ("Can't we all just get along?").

    Besides the "pacifying forces" of "democracy, trade and an international community", Pinker goes on to say
    "Hobbes got it right: a Leviathan, namely a state and justice system with a monopoly on legitimate use of violence, can reduce aggregate violence by eliminating the incentives for exploitative attack; by reducing the need for deterrence and vengeance (because Leviathan is going to deter your enemies so you don't have to), and by circumventing self-serving biases. One of the major discoveries of social and evolutionary psychology in the past several decades is that people tend to exaggerate their adversary's malevolence and exaggerate their own innocence. Self-serving biases can stoke cycles of revenge when you have two sides, each of them intoxicated with their own sense of rectitude and moral infallibility."
    I don't know about that "Leviathan" part (Pinker capitalized the "L", not me), but sure, we need government. What kind? He doesn't say. One based on individual rights, or one based on totalitarianism? No direct answer, but his thesis is all about the dramatic reduction in violence around the world because of the emergence of big government--during a massive rise in Marxist and fascist totalitarian governments throughout the 20th century. And the core tenet of his thesis is that if we measure violence on a per capita basis, everyone (including people under totalitarian governments!) is now better off than their historical predecessors.


    He also talks of the pacifying force of the "Rights Revolution", which he defines as
    "...the reduction of systemic violence at smaller scales against vulnerable populations such as racial minorities, women, children, homosexuals and animals."
    He also includes the demise of hunting and the rise in vegetarianism among the potent forces for reducing violance, and argues it comes about from the "Expanding Circle of empathy". (Again, it's not clear why he uses a capital "E"; is the "expanding" part more important than the empathy?)

    There is also a bizarre non-sequitur woven into his reasoning as a tumorous, yet benign sub-text. It's repeated so often and is so ineffective that one has to wonder if the Expanding circle of empathy has emptied his brain cavity. To paraphrase, it goes like this: "Worldwide violence has been reduced to historic lows because we no longer have witch hunts, dueling, blood sports, debtors prisons, persecution of gays and animal cruelty in films."

    To counter this sort of "reasoning", Pinker does make a pretense of advocating rational ideas,
    "In addition, the decline of violence has implications for our assessment of modernity: the centuries-long erosion of family, tribe, tradition and religion by the forces of individualism, cosmopolitanism, reason and science."
    but it's a little like going to a symphony where they intersperse atonal nonsense within a program of melodic pieces from Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff—except the melodic pieces have been moved to an anharmonic musical scale.

    It's the method of a con man, and a not very bright con man, at that—a common poseur.

    The appropriately named Pinker is little more than another irredeemably post-modern intellectual wanna-bee, steeped in Kantianism, ensconced in ivy-league academia, and incapable of even seeing the general commerce for the trees. If I had to sum him up, I'd say he is anti-capitalist, anti-individualist, anti-individual rights, pro-one-world government, pro-collectivist, and probably some flavor of soft communist, but god knows, it doesn't really matter when your brain has the consistency of pudding.

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    In 1962, Ayn Rand wrote an essay, "The Monument Builders" (reprinted in The Virtue of Selfishness), where she named the real nature of this special type of parasite:

    ...Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.
    Think of Occupy Wall Street. But to continue the quote:
    What, then, is the motive of such intellectuals? Power-lust. Power-lust —-as a manifestation of helplessness, of self-loathing, and of the desire for the unearned.
    Which gets to the subject of monument builders. Rand goes on,
    The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By "spirit" I mean: man's consciousness.) These two aspects are necessarily interrelated, but a man's desire may be focused predominantly on one or the other. The desire for the unearned in spirit is the desire for unearned greatness: it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term 'prestige.'

    Unearned greatness is so unreal, so neurotic a concept that the wretch who seeks it cannot identify it even to himself: to identify it, is to make it impossible. He needs the irrational, undefinable slogans of altruism and collectivism to give a semiplausible form to his nameless urge and anchor it to reality—-to support his own self-deception more than to deceive his victims. "The public," "the public interest," "service to the public" are the means, the tools, the swinging pendulums of the power-luster’s self-hypnosis.

    Since there is no such entity as "the public," since ...the concept is so conveniently undefinable, its use rests only on any given gang’s ability to proclaim that "The public, c’est moi"—and to maintain the claim at the point of a gun.
    Think of "We are the 99%".  She continues,
    ...Greatness is achieved by the productive effort of a man's mind in the pursuit of clearly defined, rational goals. But a delusion of grandeur can be served only by the switching, undefinable chimera of a public monument—which is presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it—which is dedicated to the service of all and none, owned by all and none, gaped at by all and enjoyed by none.

    This is the ruler's only way to appease his obsession: "prestige." Prestige—-in whose eyes? In anyone's. In the eyes of his tortured victims, of the beggars in the streets of his kingdom, of the bootlickers at his court, of the foreign tribes and their rulers beyond the borders. It is to impress all those eyes-—the eyes of everyone and no one—-that the blood of generations of subjects has been spilled and spent.
    Now we come to an interesting essay that appeared yesterday in Pajamas Media, titled Stealing as Policy, from the Iron Curtain to Robert Byrd, by Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Lieutenant General in the Romanian Army.  Pacepa was "the highest official who has ever defected from the Soviet bloc. In 1989 Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial whose main accusations came out of Pacepa's book Red Horizons (Regnery Publishing, 1987), subsequently republished in 27 countries."

    Over a year ago, I wrote a post, Maybe there ARE commies under every rock...  that quoted Pacepa at length, in an interview where he and two other former communists explained old Soviet plans for taking over Western countries using fifth columns of thousands of communist agents burrowed into every government in Europe.  So Pacepa's name caught my eye when I saw the column he penned yesterday for PJ, about how socialists inevitably become monument builders, and how this disease has infected the United States.  For instance, he cites the example of the late Senator Robert Byrd:
    "Over his long career in the U.S. Congress, the late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was able to steal $3.3 billion, with a “b,” of tax money in order to build his West Virginia into a monument to himself. Several transportation projects named after him gained national notoriety. The Robert C. Byrd Highway, also known as the Appalachian Development Highway System, was dubbed “West Virginia’s road to nowhere” in 2009, after it received a $9.5 million earmark in the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriation Act and $21 million more from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. More than 50 buildings erected with tax money stolen by Senator Byrd are now named for him. Here are a few: Robert C. Byrd Community Center, Pine Grove, WV; Robert C. Byrd Federal Correction Institution, Hazelton, WV; Robert C. Byrd Visitor Center, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, WV; Robert C. Byrd United States R Courthouse and Federal Building, Charleston, WV; Robert C. Byrd Academic and Technology Center, Marshall University in Huntington, WV; Robert C. Byrd Auditorium, National Conservation Center, WV; Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, Green Bank, WV; Robert C. Byrd Library, Wheeling, WV."
    And this reminded me of Ayn Rand's essay.  For years, I've myself lamented and condemned the proliferation of monuments to public officials — especially living public officials. For instance, we no longer name naval ships after things like "Enterprise", "Kitty Hawk", "Lexington" or "Independence" — we name them after John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, John C. Stennis or George W. Bush.

    This habit of politicians has grown so malignant that it's now de rigueur in many of the bills passed by Congress: the real payment for securing funding for some kind of pork is not the votes-- it's the right of a politician to have his name attached to the bridges, roads, buildings, ships, airports, parks, public housing projects and just about anything else that he connived via backroom deals to get funded.

    The right to be immortalized for being a looter of the people they pretend to "serve".

    The movement is just getting under way for Barack Obama.  As Pacepa notes:
    President Obama’s current redistribution of the country’s wealth caused the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in our country’s history, but it helped the young president to start transforming the U.S. into a monument to himself. Below is just a partial list of projects and places already named after President Obama.
    California: President Barack Obama Parkway, Orlando; Obama Way, Seaside; Barack Obama Charter School, Compton; Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy, Los Angeles; Barack Obama Academy, Oakland.
    Florida: Barack Obama Avenue, Opa-loka; Barack Obama Boulevard, West Park.
    Maryland: Barack Obama Elementary School, Upper Marlboro.
    Missouri: Barack Obama Elementary School, Pine Lawn.
    Minnesota:  Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary, Saint Paul.
    New Jersey: Barack Obama Academy, Plainfield; Barack Obama Green Charter High School, Plainfield.
    New York: Barack Obama Elementary School, Hempstead.
    Pennsylvania: Obama High School, Pittsburgh.
    Texas: Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Dallas.
    Small potatoes, so far, but these are still the kinds of monuments Ayn Rand talked about in her 1962 essay.  As she said then,
    One may see, in certain Biblical movies, a graphic image of the meaning of public monument building: the building of the pyramids. Hordes of starved, ragged, emaciated men straining the last effort of their inadequate muscles at the inhuman task of pulling the ropes that drag large chunks of stone, straining like tortured beasts of burden under the whips of overseers, collapsing on the job and dying in the desert sands—that a dead Pharaoh might lie in an imposingly senseless structure and thus gain eternal "prestige" in the eyes of the unborn of future generations. 
    As she notes, our country set itself apart from so many others throughout history:
    ...The great distinction of the United States of America, up to the last few decades, was the modesty of its public monuments. Such monuments as did exist were genuine: they were not erected for "prestige," but were functional structures that had housed events of great historical importance. If you have seen the austere simplicity of Independence Hall, you have seen the difference between authentic grandeur and the pyramids of "public-spirited" prestige-seekers.
    And we come full circle today, to the ideal embraced by Obama:
    When you consider the global devastation perpetrated by socialism, the sea of blood and the millions of victims, remember that they were sacrificed, not for "the good of mankind" nor for a "noble ideal," but for the festering vanity of some scared brute or some pretentious mediocrity who craved a mantle of unearned "greatness"—and that the monument to socialism is a pyramid of public factories, public theaters and public parks, erected on a foundation of human corpses, with the figure of the ruler posturing on top, beating his chest and screaming his plea for "prestige" to the starless void above him.
    So when you consider the agenda of Barack Obama, contemplate, for a start, the faux Roman forum he had built to celebrate his nomination 3 1/2 years ago--and from that, you may be sure that what he seeks to erect now in this country is exactly what Rand spoke of 50 years ago: monuments to himself, built on a foundation of corpses.

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  • 12/27/11--22:09: Cave Paintings of Chauvet

  • Just about the only magazine I've subscribed to for the last 15 years is Archaeology. I was catching up on back issues and found a fascinating article on the stone age paintings in the Chauvet Cave in France, which was discovered very recently, in December of 1994.

    The paintings are twice as old as any found before, and done in two periods, 30,000 years and 35,000 years ago.

    This is one of the most significant archaelogical sites ever found. Some of the drawings are just amazingly good even by modern standards, including a pride of lions hunting bison and a herd of horses. Anatomically correct with shading on many many of them like a good charcoal drawing. This link to Archaeology magazine doesn't have the best images, but has the story (note there are links to different parts of the story). A little more information can be found on Wiki.

    Think about that -- 5000 years separation, in the same caves. That's older than the Pyramids are to us, today.

    The caves weren't habited by humans except when spring came, after the cave bears moved out. Many of the drawings have the claw marks of bears over them, and some were drawn over the claw marks.
    But whatever pictures I provide here simply don't do justice to this archaeological site. If you find this interesting you must see the 90 minute documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams". Must. Here is a trailer:

    This is the most interesting documentary I have ever seen. (I watched on Netflix instant queue.) The paintings are incredibly extensive through 1300 feet of caves. Stunningly beautiful crystal formations throughout, often growing on hundreds and hundreds of bones of cave bears. Hundreds of very distinct human handprints on the walls, including from one prolific painter than can be identified by a crook in one finger -- his prints span the cave, from one end to the other.

    The making of the film was discussed a couple issues ago of Archaeology magazine, if you want to know more. The documentary was also done in 3-D, and given how the paintings took advantage of the contours of the cave walls, I personally would buy a 3-D HD TV solely to watch this documentary again.

    One thing interesting about this place -- the study involves so many specialties-- archaeology, paleontology, art history, geology, zoology, and I'm probably leaving some out.

    The only thing I apologize for in advance is that the "heavenly" music that comes in now and then is annoyingly hoaky. And three idiotic, meaningless minutes at the end about albino crocodiles and the nuclear power plant 20 miles away. Yes, crocodiles. Don't ask me. A European made this. But the content transcends any of that.

    For more information, see and go to "visit the cave".

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  • 01/02/12--13:06: A Flaw in the Constitution?
  • No institution based on a set of firm principles can survive if it allows members who hold opposite principles. Imagine if the AMA allowed witch doctors among its members, or if the American Physical Society (physicists, not massage therapists!) allowed flat-Earther's to be members. It would guarantee the end of medicine or physics.

    Yet the United States, an institution founded on the principle of individual rights, allows citizens who actively promote socialism and communism -- in education, law and government.

    I'm an advocate of free speech, but I don't think that means a nation should have to tolerate those among it who openly reject, by their own word and deed, the core founding principle of the country--individual rights--and work to subvert it every waking minute of their day.

    I'm not saying criminalize those who reject individual rights, except where they commit crimes. But there's an enormous gulf between agreeing with individual rights and commiting crimes that prove you don't agree with individual rights. Socialists and communists -- and now Islamists -- have been working that angle for almost 100 years. I wouldn't allow them in the country to do it. In absence of a state of war against them, I would at least evict them. (In a state of war I would imprison them until the state of war is ended.)

    Politicians who try to make law that violates individual rights, or who achieve that end and find it ruled unconstitutional -- should immediately lose their job and be deported. Teachers who openly advocate doctrines that violate individual rights should be judged similarly--they should be deported.

    It's not a violation of their rights to deport them. It's a basic condition of "membership", or citizenship. Today, naturalized citizens or members of the military are asked to declare loyalty to the Constitution; all I'm doing is refining that statement and taking it seriously. I think everyone reaching the age of 18 should be required to take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution and to the principle of individual rights. Natural-born or naturalized citizens alike who breech that oath should all be stripped of citizenship.

    There should be a formal mechanism to determine that fact, a kind of court separate from the criminal courts, dedicated to one question: does this person reject individual rights? A legal process similar to a criminal trial, but with only one penalty: loss of citizenship and deportation. Bring charges and present objective evidence based on a person's words, actions and writings, and if overwhelming (as it would be in the case of someone like Obama or Pelosi or William Ayers) strip them of their citizenship and deport them as "subversives" who are incompatible with the principles of the United States of America.

    It couldn't have been done before now, because until Ayn Rand there was no objective definition of individual rights. It probably couldn't be done until a rational philosophy becomes dominant, at least in the sense that it was dominant when the Founders created the United States. You'd get the religious people campaigning to make God a requirement, too. But imagine if it had been in place from the beginning, with a basically sound rational philosophy for the country--even the religious people who advocate violations of rights could have been evicted as "undesirable".

    I've asked myself repeatedly if this notion somehow violates free speech. Is it wrong to demand a loyalty oath? We already do that, we just don't enforce it. If you demand a loyalty oath, is it wrong to define it precisely, in objective terms, on the basis of the one idea that one *should* demand loyalty to--fealty to individual rights? And if you have a loyalty oath, is it wrong to take it seriously and enforce it with real consequences? Does that violate "free speech"? I don't think so.

    Yes, the idea could be abused if someone attempted to implement it today. But I always come back to the principle I stated above, which I think is true:

    No institution based on a set of firm principles can survive if it allows members who hold opposite principles.
    Ayn Rand put it somewhat differently:
    "When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."
    I'm simply saying, define the basic principle of our government, clearly and openly--and put it into practice as more than a slogan.  In the absence of recognizing that, I'd say the chances for the long-term survival of any rational society are bleak.

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  • 01/14/12--15:54: Consorting With the Devil
  • Over on Facebook, where I sometimes ruminate to my demise, there pops up, now and then, like a multi-headed hydra out of a jack-in-the-box, the epi-phenomena of friends demanding their friends de-friend other friends who aren't acting like friends. That is, acquaintences in the virtual drawing-room of the web who are -- shall we say? -- consorting with the devil.

    I think there are multiple reasons for these recurring moral pronouncements and condemnations of moral turpitude, with accompanied vitriolic demands for "de-friending".

    The most superficial of the rationalizations for these assertions is that anyone disagreeing with Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff on this or that issue are corrupting Objectivism, damaging a great value, etc. Therefore if you stand for truth and goodness and don't wish to sanction evil, you must prove your rectitude in the court of public opinion and dissociate yourself from the blight, as well as dissociate yourself from the blighters of the blight.

    Let's go beyond superficialities. I think the real underlying notion motivating these pronouncements is less about religious conformity than it is the false notion that a self-evident argument can be made in a simple assertion--from which comes the conviction that anyone who fails to acknowledge the facts of a matter (as presented and presumed by an apparently omniscient presenter) is inherently dishonest.

    I'm intentionally not naming names on either side of the equation. I'd prefer that people form their own judgments without coloring things with personalities. For the purposes of this point, I'm asking everyone else who comments here not to name names, either.

    Sometimes the pronouncements and demands are simple ones, but sometimes they are accompanied by such overwhelming "evidence" as can be crammed into a paragraph on a Facebook thread -- a link to a damning blog post, a youtube video, the latest insult, the bloodied candlestick in the broomcloset of Colonel Mustard. But it's all held up as incontrovertible proof of intellectual dishonesty, corruption and even evil, which only a blind man can't see and a dishonest person won't see.

    You see the syllogism at play here: "I present here incontrovertible proof of the evil of person X. Here it is. If you won't grasp it, you are evil, too. And if you know someone who won't grasp it, they are evil. And if you don't divorce yourself from all evil associations, you are even more evil. So there. Listen up and fly right. Yours, God."

    Or at least, Demi-god.

    Strangely, I think the people most often associated with this technique (I won't call it reason) are generally honest and well-intentioned in some way. At least, as I've seen it on Facebook. They want to do right. They want to stand up and defend the good. But along the way, they are betraying the very thing they claim to be standing up for.

    Their error is a disastrous form of intrinsicism.

    I don't mean that the way some are going to jump to the conclusion -- a religious orthodoxy. That may be the eventual consequence. Hold that thought if you wish. More specifically, I mean:

    The idea that a rational mind can grasp truth by simple statements.

    That is, the idea that the truth is inherent in simple statements -- as if an assertion and a few randomly selected words and facts constitute sufficient intellectual grounds for another mind to reach a complex judgment about another person's thoughts and motives.

    I wish I could color that statement in red, highlight it, capitalize it, enlarge the font and add a screaming voice with a brooding background musical accompaniment.  Oh, wait.  I can:

    The idea that a rational mind can grasp truth by simple statements is false.
    Sans musical accompaniment, unfortunately.

    Many people take from Ayn Rand the idea that moral pronouncements and praise of the good or condemnation of the evil is proper. Well, yes, it is. If you know what the hell you are talking about. But in lieu of that it's foolish, stupid, or evil in itself.

    Moral pronouncements are easy. Anyone with vocal chords can make them. Rational judgment and reasoned arguments are much harder. And in a contest between those two, I've noticed that people who lack the ability to do the former particularly well are much more inclined to do the latter. Call it a form of empowerment.

    But if reasoned argument is hard, it appears that respect for the independent minds of those to whom the assertions are made is the most difficult of all.

    Let me say this unequivocally: any person who attempts to impose by threats their assessments on others is operating on a standard of social metaphysics and acting completely contrary to the most fundamental principles of Objectivism.

    Those who claim to be defending Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff while employing a method that openly rejects the Objectivist positions on independence and reason are themselves guiltier than those making errors about any other aspect of the philosophy.

    By way of reminder, here are some quotes from Ayn Rand on the subject.  The particular sources will be left as an exercise.  In no particular order:

    "We never make assertions, Miss Taggart," said Hugh Akston. "That is the moral crime peculiar to our enemies. We do not tell—we show. We do not claim—we prove. It is not your obedience that we seek to win, but your rational conviction. You have seen all the elements of our secret. The conclusion is now yours to draw--we can help you to name it, but not to accept it-the sight, the knowledge and the acceptance must be yours."

    "I don't ask for opinions."
    "What do you go by?"
    "Well, whose judgment did you take?"
    "But whom did you consult about it?"

    "I am not committing the contemptible act of asking you to take me on faith. You have to live by your own knowledge and judgment."

    "If you want to see an abstract principle, such as moral action, in material form--there it is. Look at it, ...You had to act on your own judgment, you had to have the capacity to judge, the courage to stand on the verdict of your mind..."

    "Consider the reasons which make us certain that we are right," said Hugh Akston, "but not the fact that we are certain. If you are not convinced, ignore our certainty. Don't be tempted to substitute our judgment for your own,"
    "Don't rely on our knowledge of what's best for your future," said Mulligan. "We do know, but it can't be best until you know it."
    "Don't consider our interests or desires," said Francisco. "You have no duty to anyone but yourself."

    "Cherryl... Cherryl, you poor kid, ...You don't have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is--say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

    "No, you do not have to live; it is your basic act of choice; but if you choose to live, you must live as a man—by the work and the judgment of your mind."

    "The most depraved sentence you can now utter is to ask: Whose reason? The answer is: Yours. No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it. It is only with your own knowledge that you can deal. It is only your own knowledge that you can claim to possess or ask others to consider. Your mind is your only judge of truth—and if others dissent from your verdict, reality is the court of final appeal. Nothing but a man's mind can perform that complex, delicate, crucial process of identification which is thinking. Nothing can direct the process but his own judgment. Nothing can direct his judgment but his moral integrity."

    "Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul. Make every allowance for errors of "knowledge; do not forgive or accept any breach of morality. Give the benefit of the doubt to those who seek to know; but treat as potential killers those specimens of insolent depravity who make demands upon you, announcing that they have and seek no reasons, proclaiming, as a license, that they 'just feel it’

    "Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say—so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence."

    "This much is true: the most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth. You are asked to sacrifice your intellectual integrity, your logic, your reason, your standard of truth—in favor of becoming a prostitute whose standard is the greatest good for the greatest number.

    "Every man will stand or fall, live or die by his rational judgment."

    "You have cried that man's sins are destroying the world and you have cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith."

    "...conviction requires an act of independence and rests on the absolute of an objective reality."

    "The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary."

    "The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence."

    "The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. The code of the second-hander is built on the needs of a mind incapable of survival."

    "Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence."

    "Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man."

    "Don't you know that most people take most things because that's what's given them, and they have no opinion whatever? Do you wish to be guided by what they expect you to think they think or by your own judgment?"

    "God damn you!" he screamed. "God damn you! Who do you think you are? Who told you that you could do this to people? So you're too good for that building? You want to make me ashamed of it? You rotten, lousy, conceited bastard! Who are you? You don't even have the wits to know that you're a flop, an incompetent, a beggar, a failure, a failure, a failure! And you stand there pronouncing judgment! You, against the whole country! You against everybody! Why should I listen to you? You can't frighten me. You can't touch me. I have the whole world with me!...Don't stare at me like that! I've always hated you! You didn't know that, did you? I've always hated you! I always will! I'll break you some day, I swear I will, if it's the last thing I do!"
    "Peter," said Roark, "why betray so much?"

    "As a matter of fact, Mr. Roark, I'm not alone in this decision. As a matter of fact, I did want you, I had decided on you, honestly I had, but it was Miss Dominique Francon, whose judgment I value most highly, who convinced me that you were not the right choice for this commission--and she was fair enough to allow me to tell you that she did."

    "When facing society, the man most concerned, the man who is to do the most and contribute the most, has the least say. It's taken for granted that he has no voice and the reasons he could offer are rejected in advance as prejudiced--since no speech is ever considered, but only the speaker. It's so much easier to pass judgment on a man than on an idea."

    "And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor's pocket? No, it's not as easy as that. If that were all, I'd say ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only, as you can see, they aren't. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presupposes the ability to think. Thinking is something one doesn't borrow or pawn. And yet, if I were asked to choose a symbol for humanity as we know it, I wouldn't choose a cross nor an eagle nor a lion and unicorn. I'd choose three gilded balls."

    "Gail Wynand was not good at taking orders. He recognized nothing but the accuracy of his own judgment."

    "You're beginning to see, aren't you, Peter? Shall I make it clearer. You've never wanted me to be real. You never wanted anyone to be. But you didn't want to show it. You wanted an act to help your act--a beautiful, complicated act, all twists, trimmings and words. All words. You didn't like what I said about Vincent Knowlton. You liked it when I said the same thing under cover of virtuous sentiments. You didn't want me to believe. You only wanted me to convince you that I believed. My real soul, Peter? It's real only when it's independent--you've discovered that, haven't you? It's real only when it chooses curtains and desserts--you're right about that--curtains, desserts and religions, Peter, and the shapes of buildings. But you've never wanted that. You wanted a mirror. People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they're reflecting too. You know, like the senseless infinity you get from two mirrors facing each other across a narrow passage. Usually in the more vulgar kind of hotels. Reflections of reflections and echoes of echoes. No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose. I gave you what you wanted. I became what you are, what your friends are, what most of humanity is so busy being--only with the trimmings. I didn't go around spouting book reviews to hide my emptiness of judgment--I said I had no judgment. I didn't borrow designs to hide my creative impotence--I created nothing. I didn't say that equality is a noble conception and unity the chief goal of mankind--I just agreed with everybody. You call it death, Peter? That kind of death--I've imposed it on you and on everyone around us. But you--you haven't done that. People are comfortable with you, they like you, they enjoy your presence. You've spared them the blank death. Because you've imposed it--on yourself."

    "That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation--anchored to nothing. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It's everywhere and nowhere and you can't reason with him. He's not open to reason. You can't speak to him--he can't hear. You're tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense or purpose. Steve Mallory couldn't define the monster, but he knew. That's the drooling beast he fears. The second-hander."

    "By seeking self-esteem through others. By living second-hand. And it has opened the way for every kind of horror. It has become the dreadful form of selfishness which a truly selfish man couldn't have conceived. And now, to cure a world perishing from selflessness, we're asked to destroy the self."


    In response to some personal comments posted elsewhere, I'd like to add that there are two aspects to my post: independence and epistemology, and they're closely related in this context. Let's say Person A wants to inform other people about grievous errors by Person B. How do they do it? I am in no way against this. I am only for doing it rationally, in a manner Ayn Rand would smile upon--not because I want to imitate everything she did, blindly, but because she was the best example I've ever seen of how to engage in reasoned argument, and I think that gets forgotten by many people.

    It takes many forms. Sometimes it's open insults, four letter words, this person is a louse, don't have anything to do with them, etc. Sometimes people are explicit and say "de-friend them or you're no friend of mine". Sometimes that's left implicit. And everything in between. But most people can read between the lines.

    Sometimes it's got a veneer of reason behind it -- some limited attempt to provide a reasoned explanation for the shortcomings of Person B, with implications of "you'd better look into this and get with the program". But insufficient reasoning for anyone else to really form any kind of proper judgment, and by implication, insufficient respect for the priorities of other people in expecting them to find the reasoned argument you didn't provide.

    But what's the proper way to raise an issue about someone's errors or dishonesty? Believe me when I say, that's the thrust of my original comment.

    Genuine intellectual dishonesty isn't so hard to treat. It may still take the presentation of a lot of evidence and explanations to actually prove, but comparatively, not so hard to treat. It should not involve screaming and insults and endless moral condemnation, as so much is done on FB -- it should be, in the words of Joe Friday, "Just the Facts, Ma'am". Well, mostly, but the facts leading to a conclusion of moral turpitude. It's not simply that superficial, emotionally laden arguments set a bad example (though they do that), or that it makes O-ism look bad (it does that). The fundamental is that it's not how you persuade people. It's not a process of reason. That is what I'm arguing against.

    But here's the deal: intellectual dishonesty isn't usually the issue, even though most people seem to think it is. Most people just do a really crappy job of assessing honesty in other people, and the rush to condemn someone as dishonest -- which is the only proper basis for the flurry of condemnations of "evil" people -- is just horribly misplaced and destructive when the evidence as presented is insufficient and the argumentation sucks. ("Crappy" doesn't really capture just how utterly putrifyingly shitty most of the reasoning is that I see in this context.)

    I think this is vastly more destructive to Objectivism than errors by any Person B I've seen. (There's more than a few.)

    What I would like to see is more genuine reasoning -- on both sides of the aisle, because that's the only way to make one side.

    I'd like to see more genuine recognition that many people can be blind to their errors without being dishonest.

    I'd like more recognition that an honest person genuinely trying to understand the truth needs a reasoned argument and that no amount of insults and condemnations are a reasoned argument.

    I'd like recognition that you don't make allies out of friends, but out convincing opponents of the truth -- and the truth requires a well-reasoned argument.

    And I'd like recognition of the fact that pointlessly alienating and dissociating yourself (and asking others to dissociate themselves) from those who are honest and are trying to understand the truth is destructive in itself -- because you only expand your ranks by persuading those who aren't in your ranks. And nothing is as hopelessly stupid as alienating an honest person who agrees with you on 98% of everything.

    All that said, I am defending no one's views here beyond those of my own. I am defending a process, and my comments apply to both sides.

    I do sympathize with the frustration of those who see people who vociferously advocate points of view that are wrong (sometimes catastrophically) on important issues, or which seem to willfully be blind to the broadest context, or which just trivialize philosophy with inane "lifeboat situations" or worse. Again, I'm trying to leave those issues out of this discussion. I've just seen very bad reasoning on both sides. That's my point.

    I'm simply saying, if you want to win the argument and bring people to your side, you have to be the most rational, and set the best example.

    Footnote #2:
    In later discussion, I remarked elsewhere,

    1. Moral condemnation over intellectual disagreements is always inappropriate when the disagreements are honest.
    2. Public condemnation demands a high standard of evidence, and mere suspicion of dishonesty in intellectual disagreements is not adequate.
    3. There is no such thing as "quality control" in a proper intellectual movement. The only arbiter of "quality" is rational persuasion about ideas. Condemnation is not an argument.

    A gentle reminder about focusing on the positive. Reason is the positive in this context -- the method of identifying what's true.

    My interest is primarily in reminding people that advocates of reason should be focused on making rational arguments about ideas, not about getting into arguments.

    My primary value is reason, and persuading people with reason. I don't really give a damn about spending time on other things; Ayn Rand certainly didn't. She was the model par excellance about how to conduct an intellectual movement. Spending time on minutiae is mostly a waste of time and effort and accomplishes nothing in the end. If people are wrong, reality will be the ultimate arbiter of that. If people are dishonest, that too.

    Much more important, and difficult, is persuading people what is right. If people want to be exemplars of Objectivism, they'd better spend their time learning how to make coherent, persuasive arguments. Even if you don't persuade your opponent with those arguments, if there's an audience you'll reach other people. That's what spreads the right ideas.

    Put it another way: you don't spread the right ideas by spending all your time talking about every mistake that other people have made. People want to know what you know that is right, and why.

    They also want to see integrity in action -- that is, if integrity is loyalty to values, and loyalty is consistency, they would want to see, in advocates of reason, really skilled reasoning in advocating the ideas that reason implies, qua Objectivism. But if they see advocates of reason who don't care to take the time and effort to form comprehensive arguments, with precision in formulation -- the right choice of word or phrasing, the attention to answering obvious questions, reference to source materials and facts, etc., the argument is lost by the appearance of a lack of conviction among the advocates.

    Ayn Rand was the master of all these qualities. Review how she conducted herself. No one was attacked more viciously than her, but she always conducted herself with class, above the fray. Even if her questioners were antagonistic (for example, Mike Wallace, Phil Donahue), she would always answer questions with detailed, respectful arguments--that is, she took them seriously.

    I'm not saying she turned the other cheek when it was clear someone was dishonest, nor that she never expressed anger, but her primary focus was always on making rational arguments for her ideas.

    As a further addendum, one thing that drives disputes over intellectual matters far too much is an unwillingness to admit error. Very few people like the feeling of loss of self-esteem that accompanies admission of error to an opponent.

    But the genuine intellectual is interested in truth, and doesn't indulge the self-licking ice cream cone of confirmation bias -- the quest for only those arguments and facts that support their position, to the exclusion or evasion of arguments that don't. The genuine advocate of reason simply delights in discovering the truth of things, and if an opponent (or, better, a colleague) discovers it first and makes one aware of it -- the emotion is delight and gratitude, not fear of admitting wrong.

    Consider it in the context of, say, some new theory of gravity. You'll have the advocates of General Relativity and the Big Bang fighting for their position, and the Newtonians and Galileans fighting passionately for their viewpoint. And along comes John Galt, let's say, who shows them a new anti-gravity motor he built, based on a completely different theory that makes General Relativity and Newtonian mechanics as obsolete as stone knives and bearskins. What would a rational man feel on being proved wrong? To quote Ayn Rand, "It's so wonderful to see a great, new, crucial achievement which is not mine!"

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  • 01/24/12--09:18: Mr. Thompson Live

  • Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, published 1957:
    "Listen to Mr. Thompson's report on the world crisis, November 22!" 
    The newspapers did not mention the outbreaks of violence that had begun to burst across the country--but she watched them through the reports of train conductors about bullet-riddled cars, dismantled tracks, attacked trains, besieged stations, in. Nebraska, in Oregon, in Texas, in Montana--the futile, doomed outbreaks, prompted by nothing but despair, ending in nothing but destruction. Some were the explosions of local gangs; some spread wider. There were districts that rose in blind rebellion, arrested the local officials, expelled the agents of Washington, killed the tax collectors--then, announcing their secession from the country, went on to the final extreme of the very evil that had destroyed them, as if fighting murder with suicide: went on to seize all property within their reach, to declare community bondage of all to all, and to perish within a week, their meager loot consumed, in the bloody hatred of all for all, in the chaos of no rule save that of the gun, to perish under the lethargic thrust of a few worn soldiers sent out from Washington to bring order to the ruins.
    The newspapers did not mention it. The editorials went on speaking of self-denial as the road to future progress, of self-sacrifice as the moral imperative, of greed as the enemy, of love as the solution--their threadbare phrases as sickeningly sweet as the odor of ether in a hospital...
    It was the first acknowledgment of the unacknowledged. The announcements began to appear a week in advance and went ringing across the country. "Mr. Thompson will give the people a report on the world crisis! Listen to Mr. Thompson on every radio station and television channel at 8 P.M., on November 22!"
    First, the front pages of the newspapers and the shouts of the radio voices had explained it: "To counteract the fears and rumors spread by the enemies of the people, Mr. Thompson will address the country on November 22 and will give us a full report on the state of the world in this solemn moment of global crisis. Mr. Thompson will put an end to those sinister forces whose purpose is to keep us in terror and despair. He will bring light into the darkness of the world and will show us the way out of our tragic problems... 
    Then the chorus broke loose and went growing day by day. "Listen to Mr. Thompson on November 22!" said daily headlines. "Don't forget Mr. Thompson on November 22!" cried radio stations at the end of every program. "Mr. Thompson will tell you the truth!..." 
    "Don't despair! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said pennants on government cars, "Don't give up! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said banners in offices and shops. "Have faith! Listen to Mr. Thompson!" said voices in churches. "Mr. Thompson will give you the answer!" wrote army airplanes across the sky, the letters dissolving in space, and only the last two words remaining by the time the sentence was completed. 
    Public loud-speakers were built in the squares of New York for the day of the speech, and came to rasping life once an hour, in time with the ringing of distant clocks, to send over the worn rattle of the traffic, over the heads of the shabby crowds, the sonorous, mechanical cry of an alarm-toned voice: "Listen to Mr. Thompson's report on the world crisis, November 22!"
    Do you feel lucky?

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  • 01/27/12--11:35: Obama's End-Game
  • One thing I watch for closely is how Obama is working to undermine the military. My track record of prediction is quite good since he was elected -- 100%. Elimination of 2/3 of the U.S nuclear arsenal while letting the Russians increase their nuclear forces -- under the new START treaty. His "budget deal" that gave him the authority to cut DOD budget 50% -- as long as the Congressional "super-committee" failed to reach agreement on other cuts (they did fail -- the Dems on that committee were the most left-wing, including known communists like Patty Murray). His cutting of F22 fighter program, and soon the F35. And more. The common denominator is: eviscerate the military.

    Two more stories today. First is this one, Pentagon cuts reshape military, trim costs, which discusses details of more defense cuts, including
    - Delay development of a new ballistic missile submarine by two years.
    - Eliminate six of the Air Force's tactical-air fighter squadrons and retire or divest 130 aircraft used for moving troops and equipment.
    - Retire seven Navy cruisers and two smaller amphibious ships early, postpone the purchase of a big-deck amphibious ship by one year and postpone the planned purchase of a number of other vessels for several years.
    - Eliminate two Army heavy brigades stationed in Europe and compensate by rotating U.S. based units into the region for training and exercises.
    - Study the possibility of further reducing the size of U.S. nuclear arsenal.
    This last is the primary goal of Obama. The submarines -- secondary.  The others -- gravy.

    Then this next story, Senior NSC aide vetted for Pentagon assistant secretary post, about an NSC aide being sent to the Pentagon to help with budget cuts. Well, Obama is putting a lot of NSC aides over in the Pentagon right now to help with budget cuts. People close to him. Reliable people. But I immediately thought, what about this new guy, Derek Chollet? Who is he? What's his background? Does he have any suspicious associates?

    Well, it turns out my first guess was exactly right--he was a "special advisor" to Strobe Talbott during the Clinton Administration. So what? Well, the most important Russian defector after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sergei Tretyakov, who used to run the KGB mission at the U.N. (hundreds of KGB agents) said Talbott was "our most important intelligence asset". During the Clinton Administration.

    I would ask Tretyakov more, but two summers ago Putin had him killed -- "heart attack". (See my post The Spy Who Came in from the Cold ... to a place getting rather chilly.) Two weeks after Tretyakov's surprise death on June 13, 2010, you'll note, we arrested 10 Russian moles and were going to prosecute them--but Obama rushed to send them back to Russia.

    And people wonder why I suggest Obama is a Russian mole himself? His every action is consistent with that end.  Quite aside from the communist parents (two fathers) and grandparents, KGB mentor (Frank Davis), ad infinitum.

    I think Obama is gearing up to win the election.  When that happens -- the gloves come off.  I'm 100% sure he will do everything in his power to completely eliminate the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Stay tuned.

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  • 02/07/12--16:20: A Confluence of Forces
  • There's an interesting connection between two recent news items. One was this fascinating description of the prison camps in North Korea, a place so horrific that it almost defies description.

    The other was this story today, which describes Harry Reid's sponsorship of the latest attempt to regulate the internet under the guise of the need for "cybersecurity. Coming after the recently failed attempt to "craft" a bill (ever notice reporters always say "craft" when it's for legislation they back?) to stop internet piracy (SOPA / PIPA), or not-so-failed attempts to expand the oversight of the FCC via the imposition of "net neutrality" regulations (after Congress refused to authorize them by legislation), I'm struck that, even though one can find legitimate rationalizations for "cybersecurity" or control of online piracy, it's evidence of a deeper pattern -- which surely must be given scrutiny and consideration, given the connection I think exists to the first news item.

    One can always find rationalizations for the necessity of these things, but this latest cybersecurity bill that the Democrats are trying to ram through (tell me again why is it more important than everything else right now??) is clearly evidence, as I said, of a pattern and a motive that's more evil and deliberate than simple incremental encroachment of government power -- a motive that even many of its supporters wouldn't dare admit to themselves, but which I think the Democratic leadership, and Obama in particular, does consciously have -- a motive which all the "flaws" in these pieces of legislation and new rules, hidden under the veneer of the "public interest", have been adding up to:

    The power to impose full censorship of the internet, so they can muzzle critics.

    This is what connects to that North Korean gulag, and not very metaphorically, given time.

    You'll always find plenty of naive people who might actually believe these kinds of bills and regulations are only about legitimate purposes to prevent fraud, stop intellectual property theft or protect national security -- but I don't think that's the reason here. To quote the Goldfinger Principle, "once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action."

    I think there's an organized motive behind the pattern of bills and regulations, evidenced by the way they keep surfacing over and over until passed. For instance, the net neutrality regulations were imposed unilaterally by the FCC, without any statutory or constitutional authority, when Congress refused to authorize them. Then SOPA / PIPA came along, and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll be revived in some new form, very soon, probably around 2AM on a Federal holiday -- or Obama will simply have the FCC or DHS unlaterally declare the authority.

    The one thing you can count on in all these sorts of bills is a flawed content that one must notice always leaves the door wide open for full statutory control of the internet by means of some convoluted legal qualifier or interpretation.


    If you buy into my premise, inquiring minds have to ask: why do they want full control to censor the internet?

    One must also pay attention to the timing of these bills: the proponents appear determined to have them get passed before the election, despite much more urgent things the Congress could be doing -- like pass a budget, what a concept. As Ayn Rand noted in the early 1960's, the last time the Left attempted to authorize FCC censorship,

    "...a federal commissioner may never utter a single word for or against any program. But what do you suppose will happen if and when, with or without his knowledge, a third-assistant or a second cousin or just a nameless friend from Washington whispers to a television executive that the commissioner does not like producer X or does not approve of writer Y or takes a great interest in the career of starlet Z or is anxious to advance the cause of the United Nations?"
    Pick your radical Left-wing (or Right-wing) cause that needs the support and help of a muzzle. In the 1960s, they failed -- except in the sense that over time the brainwashing of the media was completed by their takeover of the school system -- so today, most print and TV suffers a self-imposed de facto censorship (with the exception, perhaps, of Fox and a few others). But most people now get their news from the internet -- and that threatens the agenda of the Left, which is once again trying to regain the upper hand to control the one medium they haven't muzzled.
    "Censorship, 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. But for stifling the freedom of men’s minds the modern method is much more potent; it rests on the power of nonobjective 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. It spares the bureaucrat the troublesome necessity of committing himself to rigid rules—and it places upon the victims the burden of discovering how to please him, with a fluid unknowable as their only guide."
    Censorship plays an utterly crucial role in the decline of a country into full dictatorship, because once in place, anything goes -- totalitarian leaders find it much easier to "lock down" a nation when they are the gatekeepers of what can be said or heard -- and what can't. Censorship is not merely a defining characteristic of dictatorship, it's the essential means to impose and sustain a dictatorship -- much more so than simple brutality. To quote Ellsworth Toohey,
    "...It's the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That's why the Caesars, the Attilas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last. We will. The soul, Peter, is that which can't be ruled. It must be broken. Drive a wedge in, get your fingers on it--and the man is yours. You won't need a whip--he'll bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him in reverse--and his own mechanism will do your work for you. Use him against himself."
    The means to the soul are the ideas, opinions and voices that are heard. What people think and know and think they know. That is the object of censorship.

    Once in place, it becomes almost impossible for a country to change course without revolution, and practically, in this day and age, constructive forms of revolution are effectively impossible, Hollywood to the contrary notwithstanding.

    I invoke exhibit A: North Korea. Today, physical revolutions have become little more than exercises in substituting one dictator for another, and anyone who thinks otherwise simply hasn't a clue about the effectiveness of modern methods of warfare.

    Putting aside the masterminds of this latest attempted putsch of the internet, the naive dupes who have been supporting these bills or regulations break down into two camps. The largest camp comprises the truly stupid, including either the well-intentioned pragmatists who are too-willing to accept anything they hear, or who are unable to grasp the deeply flawed nature of a legislation that grants government powers to trample individual rights unfettered.

    Then there is the smaller sub-group (at least, outside of Congress) of grifters-of-the-moment receiving political payola to give some "friends" advantage over someone else. In Atlas Shrugged terms, this latter faction are the Orren Boyle / Jim Taggart types paying off the Wesley Mouch types.

    I could slice and dice this endlessly, but without going down that path, let's break this down more fundamentally to include the masterminds themselves. Including even the human dross of naive fools who think they are "doing good", we can categorize everyone by means of two definitions provided by Ayn Rand: what she called (through the voice of John Galt) the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle.
    "The mystics of both schools, who preach the creed of sacrifice, are germs that attack you through a single sore: your fear of relying on your mind. They tell you that they possess a means of knowledge higher than the mind, a mode of consciousness superior to reason—like a special pull with some bureaucrat of the universe who gives them secret tips withheld from others. The mystics of spirit declare that they possess an extra sense you lack: this special sixth sense consists of contradicting the whole of the knowledge of your five. The mystics of muscle do not bother to assert any claim to extrasensory perception: they merely declare that your senses are not valid, and that their wisdom consists of perceiving your blindness by some manner of unspecified means. Both kinds demand that you invalidate your own consciousness and surrender yourself into their power. They offer you, as proof of their superior knowledge, the fact that they assert the opposite of everything you know, and as proof of their superior ability to deal with existence, the fact that they lead you to misery, self-sacrifice, starvation, destruction."
    You can see the connection to censorship. Whether your senses are not valid, or whether these mystics are really smarter than you, either way, they claim superior knowledge that must be imposed by them.

    Aka, via censorship and state controlled organs for disseminating knowledge to the lowing herd. ("Lowing"; verb: (of a cow) Make a characteristic deep sound: "the lowing of cattle".)

    Wherever the adherents of either school gravitate on the parasitic food chain, in a sense they always converge to the same level: a mystic of spirit will always gravitate to power to impose his ideas, and a mystic of muscle will always gravitate to manipulating the means of the spirit -- ideas -- to cement his power.

    The two types are best summed up by two quotes. The first comes from villain Floyd Ferris in Atlas Shrugged:
    Dr. Ferris smiled. "Don't you suppose we knew it?" he said, his tone suggesting that he was letting his patent-leather hair down to impress a fellow criminal by a display of superior cunning. 
    "We've waited a long time to get something on you. You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you'd slip sooner or later-and this is just what we wanted."
    "You seem to be pleased about it." 
    "Don't I have good reason to be?" 
    "But, after all, I did break one of your laws." 
    "Well, what do you think they're for?" 
    Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden's face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. 
    Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap. 
    "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against--then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted-and you create a nation of law-breakers--and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."
    The second quote comes again from villain Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead. More than any other, he sums up the deepest motives of the perpetrators behind our own little drama (for instance, the motives of Barack Obama), as he explains what he's been trying to accomplish by orchestrating the destruction of the independent man represented by hero Howard Roark:
    "I don't want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped--and alive. He'll get up when they tell him to. He'll eat what they give him. He'll move when he's told to move and stop when he's told. He'll walk to the jute mill, when he's told, and he'll work as he's told. They'll push him, if he doesn't move fast enough, and they'll slap his face when they feel like it, and they'll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn't obey. And he'll obey. He'll take orders. He'll take orders!"
    Today that means: control of the internet. To quote Galt once again,
    "Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages—and power, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only lust.
    This is the essence of the flurry of bills and regulations promoted by the Obama administration.
    "Did you wonder what is wrong with the world? ...All your gangs of mystics, of spirit or muscle, are fighting one another for power to rule you..."
    If I may paraphrase his next sentence: "...snarling that suppression of malcontents is the solution for all the problems of your spirit and that hope and undefined change is the solution for all the problems of your body — you who have agreed to have no mind."

    To continue the same quote:
    "Granting man less dignity than they grant to cattle, ignoring what an animal trainer could tell them — that no animal can be trained by fear, that a tortured elephant will trample its torturer, but will not work for him or carry his burdens — they expect man to continue to produce electronic tubes, supersonic airplanes, atom-smashing engines and interstellar telescopes, with his ration of meat for reward and a lash on his back for incentive."
    That is, with TARP and "stimulus" as his reward and the fear of a regulator as his incentive.
    "A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at its first encounter with the minds of others."
    Everyone imagines everyone is just like themselves -- this is one reason that dishonest people imagine everyone else is dishonest -- and likewise, the person who surrenders his mind to the group rationalizes that everyone should surrender their minds to the group.

    The means is censorship.
    "Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator... His lust is to command, not to convince: conviction requires an act of independence and rests on the absolute of an objective reality. What he seeks is power over reality and over men's means of perceiving it, their mind, the power to interpose his will between existence and consciousness, as if, by agreeing to fake the reality he orders them to fake, men would, in fact, create it. ...No matter whose welfare he professes to serve, be it the welfare of God or of that disembodied gargoyle he describes as 'The People,' fact, in reality, on earth, his ideal is death, his craving is to kill, his only satisfaction is to torture. ...Death is the premise at the root of their theories, death is the goal of their actions in practice — and you are the last of their victims."
    Before the last Presidential election, I predicted everything Obama was, is and would do (see Good Night, America, for instance) So on that note, I must say: if he isn't removed from office in the coming election, this last quote captures our fate in his hands--maybe not literally in his second term, but over time, by his successors.

    To end on a more positive note, with regard to both Obama and the Senate's latest incarnation for regulating the internet,
    "...there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win."
    Indeed. Don't ever give it.

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    Many people are in love with their e-books -- and the convenience is certainly a factor.  I'll stick with my print copies.

    But when I hear from many friends who delight in their ability to dispose of all their print books -- and many of them are literally throwing their books in the garbage -- I imagine the most-pessimistic scenario: post-apocalyptic, end of the world stuff, and descent into a new Dark Ages.

    Maybe it's the aftermath of a global nuclear armageddon, or maybe it's just slow decay into world-wide despotism and economic decline.  But suppose before it happens most of the print industry ceases to be cause of e-books.  Maybe in the post-Armageddon period most of the print libraries are burned to the ground, or burned for heating.  Everybody has their e-books, of course.  But there's no way to power the damned things.  Industrial civilization  is in smoking ruins.  No power plants, no chargers.

    But it gets worse:  the microchips and hard-drives that all the knowledge of humanity is stored on  -- those electronic devices die of their own accord after awhile.  Atoms move around randomly over time, cosmic rays break down crystal structures, heat de-magnetizes disk platters.  Most of it won't work after 20 years, but after 50 years?  Not much will remain.

    So your world has ended, most libraries are gone, everyone got rid of their print books -- and e-books go permanently dead.  Education goes completely in the toilet in the short term, without books.  And in the long-term -- the utter lack of books will greatly facilitate the decline into a _Very_ _Dark_ _Age_.

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    Today, it was reported that Pope Benedict XVI, on a trip to that Caribbean paradise, has said, "...Marxism was out of place in the contemporary world," and has urged Cubans to find "new models".
    "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality." 
    Not that it ever did correspond, but recognizing even this much is what I call "progress".

    Reading that story, my eye happened on another story linked from September 14, 2010, which is much more entertaining, and I don't know how the hell I ever missed it:
    "Capitalist storm clouds loom over Havana after state cuts 1M jobs ... Cuban workers told to become entrepreneurs in bid to boost island's private sector"
    This is brilliant -- the communist nation held up as the model of communism for the West for 50 years is abandoning communism and laying off one million government workers.

    Let's put that in perspective: Cuba has a population of 11.2 million people. That's almost ten percent of the population are being given pink slips. If it was the U.S. -- with a population of 312 million -- that would be the equivalent of laying off almost 28 million government workers.

    Note that total Federal Government employment today is about 3 million.  (And isn't it interesting that the population of Cuba has plateaued?  What would have caused that?)

    Echoing the Pope, a year and a half earlier, Fidel Castro told a correspondent of The Atlantic magazine:
    "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."
    The shock heard 'round the communist world.  Not that it ever did work, of course, but I'll give him that shred of his pride to hang on to.
    It was supposed to be the start of a brave new world in which the customer was king. But the teenage boy in the barber's chair stared at his reflection, aghast and almost crying. "What have you done?" he asked, caressing uneven clumps on a shorn scalp.
    The barber, a fortysomething man with a grubby white coat, put down the scissors, lit a cigarette, and shrugged. "Looks OK to me. Don't know what you're on about."
    That about sums up Obama's approach. But the difference is that Cuba is fleeing from communism, while Obama is still racing towards his Brave New World.
    ... providing good customer service, let alone expanding market share, is an alien concept to many accustomed to receiving the same pittance wage regardless of job performance. "I don't want to take over this place," Luis, the barber, who preferred not to give his surname, told the Guardian. "How do I know it'll make a profit? How do I pay suppliers?"
    Oh, the pain of independence. But he'd better start learning: sheep shears do not a profitable barber make.
    "The Communist party document admitted lack of experience, insufficient skill levels and low initiative could sink new enterprises. "Many of them could fail within a year," it says.

    This just sounds like the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- or just Solyndra.
    ...Unemployment last year was officially 1.7%, but with average monthly salaries of only $20, supplemented by a ration book and free health care and education, many Cubans make minimal efforts, prompting an old joke: "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."
    And there you have the Obama vision for all of us. "Hope and change" really meant "hope for loose change."
    "Leftwingers abroad may feel let down by the cuts, but Cuban officials believe the thriving black market is an indicator that the private sector will soak up surplus labour."
    God knows, Barack "Che" Obama is probably feeling let down. Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, said,
    "We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world in which people can live without working," he told the national assembly last month.
    Can anyone imagine Barack "Mao" Obama saying such a thing? Easier to imagine him asking to extend unemployment benefits by another trillion or three.
    [Said Raul Castro,] The decades-old US embargo – a crippling, punitive measure – could no longer be blamed for all the island's woes...
    And over here, capitalism can no longer be blamed for all our woes, after the decades-long, crippling, punitive measures that have been imposed on it.

    Even the Cuban Labor Federation gets it, as they issued this mea culpa:
    "Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls [and] losses that hurt the economy," said the official Cuban labour federation, which announced the news. ...It was no longer possible to protect and subsidise salaries on an unlimited basis and cuts will affect all government sectors, said the labour federation. "Losses that hurt our economy are ultimately counterproductive, creating bad habits and distorting worker conduct."
    If Obama wants to continue appointing communists to be his Czars, I could probably get behind these guys.
    Leftwingers abroad may feel let down by the cuts, but Cuban officials believe the thriving black market is an indicator that the private sector will soak up surplus labour. ...One Havana-based western diplomat was less sanguine about Cuba's response ... "People knew this was coming, but now it's here, it's real, and they're worried. Bosses will get rid of the least productive employees, the ones who don't work or show up for work. The type of people who may lack the get up and go to start a business."
    Amen to that.

    Cuba has a lot of growing up to do, and that last quote echoed something said by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged -- his words are good advice for anyone on the long road back to independence and self-respect:
    "Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours."

    Postscript from the Department of Life meets Grand Irony:
    The day after writing this, I read this report of Obama's trip to look across the DMZ and see North Korea through binoculars, where he said,
    "It is like you are in a time warp," Obama said Sunday, after he toured a rocky border post in the demilitarised buffer zone that has split the Korean peninsular for longer than he has been alive. "It is like you are looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 years or 50 years of progress..."
    "If a country can't feed its people effectively, if it can't make anything of any use to anybody, if it has no exports other than weapons and even those aren't ones that in any way would be considered state of the art. If it can't deliver on any indicators of well-being... for its people... then you'd think you'd want to try something different. There are certain things that just don't work and what they are doing doesn't work."
    This doesn't mean Obama "gets it", or "gets" anything at all.  From his perspective, those dumb North Koreans simply don't know how to properly run a communist state.

    In a related news item that has exploded over the web, at the summit he attended in South Korea -- concerning nuclear proliferation -- Obama got caught talking very candidly to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in this exchange:
    President Obama: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space." 
    President Medvedev: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…" 
    President Obama: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." 
    President Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you."
    Flexibility for what?  On all of what "issues"?

    You have to wonder what Obama's true allegiances are.  Well, I  know.  And I'm sure Vladimir knows.  You all recall my many posts on Obama's goal of unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States?  My claims that after the election he will attempt to eliminate all U.S. nuclear weapons by Executive fiat?  Stay tuned.  After the election he will have more "flexibility," for this, and so much more.

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  • 04/21/12--12:55: Psychology of a Killer
  • This article, A Shrink Asks: What's Wrong with Obama?doesn't provide a very good psychological analysis, but it mentions this much, which is worth considering to get to the correct conclusion about Barack Obama (I'd say "the man" but he's too sub-human for that):

    Obama himself is a strange bird. He doesn't fit easily into any diagnostic category. Many people attribute Obama's oddness to his narcissism. True, Obama has a gargantuan ego, and he is notoriously thin-skinned.  Yet a personality disorder like narcissism does not explain Obama's strangeness: his giggling while being asked about the economy; his continuing a shout-out rather than announcing the Ft.Hood shootings; or his vacations, golfing, partying and fundraising during the calamitous oil spill.

    Take also Obama's declaring on the "Today Show" that he wants to know whose ass to kick. Consummate narcissists would never stoop to this vulgar display of adolescent machismo.

    Obama is flat when passion is needed; he's aggressive when savvy is required. What's most worrisome is that Obama doesn't even realize that his behavior is inappropriate."
    The author is correct:  despite all the claims that Obama is a narcissist, that designation is completely wrong as an identification.  Narcissism is "excessive self-love".  There's nothing about himself that Obama loves, and nothing worth being excessive about;  he is dominated by a well-earned self-loathing.

    The meaning of that is significant, and not to be dismissed as a harmless aberration.  Quoting John Galt in Atlas Shrugged,

    "You who've never grasped the nature of evil, you who describe them as 'misguided idealists'—may the God you invented forgive you!—they are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they're after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man…

    "It is a conspiracy without leader or direction, and the random little thugs of the moment who cash in on the agony of one land or another are chance scum riding the torrent from the broken dam of the sewer of centuries, from the reservoir of hatred for reason, for logic, for ability, for achievement, for joy, stored by every whining anti-human who ever preached the superiority of the 'heart' over the mind.

    "It is a conspiracy of all those who seek, not to live, but to get away with living…

    "...a conspiracy that unites by links of evasion all those who pursue a zero as a value:

    "The professor who, unable to think, takes pleasure in crippling the mind of his students,
    "The businessman who, to protect his stagnation, takes pleasure in chaining the ability of competitors,
    "The neurotic who, to defend his self-loathing, takes pleasure in breaking men of self-esteem,
    "The incompetent who takes pleasure in defeating achievement,
    "The mediocrity who takes pleasure in demolishing greatness,
    "The eunuch who takes pleasure in the castration of all pleasure 

    "and all their intellectual munition-makers, all those who preach that the immolation of virtue will transform vices into virtue."
    Except for the businessman, Obama is all of these (and he deals with those kinds of businessmen -- the George Soros / Warren Buffett / Solyndra variety).

    The real reason many people promote the narcissist term -- aside from ignorance of what it means -- is that they want to denigrate self-interest as such and attack such self-respect as any man or woman may have earned for themselves.

    The article goes on to examine Obama's dysfunctional childhood and ask if there's some blame there for what he's become, but no definitive conclusions are offered.

    The answer, in my opinion, starts with the one I've given for years: Obama is a megalomaniacal power-luster:
    meg·a·lo·ma·ni·a (m g -l -m n - , -m n y ). n. 1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
    As for the cause of this affliction, Obama is born of a sort of ideological brainwashing -- the kind that shapes children into monsters.

    Obama's mother was a radical, revolutionary communist.  So was his birth father (who died while trying to overthrow the Kenyan government, and who worked for the KGB).  His adopted father was a communist revolutionary.  His own admitted mentor was a communist under KGB control (Frank Davis).  His grandparents were communists (probably under KGB control).  Etc.  The man's entire life has been spent in that red-light district, and it produced a lifeform dominated by one emotion:  hatred for anyone of ability, hatred for anyone with a love of life.

    Consider that monster designation — as the old Jesuit saying goes, "Give me a child for the first seven years and you may do what you like with him afterwards."  His parents, grandparents, mentors, associates—had Obama for an entire lifetime.

    Victor Hugo, in his novel The Man Who Laughs, put it this way:
    …The comprachicos, or comprapequeños, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today. 
    …Comprachicos, as well as comprapequeños, is a compound Spanish word that means “child-buyers.” The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them. 
    They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry. 
    And what did they make of these children? 
    Why monsters? 
    To laugh. 
    The people need laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side-show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters … 
    To succeed in producing a freak, one must get hold of him early. A dwarf must be started when he is small … 
    Hence, an art. There were educators. They took a man and turned him into a miscarriage; they took a face and made a muzzle. They stunted growth; they mangled features. This artificial production of teratological cases had its own rules. It was a whole science. Imagine an inverted orthopedics. Where God had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where God had put harmony, they put deformity. Where God had put perfection, they brought back a botched attempt. And, in the eyes of connoisseurs, it is the botched that was perfect … 
    The practice of degrading man leads one to the practice of deforming him. Deformity completes the task of political suppression… 
    The comprachicos had a talent, to disfigure, that made them valuable in politics. To disfigure is better than to kill. There was the iron mask, but that is an awkward means. One cannot populate Europe with iron masks; deformed mountebanks, however, run through the streets without appearing implausible; besides, an iron mask can be torn off, a mask of flesh cannot. To mask you forever by means of your own face, nothing can be more ingenious…
    (translation by Ayn Rand)

    There we have the essence of the creature called Barack Obama, but with everything in a hideous reversal:   He’s a plausible-appearing mountebank with a fetching smile and a mask of civility to conceal his mangled soul:  his squint of unreason, his self-image of self-loathing, and his convictions, motivations and intentions— those of a killer.

    A smile to mask you from the world—what could be more ingenious?

    Ellsworth Toohey, the arch-villain in The Fountainhead, when asked by mediocrity Peter Keating what he was after, confessed
    "Power, Petey." ...Toohey was smiling, almost indifferently.
    "You...always said..." Keating began thickly, and stopped.
    "I've always said just that. Clearly, precisely and openly. It's not my fault if you couldn't hear."
    So it is with people today.  Toohey goes on to elaborate how one achieves power, and among his methods,
    "Then there's another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It's simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor is an unlimited virtue. Don't let anything remain sacred in a man's soul--and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man. One doesn't reverence with a giggle. He'll obey and he'll set no limits to his obedience--anything goes--nothing is too serious.
    There you have the explanation for Obama's giggles. Quoting Galt once again,

    "Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator...

    "Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages—and power, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only lust...

    "A mystic is driven by the urge to impress, to cheat, to flatter, to deceive, to force that omnipotent consciousness of others. 'They' are his only key to reality, he feels that he cannot exist save by harnessing their mysterious power and extorting their unaccountable consent, 'They' are his only means of perception and, like a blind man who depends on the sight of a dog, he feels he must leash them in order to live. To control the consciousness of others becomes his only passion; power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind...

    "A mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement. He wants them to surrender their consciousness to his assertions, his edicts, his wishes, his whims—as his consciousness is surrendered to theirs. He wants to deal with men by means of faith and force—he finds no satisfaction in their consent if he must earn it by means of facts and reason. Reason is the enemy he dreads ...

    "...the feelings that move him from then on are hatred for all the values of man's life, and lust for all the evils that destroy it, A mystic relishes the spectacle of suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality. But no other reality exists.

    "No matter whose welfare he professes to serve, be it the welfare of God or of that disembodied gargoyle he describes as 'The People,' no matter what ideal he proclaims in terms of some supernatural dimension—in fact, in reality, on earth, his ideal is death, his craving is to kill, his only satisfaction is to torture...

    "there is no way to please him; when you obey, he will reverse his orders; he seeks obedience for the sake of obedience and destruction for the sake of destruction. You who are craven enough to believe that you can make terms with a mystic by giving in to his extortions—there is no way to buy him off, the bribe he wants is your life...

    "Death is the premise at the root of their theories, death is the goal of their actions in practice—and you are the last of their victims."
    Toohey was more direct, in explaining what he wants to do to independent men:
    "I don't want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped--and alive. He'll get up when they tell him to. He'll eat what they give him. He'll move when he's told to move and stop when he's told. He'll walk to the jute mill, when he's told, and he'll work as he's told. They'll push him, if he doesn't move fast enough, and they'll slap his face when they feel like it, and they'll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn't obey. And he'll obey. He'll take orders. He'll take orders!"
    For more on Toohey's motivations, which match Obama's perfectly, see my post, Good Night, America.

    The meaning of it all is this:  Obama is an incredibly dangerous man for the future of this country  and for your own life.

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  • 05/03/12--13:36: Follow the Network

  • That title echoes one from David Horowitz, who has a site dedicated to tracing the connections of the Left, Discover the Network.

    I'm reading Trevor Loudon's book on Obama ("Barack Obama and the Enemies Within") -- he's the main original source who exposed Obama's communist past and many communist associates, including Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett, Bill Ayers, etc.  Extremely well-researched and documented, not a conspiracy theorist -- and one chapter I was reading last night quoted several communist leaders who discussed the fact that the strategy of using stimulus funds was planned before Obama's election.

    For example, a few weeks after Obama's election in 2008, Sam Webb, the leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) said:
    "This favorable correlation of class and social forces couldn't happen at a better time... Our policy of singling out the extreme right and its reactionary corporate backers and building the broadest unity against them... in this year's election we applied that policy consistently and creatively... It is not immodest to say that both our overall policy and our tactical adjustment were on the money.  We should not claim bragging rights but our strategic and tactical approach captured better than any other organization or movement on the left the political algebra of the election process... It doesn't claim to capture reality in all of its complexity...the strategic notion of stages of struggle has to be employed judiciously and flexibly... or as some like to say, dialectically..."
    You may note the connection to Obama's "flexibility" expressed in South Korea recently.
    "Obama is an unusal political figure..  He has... an almost intuitive feel for the national mood... Let us give Obama some space.... Marxism is a guide to action, not a dogma...  These web-generated forms of organization and action were formidable in the elections and will in all likelihood contine to be a forceful presence in the coming years.... Unity is on a higher level... differences have to be handled in a way as not to break the overall unity... Although we are not in the socialist stage of the revolutionary process, we are, nevetheless on the road... the force of economic events will compel millions more to consider socialist ideas that in past were dismissed out of hand..."
    He goes on to explain what he means by that:
    "...We should consider initiating meetings to discuss the economic crisis and how to respond to it at the local, state and national level...  We should also mobilize support for Obama's stimulus package, for aid to the auto corporations -- albeit with strings -- and for immediate relieft for homeowners..." ("A Springtime of Possibility", posted on the Communist Party website, 2008)
    And then brags:
    "It sure feels good to be on the winning side." (p 239 - 246)
    Another comment came from Mark Rudd, a key former communist associate of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn with the radical SDS, and a leader in "Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS), the parent organization for "Progressives for Obama" which unites all the leading communist groups in the U.S., including CPUSA and Democratic Socialists of America (*not* socialists).  (Per Loudon, according to the FBI, Rudd once made a trip to Cuba during the Vietnam War that "involved terrorist training in camps set up by Soviet KGB Colonel Vadim Kotchergine.")  After Obama's election, Rudd said,
    "Obama is a strategic thinker.  He knew precisely what it would take to get elected and didn't blow it... What he's doing now is moving on the most popular issues -- the environment, health care and the economy... The economic agenda will stress stimulation from the bottom sometimes and handouts to the top at other times... By the second or third year of this recession, when stimulus is needed at the bottom, people may begin to discuss cutting the military budget... Obama plays basketball... you have to be able to look like you're doing one thing but do another...."
    Anticipating further "progress", he adds,
    "...Look to the second-level appointments.  There is a whole government in waiting that Podesta has at the Center for American Progress... This is no stupid guy.  Had any of the stupid Republicans read his books, they never could have said, "We don't know who this guy is."  You know every thought he has ever had.  Our job now is to organize both inside and outside the Demo party..."  (Mark Rudd, "Let's Get Smart About Obama", Nov. 28, 2008, p250 of Loudon's book)
    Another communist activist, Jeff Jones said a day after Rudd's article, about Obama,
    "This guy is really SMART... He is going to successfully extort green concessions from Detroit.  He will convince Congress to pass a major stimulus package that will lay the foundation for the development of an alternative energy manufacturing industry... redistributing financial resources downward are presented as unconnected pieces of legislation but actually they are interlocking comiponents of Obama's coherent multi-layered agenda... Even Lenin would be impressed."
    You can see the connection to Solyndra.

    On the board or as members of  Democratic Socialists of America, by the way, are Rudd, Dohrn, Ayers, Angela Davis (who beat a rap of providing the weapons used to murder a judge, prosecutor and jurist during a trial), Noam Chomsky (noted linguist and leftist MIT professor), Tom Hayden (former husband of Jane Fonda), Mike Klonsky (Maoist/CPUSA who gave Obama a job with the "Small Schools Workshop", a communist organization in Chicago), other former Weathermen and Marxists / Leninists, etc, etc.  A real Who's Who of communism in the U.S.

    But as I said, the umbrella organization for DSA is MDS, and prominent members are Michael and Robert Meeropol -- the two orphaned sons of executed Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, adopted by Abe Meeropol, a teacher, writer and CPUSA member (p 253), who taught several other notable writers, including  Paddy Chayefsky, Neil Simon and James Baldwin.

    An interesting tidbit.

    This barely scratches the surface of the connections. It's a tight world they all live in -- former SDS and Weathermen, communists formerly affiliated with the KGB (CPUSA was KGB controlled), "progressives", "democratic socialists", and right in the middle of it all, Barack Obama.

    They succeed, in part, because few people are willing to grasp the full extent of it all. Loudon's book is a good job of trying to, though it's mainly just a compendium (664 pages) of excerpts he accumulated over years of research -- but which could be tied together more concisely for people to get the entire picture of what we're confronting.

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  • 07/10/12--22:36: Psychology and Music
  • I've thought for some time, and I'm thinking much more, recently, that an excellent way, and in some respects, the best way to study the workings of the human mind is via music. The piano, especially. Think about it -- if I gave you a string of, say 30 random numbers, could you recall them?

    Or 1000 numbers in a pattern? Now watch what a pianist does: he plays many more things in sequence, in much more complex variations, sometimes for hours without ever looking at a piece of sheet music. What process of memory is involved? What does that say about the principles of how memory works?

    Or consider what neural connections must be formed to precisely play a complex work of music? All the practice, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of hours over years, to refine the semi-automatic selection of tens of thousands of muscle fibers in endless variations of control so that ten fingers precisely fly over the keys, in precise coordination with a streaming flux of sound. A precision that eliminates all contradictions in the choice of those thousands of muscles, made in milliseconds.

     Or consider the emotions evoked by any composition -- how music (as Ayn Rand noted) is the only art form that is a direct link between perception and emotions:
     The fundamental difference between music and the other arts lies in the fact that music is experienced as if it reversed man’s normal psycho-epistemological process. The other arts create a physical object (i.e., an object perceived by man’s senses, be it a book or a painting) and the psycho-epistemological process goes from the perception of the object to the conceptual grasp of its meaning, to an appraisal in terms of one’s basic values, to a consequent emotion. 
    The pattern is: from perception—to conceptual understanding—to appraisal—to emotion. The pattern of the process involved in music is: from perception—to emotion—to appraisal—to conceptual understanding. Music is experienced as if it had the power to reach man’s emotions directly.  (Art and Cognition,” The Romantic Manifesto)
    ...musical phrases can be artistically engineered like a universal language with a precise vocabulary to create the exact emotions a composer wants another person to feel, and influence, to that extent (however generally, yet in some sense, so precisely) the thoughts another person might have, and that the composer wants them to have.

     Or volition -- which directs the learning process, maintains the effort, guiding your perception to focus on every note and correct every mistake, accepting no errors (because if you do accept errors, your learning never converges on competence), refining the precision, speeding the tempo, defining the nuance of interpretation.

     Or the method of repetition that starts from slow, halting attempts at precision (in the beginner) in moving ten fingers in so many patterns, gradually automatizing the control (because you can't consciously control all of it directly) while correcting errors one at a time, but always under focused conscious direction -- faster and faster (as required by the piece), so that dozens of notes per second can be played with a precision of force and timing in complex relationships -- but every single note played by every single finger in every instant is all under the full awareness of your conscious mind, as if time has slowed down while you play it.

     Or abstraction, as you learn more and more pieces, and your mind integrates the endless varieties of musical patterns, until it generalizes the principles, in some sense, of melody and harmony and chords and rhythms so that playing an instrument feels like a direct link between the sounds in your mind and the motions of your hands, or the notes on a page and the sounds in your mind, an almost effortless translation, an extension of your body and thoughts....

     I'm not there (and never will be -- too much an engineer with too little training, too little practice, and too little discipline!), but I do have so much admiration for those who are there, who've had that dedication, and who have achieved such a remarkable level of ability, of which any performance is a testament to their integrity to that purpose.

     A lot more could said, but I think there's something here that could be applied to any field of learning. Imagine if everyone in every field could function with the virtuousity and dedication and passion and honesty of a concert pianist toward his craft. What a world we would have.

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    A number of people (including me) have highlighted the danger of Presidential Executive Orders which claim almost unlimited authority for any type of "emergency" (see my post here) .  For instance, this story in the American Thinker ("Do Obama's Executive Orders Reveal A Pattern?" ) recently was making the rounds with an argument to that effect.

    Reading it, I started to dig into whether the argument was valid.  I read many of Obama's recent EO's, and then was drawn to a White House webpage title "Presidential Actions", that lists presidential proclamations, orders and whatever else Presidents do on any given day.   We'll put aside the several hundred special days, weeks and months that were designated in the last couple years -- things like "National Poison Prevention Week", "Workers Day", etc.  It's what Presidents do.

    More interesting was ALL the national emergencies that I found which are active **right now**.   Just going through the first 42 pages of the "Presidential Actions", I found that we are presently in a State of National Emergency with respect to:
    Russia's proliferation of Highly Enriched Uranium
    Western Balkans
    Terrorists Disrupting the Middle East Peace Process
    Weapons of Mass Destruction
    Terrorists and their supporters
    Terrorist attacks
    North Korea.
    Let me say again:  we are in a state of national emergency with respect to all these entities.

    I'm sure there's a lot more.  That's just the ones I found for the last year or so that were declared or re-authorized.  Some of them go back to Bush and Clinton, maybe further.  I didn't trace back but a few.

    It's clear to me what's going on:  under "precedent", a President can bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency via an Executive Order.  There is no established Constitutional authority for doing so, but no one ever challenged the precedent, so they are just doing it.  (Again, it started before Obama.)

    So, in my blog posts of awhile ago ("The Unbridled Authority of Presidential Executive Orders", or "Totalitarianism Redux", etc) I was rather missing the Amazonian rain forest for the Charlie Brown Christmas tree when I ruminated on the dangers of allowing the President the authority to declare any undefined emergency.   That bus has come and gone decades ago.  Presidents for quite some time have been asserting that authority endlessly.

    The purpose seems clear: to circumvent Congress and U.S. Statute, they declare an emergency, and then no existing law on the books applies to them.   They can do (in the words of Bill Murray, from "Groundhog Day"):  whatever they want.

    No restrictions whatever.

    Let's review just what it is they do claim they can do in an emergency, if their mood sees fit:
    1. Seize all highways, seaports. (EO 10990, originally, superceded by later EOs)
    2. Seize and control the communication media. (Well, that's a fait accompli, but it started with EO 10995)
    3. Seize all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals. (EO 10997, et al)
    4. Seize all food resources and farms. (EO 10998...)
    5. Force all civilians into work brigades. (EO 11000...)
    6. Take over all health, education and welfare functions. (EO 11001. Sounds just like Obamacare, doesn't it?)
    7. Establishes a national registration of all persons. (EO 11002...)
    8. seize all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft. (EO 11003.  Pretty much what happened after 9/11)
    9. Relocate communities, build new housing, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations. (EO 11004.  Not unlike what Fannie, Freddie and the CRA accomplished, but more draconian.)
    10. Seize railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities. (EO 11005)
    11.  The National Guard could be federalized to seal all borders and take control of U.S. air space and all ports of entry. (EO 12656)
    12. Enforce “industrial support” with the Dept. of Justice. (EO 11310)
    13. Take control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. (EO 11921)
    14. Asserts that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review actions under this EO for six months. (EO 11921. This EO is a massive expansion of previous EOs, under a Republican Administration.)
    15. increase domestic intelligence and surveillance. (EO 12656) It grants the government the right to isolate large groups of civilians.
    16. authorize all Executive Orders to be put into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis. (EO 11051)
    I'll leave you to ruminate on just how far down the path of statism we've actually gone, and what's holding them back.

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  • 09/08/12--14:39: Flotsam, Jetsam and Lagan.
  • In his brilliant novel, The Man Who Laughs, Victor Hugo wrote that there are things that float on the surface of the ocean (flotsam), things that float to shore (jetsam), and then there are those things that sink to the bottom (lagan). This post is about the latter.

    I saw The Dark Knight Rises last night, and I had the first religious experience of my life: I could not stop praying, "God, please let it be over."

    This review has some spoilers, so in that spirit, I recommend you read on.

    Seriously, the hype I read about this movie was mildly overrated. The comparison that many made of the prescience to our current political situation would be laughable, except that the comparison will be lost on 99.99% of the American public. The endless symbolism I found grating and was longing for even one concrete idea stated unapologetically.

    The story was endlessly slow to develop, with a meandering plot (if it had a plot) that needed a mini-series to properly develop. I got extremely tired of the machine-gun presentation of scenes or shots of scenes that lasted only a few seconds or fractions of a second (if that). The score was annoyingly ever-present and overly loud, when there were definite moments that it should have shut the ____ up. Perhaps for an hour or two. (At several points I had to put my fingers in my ears.)

    The plot (again, if I can call it that) was a predictable pastiche of many movies that came before. The villain "Bain" was so obviously Darth Vader as to be laughable. The phrase "cliche-ridden string of memes" comes to mind, except, "meme" is really just an avant garde synonym for "cliche", so I repeat myself.

    There was virtuallly no development of character motivations in any serious sense. The secret villain who is only revealed in the climax (in a ripoff of Othello), is supposed to make us believe that all the death and destruction was motivated by nothing more than revenge for the death of .... well, I'll leave out that spoiler, except you saw it in a few dozen other movies and hundreds of TV shows. How that ties in to Obama's class warfare shtick can only be done with sewing thread of some kind of bubble gum.

    Then we have the absurdly unlikely plot elements, like, when every single cop in the city of Gotham descends en masse into a big sewer hole to chase the bad guys, who are nowhere to be found, but who have clearly orchestrated this unlikely event so that the cops can be bottled up like bugs in a botanist's bottle by explosions that seal off the sewers. Why the bad guys didn't simply kill them all in some visceral demonstration of Darwin's theory, I don't know.

    And there the cops stay for the next three months while Batman decides if he wants to save Gotham, getting physical therapy in some remote prison fortress that consists of hanging him from a rope and having someone fix his protruding broken vertabrae by punching the bloodied chunks back in place as hard as possible.

    Yes, chiropracty has come a long way, though there was never an explanation for Wayne's recovered knee, elbow, shoulder and other cartilage, which a doctor in the opening to this pot-boiler tells us is "non-existent". I should think the elixer for that cure would have a market.

    The prison thread is replete with the ethereal appearance of Obi-wan-Kenobi pretending to be Liam Neeson, who arrives to taunt the clueless Wayne, but this merely spurs Batman on to rebuild his strength and escape his fortress of solitude for debauched superheroes. Escape involves a pointless "leap of faith" in an obscure kiling apparatus that Austin Power would have approved of, involving climbing a hundred feet up the inside of a convenient vertical smokestack of badly set bricks, and then, when halfway up, abandoning that successful strategy to jump across the empty space of the 15 foot column to a conveniently placed concrete shelf jutting out on the other side, from whence you climb another 50 feet up the remainder of the stack to emerge in the middle of a remote desert without even a taxi to get home.

    This "leap" seems to kill most prisoners that attempt it, but not Bruce Wayne, and he falls over and over again to the end of a 50 foot length of rope that stops his descent without the obligatory ripping-of-the-spine-in-half denoument.

    The curious thing no one noticed is, this rope tied to Wayne's torso is clearly shown going out the top of the smokestack where it it belayed somewhere.

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why Wayne didn't just climb the rope. Don't trouble yourself with that thought.

    The cops back home have meanwhile subsisted on 3 months of K-rations generously donated by the bad guys, who seem to care in some touching way for them, but are finally saved by the Catwoman who can do more with two rockets on her borrowed Batcycle than the combined forces of the entire Republic --in the intervening three months no one, not even the cops, have attempted to remove the 10 trillion tons of debris keeping the cops in their sewer-bottle.

    Cops are released, uniforms cleaned, pressed, dry-cleaned, but sans body odor and other public health issues (seriously, what's your underwear like after three months in a sewer?), to do battle with the bad guys, hand-to-hand. Guns are still wrong, you see. But even hand-to-hand, they can't seem to muster a single brain with a plan, and the obvious solution is to just run at the bad guys as a mob and get mowed down by machine guns and cannon fire. I must remember this strategy for future reference.

    The only positive thing to this movie was the Catwoman, who had a shred of characterization and intelligence, and I recommend her line near the end, when Batman is getting his ass kicked once more by the evil Darth -- sorry, Bain -- and she shows up to rescue Batboob (living proof that his hydrocephalitic cowl is concealing not a shred of perceptive ability) and blows Bain to hell and back, saying something to the effect of, "this non-violence thing isn't really doing it for me."

    Me neither. At this point in the movie, the bad guys have killed about 40 berzilion people and are about to set off a nuclear weapon; I think we're past the point of self-restraint.

    The obligatory nuclear weapon itself is based on time-tested dramatic principles of contrived science and phony time-pressure that would make James Bond's nemesis Goldfinger proud. In the beginning the "fusion core" (fyi, "fusion" doesn't use a core -- that's "fission") is reported to be a little unstable when unhooked from it's computer console in the storm sewers of Wayne Enterprises, but somehow that instability acquired a precision of microseconds by the end of the movie.

    Yadayada. I could say more, but why bother. It held my attention at the level of trying to navigate the demolition derby of rush-hour traffic on the 805 in Irvine, or count my toes while taking a bath. If it was a fish, I'd throw it back. Can anyone write an adult movie?

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    I urge you to listen to this entire 30 minute video, by Trevor Loudon, the New Zealand blogger who first exposed Obama's communist connections, including his mentor Frank Marshall Davis, Van Jones, and many more.

    In essence, he is making a plea to vote Obama out of office if we are to save the world from absolute rule by Russia and China, caused by Obama's goal of eviscerating the United States military deterrent, which the destruction of the U.S. economy serves the end of (via policies such as "stimulus", Obamacare, blocking oil development, etc).

    Loudon makes an eloquent, passionate case in the most factual manner, based on his years of research, much of which is documented in his book, Barack Obama and the Enemies Within, which I highly recommend.  (It is available at the Pacific Freedom Foundation, or on  I wrote a post in May ("Follow the Network") that quoted a few passages from it to highlight the veracity of his approach.

    Loudon's method is not to assert what Obama is, but to show you the evidence, and let you reach your own conclusions -- if you dare.  His objective is a simple one:
    "...The United States is the last, best hope for mankind. If freedom falls in America, it falls in every corner of the globe...."
    I've written many blog posts on the danger of Obama, on his nihilist psychology, and his subversive goals, which rest overtly on the unilateral elimination of our nuclear deterrent in a second term (and I mean "eliminate unilaterally") and on his Soviet connections.  (See, as a sampling, "Good Night, America", "Psychology of a Killer", "Obama's End Game", "Psychology of a Spiritual Looter", "The Next Phase in Obama's Rush Towards Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament", etc.)

    I reached all my own conclusions independently of Loudon, who I only learned about some months ago.  Our conclusions are identical:  As evidenced by his extensive connections not only to the communist internationale, but his links to the old KGB and their replacements today, there is no question that Obama is acting deliberately, methodically and with malice aforethought  on behalf of Russia -- but also as a matter of principle, because destruction of the good is his only raison d'etre, his only reason for being -- to destroy the United States and the United States military as a deterrent force in the world.

    Loudon's concern is the short-term, existential survival of the United States and the world posed by a second Obama term, and the desperate need to get him out of office, now. His video summarizes only a few aspects of the evidence, which includes
    "...Alice Palmer, a woman who got Obama his first job in politics, was effectively a Soviet agent. ..."She was with the World Peace Council, the Soviet Union's number one international front. The Soviets put billions of rubles into this..."
    On Obama's personal mentor from the age of 10 years:
    "Frank Marshall Davis, communist, possible Soviet spy ...The FBI ...put together a 600 page file on the man ...he was seen photographing obscure Hawaiian beaches with a camera with a telescopic lens. They suspected military espionage, because they put Davis on "security index A", which was reserved for only the most dangerous communists..."
    Then there is Obama's present Chief of Staff in the White House:
    "Valerie Jarrett, Obama's closest advisor, his most trusted friend -- her whole family was involved in the far left radical movement. Her maternal grandfather Robert Taylor was affiliated in the 1930s with the American Peace Mobilization, the communist party's main front at the time. ...her father Vernon Jarrett ...was a member of the American Youth for Democracy, which became the Communist Party USA. ...Jarrett was writing their press releases and propaganda, with Frank Marshall Davis..."
    Draw your own conclusions after listening to him. Loudon lays out the key facts, as well as offering his credentials, background and motivations.  I think this is important enough that I made my own transcript of his entire video, for those who prefer to read, if that's what it takes to motivate you.

    I also suggest you take a look at Loudon's blog.  Most of the information from his book originally was published there.

    Transcript (abridged slightly, a few sentences re-phrased for brevity):
    ...Why should I care about the internal politics of the United States? There are two basic reasons. The first is simple gratitude. My country is only free because of the huge sacrifice of the U.S. in WWII in the battles of Guadalcanal, Coral Sea and Midway.... without that huge sacrifice, my country would have been subjugated by the Japanese Imperial Army.

    The second reason is a little more selfish... the United States is the last, best hope for mankind. If freedom falls in America, it falls in every corner of the globe. If you lose your military superiority, you lose your world leadership. The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Cubans, the North Koreans and their allies will carve up this globe amongst themselves.

    ...A lot of people email me and they say, if Obama gets back in again, can we come and live in New Zealand? I say, really, there is nowhere to run now. Just 1500 miles north of my country lie the beautiful Fijian islands. They now have a Marxist government. The Chinese are training the Fijian military and building big hydroelectric dams. Fiji is now a Chinese client state.

    Just a few months ago, the Australian minister of defense was in China and a top Chinese official embarassed him publicly. He said, "Now is the time for Australia to choose. Do you stay under American protection, or do you come under Chinese protection?"

    It's happening now because the bad guys of the world are getting bolder and bolder because of the leadership they see coming out of your White House. And all around the world your allies.... are very, very concerned because they see that your President seems to love the bad guys. ... this is creating a huge amount of instability, and people are looking to see which bully they have to curry favor with because they see that the United States is no longer a dependable ally. It's a very serious situation as far as world liberty goes.

    There's a big world power play in action right now. In 1984, New Zealand elected a socialist labor government, and one of the first things they did was enact legislation banning nuclear warships in our harbors. As the United States was the only country sending nuclear warships to our harbors, that killed, overnight, the Australian-New Zealand-U.S. military alliance, ANZUS, stone cold dead, and it hasn't been revived to this day. Now how would it happen at the height of the cold war, a Western country could so willingly turn its back on the Western alliance?

    A few years after this event, I had the pleasure of interviewing over several months, a New Zealander who infiltrated the local communist party for our security intelligence services, the equivalent of the American FBI. The guy was a government spy inside the communist party. In 1983 he was given the greatest honor any communist could enjoy, he was sent to Moscow to train at Lenin's institute for higher learning. This was a huge place, 3500 students, many of them on 7 year courses... this was a training ground for the future world communist leadership. There were people there from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece. Virtually every country was represented, except for one, the United States. The only reason there were no Americans there was that at some point, your government had told the Soviet Union, if there were any Americans caught training at that institute, there would be war. The Soviets respected that, but what they would do instead, they would train Canadians, or Mexicans or New Zealanders in the doctrines they wanted promoted, and those people would go and train the American communists.

    My friend, sat down in a room, with the other three members of his delegation, with members of the KGB, and the Lenin institute, and they had a plan. This was the time of the massive anti-nuclear marches through Europe. ...There were real fears NATO might break up. The Soviets were funding these peace marches, funding the local communist parties that organized them, because they wanted NATO to break up. ... It is important to remember, that to Moscow, the American military and military alliances have always been the number one target, because your military is the only thing standing between them and what they want, which is world domination.

    The plan was this. They had the big thing going on in Europe, but how about breaking away some country in the Western alliance, somewhere outside Europe, and the psychological and propaganda impact of that will spur on the peace movement in Europe, and lead to the destruction of NATO.

    So they picked on New Zealand because we were small, socially liberal and the communists were strong, and they controlled our peace movement and they had infiltrated our labor party. They knew they couldn't sell it as anti-American, because most Kiwis were pro-American, so this had to be New Zealand standing up for peace, Kiwis standing against the nuclear arms race, New Zealand striking an independent foreign policy. Chest thumping patriotic stuff. So they worked out the slogans, they worked out the psychology, and the small delegation left Moscow and returned to New Zealand. They had secret meetings with the New Zealand labor party, with the peace movement, with the labor unions, and they mounted a campaign. In a few short months, that legislation was in front of our parliament and passed, and our alliance with the United States was killed stone cold dead. Even today, the conservatives don't dare overturn it. And hardly one of them would have any idea that those policies were designed in Moscow by the KB at Lenin's Institute for Higher Learning.

    That is how a whole nation can be duped by a foreign power, ... that is what happened to my country, and that is what is happening to your country.

    Why is this relevant to the United States? The Left has an agenda for America... Mr. Obama has a background in the hard Left. He's a red diaper baby, he was brought up in the Marxist movement his entire life. ...His first mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, who started out in the communist movement of Chicago in the 1940's... in 1948 he left Chicago and moved to Hawaii. Why would he do that? Comrade Stalin had ordered the American communist party to put as many members as possible to Hawaii because that is where Pearl Harbor was. Stalin wanted as many spies as he could get on the island, and as many agitators as he could get to close the bases down.

    ...The FBI had watched Davis for 19 years and were very concerned about him. They put together a 600 page file on the man. They were getting regular reports that he was seen photographing obscure Hawaiian beaches with a camera with a telescopic lens. They suspected military espionage, because they put Davis on "security index A", which was reserved for only the most dangerous communists, and if war had broken out with the Soviet Union, Davis could have been arrested immediately.

    This was the man who was chosen, in 1970, to be the mentor to Barack Obama, who had just returned from Indonesia. That choice was made by Obama's grandfather, Stanley Dunham. Mr. Obama mentions Davis 22 times in his book "Dreams from my Father".

    The next significant mentor to Obama was a woman named Alice Palmer. She was an Illinois State Senator, and she got Obama his first job. She guided him the mid-90's. Alice Palmer had a very strong background in the communist movement. She was with the World Peace Council, the Soviet Union's number one international front.

    The Soviets put billions of rubles into this. It still exists and was designed to agitate against your military, your military alliances, against Star Wars, against any weapons system that might give the United States superiority over its enemies.

    Alice Palmer was heavily involved in it. She was also involved with an affiliate, the U.S. Peace Council, as an executive member. Alice Palmer also ran a network of black communist journalists in the United States, called the Black Press Institute, and she took several of these people, in 1985, for a trip to the Soviet Union, East Germany, and communist Czechoslovakia. She was also in Moscow in 1986, covering the annual conference of the communist party of the Soviet Union. In the same year she was elected as North American Vice President of the Organization of Journalists, a bona fide Soviet front.

    So Alice Palmer, a woman who got Obama his first job in politics, was effectively a Soviet agent.
    So you've got Frank Marshall Davis, communist, possible Soviet spy, Alice Palmer, Democrat, definite Soviet agent, both involved in anti-military activities on behalf of the communist party or the Soviet Union.

    Today, Valerie Jarrett, Obama's closest advisor, his most trusted friend -- her whole family was involved in the far left radical movement. Her maternal grandfather Robert Taylor was affiliated in the 1930s with the American Peace Mobilization, the communist party's main front at the time, and their job was to keep American troops out of World War 2... At that time, Stalin was still allied with Nazi Germany. When Hitler betrayed Stalin, overnight the American Peace Mobilization became the American People's Mobilization, the most pro-war organization in the United States. And Robert Taylor was involved with that, alongside Frank Marshall Davis.

    On the other side of Valerie Jarrett's family was her father Vernon Jarrett. 1946, Jarrett was a member of the American Youth for Democracy, which became the Communist Party USA. In 1948 Vernon Jarrett served on the Packinghouse Workers Strike Committee, their publicity committee, a communist labor union and Jarrett was writing their press releases and propaganda, with Frank Marshall Davis.

    The two most powerful people in America, Barack Obama, and his chief advisor, Valerie Jarrett can both trace their political lineage back to the Chicago communist party of the 1940's and specifically to Frank Marshall Davis.

    Another person associated with the American Peace Mobilization group was a man named Hugh DeLacy, a card-carrying member of the communist party. He ended up settling in Santa Cruz, where he was a friend with a local congressman, Leon Panetta, who is now your Secretary of Defense (after Obama first appointed him to head the CIA). The Panettas and DeLacys were very good friends, they had parties at each others houses. When DeLacy died, four people read eulogies at his funeral. One was Panetta, and the other three were all members of a Marxist organization called Democratic Socialists of America. Panetta and DeLacy had corresponded over 10 years about opposing Reagan's policies of containing communism, opposing Star Wars, cutting the U.S. military.

    DeLacy was a friend of another man, John Stuart Service, who had been part of the Soviet spy ring in the 1940s that worked to tilt U.S. State Department policy toward the Chinese communists. With the help of Service, DeLacy was given a free month-long trip to China to meet with two American expatriates who were working for the communist Chinese. Service was also working other others including those with the KGB spy ring in the State Department. ...He was in close contact with 5 members of the KGB and 1 communist spy. This was the man who was best friends with Panetta, your current Secretary of Defense.

    That brings me to the real agenda of the Left -- to destroy your military. That's what this is all about. This is why the Soviets have funded the Peace movements and United States Communist Party, because their number one objective has always been to bring your military to its knees.

    And now you have a situation in the United States, where your Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama, is working with your Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, to slash your military budget to ribbons. Mr. Obama has even got a paper commission to cut your U.S. nuclear arsenal down to 292 nuclear weapons. The Russians alone have more than 1500 -- that we know about. Yet Mr. Obama thinks it is a wise course of action to cut whole chunks out of the Army, whole chunks out of the Navy, weapons systems cancelled -- and who is cheering him on? None other than Vladimir Putin himself.

    In March of this year, Mr. Obama did a very significant thing. He was in Korea talking to the Russian President, Mr. Medvedev, and said "I need more space. When I get reelected, I will have more flexibility to deal with you." and Medvedev answered, "I will pass your message on to Vladimir, we are with you."

    That is the single most significant thing your President has said in his entire term of office. It is not about bringing your country down economically -- that's part of it -- it is not about health care -- that's part of it, too. The big agenda is to wreck your economy to the point that Americans will accept the gutting of their military. That is the agenda. Nothing else comes close as far as the communists, as far as the Russians, as far as all their allies are concerned, because there is no way back for you from that point.

    This is not about a depression because Americans can survive a depression. This is not about losing your rights, because Americans can stand up and take them back. But have you ever been in the position before where your Commander in Chief and your Secretary of Defense have been giving your number one enemy everything it wants?

    And project it forward, Ladies and Gentlemen, if Obama gets four more years, how much military will you have left? And how effective will it be?

    And think about this: if in 4 more years your military is way run down, and the Russians have increased their armaments, the Chinese have built up their blue water navy in the Pacific, Iran has nuclear weapons, and a future Republican comes along to run for President, and he says, I'm going to rebuild the U.S. military to its former levels, to its former power –

    Do you think for one minute the Russians and the Chinese and their allies will sit on their hands and let you guys do it? Do you think, when they've got you exactly where they want you they will entertain letting you rebuild your military might?

    There is really no way back. This is about getting rid of your President, or allowing him to destroy your military capability, your ability to defend your country and defend your allies, taking you to a point where there is no return. Because if this continues, not only will you be not able to defend your allies, like Israel or Japan or Taiwan or Australia, but you'll not be able to defend even your homeland, and you will have no alternative but to accept some United Nations "Super-State" or face the combined military might of Russia and China and all their crazy allies and not a friend in the world to come to your aid.

    This is about the survival of the free world. If America goes, we all go. If you lose your military dominance, the bad guys are going to take over, and there will be no where left to run. China will dominate the Pacific, Russia will dominate Europe. China will dominate Africa, Iran will dominate the Middle East, and there will be no safe havens left.

    If some people think a world led by America isn't so hot, a world led by Russia and China will be a whole different ballgame, and I think the consequences of that will be quite horrific.
    My message is, this election, more than anything else, is America going down the path of peace through security, or the path of destruction by gutting your military?

    That is the alternative. It is America's survival at stake, and the survival of the whole Western world. I urge every American to consider that when they go to the ballots. That is the number one question that should be uppermost in their minds when they go to vote.

    (end transcript)

    Postscript:  Meanwhile there was a news story today, Putin flexes muscle in big test of Russia's nuclear arsenal...
    (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin took a leading role in the latest tests of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal, the most comprehensive since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

    The exercises, held mostly on Friday, featured prominently in news reports on state television which seemed aimed to show Russians and the world that Putin is the hands-on chief of a resurgent power.

    Tests involving command systems and all three components of the nuclear "triad" - land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles and strategic bombers - were conducted "under the personal leadership of Vladimir Putin", the Kremlin said.

    An RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia, and a submarine test-launched another ICBM from the Sea of Okhotsk, the Defence Ministry said.

    Long-range Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers fired four guided missiles that hit their targets on a testing range in the northwestern Komi region, it said.

    "Exercises of the strategic nuclear forces were conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia," the Kremlin statement said...

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