Saturday, January 19, 2008

Beer O'Clock: He'Brew -- The Chosen Beer

Here's something we haven't seen before: Jewish beer.  Specifically He'Brew: The Chosen Beer, along with as many bad puns and Jewish double-entendres as you could poke a matzoh ball at, starting with ...

             twojews_poster

Schmaltz Brewery's He'Brew beer, "conceived in San Francisco and brewed in New York," has now gone to eleven--which means all the way up, they say--with a selection of beers including Genesis Ale (their first creation, natch) and the Messiah Bold (the beer you've all been waiting for); the Jewbelation and the Miraculous Jewbilation -- and of course the Bittersweet (the beer brewed to commemorate Patron Rabbi Lenny Bruce). 

This is a brewing company that promises everything from Creation to Evolution, from Revelation to Inebriation.  In other words, the works!  I have no idea at all what the beer tastes like, although Rate Beer rates the new Jewbilation Eleven--"the most extreme Chanukah beer ever created"--very highly, and as marketing goes this stuff sure tickles the funny bone.

If you do nothing else, check out the brewery's Video Schtick.

L'Chaim!  To Life!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Who wrote Ron Paul's material? (updated)

I mentioned yesterday that Ron Paul's ridiculous "leave them alone and they'll go away" foreign policy was based largely on the wishful thinking of the late libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard, who, in attempting to woo the anti-war left with his own anti-war ravings, showed he was nothing if not willing to sacrifice facts and robust policy for the sake of populism and the wilful self-delusion of the post-modern intellectual.  That Paul is attracting that same support now for the same insane policy -- for the idea that if you simply stop defending yourself then the bad guys will just go away -- shows Rothbard's intellectual influence in the Paul campaign, even from beyond the grave, and  also demonstrates how Rothbard's influence has damaged libertarianism.

You see it turns out the "racially charged talking points and vocabulary" in Ron Paul's early newsletters -- for which Paul has been widely and rightly lambasted -- were largely the work of Rothbard acolyte Lew Rockwell who, when he's not friend and adviser to Ron Paul, is unfortunately the head of the Mises Institute (which Rothbard helped set up, and of which Paul is a prominent patron).  And as Reason magazine points out (see here for their investigation of the articles' authorship) they were written with the same "coalition-building" strategy in mind as was intended with Rothbard's "peace and love" foreign policy, "exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist 'paleoconservatives'." Selling liberty by means of selling it out.  What could be less ingenious.

Paul supporters like The Whig dismiss this news simply as "the old story of libertarians trying to pander to fellow fringe groups for support, I'm afraid.  Silly boys."  That would be true enough, except that the self-destructive strategy begun by Rothbard in the Vietnam era in order to woo the anti-war left has so infected American libertarianism that it's now sadly all but synonymous with it.  If you stand for anything, then in the end you stand for nothing.  And notice too Rockwell hasn't resiled from this strategy either -- he's continued the ideological coalition with 'paleoconservatism' built up in the era in which he helmed Paul's newsletters in the direction he's taken with the Mises Institute (with Paul in tow), which when it's not publishing excellent pieces on economics along the lines you'd expect from the name on its masthead is peddling encomia to the slave state of the US Confederacy, to the hunting down of "illegals," and to the see-no-evil pacifism now espoused by the Ron Paul campaign.

In other words, it's rapidly becoming a parasite on the reputation of one the world's finest economists, just as Rothbard's libertarianism was itself largely a parasite on the ideas of Ayn Rand (whose ideas Rothbard frequently borrowed, usually without either attribution or understanding).  In fact, Henry Hazlitt's famous description of Keynes could easily be applied to Rothbard and to Rockwell, that neither is either true or wholly original -- their original ideas are not true, and those that are true are not original -- the true ideas have been filched, and the original ideas are mostly destructive. 

No wonder Ayn Rand called Rothbard and his followers "hippies of the right," and counselled rational lovers of liberty to have nothing to do with them.  That goes now for the Paul campaign as well.

paul UPDATE:  Robert Bidinotto's New Individualist magazine goes much further than I have in repudiating Paul's candidacy. The cover (pictured right) gives you an idea of the opprobrium in which Paul is deservedly held; the cover story by Vodka Pundit Steven Green

focuses solely on Cong. Paul's growing public prominence as a self-proclaimed spokesman for the ideas of liberty -- and on the impact that his representations of those ideas are having on a national audience. The article expresses concern for the fate of those ideas, and not for his fate as a candidate for public office.

As this post on Bidinotto's blog makes clear, even apart from as the views and authorship of those Ron Paul newsletters, his credentials as a spokesman for liberty are such that his further advocacy can only damage the cause -- as more and more are realising as his campaign unravels.

[The] revelations about Cong. Paul's more outrageous views and his intimate association with a disreputable fringe cult within the libertarian movement have touched off an explosion of media scorn and expressions of outrage in recent days -- much coming from the more responsible libertarian circles. For example, the editors of Reason magazine -- who, in sharp contrast to TNI, published a glowing cover feature about "the Ron Paul phenomenon" in their latest issue -- are now expressing their disgust and distancing themselves from his candidacy. (Here are comments from the magazine's editors, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. Reason contributor Jesse Walker weighs in here, and former contributor Tim Cavanaugh here, while past editor Virginia Postrel comments here and here.) Likewise, Cato's David Boaz offers his own repudiation here. (I could cite many, many more denunciations from various prominent libertarians.)
In the meantime, many commentators are also taking Cong. Paul to task for views that thoroughly refute his claim to being a consistent champion of individual rights, liberty, and the Constitution.
Steve Green's article in TNI cited Paul's highly restrictive position on immigration (to the right of Tom Tancredo), his hypocritical support of pork-barrel earmarks for his own congressional district, his opposition to various free-trade agreements (like NAFTA) on wacko-conspiratorial grounds that they surrender U.S. sovereignty to Evil International Institutions, and his appalling, blame-America-first version of "noninterventionism" in foreign policy.
To that,
Wendy McElroy points to Cong. Paul's pro-federal-interventionist anti-abortion bill (read her whole commentary), which would deny women the right to end a pregnancy and even deny the courts the power of judicial review in the matter -- a clear violation of separation of powers, which is a curious position for this self-proclaimed champion of the Constitution.
But what can you expect from a religious conservative who, on Lew Rockwell's website,
rejected the Jeffersonian principle of a "wall of separation" between religion and government? As the congressman put it, "The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers."

Read Bidinotto's full post here (complete with links), and a link to Steve Green's article here.

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Tibor's new place on the web

I need to tell you that Tibor Machan's blog has shifted to a new location -- well, two new locations:

Tibor's Place on the Web, or (far more blog-like, including RSS feeds) Tibor's Space.

He tells me Google inexplicably charged him with "violating their terms," yet said nothing specific so he could fix it.  Crikey, if a mild-mannered philosophy professor like Tibor can offend Google's sensibilities, I wonder how this blog manages to slip under the radar?

Blues with 'Bulb'

Not PC reader 'Bulb' turns out to be a chap who runs a weekly blues music show called 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"'from Radio WMSV out of Mississippi State University, and he's inviting you to submit your favourite tunes for an up-coming "all request" blues show.  Details at his blog. I sent him mine:

'Come Sunday' - Mahalia Jackson & Duke Ellington
'Roxette' - Dr Feelgood
'St Louis Blues' - Louis Armstrong (a hot version from Paris, 1934 that I've sent him)

And two New Zealand faves (I sent him MP3s to use):

'When Your Lights Are Out' - Hello Sailor
'Who Did All This to Me?' - Hammond Gamble

Listen up on the 'net on Sunday 28 from 8:30-11:30pm CST (which I think is Monday 3:30pm to 6:30pm New Zealand time) to see what makes the cut.

What tracks would you like to hear?

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'Shin'enKan' - Bruce Goff - 1956, 1966 & 1974 (destroyed by arson 1996)

              

Tower addition & garden of architect Bruce Goff's 'Shin'enKan' house.  Photo by David Alan Milstead.  The house is featured at the 'Bruce Goff in Bartlesville' blog.

                                             

Coal and glass cullet garden wall, photo by David Alan Milstead.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Te Qaeda were 4 real

Were Tame Iti's one-hundred or so bush trainees simply amiable nature-lovers exercising a peaceful interest in bushcraft and lethal weapons, or were they an objective threat to all  of us?   Were the arrested seventeen "political prisoners" who were "kidnapped by state terrorists," or were they armed insurrectionists being schooled in "direct action" who were arrested in a copybook police action? 

Says Phil Howison in a new article looking at these questions, "the Urewera 17 Posed an Objective Threat to New Zealand," and we have the police to thank for averting that threat.  His article draws on leaked police evidence, "attempt[ing] to restore public confidence in the police by demonstrating why the alleged terrorists posed an objective threat to New Zealand's security."

I urge you to read it, and digest it.

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Move along, no ideas here, nothing to see

The pale pissweak presidential hopefuls from both sides of the aisle offer little hope for anything of any stature to emerge from this year's presidential contest.  With so much at stake -- recession looming; monetary meltdown; the Islamofascist threat -- instead of a lion emerging from the political thickets of the primaries, there are only mealy-mouthed mice.  Even the victory speeches are marked by platitudes.  "Washington is broken," said Mitt Romney in winning the GOP's Michigan primary, "and we're going to do something about it.  Tonight marks the beginning of a comeback, a comeback for America."  What on earth does that mean?  Never have words so flatulent been used in a contest so seemingly important. 

It's no less vapid however than the racist wisecracks and empty sparring about 'gender politics' going on in the Democratic race -- anything it seems than confront anything meaningful.  Michael Hurd considers what all this emptiness means and `concludes that is "an election about nothing."

When candidates abandon political and philosophical ideas, the focus, in elections, tends to be on the "horse race" aspect. It becomes an election of men (or women) rather than of great ideas and issues. The Democratic race is par for the course in this respect. What's striking, however, is the Republican race. Thus far, it consists of a damn poor horse race among a few little men: McCain, Romney, and Huckabee. Each claims to be whatever the voting audience in question seems to demand of him--and none are very good at it. This is why none of them are winning, and each one comes out the victor in a different primary race. The voters realize--and I suspect the candidates themselves even sense--that none of them deserves the nomination, much less the American Presidency. These men are no Thomas Jefferson or George Washington. They're no Ronald Reagan, either. Why, they're not even Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. They're simply ... nothing. In the race for President, the Republicans--as the nominal party of limited government and strong defense in the face of terrorist attacks--ought to be the party of ideas and principle. Instead, they have withered away into irrelevance. It’s hard to believe any one of these three little men will achieve victory within their Party, much less within the nation in the fall.

He's right, isn't he.

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Boot 'em all out!

I was sent this bit of doggerel.  I made one or two changes for publication.  The original, I'm told, was written by "a free-thinking 16 year old"  -- I hope she likes what I've done with it...

Christchurch marched in driving rain,
Three thousand protests were in vain,
"Protect parental rights!" they cried.
"We're protecting children," Labour lied.

"Freedom of Speech," Labour hirelings said,
But they're muzzling people's speech instead.
Meanwhile, with the taxes taken from us,
They'll use all that to run for office.

"Make them all pay!" Team Red declared.
And with Mugabe they're compared.
Correctly.

"There's too much freedom", Labour thinks,
"What else can we ban? The drinks?"
Helen didn't sleep through fireworks,
"So let's ban that!" they say, the jerks.

That's right Labour! We don't mind
We know you're only being kind,
Get rid of all our fireworks nights,
And take our freedom, ignore our rights.

It's "Nanny, Nanny!" every day
And every day they make us pay
Through the nose.

"Raise the taxes! Increase the rates!
We know that's what our country hates.
"More welfare for the middle classes!"
It's bribes like that save their arses.

Let Labour in again? Not wise.
Not when they wish to run our lives.
The only thing that can be done,
Is boot them out and have some fun.

Boot them all out. We've had enough
Of Nanny government and all that stuff.
Government in your face and in your wallet
And on your back: It's time to stop it.

Time to end it and be set free;
To put an end to tyranny.
Permanently.

And since Labour-Lite is no great shakes --
They're spineless whimps -- flakes and fakes --
So if freedom from tyranny is your real ambition
Then you're going to need to get some Libz in.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Open Letter to Not PC

In reply to Monday's post on communism's Gramsci-inspired "long march through the culture," The Hive has an open letter to Not PC.  It's called An Open Letter to Not PC.  Feel free to respond.  This should add one more point to their ranking of twenty-fifth most popular link from Not PC.

The highly deluded Ron Paul

Presidential candidate Ron Paul's brand of do-nothing foreign policy is deservedly eviscerated by Bret Stephens in today's Wall Street Journal, and unfortunately it demonstrates why not everyone waving a libertarian banner is a libertarian's friend.

Paul's remedy for the world's ills is for America to leave them alone.  Leave them alone and all the terrorists will go home, wagging their tails behind them.  This is not a policy, it's wishful thinking.  And it's not libertarianism, it's the same brand of fantasy-laden pacifism espoused by Ron Paul's hero Murray Rothbard -- a pacifism that led Rothbard to conclude at the very height of the Cold War that the Soviet Union was not expansionist, was "devoted to peace," and so posed no threat to the United States who should therefore disarm completely. Talk about rationalistic delusion in pursuit of foreign policy.  It's the sort of foreign policy you find espoused either in lunatic asylums, or in Keith Locke's and Ron Paul's foreign policy teams.  But I repeat myself.

Stephens reminds readers of George Orwell's observation of English pacifists that pacifism is a doctrine that can only be preached behind the protective cover of the Royal Navy.  And it's worth observing that Thomas Jefferson's rational foreign policy of "trade with all, and entangling alliances with none" -- a policy badly mangled by Paul -- led inexorably to the building up of the US Navy to sweep the North African coast of pirates threatening the world's trade routes. 

What's truly unfortunate, as I've had cause to point out here before, is that to the extent that Paul is successful in having his deluded brand of do-nothing foreign policy equated as being libertarian, he is doing serious harm to rational libertarianism -- to the basic recognition that the right to self-defence requires the means of self-defence, both at home and abroad, particularly at this time when threats from abroad are so malignant.  It is wrong, as Stephens does, to identify this necessary protection with the Leviathan state, but it is Paul's irrational libertarianism that encourages him to make that connection.

It is for reasons such as these that a rational libertarian has to conclude that Ron Paul is not a friend of liberty, and that the extent his candidacy is successful in capturing public attention is the extent to which he damages liberty's cause.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Canadian publisher standing up for free speech

levant_main1Until this morning when several readers drew my attention to his battle before the Alberta Human Wrongs Commissariat in Canada, I had no idea who Ezra Levant is.  Pictured right, Ezra Levant is a hero.  Like The Free Radical and several of NZ's newspapers and TV channels, Ezra Levant's magazine The Western S tandard republished the Danish cartoons that outraged Islamofascists around the world (that's one below), but unlike local magazine editors like myself the Standard's editor was hauled before the state for his temerity in expressing this particular political opinion.  Levant himself summarises the case here.

I would hope I would be both as brave and his eloquent if I were to be placed in his shoes.  We've all learned a lot about free speech and its many enemies in the last few years; it seems Levant has learned every lesson, and on his blog and in the many YouTube videos of his ninety-minute interrogation by Alberta's Human Wrongs Commissariat, he gives an object lesson in free speech, and in facing down the scum to whom the words 'free speech' are as unwelcome as pesticide is to a room full of cockroaches.

DanishCartoon06 These are confrontations the defenders of western culture cannot afford to lose. The right to freedom of speech is a precious one that must be defended.  As Lindsay Perigo said in publishing the cartoons in The Free Radical, free speech cannot be defended, and will only be betrayed, "by apologetic weasel-worders appeasing militant, murderous morons whose savage pseudo-sensibilities have been stirred, not by sticks and stones, but by words. May men of righteous rationality reignite the flame of reason and fight an unapologetic philosophical jihad in its holy name, that it may illumine the globe and save the world from another Dark Ages."

It is brave men such as Levant who carry that flame.  As he says in introducing his Opening Statement, "This is what an interrogation in 2008 looks like. It's not in a dungeon, or even a secure government facility. It's not done by paramilitaries in uniforms. It looks banal -- in a meeting room at a law office, with a bored bureaucrat. It's what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil"."

As I've said here before, when they come for you it won't be with a gun but with a clipboard.  Watch Levant in action and see what it takes to resist.

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It's exclusive

Sir Ed's funeral would be better off as a humble private function rather the all-exclusive "state funeral" planned, says Annie Fox.

I thought the idea of a state funeral is that members of the public could attend, if not actually in the building, then out on the lawn. But the lawn outside the Church in Parnell is small and at a guess could hold one thousand people - maybe two thousand - well even at a wild guess five thousand. Hardly the solution for the tens of thousands of people that would like to attend.
So it appears that the funeral is really just for friends and family plus the ruling elite - is this what they mean by state funeral?

Simple answer: Yes.

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Moore constitution, fewer bananas

Once again former Prime Minister Mike Moore is successful in provoking Herald readers towards a better New Zealand, this time towards rejecting the monarchy and creating a constitutional republic.  New Zealand's implicit constitutional arrangements have been broken, he says -- broken by the Clark Government -- and it's essential to get the explicit chains of a written constitution around the bastards before it's too late.  We're living in a banana republic, writes Moore (echoing Darnton), but without even the benefit of bananas:

"I once opposed having a constitution because of our European traditions and enlightenment values, which we reject at our peril."  He's right there, but now he's now all for change because these age-old principles and values are being eroded before our eyes.  The electoral system has been changed to the Mickey Mouse Politics of MMP -- and we never got the promised referendum on MMP's future.  Rights to appeal to the Privy Council have been peremptorily removed.  Retrospective legislation was passed to give Clark and her cronies a Get Out of Jail card after stealing your money to steal the last election.  New laws have been passed to help them steal this one, abandoning the 'gentleman's agreement that such changes are only brought about by multi-party consensus.

"The present direction is visionless, dangerously ad hoc, short term and confusing," he says.  Accurately. "Democracy is about who runs the country. A constitution is about the limits of government."  So it is.  When a governments acts as it should, it's like a guard dog that protects your individual rights.  But when they're not properly chained up, we can be badly savaged and our rights abused -- more than we would have been without the dog, or the government.  The means of tying up a government is a proper written constitution that puts such chains on governments, confining them only to their proper role -- that is, to the protection of individual rights.

A proper written constitution is our check on our government. [See the Cue Card on this.]

The very best historical example of such a constitution is the US example, which helped to tie the bastards up for nearly a hundred-and-fifty years before they chewed off the  lead and got away again.  Written back in 1998, Libertarianz' Constitution for New Freeland is explicitly intended to fix the flaws that allowed the bastards to escape their chains.  I commend it to your attention.

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The Great Minto Lawn Squat

Since John Minto doesn't appreciate the property rights he's blessed with, The Whig suggests we go squat on 'his' lawn in Ethel St, Balmoral in order that he might begin to understand the blessings of secure property rights he seems so eager to spurn.  Seems fair enough to me. After all, it's only a stone's thrown from the streets in which he and his goons used to block traffic in 1981.

"Remember, it's not John's lawn, it's the people's lawn!" says The Whig, At least it is according to John.  Let's give him an enlightening educational experience about the usefulness of the secure property rights he's so eager to disparage.

Sign up for the experience at The Whig's weblog.

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Helengrad is here

Since a talkback caller first used the word 'Helengrad' in a call to Lindsay Perigo's radio show just weeks after Helen Clark's ascension to power in 1999, after which Perigo picked it up and ran with it far and wide,  the term has entered popular parlance as a means of describing Clark's Wellington "in an attempt to mirror cities in the former Soviet Union named after rulers - Leningrad and Stalingrad."  Its usage is so widespread it has now been added as an entry in the Macquarie DictionaryDom Post story here [hat tip DPF]. 

Little wonder it's had such penetration, since in combining Leaderene's name with the Soviet-style suffix meaning 'town' the word so accurately describes the Clark regime set up in NZ's capital city.

TFR41-Hooey

TFR41 cover I wrote about the word's origins back in 2005, and as far as I'm aware it was my own cover story in the May/June 2000 edition of the Free Radical describing Clark's and Margaret Wilson's parliamentary hui on constitutional reform that first used the term in print.  (That's the story in its original habitat above right -- click to enlarge.)

On the day that particular Free Radical arrived in parliament with the words 'Helengrad Hui' and a condom-clad Statue of Liberty on parliament's steps pictured on the cover (above), Headmistress Shipley rose in Parliament accusing Clark of being "an interfering Minister of Everything and running a 'Helengrad' regime." The chamber fell about, and the name stuck - as unfortunately has the regime.

I believe the Herald's Fran O'Sullivan and then the rest of the world took it up about then -- it hit Australian shores later the same year in an article in The Australian called 'The Siege of Helengrad' -- and now Google boasts some 12,500 hits for 'Helengrad.' As Mrs Marsh used to say, "It does get in."

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Monday, January 14, 2008

"None of the above"

Gus van Horn explains why using a political quiz to choose your presidential candidate is nonsensical, and concludes it's the same reason the choice of candidates is always so poor:

The philosophical ideas that presently have the greatest currency in our culture wrongly circumscribe the terms of the political debate and consistently produce unacceptable candidates for public office.
You can't vote your way out of such a mess. You have to work so that the public will eventually make it possible to begin digging itself out -- by spreading better philosophical ideas. This means working to understand these ideas, arguing for them, and supporting those who do.

I couldn't agree more.  The change Van Horn and I know is necessary is not the sort of "change" Obama and Clinton wield as "exuberant but insubstantial" campaign platitudes; it's the sort of change that leaves a revolution inside people's heads.

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The "long march through the culture," and the need to attack Trevor

Several blogs including The Hive, Quest for Security and Poneke have been all a-giggle about old Trevor Loudon and his predilection, they say, for seeing "communist fronts" everywhere, even in places as unlikely as the NZ-China Friendship Society.

Taking on established bloggers is par for the course for newer blogs like these bidding for attention, but the Hive and Poneke have enough integrity not to get their facts wrong  when they start a blog war, and they're good enough not to have to resort to blog wars to attract readers.  It's sad that they think they have to.

Gigglers like the 'Quest' bloggers are just useful idiots who know no better, but Hive and Poneke are intelligent enough, I would have thought, to know that the use of front organisations has been a pre-eminent strategy by communists for at least the last ninety years in injecting the foul bacillus of communism into the culture, and to know that if that wasn't the case it wouldn't be necessary to have people like Trevor eager to lift up the rocks of these front organisations to see what's crawling around behind the shiny public faces.

The "long march through the culture" that communism has enjoyed over the last ninety years, despite its bloody history over all of those years, was largely the result of 1)the 'moral disarmament' caused by the suffusion of religious morality and its extolling of sacrifice as a moral virtue -- a political blank cheque the communists have been ready, willing and better placed than the religionists to pick up -- and 2)the strategic thinking of (first) Leon Trotsky, and thence of one Antonio Gramsci, the co-founder of the Italian Communist Party, a talented theoretician who, as Lindsay Perigo explains,

put a distinctively modern, relativist stamp on traditional, dogmatist Marxism. He is Marx laced with Machiavelli (a Gramsci pin-up). Marx had implied the existence of truths independent of human perception; Gramsci cleansed Marx of any taint of objectivity and proclaimed that truth was entirely "pragmatic," "praxis"-driven, determined by the interests of the revolution. Marx had preached the historical inevitability of the triumph of socialism, independent of man's will; Gramsci taught that only the wilful, conscious but clandestine subversion of capitalist culture at every level—a "long march through the culture" as he put it—could effect revolution. He was frustrated that the proletariat had not only failed to rise up against capitalism but had seemingly grown enamoured of it! This infernal reactionary ourage he attributed to the bourgeoisie's "cultural hegemony," their domination of churches, schools, the media, the unions, the arts, etc. The bourgeoisie therefore had to be beaten at their own game, their institutions infiltrated by intellectual moles ... and, by a long, silent, subtle process, brought down.

The moles' agenda was not to be "revolution" explicitly, but something unexceptionable on its face, couched in weasel words with which we're all too familiar: "consensus," "mandate," "justice," "pluralism," "community," "democracy," "global [insert marshmallow noun here]," and so on. (Note the names of two of the groups associated with New Zealand's recent "terrorist camp" raids: “Global Peace and Justice Auckland,” spearheaded by communist John Minto, and “Peace Action Wellington”!)

Ever wondered why the church is riddled with atheist priests?
Think Gramsci!
Where "Liberation Theology" (Marxism set to Catholicism) came from?
Think Gramsci!
Why our schools and universities place social consensus above genuine learning and deal in the currency of Marxism disguised as mush?
Think Gramsci!
Why our newspapers and TV networks, now full of graduates from the schools and universities, do the same?
Think Gramsci!
Why "corporates" are universally despised as evil, even by the corporates themselves?
Think Gramsci!
Why the United States, the last semi-repository of bourgeois values, is "The Great Satan" to Muslim and non-Muslim alike all over the globe?
Think Gramsci!
Where the editor of Salient gets this sort of stuff from, "rebutting" my column on Global Warming:
"Go about your business now, keep consuming. The mindless corporations are protecting your interests— believe it—only lefty politicians subvert real science. Rest assured, greed is a good thing."

[For all of these manifestations of nonsense], Think Gramsci! Via Chomsky in this last instance—but remember where Chomsky got it from!

Other contemporary luminaries influenced by Gramsci include the pomowanker Foucault; and unsurprisingly, and, chillingly, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who just couldn't wait to bring his troops home from Iraq. Brown the weasel-worder, who has forbidden public servants to use the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" next to each other!

There's no question that the Left has taken its "long march through the culture" with devastating success. We are assailed by their bromides at every turn, and the Right has been mortally corrupted by them (as well as its own contradictions). Their "long march," with Gramsci at the helm, has dragged the world to the abyss of totalitarian Hell.

Thank goodness then for the likes of Trevor Loudon, who are happy to keep track of the "long march," however surreptitious the marchers, and for the likes of Lindsay Perigo, who unlike so many others knows that it's going to be a long haul back from the pomowankers and the nihilists, and via a very different path.

"We lovers of reason and freedom have to do a Gramsci of our own," says Perigo, but in favour of reason and freedom and capitalism.  This is a long march on which our culture is in desperate need. 

Who's with us?

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A Theory of Alcohol (TM)

A Russian friend who was here for the weekend reckons I once gave him the advice to only drink when you're happy.  Sounds like good advice, whoever gave it to him.  Being a mathematician, he put the theory into a convenient graphical form, along with a slight variation on The Theory:

05 Drinking Theory

The conclusion should be obvious enough, no?

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Heroine, heroine, on my wall

                                                  

Why would you have a large picture of Che Bloody Guevara on your wall when you can have a true heroine up there instead to inspire you.  Friend Graham just mounted this large picture of Ayn Rand in pride of place in his new house, cunningly arranged so a couple of the panels can be changed to easily swap the quotes over.  Quotes currently printed are:

You can choose to evade reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of evading reality.

And:

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

And:

Reality is what it is regardless of your thoughts or wishes

Each panel of the poster is 660 x 510, mounted on polystyrene sheet.  If you talk nicely to him, you might persuade him to sort out a few panels for you.  Money might help.  :-)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

If God is dead ... rejoice (updated)

Elizabeth Anderson’s “If God is Dead” essay is one of the best indictments of the Bible that I have ever read, says novelist Ed Cline.

Posing the conundrum of why God (or Allah, or whomever) is considered to be the be-all and end-all of morality – originating morality and rewarding it and punishing its delinquency – she writes:

“Consider first God’s moral character, as revealed in the Bible. He routinely punishes people for the sins of others. He punishes all mothers by condemning them to painful childbirth, for Eve’s sin. He punishes all human beings by condemning them to labor, for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:16-18). He regrets his creation, and in a fit of pique, commits genocide and ecocide by flooding the earth (Gen. 6:7). He hardens Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Israelites (Ex. 7:3), so as to provide the occasion for visiting plagues upon the Egyptians, who, as helpless subjects of a tyrant, had no part in Pharaoh’s decision. (So much for respecting free will, the standard justification for the existence of evil in the world.)”

So even if you believed the existence of this fiction, why would you grant him authority over morality?

UPDATE: Fact is, even Christians don't take their morality from the Bible, a point made perfectly clearly by Mr Dawkins:

                                 
But that doesn't mean that the source of morality is somehow "innate," which is where Team Dawkins gets it wrong.   The source of morality is not God or Helen Clark, it's neither our neighbours nor our feelings.  No, the source of morality is reality.

It should be obvious enough why this matters, but to those who eschew thinking about ethics and who prefer instead to bloviate solely about politics, there's a political connection here too, as Peter Schwarz points out:

Does morality depend upon religion? Most people believe it does, which is a major reason behind the appeal of the religious right. People believe that without faith in a supernatural authority, we can have no moral values--no moral absolutes, no black-and-white distinctions, no firm demarcation between good and evil--in life or in politics. This is the assumption underlying Justice Antonin Scalia's recent assertion that "government derives its authority from God," since only religious faith can supposedly provide moral constraints on human action.

And what draws people to this bizarre premise--the premise that there is no rational basis for refraining from murder, rape or anarchism? The left's persistent assault on moral values.

That is, liberals characteristically renounce moral absolutes in favor of moral grayness.

BUT MORALITY ISN'T GREY.  It is absolute.  It's absolute because the source of morality is reality, which is impossible for anyone to evade, even the most hard-bitten religionist.  Fact is, there are serious problems with the approaches taken by both the religionists (who insist on intrinsic rules, yet insist again on cherrypicking which ones are really and truly the ones to live by), and by their subjectivist opponents (who insist there are no absolutes, except the rule that there are no absolutes).

But to dismiss these objections is not to answer our question here, which is: “Can you then have morality without God? Whence comes moral structure if the Law-Giver in Chief is dead?”. The answer, to say it once again, is reality, and the constraints it places up on us.  The source and locus of all our values is reality. Where else could they come from?  All facts, to us, are potentially value-laden.  The world is fashioned in a particular way, and to derive happiness and flourishing in such a world we need to act in such and such a way.

In response to this all too obvious point, those trained in university philosophy departments will often wheel out something called the 'Is-Ought' argument as 'proof' that facts are inherently value-free, or (to put it another way), that neither reality nor reason provide any basis from which to formulate a reliable ethics.

THE 'IS-OUGHT' ARGUMENT was a remarkable piece of sophistry devised by a drinker called David Hume ("David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Schlegel" -- as many of you will remember), who suggested the fact that the world is this way or that way provides no means of suggesting whether one ought or ought not do something, and thus there is no way -- no way at all -- to put together any sort of rational morality. This is the sort of thing that in university philosophy departments passes for a sophisticated argument.
What's remarkable is that such a fatuous proposition should still have sufficient legs to persuade graduates of philosophy departments over two-hundred years after it was formulated. The 'is-ought problem' is a problem only if your mind has been crippled by such a department.
Aristotle stands first in line as a healthy contrast to both religionists and subjectivists and university philosophy professors in being a consistent (and too-frequently overlooked) advocate of a rational, earthly morality -- his was a "teleological" approach to ethics. That is, he said, we each act to achieve certain ends, and those ends must be the furtherance of our lives. All actions are (or should be) done "for the sake of" achieving some goal.

ARISTTOTLE PROVIDES A STARTING point from which to proceed rationally. Let’s think about what the basis for any rational standard of morality for human life would be. Morality should be ends-based – it should be goal-directed – but what end should it pursue? Surely the starting point would be the nature of human life itself? Shouldn’t the fact that human beings do have a specific nature tell us what we ought to do?

IT WAS AYN RAND who identified that the crucial fact about human life that provides such a starting point is the conditional nature of life, the fact that living beings daily confront the ever-present alternative of life or death. Act in this way and our life is sustained. Act in that way, and it isn't. Life is not automatic; it requires effort to sustain it, and reason to ascertain what leads towards death (which is bad), and what leads towards life (which is good). What standard then provides the basis by which a rational morality judges what one ought to do, or ought not to do? Life itself. Life is the standard. As Ayn Rand observed in her essay ‘The Objectivist Ethics,’

It is only the concept of "Life" that makes the concept of "Value" possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

Following Rand, Greg Salmieri and Alan Gotthelf point out that,

Rand’s virtue-focused rational egoism differs from traditional [ie., Aristotelian] eudaimonism in that Rand regards ethics as an exact science. Rather than deriving her virtues from a vaguely defined human function, she takes “Man’s Life” – i.e. that which is required for the survival of a rational animal across its lifespan – as her standard of value. This accounts for the nobility she ascribes to production – “the application of reason to the problem of survival” (1966, p. 9). For Rand, reason is man’s means of survival, and even the most theoretical and spiritual functions – science, philosophy, art, love, and reverence for the human potential, among others – are for the sake of life-sustaining action. This, for her, does not demean the spiritual by “bringing it down” to the level of the material; rather, it elevates the material and grounds the spiritual.

THE FACT THAT LIFE is conditional tells us what we ought to do: in the most basic sense, if we wish to sustain our life, then we ought to act in a certain way. This is the starting point for a rational, reality-based ethics: reality itself.

clip_image001If, for example, that glass of brown liquid in front before us is dangerously toxic, then one ought not drink it. That would be bad. If, however, it is a glass of Epic Pale Ale, Limburg Czechmate or Stonecutter Renaissance Scotch Ale, then all things being equal one ought to consume it -- and with gusto. That would be good.
So much for the 'is-ought problem.' The fact that reality is constituted in a certain way, and that every living being confronts the fundamental existential alternative of life or death is what provides the basic level of guidance as to what one ought or ought not do. This fundamental alternative highlights an immutable fact of nature, which is that everything that is alive must act in its self-interest or die. A lion must hunt or starve. A deer must run from the hunter or be eaten. Man must obtain food and shelter, or perish.  We must seek out good beer or else sentence ourselves to a lifetime of drinking Tui. 

The pursuit of morality is that important.

The fact that we exist possessing a specific nature and that reality is constituted the way it is tells us what we ought to do.

(The intelligent reader will already have noticed that in seeing morality in this way, the primary issue in morality is not our responsibility to others, but fundamentally our responsibility to ourselves. Without first understanding our responsibility for sustaining our own life, no other responsibilities or obligations are even possible. Tibor Machan observes that this fact is recognised even in airline travel, where the instruction is always given that if oxygen masks drop from the ceiling you should put your own on first before trying to help others. Basically, this is a recognition that if you don't look after yourself first then you're dead, and of no use either to anyone else or to yourself. This might help explain to interested readers why Ayn Rand named her work on ethics: The Virtue of Selfishness.)

To any living being, facts are not inherently value-free, they are value-laden – some facts are harmful and we should act to avoid them; others are likely to be so pleasant that we should act to embrace them --  but all facts we should seek to understand, and in this context we should understand that all facts are potentially of either value or disvalue to us.   Facts are inherently value-laden.

Contemplating the delightful reality of a glass of Limburg Czechmate, for example, demonstrates that some facts can be very desirable indeed, and are very much worth embracing. The point here is that it is not the facts themselves that make them valuable, it is our own relationship to those facts: how those facts impinge upon and affect our lives for either good or ill. It is up to us to discover and to make the most of these values. Leonard Peikoff makes the point in his book Objectivism:

Sunlight, tidal waves, the law of gravity, et al. are not good or bad; they simply are; such facts constitute reality and are thus the basis of all value-judgments. This does not, however, alter the principle that every "is" implies an "ought." The reason is that every fact of reality which we discover has, directly or indirectly, an implication for man's self-preservation and thus for his proper course of action. In relation to the goal of staying alive, the fact demands specific kinds of actions and prohibits others; i.e., it entails a definite set of evaluations.
For instance, sunlight is a fact of metaphysical reality; but once its effects are discovered by man and integrated to his goals, a long series of evaluations follows: the sun is a good thing (an essential of life as we know it); i.e., within the appropriate limits, its light and heat are good, good for us; other things being equal, therefore, we ought to plant our crops in certain locations, build our homes in a certain way (with windows), and so forth; beyond the appropriate limits, however, sunlight is not good (it causes burns or skin cancer); etc. All these evaluations are demanded by the cognitions involved -- if one pursues knowledge in order to guide one's actions. Similarly, tidal waves are bad, even though natural; they are bad for us if we get caught in one, and we ought to do whatever we can to avoid such a fate. Even the knowledge of the law of gravity, which represents a somewhat different kind of example, entails a host of evaluations --among the most obvious of which are: using a parachute in midair is good, and jumping out of a plane without one is bad, bad for a man's life.

But this is (or should be) basic stuff.

NOW, UNLESS YOU'RE a university philosophy professor (or David Hume) you don't simply sit there looking wide-eyed at the world, acting only on the basis of what appears in front of you on the bar. As Aristotle pointed out, if we want the good then our actions should be goal-directed.  A rational man acts with purpose: that is, he acts in pursuit of his values. If our purpose is the enjoyment of more glasses of Limburg Czechmate, for example, (something even David Hume would agree is a value) then we must act in a way that allows us to acquire more drinking vouchers with which to buy them, a fridge in which to keep them, and to sustain our health, wealth and happiness so that we might enjoy them for many more years in the future.

We should act in this way or in that way, in other words, in order to bring into reality certain facts that our (rationally-derived) values tell us are good. Acting in this way is itself good. We might even call it “virtuous” – virtues being the means by which we acquire our values.
And further: we should act not just in order to stay alive. As Aristotle and Rand both point out, the proper human state of life is not just bare survival, it is a state of flourishing – not just life, but “the Good Life.” Rand again:

In psychological terms, the issue of man's survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of "life or death," but as an issue of "happiness or suffering." Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the signal of failure, of death...
Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values...
But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

Such is the nature of a rational morality. The fact that the world is constituted as it is, means that if life is our standard -- my life, here on this earth -- then we ought to recognise the value of a rational morality, and if we wish to achieve happiness we ought to act upon values derived from a rational morality focused upon life on this earth.

What the hell else could be as important?

Let me say it again on conclusion: the standard for morality -- the rational standard -- is not obedience to what your God says or Moses says; it's not doing what your priest or your pastor or your Imam says; it's not subscribing to the same standards as your teachers or your peers the folks who live next door; it's not listening to what your own "inner voice" seems to say, or what your mother or your father or your Great Grandfather Stonebender used to say.  Not if it defies reason.

The rational standard is Life, our life, and the lives of those we love. The immediate beneficiary of our actions is not others; it's ourself, and the purpose of such a standard is not to suffer and die, but to enjoy ourselves and live.   (Once we've identified and internalised ethical guidelines to further our own flourishing, we can then only then safely listen to our own "stomach feeling," but it would be fatal to do so any earlier.)

To turn Descartes on his head (which is no less than the silly French philosopher deserves), the basic ethical principle is this: "I am, therefore I'll think." Because if we don't think clearly there'll soon be no "I" around to think about.

I hope you think about that.

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** For your homework, if you want to know more about Objectivist morality then you might want to act on that ...

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