Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Cross-posted from Gus Van Horn

Dick Cheney: Hazardous to Your Health!

Bothenook, who recently commemorated his 39,997th visitor, has been a blast to read lately. I particularly liked this post, where he showed a photo collage of "Ten Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You". A commenter notes that the collage has been around for awhile, but I'd never seen it until now. Also, a couple of comments from this post on Cheney's hunting accident were very funny.
Adrian Hester: Yo, Gus, it's a shame about the hunting accident, but at least they got to Cheney before he gutted the guy.

Bothenook: my new motto is going to be the bumpersticker i saw today in sacramento: "I'd rather go hunting with Cheney than driving with Kennedy".
And did I mention that this Cox and Forkum cartoon made me laugh out loud?

Have a Blast(off)!

Forget paperclip chains and balls of rubber bands! Rockets are the wave of the future in office supply tomfoolery. (HT: reader Hannes Hacker)

Publish or Perish

And no, this isn't career advice for residents of the ivory tower. It applies to anyone who uses and cherishes his freedom of speech. Thanks to Myrhaf, I have been reminded of this superb piece on the cartoon riots by Robert Tracinski.
The central issue of the "cartoon jihad", the Muslim riots and death threats against a Danish newspaper that printed 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed, is obvious. The issue is freedom of speech: whether our freedom to think, write, and draw is to be subjugated to the "religious sensitivities" of anyone who threatens us with force.

That is why it is necessary for every newspaper and magazine to re-publish those cartoons, as I will do in the next print issue of The Intellectual Activist.

This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanaticism effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger. What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads "Behead those who insult Islam." What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders that everyone else will be too cowardly to stick their necks out. [bold and link added]
And this is precisely why I have made Mohammed my blog's official mascot. The Islamists are telling me that I, who love to write, must beg their permission to write what I please. This isn't writing, and a life where one must ask some superstitious, flea-bitten, malodorous, cave-dwelling imam permission to do what one loves is not living.

Unless we all stand up to these brutes, we will be given a choice of death or "life" by their permission (in other words, living death). The former is preferable, and must be risked in order to have what they wish to deprive us of: our free lives (but I repeat myself).

These "men" are cowards. This is why they make threats against us in the hopes that we will simply do as they say, which is to give up our freedom, to die bloodlessly. The only solution is to stand up to them, to make them come after us and suffer the consequences of doing so, or to leave us alone.

Islam is as Islam Does

I am not a big fan of the movie Forrest Gump, but I find myself borrowing from a formulation made famous by its line, "Stupid is as stupid does." I use it here as a succinct way of noting that how something acts is a clue to its identity. To quote Leonard Peikoff:
The third axiom at the base of knowledge -- an axiom true, in Aristotle's words, of "being qua being" -- is the Law of Identity. This law defines the essence of existence: to be is to be something, a thing is what it is; and leads to the fundamental principle of all action, the law of causality. The law of causality states that a thing's actions are determined not by chance, but by its nature, i.e., by what it is. [my bold]
Many people wonder whether we should ask whether Islam is evil. Well, Islam answers that question every day through the actions of its followers. And so it should come as no surprise that followers of the same religion known for mass murder, terrorism, hatred of free speech, and oppression of women would come out against another great value open to man: romantic love.

Myrhaf and Bothenook both point to links documenting yet another example of Islamic depravity. The second link leads us to this post by Tim Blair, which I quote in its entirety.

Happy Valentine's Day! To celebrate, Ganesh Sahathevan sends a translation of this cheery Valentine message from Malaysian news agency Bernama:

Islam forbids the celebration of Valentine's Day, said Muhammad Ramli Nuh, the deputy chairman of the Committee for the Development of Islam Hadhari, Terrenganu State.

He explained that celebrating Valentine's Day may be perceived as an affirmation of an enemy of Islam because Valentine, or Valentinus, was involved in the planning and attack on Cordoba, a Muslim civilization.

Hence to celebrate Valentine's Day is to affirm the acts of one who destroyed the Islamic civilization of Spain.

Sounds like a good reason to celebrate even more. And here's another:

He added that Valentine's Day meetings could also lead to couples engaging in forbidden activities.
Every time I think Islam has finally succeeded in defining itself as the epitome of life-hatred, it tops itself.

Update: Via the Myrhaf link (and Michelle Malkin) comes this gem:
"We will not let anyone sell these cards or celebrate Valentine's Day," said Asiya Andrabi, the group's leader, as she held a burning poster in her hand. "These Western gimmicks are corrupting our kids and taking them away from their roots."

She said that the raids were carried out "not to harm anyone but to make them realize that this is against Islam's teachings."

Want a clue as to what is sacred? Just observe whatever it is that Islamists attack.

What can one do?

Amit Ghate, who has been doing a splendid job of covering the cartoon riots at his blog, explores what we can do about the threat that Islam poses to -- excuse the redundancy -- our lives and our liberty.
On the intellectual front, getting the right ideas out into the general culture is paramount. If one is inclined to writing, letters to the editor and editorials are one way to express the ideas, but so is passing on good essays and editorials to friends and acquaintances who might be interested. Contacting your government representatives is also important, whether it be to criticize such actions as the US State Department's mealy-mouthed statement on the situation, or to inform them that you consider freedom of speech an inviolable right -– and any failure to defend it will be remembered at election time. Forwarding them intellectual ammunition can also be valuable.

Finally, for those not involved in direct intellectual campaigning, if you have the means, you might consider using the principle of the division of labor to support and fund those intellectuals who are defending your values. In this light, a contribution to ARI seems appropriate. (I'm unaware of any other organization that take a consistent and fundamental stand on these types of issues, but obviously if they exist, they too should be supported.)
Thanks, again, Amit!


Several Must-Read Reviews

Several of the Objectivists on my blogroll have posted reviews on their blogs recently. I conclude this week's roundup by recommending them.

Jennifer Snow posts on Robinson Crusoe:
[L. J.] Swingle[, who wrote a terrible introductionction,] also dwells uselessly on Crusoe's supposed exploitation, both of his natural resources and of the savage he later acquires for his "slave", Friday. I have to say that on reading the book I recieved quite a different impression. Such exploitation consisted of: killing numerous wild animals to protect himself and his stores, and saving a man who was the captive of cannibals from certain death. I know I would be eager to enter into the service of someone that assisted me in that way, especially since he so obviously knew how to provide sustainence for us both. It's called having a job. In a world full of dangerous and untrustworthy men, I'd be in a hurry to cling to the honest ones that I'd found.

Swingle's failure to grasp that Defoe's work is as applicable to the modern day as to any other time is just another demonstration as to how detached modern intellectuals are from the business of living. [bold added]
Ouch! I agree with the commenter who says she would have written a better introduction. Jennifer also has a nice write-up on Quent Cordair Fine Art.

Gideon Reich, who normally pontificates from his armchair, took the podium at Rule of Reason to write a review of Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto. (If the link is broken, go here and search "Bernstein")
As recently as the late 1980s, intellectuals were still discussing the supposed approaching convergence between communism and capitalism. It was claimed that the capitalist United States was suffering from an inadequacy of social services, while the Soviet Union failed to protect personal freedom. Faced with such problems, it was argued that the US and Soviet systems would eventually meet halfway, with the US becoming more socialist and the Soviet Union less totalitarian. It wasn't until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the absurd notion of "convergence" was finally discredited along with most remaining hopes of establishing a so-called socialist paradise. Partly as a result, there was a resurgence of interest in capitalism and the reasons for its success, and a host of books have since been published seeking to explain various aspects of the capitalist system.

What was missing, however, was a single volume that presented the historical origins, moral justification, and practical success of capitalism. Such a volume would correct the misconceptions most people still have of capitalism's origins and early history, and answer their misgivings over the justice of laissez-faire. Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto succeeds admirably as such a book.
And earlier this week, Diana Hsieh pointed to an excellent interview of Andrew Bernstein that appeared in the Baltimore Sun. It's all very good. Here's a teaser.
Why do you say capitalism is the only system that defends individual rights? How do socialism and other systems impinge on liberty?

What true capitalism does is limits the power of government. ... Individuals are free to pursue their lives as they see fit, so long as they don't engage in criminal actions. ... Socialism and other political systems, they're basically examples of statism. There is no Bill of Rights guaranteeing individuals certain inalienable rights, and the government is permitted to violate individual rights constantly, whether they steal your money through taxation or they don't like your religion or what class you come from, so they arrest you and put you in a gulag. These are dictatorial forms of the government, and the government has no legal restrictions on its ability to initiate force against its own citizens.

Defenders of statism will often say things like, "Well, they don't have crime in the streets in China." But the point of course is that the criminals are in the government. The communists or the Nazis may make the streets safer temporarily, but they murder 20 million - or in the case of Mao, 50 or 60 million - of their own citizens. ... Statism is extremely hazardous to your health.

Stalin said that one human murder is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic. It's so vast that people just can't wrap their wits about it, so communists can get away with it because it's just numbers to people.
Note to self: Get this book. Yesterday.

Myrhaf reviewed yet another book I need to get yesterday, Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher by Erika Holzer.
Being a philosopher as well as a novelist (and a good introspecter), Ayn Rand understood better than anyone the thinking a writer needs to do to create good fiction. She understood that she could not do Holzer's thinking for her and instead pointed her in the direction of the work she needed to do.

People with a shallow or rationalistic understanding of Objectivism might be surprised that Rand advised Holzer to write about things she had strong feelings about. Rand urged fiction writers to be selfish and write about what excited them. Otherwise, writing feels too much like a duty and if anything gets done the product is lifeless.
I'd like to thank my fellow Objectivist bloggers for taking the time to write these very informative reviews.

-- CAV