Voting in Colorado

 Posted by on 31 October 2006 at 2:03 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 312006
 

Since ’tis the season for election blogging, I’ve decided to report my own votes on the various amendments and referenda on the Colorado ballot. Feel free to post your own votes (and reasons) for your own state in the comments, if you like.

  • Amendment 38 – Petitions
    Amendment 38 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning initiative and referendum petitions, and, in connection therewith, changing petition rights and procedures; allowing petitions to be submitted at all levels of Colorado government; limiting initiative ballot titles to 75 words; changing single-subject requirements and procedures; limiting the annual number of new laws that governments may exclude from possible referendum petitions; establishing standards for review of filed petitions; specifying that petitions may be voted on at any November election; limiting the use of government resources to discuss a petition; requiring voter approval for future petition laws and rules and for changes to certain voter-approved petitions; and authorizing measures to enforce the amendment.

    My vote: No. I like representative government. I want less direct democracy, not more.

  • Amendment 39 – School District Expenditures for Education
    Amendment 39 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a requirement that in each state fiscal year a school district spend at least 65% of its operational expenditures on classroom instruction, with limited exceptions.

    My vote: No. For all the reasons Brad Thompson articulated in his recent FROST talk, I don’t want to reform the public schools, I want to abolish them. Plus, such a concrete law shouldn’t be part of the Colorado Constitution. (Colorado has lots of bizarre crap in its Constitution, so this kind of proposal for an amendment isn’t unusual.)

  • Amendment 40 – Term Limits on Judges
    Amendment 40 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning term limits for appellate court judges, and, in connection therewith, reducing the terms of office for justices of the supreme court and judges of the court of appeals to four years, requiring appellate judges serving as of January 1, 2007, to stand for retention at the next general election, if eligible for another term, prohibiting an appellate judge from serving more than three terms, specifying that a provisional term constitutes a full term, and making any appellate judge who has served ten or more years at one court level ineligible for another term at that level.

    My vote: No! This law would be a disaster: it would allow Colorado’s governor to appoint a majority of justices to the Supreme Court and a large number of justices to the Appellate Court in 2009 — and every ten years thereafter. (!!) Those are powers I don’t wish to give to any government official, ever.

  • Amendment 41 – Standards of Conduct in Government
    Amendment 41 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning standards of conduct by persons who are professionally involved with governmental activities, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting a public officer, member of the general assembly, local government official, or government employee from soliciting or accepting certain monetary or in-kind gifts; prohibiting a professional lobbyist from giving anything of value to a public officer, member of the general assembly, local government official, government employee, or such person’s immediate family member; prohibiting a statewide elected officeholder or member of the general assembly from personally representing another person or entity for compensation before any other such officeholder or member for a period of two years following departure from office; establishing penalties for a breach of public trust or inducement of such a breach; creating a five-member independent ethics commission to hear ethics complaints, to assess penalties, and to issue advisory opinions on ethics issues; and specifying that the measure shall not apply to home rule jurisdictions that have adopted laws concerning matters covered by the measure.

    My vote: No. The problem of unseemly gifts by lobbyists is the inevitable consequence of the failure to limit government to its proper function. More regulations won’t make a bit of difference. (Plus, this law would prevent not just government employees, as well as their spouses and children, from accepting educational scholarship.)

  • Amendment 42 – Colorado Minimum Wage
    Amendment 42 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the state minimum wage, and, in connection therewith, increasing Colorado’s minimum wage to $6.85 per hour, adjusted annually for inflation, and providing that no more than $3.02 per hour in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips.

    My vote: No! Minimum wage interferes with the right of employers and employees to contract as they see fit, according to their own best interests.

  • Amendment 43 – Marriage
    Amendment 43 – An amendment to the Colorado constitution, concerning marriage, and, in connection therewith, specifying that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Colorado.

    My vote: No! This amendment is the darling of the Religious Right. (See my comments on the “domestic partnership” referendum below.) It must be defeated.

  • Amendment 44 – Marijuana Possession
    Amendment 44 – An amendment to section 18-18-406 (1) of the Colorado revised statutes making legal the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for any person twenty-one years of age or older.

    My vote: Yes. Drugs should be legal. Although federal laws will still apply, at least this amendment sends a message. (Of course, it shouldn’t be a constitutional amendment, but oh well.)

  • Referendum E – Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans
    Referendum E – An amendment to Section 3.5 of Article X of the Constitution of the State of Colorado, concerning the extension of the existing property tax exemption for qualifying seniors to any United States military veteran who is one hundred percent permanently disabled due to a service-connected disability.

    My vote: No. Our Byzantinian tax codes should be radically simplified, not rendered more complex by yet another exception for some tiny minority group. Moreover, the proper care of disabled veterans is the job of the federal not the state government. Also, I question the motives for a tax break for only disabled veterans rather than for all veterans. It seems like altruistic sympathy for the disabled, not proper appreciation for military service.

  • Referendum F – Recall Deadlines
    Referendum F – An amendment to Section 2 of Article XXI of the Constitution of the State of Colorado, concerning elections to recall state elected officials, and in connection therewith, providing for the deadlines regarding recall petitions and hearings to be set in statute rather than in the constitution and stating that a recall election shall be held as part of a general election if a general election will be held between fifty and ninety days after the time for filing a protest has passed and all protests have been finally decided.

    Vote: Undecided. I don’t understand this measure well enough to vote in favor of it. My default will be to vote against it.

  • Referendum G – Obsolete Constitutional Provisions
    Referendum G – An Act submitting to the registered electors of the State of Colorado amendments to Articles XVII, XX, and XXIV of the Constitution of the State of Colorado, concerning the elimination of obsolete provisions of the state constitution.

    My vote: Yes. The Colorado Constitution already has enough crap in it.

  • Referendum H – Limiting a State Business Income Tax Deduction
    Referendum H – Shall state taxes be increased one hundred fifty thousand dollars annually by an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes that eliminates a state income tax benefit for a business that pays an unauthorized alien to perform labor services, and, in connection therewith, prohibits certain wages or remuneration paid to an unauthorized alien for labor services from being claimed as a deductible business expense for state income tax purposes if, at the time the business hired the unauthorized alien, the business knew of the unauthorized status of the alien unless specified exceptions apply and, to the extent such a payment was claimed as a deduction in determining the business’ federal income tax liability, requires an amount equal to the prohibited deduction to be added to the business’ federal taxable income for the purpose of determining state income tax liability?

    My vote: No. This measure is a stupid attempt to do something, even though totally pointless and ineffectual and irrelevant, about the problem of illegal immigration.

  • Referendum I – Domestic Partnerships
    Referendum I – Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes to authorize domestic partnerships, and, in connection therewith, enacting the “Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits And Responsibilities Act” to extend to same-sex couples in a domestic partnership the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted by Colorado law to spouses, providing the conditions under which a license for a domestic partnership may be issued and the criteria under which a domestic partnership may be dissolved, making provisions for implementation of the act, and providing that a domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one man and one woman?

    My vote: Yes. Voting “yes” on this referendum is perhaps the most clear way of rejecting Christian government in Colorado this election. I do worry that permitting gay marriage will usher in major subjectivism in marriage law, e.g. marry whomever you please, including two women, three men, and a goat. However, that’s not a problem with gay marriage (or domestic partnerships) per se, but rather with people’s failure to understand the proper grounds of marriage. Moreover, I regard that subjectivism as far less evil — and far less likely — than a return to a seriously religious conception of marriage. On that view, Paul and I aren’t really married since we’re not producing more children for God and community. For an example of that view, see this OpinionJournal op-ed by a Methodist Pastor. Oh, and don’t miss Augustine’s fantastically revolting views on marriage. Moreover, consider the main argument in our Colorado “Blue Book” against the referendum:

    Domestic partnerships diminish the significance of marriage for society by reducing marriage to a list of benefits and responsibilities. The benefits given to married couples are intended to support child rearing by one man and one woman. The state has an interest in restricting recognition and legal protection to these married couples to provide stability for the individuals, their families, and the broader community.

    In other words, marriage is a mysterious gift from God, not to be understood in words by man. Also, the sole justification for marriage is the demands of raising proper children in a stable family and community. People who choose not to procreate have no claim to the goods of marriage. In general, marriage is not two people committing to integrating their lives according to their own values. That’s obviously too selfish and too individualistic.

    Unfortunately, this “domestic partnership” measure will impose more government-mandated entitlements (e.g. health care and worker’s compensation) upon businesses, but that’s a problem with the government-mandated entitlements, not domestic partnership per se.

    So I’d strongly recommend voting in favor of this measure.

  • Referendum J – School District Spending Requirements
    Referendum J – Shall Colorado state law require that in each state fiscal year a school district spend at least sixty-five percent of its operational expenditures on services that directly affect student achievement?

    My vote: No. Again, I don’t want to reform the public schools, I want to abolish them.

  • Referendum K – Immigration Lawsuit Against Federal Government
    Referendum K – Shall the Colorado state attorney general initiate or join other states in a lawsuit against the United States attorney general to demand the enforcement of all existing federal immigration laws by the federal government?

    My vote: No. It’s absurd to force the state to sue the federal government by popular vote, particularly when such lawsuits have consistently failed in the past. Also, I want our inane system of immigration overhauled, not improved. Total reform is the only genuine solution to the problem of illegal immigration.

  • John McCaskey on the Scientific Revolution

     Posted by on 31 October 2006 at 1:41 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 312006
     

    Tired of the election? Disgruntled? In the depths of despair over our choices at the polls? Need to be inspired? Up-lifted? Want some fun in your weekend?

    Enjoy an enthusiastic, inspirational evening learning about science and scientific heroes. John McCaskey is an engaging, interesting, and thoughtful speaker with insights into the history and philosophy of science. If you who have not yet made reservations to come and hear John McCaskey on November 4, this is your last opportunity. An added benefit is spending time socializing with other rational, interested people. Call or e-mail by November 2 at 4:30 pm.

    For much of the twentieth century, it was believed that the Scientific Revolution that began with Copernicus and Vesalius was the result of the rejection of Aristotle’s methods and the adoption of Plato’s. But historians are now discovering that it was the opposite. In this talk, Dr. John McCaskey will explore the foundations of the great age of scientific discovery that ran from Copernicus to Galileo, Harvey, Boyle, and Newton, all the way to Charles Darwin. In particular, Dr. McCaskey will show how historians are coming to better understand the methods that these great thinkers used.

  • Why what you learned about Copernicus’s discovery in high school is wrong (and how you yourself could have known it).
  • How we know that Galileo really performed the experiments that some have doubted. (We’ll try one using water and wine and you’ll see.)
  • The truth about Isaac Newton’s interest in alchemy.
  • That Charles Darwin’s ideas weren’t rejected by the clergy (as any tourist to London should suspect).

    Date: November 4th, 2006

    Alert: Special time and event — two talks for the price of one!

    Time:

  • 4:30 pm — Social Half Hour
  • 5:00 pm — Into the Historian’s Workshop: How Historians are Finding the True Foundations of the Scientific Revolution — with Q&A 6:30 pm — Social forty-five minutes
  • 7:15 pm — Buffet Dinner

    Location:

  • West Woods Golf Club, 6655 Quaker Street in Arvada, Colorado

    Cost:

  • $50 per person, $35 for students

    RSVP:

  • Please RSVP to Lin Zinser (lin@zinser.com) by November 2. Send your check to FROST, 8700 Dover Court, Arvada, CO 80005. Or register via PayPal — $50, student price $35. Or e-mail and pay at the door.

  • Oct 292006
     

    Dr. Leonard Peikoff recently posted the following Q&A on the upcoming election on his web site.

    Q: In view of the constant parade of jackassery which is Washington, is there any point in voting for candidates of either entrenched party? Throwing out the incumbents “for a change” is to me an idea based on the philosophy that my head will stop hurting if I bang it on the opposite wall.

    A: How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

    Socialism–a fad of the last few centuries–has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast–the destroyer of man since time immemorial–is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

    The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

    The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.

    In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life–which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

    If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.

    I fully support Dr. Peikoff’s statement.

    I am acutely aware of the concrete evils of voting for the Democrats: high taxes, environmentalism, welfare programs, socialized medicine, and gun control. Nonetheless, I will vote for Democrats as long as necessary, even for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

    That is a substantial change for me, as some of you might recall. In the 2004 election, I was hopelessly torn by the choice between Bush and Kerry. While I knew that both were evil, I could not say Bush was apocalyptically evil while Kerry was merely ordinary evil. (Frankly, that middle ground was progress for me, as I’d been pro-Republican in the general vein of TIA Daily for many years beforehand.) I continued to pursue the matter after the election: I knew I needed to understand the relevant principles much better than I did. Listening to Dr. Peikoff’s excellent DIM Hypothesis course made the most difference to me: upon hearing the whole course, I finally understood the real meaning of the posted excerpt on the 2004 election. Of course, I still had much more thinking to do. Dr. Peikoff’s Religion Versus America and America Versus Americans lectures were illuminating, as was Dr. Yaron Brook’s lecture The Morality of War and Dr. John Lewis’ Ideas and the Fall of Rome. Dr. Brad Thompson’s recent article The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism is also a must-read.

    I mention those sources for a very specific reason: It’s hard to understand the depth and power of Dr. Peikoff’s position unless you are familiar with them, particularly his DIM Hypothesis course. Dr. Peikoff’s position is not based on any casual survey of recent events; it is well-grounded in fundamental principles, particularly the essential factors governing philosophic change in cultures over the course of centuries. The Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in shaping individual lives, politics, culture, and history is a massive integration. While most professed Objectivists could summarize it, they do not genuinely understand it for themselves, i.e. based upon their own induction from the concretes. Dr. Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis course makes that induction so much more clear. It helps a person cut through the confusing sea of today’s concretes, so as to see the essential trends. (Note: The Ayn Rand Institute has made Dr. Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis course available for free to registered users!)

    As regards the election, the past two years of the Bush Administration and its Republican Congress have displayed the true philosophic commitments of today’s conservatives more starkly than ever. In their domestic policies, the Republicans fully support socialism and statism. They simply do so in craftier ways than the Democrats. Most obviously, the Bush Administration successfully pushed its prescription drug plan — a massive new entitlement — through a Republican-dominated House and Senate. Even with his Democratic Congress, Clinton was unable to match that feat of welfare statism. As a general matter, the Bush Administration is not even slightly concerned with controlling spending or the growth of government. Consider these “hard facts” from Dr. Thompson’s The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism:

    Government spending has increased faster under George Bush and his Republican Congress than it did under Bill Clinton, and more people work for the federal government today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. During Bush’s first term, total government spending skyrocketed from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, an increase of 33 percent (almost $23,000 per household, the highest level since World War II). The federal budget grew by $616.4 billion during Bush’s first term in office. If post 9/11 defense spending is taken off the table, domestic spending has ballooned by 23 percent since Bush took office. When Bill Clinton left office in 2000, federal spending equaled 18.5 percent of the gross domestic product, but by the end of the first Bush administration, government outlays had increased to 20.3 percent of the GDP. The annualized growth rate of non-defense and non-homeland-security outlays has more than doubled from 2.1 percent under Clinton to 4.8 percent under Bush.

    Increased spending inevitably means increased taxes. Thus, despite President Bush’s much vaunted tax cuts, Americans actually pay more in taxes today than they did during Bill Clinton’s last year in office. The 2006 annual report from Americans for Tax Reform, titled “Cost of Government Day,” sums up rather nicely the intrusive role played by Republican government in the lives of ordinary Americans. The report says that Americans had to work 86.5 days just to pay their federal taxes, as compared to 78.5 days in 2000 under Bill Clinton. In other words, the average American has worked 10.2 percent more for the federal government under George Bush than under Bill Clinton. When state and local taxes (controlled in the majority of places by Republicans) are added to federal taxes, Americans worked for the government eight hours a day, five days a week, from January 1 until July 12, meaning they worked full-time for the government for more than half the year. As Tom Feeney, a congressional Republican put it: “I remember growing up and reading in some school textbooks that if more than half your paycheck went to the government, then you were living in a socialist society.” Just so, Mr. Feeney.

    The profligate spending of President Bush and the Republican Congress is thoroughly consistent with current Republican principles. In fact, Bush’s massively expensive prescription drug plan was based upon the very same model of a “conservative welfare state” as his failed attempt to reform Social Security, his support for school vouchers, and his tax cuts. As Dr. Thompson explains:

    How does a conservative welfare state work? And how does it differ from a liberal welfare state? The neocons advocate a strong central government that provides welfare services to all people who need them while, at the same time, giving people choice about how they want those services delivered. That is what makes it “conservative,” they argue. That is how the neocons reconcile Adam Smith and Karl Marx, Hayek and Trotsky.

    In practice, this means that the coercive force of the state is used to provide for all of the people’s needs–from universal social security to health and child care to education–but the people choose their own “private” social security accounts; they choose their own “private” health and child-care providers; and parents receive vouchers and choose which schools their children will attend. The choices, of course, are not the wide-open choices of a free market; rather, the people are permitted to choose from among a handful of pre-authorized providers. The neocons call this scheme a free-market reform of the welfare state.

    As economic “supply-siders,” the neocons occasionally support tax cuts–but not because they want to return to taxpayers money that is rightfully theirs. Instead, they advocate lowering the marginal tax rate because it will provide an incentive for people to work harder, earn more money, spur economic growth–and, thereby, generate more tax revenue that will be used to fund the conservative welfare state.

    In other words, President Bush’s occasional vaguely free-market rhetoric means nothing. The guiding ideal of his administration is that of total government control over our lives, albeit with some nominal choices sanctioned and regulated by that government. That’s the kind of “freedom” that today’s Republicans support — and that TIA Daily routinely praises. It’s worse than a farce: it’s a dangerous illusion. Due to the apparent choices still available to them, Americans might not recognize the ever-tightening vise of government control until it’s too powerful to effectively resist. To put the point somewhat crudely, the Republicans want Americans to indulge their power-lusting fantasy that their kinder, gentler form of rape is actually consensual sex, i.e. that their form of statism is actually freedom. It’s not. If Objectivists can’t see that, then America’s prospects are very bleak.

    Even more alarming, Republicans at the local, state, and federal levels are actively intertwining religion and politics. Republican candidates clearly display their Christian credentials in their campaign literature and declare their intention to govern by Christian principles. They claim that America was founded upon Christian principles — and advocate a return thereto. They actively promote religion with state power and taxpayer dollars via faith-based initiatives. Many now openly reject the very idea of secular government, i.e. of separation of church and state. For example, Janet Rowland, the woman Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez selected as his running mate, openly advocates teaching creationism in public schools, wholeheartedly supports faith-based initiatives, and denies any Constitutional support for separation of church and state. She claims that “we should have the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion.”

    Based upon recent threads on Objectivist discussion boards, many Objectivists seem to think that the meaning of Christian government in America is limited to marginal issues like abortion, stem-cell research, evolution, euthanasia, and the like. That’s completely false. Christianity is an all-embracing worldview: otherwordly, mystical, altruistic, and authoritarian. Its holy scriptures are explicitly and unequivocally opposed to all the values of this world: success, wealth, pleasure, science, justice, love, reason, pride, independence, and even long-range planning. It demands poverty, incompetence, misery, suffering, mercy, humility, submission, miracles, faith, and death. In recent decades, ever-growing millions of American Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, have embraced an ever-truer faith. They are committed to living in obedience to God. They are rediscovering the actual meaning of the teachings of the New Testament. They are rejecting the common sense worldliness that has long tempered American Christianity; they are embracing the blind emotionalism of faith. Ominously, they are raising an even more radical generation of Christians, teaching them to be “sons of God” rather than “children of the world,” just as Augustine demanded. This new Christianity is a whole new animal.

    Unsurprisingly, these millions of serious Christians want to live in a society that reflects and supports their Christian values. Also unsurprisingly, they are perfectly willing to use the coercive power of the state to achieve that end. They fight to implement and/or retain laws criminalizing homosexual sex, forbidding the co-habitation of unmarried couples, and requiring modest clothing. They support the Bush Administration’s vigorous prosecution of obscenity and heavy fines for indecency in the name of “family values.” They demand that religious nonsense (i.e. “intelligent design”) be taught as science in public schools. They demand the removal of un-Christian books from public and school libraries. Significantly, serious Christians will not be satisfied with success on those limited issues. They will demand strict divorce laws, limit access to birth control, prosecute adultery, and demand religious instruction in schools. To set a proper moral example for the children, they will force everyone to live a Christian life. They will silence critics of religion, whether by actively denying the right to offend religious believers or by passively permitting the intimidation of speakers. (Sadly, that’s not much of a stretch in light of Bush the Father’s response to the fatwa Salman Rushdie and Bush the Son’s response to the Muslim jihad against the Danish cartoons.) Meanwhile, these Christians will continue to support socialism for the simple reason that the New Testament commands it. It demands total collectivization of property and distribution according to need. In passage after passage, it inculcates vicious hostility to wealth, in part on the grounds that the wealthy exploit the poor. Marxism collapsed as an ideological force with the Soviet Union, but Christianity can and will give socialism a new lease on life. The utter misery created by Christian socialism will not be a reason to abandon it; Christianity is explicitly opposed to worldy values like happiness and prosperity. It lauds the silent endurance of suffering and misery as a virtue — and Christians will force you to be virtuous.

    The size and power of the evangelical Christian subculture in America should not be underestimated. It is millions strong, generously funded, and growing quickly, often below the radar of the mainstream media. (See the excerpt from the DIM Hypothesis course for details.) Moreover, consider the slew of large Christian organizations seeking to influence American politics, such as American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, Christian Coalition of America, Pro-Family Law Center, and Family Research Council. All were created in the last 30 years. In addition, Christian conservatives are successfully infiltrating academia, filling the vacuum created by the ideological death of the left. (To head off a likely objection: Yes, Democrats are increasingly appealing to religion. However, they’re doing so because they’ve seen the great success of the religious Republicans. For now, it’s just opportunistic me-too-ism. If religious Republicans are rejected by the American people sooner rather than later, it will disappear. If not, Christian Democrats will gain power over their party and thereby eliminate the possibility of secular government.)

    For those who understand the awesome power of philosophy in human life, the grave threat posed by this virulent new strain of Christianity is obvious. If America embraces the Christian government of the Republicans, the anti-reason and anti-life ideals Christianity will soon permeate every aspect of American life: politics, business, foreign policy, art, science, criminal and civil law, medicine, education, child-rearing, and more. Of all people, Objectivists ought to see that, precisely because Objectivism recognizes that philosophy is the fundamental driving force of human life and society. Yet many of Dr. Peikoff’s critics dismiss the reinvigorated Christianity spreading throughout the Republican Party as irrelevant or marginal, focusing only upon superficial issues of policy. They are utterly missing the point.

    As if the prospect of Christian government in America isn’t bad enough, the foreign policy of the Republicans is even more dangerous. The Bush Administration is not fighting a half-war against Islamic totalitarianism, as its Objectivist apologists claim. It is fighting an altruistic pseudo-war in which the lives of thousands of American soldiers and billions of taxpayer dollars are openly sacrificed for the good of the enemy.

    To take the most telling example, President Bush has embroiled the American military in years of fruitless war in Iraq — with no end in sight. On the present course, America can only leave Iraq in defeat, i.e. by withdrawing troops as the country sinks further into chaos. When that happens, Iraqis will be free to do as they please, namely to slaughter each other in religious and civil war culminating in the establishment of a repressive Islamic theocracy. That new Iraq will be far more dangerous to America than Saddam’s regime ever was; it will be another Iran. Notably, Bush’s lofty plan for Iraq diverges only slightly from that grim reality: he wants Iraqis to democratically vote themselves some new government, any new government. Since his basic goal is to promote democracy rather than secure America, he’s willing to accept an Islamic theocracy hostile to America, so long as Iraqis vote for it. That’s what our soldiers in Iraq are fighting and dying to protect in President Bush’s “war on terror.” The fact that they have killed some jihadists is wholly irrelevant: militant Islamists are not in short supply in the Middle East.

    America’s bloody self-sacrifice in Iraq is the concrete reality of President Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom.” According to that doctrine, the root cause of the “stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export” common to almost all countries in the Middle East is the absence of democracy. So the solution to Islamist terrorism is to allow Islamists the power of the vote. By implication, Islam is fundamentally unrelated to terrorism. As a “religion of peace,” Islam cannot inspire or motivate terrorism, whatever the terrorists might say. Notably, Bush explicitly connected his Forward Strategy of Freedom to his own religious faith. He declared the spread of democracy to be America’s “calling,” a task to be accomplished with God’s assistance and American sacrifice. Iraq was supposed to be the first major step: “the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” In fact, the only significant outcome has been an explosion of Islamism in Iraq.

    President Bush’s much-lauded Forward Strategy of Freedom has worked equally well elsewhere. The Bush Administration has vigorously promoted government by democratic vote in Muslim countries, even when that elevates violent Islamic totalitarians to power. Democracy brought Hamas to power over the Palestinian Authority, injected Hezbollah into the Lebanese government, and enshrined Islam as the law of the land in Afghanistan. Yet Bush continues to push for full-blown elections in Egypt and Jordan, even though that would undermine the efforts of those semi-friendly countries to suppress militant Islam. By promoting democracy, President Bush is aiding our enemies, openly helping them gain political power that otherwise would have been out of reach. Yet he has not been deterred from his God-given mission by the ever-growing political power of the Islamists around the Middle East. Like any good Christian, he is impervious to the facts of this world.

    The Bush Administration’s foreign policy is influenced by Christianity in more than just this “love your enemies” plan for Islamists. In his recent talk, “Nothing Less Than Victory,” Dr. John Lewis rightly argued that America ought to demand that the Muslim world wholly separate mosque and state. As in Shinto Japan after World War II, Muslims would be free to pray to Allah in their private lives, but Islam would be barred from public life and politics, including education. Muslims could rationalize that public secularism however they pleased — or abandon Islam entirely. Such secular government in Muslim countries is required to eliminate their threat to the West. Yet President Bush is completely incapable of demanding anything of the sort. He does not believe in the separation of church and state; he’s actively intermingling religion and politics in America. So he has no principled objection to states governed by Islamic law. He regards religion as a positive force in human life and in the state. He merely prefers Christianity to Islam.

    In essence, by the very nature of his guiding philosophy of life, President Bush is incapable of defeating Islamic totalitarianism. He lacks the capacity to identify the enemy as Islam and to demand the separation of mosque and state. The result is not some half-good measures against Islamic totalitarianism. He’s actively sacrificing American lives, dollars, and security in order to promote Islamists to political power.

    Even worse, by so doing while posing as a tough defender of America, the Bush Administration has substantially destroyed the critical ingredient in the battle for Western civilization against the Muslim barbarians, namely our will to fight. America’s military might is awe-inspiring. If victory was the goal, America’s military could probably crush Islamic totalitarianism in mere months, if not sooner. The only question is whether America has the moral confidence to use that awesome military power in the service of its own defense. In the weeks and months after 9/11, most Americans were eager to terminate the deadly ambitions of the Islamists. The Bush Administration bled dry that fighting spirit with years of war in Iraq, not to mention the ongoing appeasement of terrorists and the states that sponsor them. The cultural and political power of the Islamists in the Middle East has only grown since 9/11, so much so that many Americans now regard victory against the Islamists as impossible and self-defense as slow suicide. They do not think we can win; they aren’t certain we deserve to win; they don’t even know what “winning” would mean. That’s obscene. In concrete terms, the loss of moral confidence means that America will not confront Iran or Saudi Arabia, even though they are the two ideological and financial fountainheads of terrorism against the West. Our government will continue to appease Iran with diplomacy while it openly pursues nuclear weapons. It will continue to pretend that Saudi Arabia is an ally.

    Of course, I cannot imagine that the Democrats will wage anything like proper war against the Islamic totalitarians determined to destroy America. However, I can reasonably hope that their fearful cowardice will protect us from self-sacrificial wars. They will not sap America’s will to fight, but perhaps even reinvigorate it by their inaction. For example, by pulling out of Somalia in disgrace, the Clinton Administration saved us from the self-sacrifice of Bush the Elder’s humanitarian “war” to protect and serve a hostile population. Americans were not sapped of their will to fight thereby: most understood that we could and should have retaliated — even though we shouldn’t have embroiled ourselves in that mess of a country in the first place. In contrast, if Bush the Younger were in charge, American soldiers would probably still be dying senselessly in Somalia, just as in Iraq today, on the premise that Somalis really want freedom too.

    The world would be a safer place today if President Bush refused to take any action in response to the 9/11 attacks. Fewer Islamists would be in positions of political power in the Middle East. Americans might be frustrated by the inaction rather than cowed by improvised roadside bombs.

    Objectivists ought to recognize the total failure of Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly in light of the slew of articles and lectures on the topic in recent years by Dr. Lewis and Dr. Brook. Yet many seem utterly blind to the disaster, focusing only upon insignificant concretes. The fact is that the Bush Administration is not fighting a war against Islamic totalitarianism: as a matter of deliberate policy, it is promoting their political and cultural domination of the Middle East. Yet that’s the Administration that TIA Daily praises, supports, and urges you to vote for — precisely on the grounds of its “war on terror.” It’s appalling.

    Those are my basic reasons for regarding today’s Republicans as far, far more dangerous than today’s Democrats. The problem is not some few individual Republicans but the whole Republican Party, including its leadership. It must be told in no uncertain terms to reverse course. It will only do so if punished by voters for injecting religion into politics and promoting Islamism in the Middle East. Yes, the Democrats are awful. Yes, it will be painful to vote for them. However, the alternative of Christian government is so much more dangerous to our liberties.

    The fundamental philosophic principles required to clearly understand the nature of our choice in this election are not self-evident. They can be difficult to understand, even for someone long familiar with Objectivism. An honest Objectivist could be confused by the flood of irrelevant concretes and misleading analyses, particularly if attentive to the seemingly Objectivist defenses of the Bush Administration published in almost every TIA Daily and commonly posted on HBL (based on what I saw during my trial membership this spring). However, I think such confusion is possible only to a person without anything like a firm grasp of the relevant philosophic principles. That’s why I agree with Dr. Peikoff’s claim that “anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life–which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.” Sadly, that assessment has been confirmed by the flurry of concrete-bound objections to Dr. Peikoff’s statement posted on various Objectivist forums. More particularly, most critics of Dr. Peikoff dismiss as insignificant (or even deny) the rise of a new form of Christianity among millions of Americans over the last three decades. They treat Christianity as relevant to little more than birth and death, i.e. to abortion and euthanasia, even though millions of Christians are determined to live by the actual teachings of the New Testament. They claim that America’s sense of life makes theocracy impossible, as if the sense of life of a nation is independent of and impervious to massive changes in explicit philosophy. In essence, they do not recognize that Christianity is an all-encompassing philosophy with the power to drag America into a second Dark Ages if unchecked. In other words, they fail to grasp “the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life.”

    In response to Dr. Peikoff’s claim, some argue that a person’s vote reveals nothing about his understanding of Objectivism. In fact, a person’s concrete actions often do reveal failures of understanding–particularly when the choices are stark. An Objectivist who occasionally shoplifts doesn’t understand property rights (and more); an Objectivist who stumps for the Libertarian Party doesn’t understand the role of fundamental philosophy in politics (and more); an Objectivist who admires Kant’s philosophy doesn’t understand much of anything. Similarly, an Objectivist who thinks that today’s Republicans are less evil or as evil as today’s Democrats fails to grasp the fundamental ideological commitments of the Republicans and the real life meaning thereof, particularly the totalistic crushing oppression of life in a Christian culture and under Christian government.

    Moreover, I’m glad that Dr. Peikoff was so blunt, even though some were insulted. Many Objectivists needed to hear those shocking words. They needed to be told in no uncertain terms by the foremost expert on Objectivism that their understanding of the philosophy is seriously deficient. If Dr. Peikoff had stated his views in less stark terms, most pro-Republican Objectivists would have dismissed them without much consideration. Others would have remained oblivious to the enormous differences underlying the positions advocated by Yaron Brook, John Lewis, Craig Biddle, and Leonard Peikoff on one hand and Robert Tracinksi, Jack Wakeland, and Harry Binswanger (at least in 2004) on the other. A wake-up call was needed. Yes, it’s blaring — probably because the softer alarms weren’t often heeded.

    Obviously, a person who fails to properly understand Objectivism is not thereby dishonest or immoral. However, some of Dr. Peikoff’s most vehement critics have interpreted him as saying just that — wrongly, I think. Dr. Peikoff wrote:

    Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

    In my judgment, that claim of immorality presumes that a person understands the choice in question basically as stated, i.e. between an ever-weaker killer and an ever-stronger killer. If a person fails to understand that despite serious and honest effort, then his failure to vote for the Democrats would not be a moral failing, although still a serious mistake. More generally, the identification of a certain act as immoral doesn’t imply that everyone performing it is immoral. For example, it’s immoral for a husband to lie to his wife to spare her feelings, but if he’s accepted the standard view of honesty, he might reasonably think that some “white lies” are proper. Such a husband has done something wrong by lying, even though he’s not acted immorally in the sense of evading his knowledge. Hopefully, someone will tell him that he’s doing wrong, that lying to his wife is immoral, and that he doesn’t understand honesty. That’s what Dr. Peikoff has done for Objectivists. (Of course, some pro-Republicans Objectivists are probably dishonest in their views. However, my point is simply that Dr. Peikoff didn’t say that all were.)

    Finally, I must comment upon some of the vicious attacks on Dr. Peikoff posted to the ObjectivismOnline and The Forum threads on his statement. To be blunt, I’m appalled by them, particularly by the many accusations of intimidation, bullying, dogmatism, and the like. (For example, Jack Wakeland began this post with “Thank you, [name omitted], for so quickly standing up to Dr. Peikoff’s attempt to bully.”) Such charges are absurd: a person does not dogmatically impose himself upon anyone else by expressing strong epistemological and moral judgments. (That’s David Kelley’s “tolerationist” view; it’s not Objectivism.) Dr. Peikoff is certainly not obliged to sugarcoat his negative judgments for the sake of spineless cowards fearful of his disapproval, particularly not on such weighty issues like the fate of America.

    More generally, Dr. Peikoff deserves far better treatment from Objectivists than he’s received of late. Apart from Ayn Rand, he’s undoubtedly the most knowledgeable and accomplished Objectivist philosopher — by far. No one else could have so skillfully and clearly systematized Objectivism as he did in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. For that feat alone, he deserves the deep respect and admiration of Objectivists. In action, such respect means that Objectivists ought to give his arguments careful attention and scrutiny, even if ultimately disagreeing with them. That’s hardly too much to ask. However, that’s not happened in this debate. Dr. Peikoff has been attacked in the very same terms as I often heard in TOC circles, i.e. with the same casual disregard for facts and the same specious arguments about intimidation. Also like at TOC, many people have dismissed his arguments as absurd without any substantial effort to understand them. That’s inexcusable.

    To be perfectly clear, I will not tolerate any such attacks upon Dr. Peikoff in the comments on this post. Disagreement is fine, but I want nothing to do with anyone who treats him with the dismissive contempt I’ve seen elsewhere. My admiration for Dr. Peikoff and his accomplishments means something to me, something serious and important. So those supposed Objectivists who cannot treat Dr. Peikoff with some minimal respect are kindly invited in advance to remain silent.

    DIM Hypothesis Course Available Free

     Posted by on 28 October 2006 at 1:46 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 282006
     

    Given the ongoing debate on Dr. Peikoff’s statement about the election, this announcement from ARI offering free access to his DIM Hypothesis course couldn’t be more perfectly timed.

    Leonard Peikoff’s The DIM Hypothesis available FREE at aynrand.org!

    Next summer, Objectivist Summer Conference 2007 will present a new lecture series by Leonard Peikoff, presenting a detailed examination of his forthcoming book, The DIM Hypothesis.

    For a limited time, as a prelude to this event, we are able to present to you, free of charge, a streaming audio recording of the original lecture series, delivered in 2004, in which Dr. Peikoff gave the first detailed presentation of his exciting new theory. Listeners are invited to experience this course as a document of the early development of Dr. Peikoff’s latest work.

    Streaming audio links for the course can be found online at the Ayn Rand Institute’s Registered User Page. (If you aren’t yet registered, registration is fast, free and easy–just click to register now!) Audio streams are available in both RealMedia and Windows Media formats.

    Listen now

    Register for free

    COURSE DESCRIPTION:

    This 15-session course–part lecture, part discussion–was presented live to a worldwide audience by phone and on the Internet. It is based on Dr. Peikoff’s “The DIM Hypothesis” (book-in-progress), in which he looks at the role of integration in the culture and in practical life.

    This course explains and explores Dr. Peikoff’s new DIM hypothesis, applying it to ten different cultural areas, as listed in the course outline. The hypothesis identifies and distinguishes three types of mind: the mind characterized by I (Integration); by D (Disintegration); or by M (Misintegration). In the sessions Dr. Peikoff points out how all of the influential movements in the areas included reflect–and could only have been created by–one or another of these three mind sets. If enhancing your understanding of today’s world and of where we are heading is an important concern of yours, Dr. Peikoff believes that you will find a DIM perspective on events to be of significant value.

    As Dr. Peikoff recently explained: “[M]y thesis is that the dominant trends in every key area can be defined by their leaders’ policy toward integration: they are against it (Disintegration, D); they are for it, if it conforms to reality (Integration, I); they are for it, if it conforms to a superior reality (Misintegration, M).”

    Please don’t comment upon the election in response to this post. I have a fairly long essay on that topic that I’ll be posting later today. I’d rather that all hell break loose after I’ve said my part.

    Clever!

     Posted by on 27 October 2006 at 8:17 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 272006
     

    Oh cool, clever shopping bag designs!

    Witty Mill

     Posted by on 26 October 2006 at 2:04 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 262006
     

    I’m not exactly a fan of J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism, but it does contain one of the snapiest responses to a criticism ever: “There is no difficulty in proving any ethical standard whatever to work ill, if we suppose universal idiocy to be conjoined with it.”

    Flying the Unfriendly Skies

     Posted by on 25 October 2006 at 6:24 am  Uncategorized
    Oct 252006
     

    Returning from the awesome Jihad conference in Boston this last weekend, I had a brush with the brilliance of TSA and a testy Little Dictator who works for them.

    I had heard that the current rules permitted carryon liquids only in containers of three ounces or less, so I transferred shampoo, gel, and so on from my slightly larger bottles to even smaller travel bottles. Not too big a deal: I’m able to play my little part in our nation’s ever-more-epic Security Theater (a term for wasting time, resources, and goodwill on things which make us feel more secure, but which in fact do little or nothing to actually make us more secure).

    I guess I should have read my script a little closer. It turns out all of those containers must be carried in a clear, plastic, one-quart, Ziploc bag rather than the opaque, cloth, normal-zippered toiletries bag that I bought some time back for that purpose. But what kills me is that even retarded seventh-century barbarian Jihadists aren’t so stupid that they would be stopped by this: they could simply aggregate several bottles to have more than three ounces of whatever. And while the TSA won’t allow larger containers that are only holding three-or-fewer ounces (presumably to make such aggregation harder), the bad guys could still use something like the bag itself for that. And if the one-quart upper limit that the bag imposes is a problem for their nefarious ends, they could even borrow their buddies’ bags to put together more volume.

    Feel safer yet? Yeah, bring on the security! But wait, there’s more because we haven’t gotten to the TSA employees who enforce those brilliant rules. The guy who screened me on the way out of Boise simply explained the one-quart-baggie hoop I should have jumped through, decided to cut me some slack, and sent me on my way — maybe he had a nice breakfast or something. Not so with the TSA employee on the way out of Boston. Damn, I’m thinking maybe someone pissed in her Cheerios.

    Clearly testy at my not following these latest rules, she pulled my toiletries bag out of my suitcase while I explained that I didn’t know about the baggie thing until this trip. Picking out all my little bottles, she angrily observed that some didn’t have labels, so she didn’t know what was in them and she would have to test them. Struggling to stay neutral and maybe escape a little quicker for coffee, I decided not to mention that even with labels she still couldn’t know the contents without testing. And of course their being given to her in the requisite baggie instead of my toiletries bag would not have changed that fact, either. She tested all of them, including the labeled ones, and I was so pleased with my body soap not being deemed a munition that I shrugged off her inconsistency in testing the labeled bottles after her lecture.

    Along the way she’d found the now-empty sandwich-sized baggie I used for vitamins, and at this point she told me that I got to keep only those bottles I could fit in it. It wasn’t an Official Quart-Sized Bag, so I’m guessing this was her version of being nice to the customer. Enjoying her generosity, I politely avoided mentioning how my being able to stuff these (tested) bottles into a sandwich baggie couldn’t possibly affect the safety of my flight. But then she stopped me while I was packing them all in there (it was going to be a tight fit), saying that I had to be able to seal the bag. Seriously, I could feel my brain shutting down with the silliness of it all, and it took genuine effort to repress the comment that allowing me to pick which ones to keep was a clear indication that she didn’t consider any of them a threat.

    Instead, I selected my keepers and fled while she went to dispose of the threatening remainder. Paul also seemed to sense she wasn’t the dialoging type and said he was just waiting for me to give them an excuse to escalate to a body-cavity search.

    Risk and Skill

     Posted by on 23 October 2006 at 6:54 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 232006
     

    In commenting upon the death of Steve Irwin, Trey Givens discussed the obvious but often ignored fact that even wild animals have particular identities, meaning that they act in predictable ways that permit humans to interact with them safely. (Of course, he does it with his usual humor, which I shall not ruin by quoting the juicy bits.)

    Although I don’t have much up-close-and-personal experience with wild beasts, I’ve long been fascinated by the fact that I clearly see so much in the behavior of horses that is either mysterious to or unnoticed by novices. I’m not claiming any great expertise with horse behavior; I simply grew up on a horse farm, meaning that I rode and tended the horses regularly.

    Unlike with dogs and cats, a person must understand some of the subtleties of horse psychology in order to work safely around them. Although they’re not malicious creatures unless abused, horses can be quite dangerous. They’re large and strong: my mare probably weighs just over 1000 pounds. They’re “flight” creatures, meaning that they can startle and bolt at slight provocations, sometimes without much concern for the obstacles in their path. They can and do kick, e.g. when threatened, when playing, when pissed. If shod (i.e. with horse shoes, usually steel), they can do substantial damage without much effort. So to safely work around horses, a person needs to be constantly aware of what the horse is doing — and what the horse likely to do in the next few seconds. The person needs to be able to avert trouble while it’s still brewing.

    To do that, a person needs to be able to “read” a horse, i.e. discern his mood based upon outward behavior. Horses telegraph everything, so that’s easy to do so long as you know the language. To me, that language is as obvious as basic English, if not more so. It’s totally automatized; I don’t even remember learning it. I’m only really aware of it because of Paul: although he’s been routinely feeding the horses with me for the past few years, I’ll notice that he’s totally insensitive to facts that leap out at me.

    Moreover, more skills are involved in dealing safely with horses than merely reading the behavior of the horse. Most obviously, a person needs to know how to deal with any brewing trouble and how to extract himself if caught in the middle of it. More generally, safety requires constant vigilance about your position in relation to the horse. That doesn’t come automatically, but must be engrained as a habit. For example, if I’m tending a wound on my horse’s leg, I’m not going to settle into the most comfortable position; I have to be ready to move in an instant. Novices often fail to even consider that, opting instead for the best angle. Similarly, whenever I’m in the barn, I’m super-alert to any movement in the periphery of my vision, often leaping out of the way in advance of seeing anything clearly. If I did that in normal life, I’d seem about as sane as the local crazy bum.

    Interestingly, these skills enable me to safely break some of the standard rules in dealing with horses — or at least in dealing with my own horses. I can safely take action that others regard as dangerous — and that would be dangerous for them to do. That’s true of any experienced, sensible horse owner. Since we understand the full context of the principles of safety, most notably the reasons for them, we’re able to discern in a far more fine-grained way when they’re applicable and when they’re not. That’s generally true of experts in relation to the principles of their field, I think.

    I have absolutely no grand conclusion to come to in this blog post. I have a longstanding interest in issues of skills and habits, so I’m always interested in working through good examples.

    5000 Years of Middle East History in 90 Seconds

     Posted by on 22 October 2006 at 6:09 am  Uncategorized
    Oct 222006
     

    This well-done animated map shows which powers have controlled the Middle East, condensing 5000 years of history into 90 seconds.

    Mosquito

     Posted by on 20 October 2006 at 9:40 pm  Uncategorized
    Oct 202006
     

    I must admit, this ten-minute Firefly parody Mosquito really grew on me.

    Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha