Death Is Easy

Russell Madden

Freedom As If It Mattered

As If
It Mattered
Russell Madden

Guardian Project

The Guardian
Russell Madden


Russell Madden


Don't Get Me Started! Archives


1. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is offering a Freedom in Fiction Prize for the best novel promoting freedom in fictional form. (See link at the bottom of this page.) For two old essays of mine discussing a similar theme, see, "Freedom Friendly Fiction" and "Tell Me a Story." I have long believed that the emotional involvement that occurs when reading a good piece of fiction strengthens the likelihood of reaching readers. I encourage anyone with an interest in writing a novel that promotes liberty to enter.

2. It baffles me that some (many?) people still cling to the simplistic ideas of determinism and try to shoehorn human behavior into that ideological straitjacket. I am even more chagrinned when folks otherwise seeking to expand liberty in our world advocate such a statist and collectivistic theory, one that ultimately leads to rejecting the very idea of freedom. Let us not forget the kinds of wonderful folks who have over the years championed various theories of determinism, all of which theories devolve ultimately to radical reductionism, materialism. Whether advocated by economic determinists (Marx), cultural determinists (Machiavelli), biological determinists (we are only our genes), dictators like Hitler or run-of-the-mill statists and collectivists, determinism has been used time and again to justify actions that wreak havoc on our rights, freedoms, and lives.

Determinism contradicts and undermines:

1. Morality and personal responsibility
2. Concept-formation and knowledge
3. Reason/rationality.
4. Freedom and rights.
5. The nature of causality and the scientific method
6. Free-will and human nature/uniqueness
7. (Objective) reality

Determinism ultimately devolves (and I mean devolves...) into claiming that human beings and what we do are fundamentally no different than rocks or water or subatomic particles and their actions. Everything is predetermined by prior causes and could not have been otherwise.

Determinists use to advance their causes the very concepts and tools that are destroyed by their own theory, e.g., knowledge, freedom, rights, choice, and causality. They are intellectual parasites on the work of those who truly understand what is required for evidence, proof, knowledge, and morality.

Determinists may pretend that their corrosive theories are purely academic, but those theories have horrific real-world consequences and must be opposed by anyone who believes in human dignity and autonomy, by anyone who champions liberty and rationality.

Determinists must twist themselves into knots to disguise the self-contradictions, the distortions, and the lies from those who oppose their pernicious ideas (and probably to disguise these even from themselves).

Determinism is not a parlor game. It deserves to be discredited and destroyed.

3. I first saw Gone With the Wind when I was in grade school and was, frankly, pretty bored by it. In my twenties, I became a Clark Gable fan and watched the movie again (close to a quarter century ago now). I liked it very much. I then read the book, read about the making of the movie, read a bio of Margaret Mitchell, and a book of her collected letters.

Yes, GWTW is hardly an "Objectivist" movie in all its particulars. But Scarlett -- eventually -- learns from her mistakes, at least to a certain extent. Rhett Butler...I think he fits in pretty nicely with Randian-style heroes, i.e., a man who is -- in "polite" society -- a rogue and criminal (a blockade runner) but is a quintessential individualist. He doesn't care what "society" thinks about him and flouts its conventions. He does what he thinks is right and to devil with the hindmost. As far as regards Scarlett, I think he sees that inner ramrod of strength she has that is masked by the expectations held for high society Southern belles in the antebellum era. He knows all the fiddle-dee-dee and her "love" for Ashley etc. are all so much dross; none of that is the real her. He admires her adaptability and determination, her relentless quest for what she values...even when she values the wrong things. He tries his damnedest to break through that shell and comes close. (Indeed, the "rape" scene when he carts her up those stairs and the next morning she wakes up singing echoes loudly of Roark and Dominique!) In the end, when he has had enough, he walks away to live his own life rather than have to "stick it out" as "society" might demand from him.

As for Ayn Rand, she didn't say much about the novel, but apparently hardly despised it since she mentions it twice in The Romantic Manifesto (of all the books she might have used as examples): "The theme of Gone With the Wind is : 'The impact of the Civil War on Southern society.'" (p. 81) [right after she uses Hugo and Les Miserables as an example!]
and "The plot-theme is 'The romantic conflict of a woman who loves a man representing the old order, and is loved by another man, representing the new.' (Margaret Mitchell's skill, in this novel, lies in the fact that the developments of the romantic triangle are determined by the events of the Civil War and involve, in a single plot structure, other characters who are representative of the various levels of Southern society)." (p. 86)

So, if some folks find the movie GWTW boring or whatever, so be it. But Rand, at least, and I in addition, found value in the story. (Though I read the book and saw the film a long while before I became an Objectivist.) And even if the movie doesn't fully live up to the promise of the novel (how could it, even at the length that it is?), it captures enough of that spirit that I own a copy and drag it out now and again to relive a different time.

4. I think if I hear the phrase "global warming" or the word "Green" again, I will scream. I am thoroughly sick of the eco-fascist propaganda that permeates the airwaves and other media. Since 90%+ of those pushing the unsupported idea that warming is primarily due to human activity; that we as a species are facing an ecological crisis; and that we have the capacity to halt or even reverse warming; since the vast majority of people advocating this nonsense seek statist and collectivist "solutions" to this "problem," I want to throttle them. My life and my freedom are not so easily surrendered. What should be simply a scientific question is permeated by politics, from the idjits using "Green" crap as an excuse to expand their power over society to those who pretend to an unwarranted "moral high ground" to those who simply believe anything they read or hear in the media. Most eco-fascists somehow erroneously conclude that "now" is the best baseline for judging climate change, forgetting that "change" is part-and-parcel of any environment, any time, anywhere. Static, nature is not nor ever will be, at least until the final heat-death of the Universe. The Watermelons also conveniently forget that the human contribution to warming is on the order of .1% to .3% (depending on which source one reads). Not one to three percent: one-tenth to three-tenths percent. The effect of carbon dioxide on warming being logarithmic? Out of their awareness. The fact that the worst environmental problems in the world are due to State interference, even as they yammer for more State control over everything we do, eludes them. (See my essay "Eco-Fascism.") Whatever happens regarding warming should be dealt with as humans have always done when faced with a situation not under their control: adapt. But any ploy designed to throttle our freedoms, to destroy our technological society, to induce guilt in us all can go to hell, as far as I am concerned.
5. A related issue was again made clear to me during our trip to England and France this past May. I must say first that most people we dealt with were friendly, nice, and helpful. Plus, visiting many of the sights, such as the Normandy beaches and da Vinci's final home was quite interesting. But beneath all the cultural attractions was an attitude (in these parts of Europe, at least) that contradicts what has motivated humans since they picked up that first club. For nearly all of human history, the general thrust of progress has been to improve the human condition: more and better food, warmer shelter, nicer clothing, enhanced leisure time, upgraded technology: a lifestyle that expands on human comfort and pleasure. In the U.K. and France, though, (and I suspect throughout much of Europe), the trend is in the opposite direction: contract, restrict, deny: smaller cars, tinier houses, less energy, diminished personal space, lowered lifestyles. All in the name of the "environment," to be "Green" for the sake of being "Green," to combat "global warming" by limiting one's flights, one's driving, one's travel on water or rail, one's usage of water or food or any other economic good. It's sick. It's anti-human, anti-progress, anti-civilization, anti-freedom. If the eco-fascists want to limit something, let them limit their irrational reification of "nature" and the "environment" and their hypocritical rhetoric (Al Gore's mansion, anyone?).


1. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion, edited by Edward Younkins, is set for publication by Ashgate next month, May, 2007. The table of contents, the introduction, and the index are available online. Thirty-eight authors give an overview of Atlas and discuss its philosophy, literary aspects, aesthetics, political economy, human relationships, characterization, and history. It's available in hardcover or paperback and comes in at 446 pages. A short version of my essay "Fuel for the Soul" is included in the section on aesthetics.

2. The Supreme Court declares that we will soon all have to stop breathing. After all, carbon dioxide is now to be considered a pollutant! So stop it! Quit living and sucking in oxygen and expelling CO2 and ruining poor ol' Mother Earth! The Supreme Idiots Justices -- whatever... -- presume to be scientific experts and make even more political an issue that should be a scientific question but that has now grown into yet one more avenue for environmental fascists and other collectivists and statists to stifle freedom, reason, and truth. I just want to smack these people.

3. We also have the smoking fascists continuing their unrelenting quest to control us in all possible environments. (For example, see here and here.) First it was separate smoking sections on airplanes. Then in restaurants. Then in offices. Then no smoking on planes. Then no smoking in restaurants. Or offices. Or hospitals. Or schools. Or entire college campuses. Now they want to ban it in cars, apartments, and even on beaches. Soon it will be in homes with kids. Then all homes. Forests. Planet Earth.
I just want to smack these people.
4. As a resident of Iowa, I'm already sickened by a state government -- now in the hands of the Demicans -- who pass a continuous stream of stupid laws and restrictions on my rights and freedoms. (See the commentary archives for particulars.) To add insult to injury, well-known fascists like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rudy Guilianni, Mit Romney (now there's a flipflopper!), and John McCain-in-the-butt keep polluting the atmosphere with their lies and physical presences. Why don't the Supremes ban politicians from ruining Mother Earth! I just want to smack these people.
5. Speaking of Iowa, the fascists here had a law on the books banning flag "desecration." (See here.) A U. S. District Court overturned the stupid law. These nimnuls are already working on passing yet another idiotic law violating property rights and the First Amendment. If these people are upset with someone doing nasties with his own flag, they can try to persuade him or boycott him or whatever. Otherwise, they can butt out. I guess they have no qualms desecrating freedom. I just want to smack these people.


1. As in many states, last Fall's elections brought a Democratic majority to the Iowa legislature. While this state had a Democrat for governor before, at least his more egregious inanities were held in check by a Republican House and Senate. Now, two of the major branches of state government here are in the hands of the same group of thugs party. Already we Hawkeyes have been blessed with a dollar increase in the state cigarette tax. Emboldened by their success, the smoking fascists are also trying to let individual city governments -- rather than the state legislature -- set smoking "policy," i.e., ban smoking at the city level, i.e., violate private property rights whenever they damned well please. The Socialist Paradise of Iowa City tried before to do this but were slapped down by the state Supreme Court. Smokers are the new "niggers" of the world, forced to accept any and all insults and controls with bowed head and nary a peep of protest. Sadly, many smokers accept this unearned shame since they lack any proper understanding of morality or rights. Indeed, one poor schmuck (and it is the poorer folks who tend to smoke more) had the temerity to order his cigs online and just received a tax bill for over two-grand for his troubles. The pimps for the State that control the credit card market in this country were only too happy to "cooperate" with bringing such a scofflaw to "justice." Gag me. Ack, ptui!

Beyond that, our lovely new political "leaders" are increasing spending at an alarming rate. A state requirement that all budgets be balanced? Screw that! they proclaim. More money for teachers (who are already paid more than market wages for what they do). More money for medical care. More money for student financial aid. On and on. Still unsatisfied, the legislature is trying to force nonunion workers to pay dues if a union isresent in their business place. It's only "fair" they pay, union supporters cry, since those nonunion scabs "benefit" from what the union does. Blech. Now, Iowa is a "right to work" state: union membership cannot be imposed. But that, too, is a violation of property rights. Each individual business owner has the right to decide if he wants a closed shop, a nonunion workforce, or some mixture. Forcing unions down his throat or preventing him from having only union workers are equally wrong.

Not content with this meddling, a bill likely to pass is one requiring registering beer keg rentals...all in the name of "protecting" "the children," i.e., underage teens (including teens who are legally adults) from the ravages of alcohol. Oh, the humanity! And these idjits have only been in session for less than three months...
2. I recently saw the film "300" and can, overall, recommend it. Some people see support for Bush and his disastrous Iraq War in this film, but I dismiss such observations as woefully inadequate self-fulfilling prophecies. The parallels are dubious and threadbare, at best. Other complaints are more "naturalistic" in nature, that is, observation that the real Sparta was hardly a bastion of freedom (as we understand the concept now). Yes, this movie is not a documentary and has fictional events included. So what? The frame for the movie is a story-teller recounting the tale of Leonidas and the 300. I saw that as akin to Homer recounting the adventures of Odysseus. The Trojan War was real, but does anyone think Homer was recounting "just the facts" with his tales of the Cyclops, etc.? And would we still be reading The Odyssey if he had? What is important -- to the film and to me -- is the general tone and attitude. Overall, I thought the movie did promote freedom and, to a lesser extent, reason. Despite the horrors of the real Spartan society, the main characters in "300" were, in general, honorable. And the queen kicked ass with the best of them. I cheered her on. (And what would have happened to classical Greek civilization if the Persians had swept through the land and on into Europe?) If historical accuracy is de rigeur for the viewer, avoid this film. If someone is interested in a rousing movie and characters willing to fight to the death (as they did in reality) to oppose tyranny, then go see "300."
3. I just received my advance reader's copy from Gauntlet Press of F. Paul Wilson's latest Repairman Jack, Bloodline. I hope to have a review here in Atlas Magazine sometime in the next month.


1. After the Supreme Idiots' decision declaring that, "Hey, State? Want someone's private property? Take it, no questions asked," I was mildly heartened by the number of people who decided to fight against that injustice. Indeed, many states have passed or are thinking of passing prohibitions against the State seizing private property that is destined to be handed over to other private parties, i.e., politically-connected developers. I say "mildly heartened" because, sadly, most of those who don't want someone's long-time home given to a casino owner or a mall developer or whatever still support the "eminent domain" seizure of other property owned by their neighbors. I mean, of course, our money. Taxes declare that the State has first claim on the product of our labor. If the State decides that it has a "public use" for that moolah, then tough-kitties, it's seizing it. Worse, most of the money it extorts from us is doled out to other individuals. Whether in the form of individual welfare or corporate subsidies, our income is seized and "redistributed" to other private entities. Tax "credits," cash outlays to poor folks, medical/food/housing subsidies/payments, special favors to farmers or corporations or lobbyists, all are examples of the immoral principle of "eminent domain." Beyond that, the State seizes our time and well-being and "gives" it to others whenever it establishes a new and illegitimate regulation or law or rule. The proper principle is incredibly simple: no one --  no one -- has the right to one second of my life or one cent of my money without my consent. It ain't rocket science.
2. I had to turn the channel when Al I-Invented-the-Internet Gore appeared on the Oscars to receive his "award" for the stupidity he is promulgating called "An Inconvenient Truth." Hypocrite that he is, ol' Gore apparently uses more electricity in a month at his Tennessee home than the average person uses in a year. (See here.) Then, of course, there is his enormous gas bill. But scumbag politicians are nothing new. Neither is his claim that the whole sick issue of "global warming" is not a political problem but a "moral" one! The truth, of course, is that the morality is on his opponents' side, not Gore's. All the self-righteous sanctimony of his supporters on stage was equally nauseating. Meanwhile, we in Iowa suffered through one of the coldest February's in recent history. I could use more warming.
3. And, of course, after a recent blizzard stormed across the country, the meteorologists declared that they really couldn't predict what "Mother Nature" was going to do. Yet some have the gall to claim they can predict what the climate for the whole frigging globe is going to be like decades from now. Go figure.
4. James Cameron financed an upcoming film on the Discovery Channel that claims that the bones of Jesus Christ and his family have been found. (See here.) Bunches of people are foaming at the mouth in opposition. As an atheist, of course, I know that Jesus never "arose" anywhere, no how. Religion sucks, regardless of type, denomination, or variant. Anything claiming to be a source of knowledge that places itself outside the realm of logic, reason, and evidence is ultimately anti-life, destructive, and a fantasy. One need only look at the religious terrorists of the world to see the ultimate end-game for that nonsense.


1. It has been quite awhile since I published an issue of Atlas. Last September I upgraded my Macintosh computer to something that actually is able to handle today's Web graphics and video. The extra screen real estate has been a plus, as well. Unfortunately, in migrating to an Intel-based Apple, I had to abandon my old (very old...) Claris HomePage program that I used in constructing these simple pages. I thought iWeb might work, but after trying to convert my home page to this new program, I discovered iWeb treats links as graphics. With the hundreds and hundreds of links I have, the program ballooned the size of my index page to multi-megabyte size, far too large to expect people to routinely load my Web site. Additionally, just trying to figure out how to construct a page using the new program has been very frustrating. In the past, I could simply insert a document into a blank page, make a few adjustments, add a few links, and I was done. Now there are text boxes and graphics boxes and a lot of other "helpful" tools that operate in the most whimisical ways whenever I try to change anything. So much for "easy" use. For the present, I'm plugging along with Netscape's Composer, the closest thing I've found to how HomePage worked (but with it's own lovely quirks, of course).
2. Time also passed as I more fully delved into the world of podcasts, iTunes videos, and a plethora of similarly diverting attractions. Adding a video iPod to my iPod Nano also succeeded in keeping me busy. On the business side of things, I added a communication class to my English writing courses. Nice to have the extra income, of course, but more time consumed.
3. A large part of my lethargy in returning to writing, though, has been my overall exhaustion with the endless statism and politics immersing me in a smothering, collective embrace. The election, Iraq, new laws, fresh regulations, increasing restrictions, and a general acceptance by the citizens of this country that, hey, what's the big deal? Even the increasing disenchantment with the war has done little to cheer me since I realize the underlying attitudes that led us into that morass have not changed. Nor are they likely to in the near future.
4. People do more of what they are rewarded for doing. If even one percent of those who visit my Web pages purchased either my novel or my essay collection, I might have more of the emotional fuel needed to push on through the swamp. But sales have been slow, as they usually are for self-published work. Nevertheless, I hope to begin another novel soon. Hope springs eternal...
5. As for the stupid flap over a video of a hanging of heinous politician; the banning of trans fats and goose liver; the harping on global warming; and all the rest: who cares? Screw 'em. I'm too tired to bother. Maybe next time.


1. Once again, the Feds intrude where they have no business sticking their big noses. If and/or when the Republicrat rodents achieve their goal of getting abortion banned in more and more states, they want to build legal walls preventing any pregnant teenager from escaping the prison that is her home and crossing state lines to a less-enslaved state that does perform abortions. More precisely, the Feds seek to outlaw anyone taking such a teen across those artificial boundaries. Egads. This smacks of those old laws seeking to punish folks for driving to a different state for any behavior whispering of sex. No amount of control is ever enough for the moral midgets in D.C.
2. Thomas DiLorenzo has yet another article (and upcoming book) discussing Ol' Abe Lincoln's true colors. Seems the Tall One was all in favor of adding a Constitutional amendment forbidding any future amendment from outlawing slavery. Nice trick, pretending to bind folks yet unborn to such a screwy idea. But racist though he was, his worst evil was destroying the validity of secession in the minds of Americans. There are plenty of bums who contributed to the demise of the Republic, but he ranks near the top.
3. A Muslim idiot walked into the Jewish Federation in Seattle last week and killed a woman and wounded five other folks. (See here.) Too bad so many Jews are in favor of victim disarmament. Pretty ironic given what happened to so many Jews in WW II. When will more Jews wise up and support organizations like Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership? Heck, it's only their lives that are at stake...
4. And speaking of Jews... Ol' Mel Gibson got himself into some hot water after being arrested for driving while intoxicated. (See here.) (He should have gotten the speeding ticket for going 87 miles/hour in a 45 mph zone, but his .12 blood alcohol level should not have been illegal. The extorted .08 level is too low and should be restored to the .15 level.) The big "scandal," of course, is not his law-breaking but his (admitted) "despicable" comments about Jews. Despite some talking-head buffoons on TV, his slurs against Jews have zippo to do with the case of speeding or drunk driving. Sheriff Baca is precisely right about that and about charges of a "cover-up." Yeah, yeah, ol' Mel copped out and talked alcoholism as a "disease" rather than a choice, but the gleeful witch-hunt of Gibson promoted by some commentators is just a bit too much like "gotcha!" for the controversies surrounding his movie "The Passion of Christ" to be taken seriously.
5. As for anti-Semitism as a subject for discussion, well, I am pro-reason. If one wishes to be negative, I am thus anti-religion and, since Judaism is a kind of religion, I suppose I am "anti-Jewish" (in terms of Jewish beliefs). If that makes me "anti-Semitic" in some eyes, well, there you have it. But the deeper issue of Jews (in a religious rather than a cultural sense) is the erroneous belief too many Jews promulgate that the Holocaust was a Jewish issue because the Nazis primarily scapegoated them. The false implications of this view is that the answer, of course, is to be "tolerant" of others' beliefs. But the real problem was not "intolerance" of a particular group or groups. The fundamental issue that is still ignored by Jews and Gentiles and most everyone else is that of collectivism from which arises the sickness that is statism. Instead of promoting what is Jewish above all else, Jews should focus on individualism and abandon a religion that is false (as are all religions, of course). But people cling to their delusions the more they are threatened. Until people abandon their primitive clutching at reified groups for the source of their identity and security, all the problems of the Mideast, all the problems plaguing statist societies around the world will only continue and intensify into the foreseeable future.
6. I read an article this weekend about that unconstitutional body, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) going after the folks running Ernest Hemingway's old home in Key West, Florida. The nincompoops in D.C. want the Hemingway folks to get a license (!) to "exhibit" the fifty or so multi-toed cats prowling the place (cats descended from ones Hemingway owned). Not only does this illustrate the absurdity and immorality of any licensing laws, it's stupid even if one accepted licensing's validity! I've been to that place, and the cats are no more on "exhibit" than are the people who give the tours or run the bookstore. Those cats have it sweet: sleeping on the beds; free passage anywhere they like, including the bookstore; doted on by cat-loving visitors; nice climate (minus the hurricanes...)... The cats are not "in commerce"! No one is buying or selling them. Good grief. A bunch of State assholes who have nothing better to do with their time than harass people. Yet another expected consequences from the nonsense that is licensing and laws designed to protect animal "rights." A pox on them all.

1. Now come on. Is anyone really surprised that the Feds wasted $400 million of the funds allocated to aid Katrina victims? Is anyone really surprised that Feds with charge cards in their hands acted like little kids in a candy store and purchased such "essential" items as iPods and beer-making kits? Or is anyone really surprised that the miscreants who spent their ill-gotten booty, i.e., your money, on such nonsense were not immediately fired and then arrested for fraud? Come on. In today's realpolitik, screwing up is the road to honors and advancement. Start a war. Kill a few hundred thousand innocent civilians. Destroy a country's infrastructure. Cripple and kill thousands of our soldiers. Do all that and get a medal from the prez and billions more added to your agency's budget. It's the New American Dream! Really.
2. And, by a show of hands, how many of you out there are really surprised that the folks in Israel find themselves once again in a fighting war and invading a neighboring country? How many of you are really surprised that the people suffering the most in this latest conflict are civilians on both sides of the border? Who can possibly be surprised when a semi-enslaved country that forces involuntary servitude on all its citizens via a draft (i.e., Israel) finds rockets raining down on its collective head from a bunch of nut-job religious idiots who think a good time is dying for a fantasy-figure like Allah? Talk about the "lesser of two evils"! While Israel no doubt qualifies as the "lesser," their society runs on the basis of irrationality and evil, not reason and value. Ditto in spades the Islamic cretins who think all who disagree with them should be fitted with a casket...after you gather all the little bits of the bodies that have been blown to smithereens. Crazy. But no crazier than our own destructive, evil government spreading its black tentacles through every crevice of society, not only our own but the entire world's. And, please, no one talk to me about "necessary" evils. There ain't no such animal. Evil is never necessary. It's only way too damned easy to find. Everywhere. Really.
3. After becoming a Firefly fan, I decided to purchase the entire seven seasons of Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in one collector's set for a price under $130. (Not a bad deal.) I am slowly making my way through the DVDs. I'm into season two, at the moment. So far, I'm enjoying it. I still much prefer Firefly and its more adult orientation and set of characters, but I can see Buffy's appeal. Maybe the day will come when I will move on to the "Angel" series, as well, preferrably when the special box set available in Britain goes on sale here in the U.S.

1. Seems to be a lot of roosters coming home to roost lately. While none of this is a surprise, of course, to freedom-lovers, I imagine many statists and collectivists are scratching their heads because they just can't figure out what the hey is going on...
2. In that hotbed of rationality, Washington, D. C., rape, robbery, and murder are going full-bore for the throat. (Amazing, isn't it, just how effective banning guns can be for helping criminals protecting innocent citizens?) Not only are murders occurring at a record pace, but the crooks have the temerity to leave their own neighborhoods where their victims have little money and venture into upscale communities such as Georgetown. The bastards! The crime levels were acceptable as long as the "right folks" were on the end of the hammer, but robbin', rapin', and murderin' tourists on the national Mall....Uh! How dare they! Of course, the "official" response is that "more cops" will solve everything. Riiiiggghhhtttt.... And none of my readers will be surprised that not a single talking head ever mentioned the elephant in the room: that victim disarmament laws leave victims, well...disarmed. Most "law-abiding" citizens aren't going to risk imprisonment by flouting the law against concealed weapons carry...even though they have the right to ignore such an unconstitutional and immoral travesty. So the jackals come sniffing around the helpless sheep knowing they are safe to attack virtually anyone they so desire. If the obvious answer were implemented, i.e.,let those who so choose arm themselves, I can guarantee this "epidemic of violence" who be cured pronto. A few bullets in the chests of a few miscreants would get the word out: seek less dangerous pickin's.
3. Another clucker flappin' in for a landing is in the Southwest. Farmers there were able long ago to grow crops where few folks would do so only because the Feds agreed to subsidize the cost of irrigating the land, bringing in cheap water for these thieves. Now, of course, there is a build-up of salt in the soil from all that evaporatin' goin' on. For a few measly billions of dollars, the Feds are now offering to wean these schmucks off the State teat; let the land lay fallow. If any farmers subsequently desire to grow crops, the water will be on their own dime. Again, no one in the news commented on the impropriety of the government being involved in such a project, in the first place. The rest of us, however, still have to pay for this boondoggle.
4. Another chick-chick is headed home on the health care front. Seems one employer demanded that his employees quit smoking, not just on the job but at home, too. If they failed to do so by a certain deadline, they would be fired. Pretty nasty, huh? What a jerk, the fired folks said. They tried to sue, but the courts stated that employment in this country is (with numerous statist exceptions) "at will." Employers can fire employees for all kinds of reasons, good or bad. (The horrors!) But again, unfair or not, such results would not even be an issue if not for State interference. The employer interviewed on TV made this intrusion into his employees private lives because the cost of employer-provided health care continues to zoom upward. He wanted to save his company money. But the primary (the only?) reason employers "provide" health insurance coverage is because of changes in the tax laws post-WW II that do not tax such benefits. Since all "benefits" ultimately are shifted from salaries, the employees supposedly did better by having their dollars go farther as benefits rather than as money given directly to them from which they would purchase their own, private medical insurance. But such "benefits" from non-taxed salaries long ago evaporated under State-induced health care cost increases. What should be done is to give employees all their income (rather than pretending the employer "pays" for certain benefits) and let them decide what health coverage, life insurance, retirement plans, unemployment insurance, and so on, they want and then have them buy it themselves. For anyone who brings up the value of pooled business resources for negotiating terms with insurance companies, long before the State distorted the market, individuals could join with others in mutual aid societies and bargain as a group for better terms. But no one anywhere ever mentioned that this problem would probably have never arisen in the first place if the State hadn't mucked things up sixty years ago by interposing itself between employer and employee.
5. Then there is the prez's promised (first!) veto if Congress passes a bill to increase federal funding of stem cell research. Some Republicrats have abruptly gotten religion and stated that those who oppose such research should not have to pay for it. Whoa! Ring the bell! Hold the bus! Too bad these yahoos don't apply their own reasoning to the rest of the State's shenanigans. We'd eliminate 95+% of what the State steals our money to fund. So, again, if the State hadn't assumed long ago that it had the "right" to fund everything from highways to museums to advertising for corporations, those who oppose tax-funded research on stem cells would not have to argue against it: the issue would be moot. But no one, of course, bothers to apply this principle to all else the State does.
6. Finally, the political hypocrites not only want to keep Internet gambling illegal, they want to ban credit card companies from allowing you to use their cards to spend your own money on your own computer in your own home on anything that smacks of "gambling." After all, as my asshole state representative, Jim Leach, R-IA, says, such gambling is destructive and immoral and horrible for anyone to do...unless the gambling is done and/or approved by the State. Screw these jerks. Stay out of my life! Arrogant, condescending pricks who... Oh, well. Don't get me started...

1. It has been a number of months since I've written an Atlas article. No real excuse, but by way of explanation, there was the end of the semester teaching; two weeks touring Colorado finishing up at a ranch in Wyoming; and a month selecting, designing, editing, and publishing a collection of what I consider my best essays. Borrowing from the Atlas logo, I entitled the book, Freedom, As If It Mattered. One hundred essays, two short stories, and a screenplay. Over 700 pages, a quarter-of-a-million words. All for $24.95. (Or less, if you want to go digital.)
2. In the collection, I cover a wide range of topics in philosophy, ethics, politics, economics, art, and current events. I examine the foundations of liberty and individual rights; give an overview of Ayn Rand and Objectivism; present a series of academic papers on communication, mass media, and abortion; explore the contentious view that the United States is already a police state; ponder the foundations and rationales for war and terrorism; champion self-defense and a proper understanding of crime; and plunge into such cultural controversies as animal "rights," smoking, education, discrimination, hate "crimes," flag burning, and voting. In these essays, I deplore the growing Nanny State and offer objective personal values we all should share. I also discuss an overlooked cautionary film and the careers of writers Edgar Rice Burroughs and F. Paul Wilson.
3. It's difficult to know what to focus on here. I've accumulated a lot of notes on subjects that have come and gone over the past few months. The examples all chronicle the irrationality, collectivism, and statism that continue to plague the world. Remember these: Texas yahoos arresting guests in hotel bars for being tipsy...even if they had no plans to drive anywhere. A suggestion to outlaw male businessmen taking their clients to strip clubs: unfair to female employees, of course. Gas "gouging" made illegal: no such thing as "gouging," of course, just what individuals agree to pay for goods they want. More boohooing about gas mileage standards not being tough enough. Plans to have the State seize private land and build a Flight 93 (9/11) memorial in Pennsylvania. State interference in the building a new structure on the site of the World Trade Center. French students rioting because someone dared to suggest that they should not have guaranteed employment for life. A growing movement to ban soft drinks and candy from schools. Asinine seat belt ads telling us in no uncertain terms that the State "has had enough" and will ticket your ass if you dare do anything the State believes will endanger your life by your own free choice. Massataxits mandating health insurance for everyone. Massive fraud in tax-funded Katrina relief: nearly 10% of funds or $400 million dollars down the tubes. Collectivists whining about the heirs of Martin Luther King actually making money from the sale of his papers with NBC television dickheads posing the question whether the items belong to the heirs...or "to history"!!! Such crap never ends.
4. A woman on NPR said if she had her way, she would outlaw food marketed for kids: prevent TV ads and the placing of cartoons on packaging. Gosh. Guess she never heard of the First Amendment.
5. There was recently more garbage about "second-hand" smoke and how many people it "kills" annually. That any amount -- any amount -- was "deadly." All "proved," of course, by people who wouldn't understand cause-and-effect or the notion that the dose makes the poison if it bit them on the ass. All designed, of course, to lend more support to State violations of property rights and individual choices. Horse hockey. Gag me with a cigarette...
6. What can I say about Al Gore and global warming hysteria? Ignore history. Ignore facts. Ignore rationality. Ignore the weighing of costs and benefits. Ignore what the true motives are of the anti-technology, anti-capitalism, anti-individualist eco-fascists.
7. The jerk Warren Buffet with his holier-than-though B.S. about what others should do with their money; what money means; and his rampant hypocrisy about it all. And the cloying crap from all sides about "giving back" to the "community." Screw the community. They're the jerks actively seeking my enslavement.
8. And last but not least, "Lady Liberty" showing her/his true colors by claiming that animal abuse should be illegal. Some friend of freedom.

1. Congress and the Prez pass the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act (*ack, ptuie!!*) permanent extension. They pretend to pass "safeguards" and most citizens pretend to believe them. What a crock. Don't forget that this monstrosity is an acronym: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism," i.e., the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. Ri-i-i-g-g-h-t.... "Terrorism." As in hookers and drug users and anyone they damned well please. "Strengthening America." Ri-i-i-g-g-h-t.... As in gutting what little remained of the Fourth Amendment. As in expanding State power. As in turning citizens into compliant mice bowing and scraping for the "privilege" of flying or assembling in protest or living. "Appropriate tools." Ri-i-i-g-g-h-t.... As in forbidding those who are f*ck*d by the feds from even telling anyone they have been violated. As in warrantless search and seizures. As in turning the president into a dictator by claiming he can ignore -- at will -- any law he thinks "interferes" with his power grabs. Too many apologists claim wrongly that the prez's position as commander-in-chief gives him the authority to do anything and everything he wants to wage this (undeclaread and unconstitutional) "war," so there, nyah-nyah-nyah. These tin Nazis are the kind of slime who emerge whenever power becomes available to those so low in self-esteem and value that they only feel complete when running the lives of innocent others. I hope they all rot in hell.
2. Headed out to see "V for Vendetta" this afternoon. I never read the graphic novel that formed the basis for the film and have zero desire to wage any debate on the relative merits of the two. A film is not a book, not even a comic one. Different standards. I just hope the flick gives me a chance to experience -- for a little while, at least -- a place and time where the bastards get what they have coming.
3. I am currently compiling a collection of my work for publication. It's entitled (appropriately enough; see logo above) Freedom, As If It Mattered: A Hundred Essays, Two Short Stories, and a Screenplay. It will be about 750 pages, nearly a quarter of a million words long, and available for about $25. When it is ready to go, I'll post the table of contents here.
4. Every time I turn around, I see some idjit yammering on about "meth" and how horrible it is and how we have to turn our drug stores into informers, all to save people from themselves. Of course, these nimnulls never bother to show the "before" and "after" pics of alcoholics or rant about the horrible effects this drug has on children who use it or who suffer because their parents use it. No. Then they would either have to call for banning booze (again) or admit that mere horrific possible consequences from abuse of "X" does not justify prohibiting "X" or that it is entirely possible to use recreational drugs without abusing them. Sometimes I just want to shake these sanctimonious SOBs and tell them to butt the hell out of my freedom.
5. I'm eagerly awaiting the real arrival of spring here in Iowa. We've been teased a few times, but winter is ignoring the calendar and hanging on by its fingernails. I am definitely a warm weather person. Given the right circumstances, I would joyfully move somewhere south of here and never look back. At the very least, count me in as a wannabe Snowbird.
6. My favorite shows this seasons: Veronica Mars, 24, Lost, Prison Break, House, 2 1/2 Men, and Scrubs. And who says there's "nothing good on TV"? (Oh, regarding 24 and the gross violations of rights that occur on a regular basis there. Such in no way justifies similar abuses in the real world. We have an omniscient point of view in the show and know [most of the time, anyway] when someone is an actual bad guy. There is no such presumption in dealing with purported terrorists or criminals we must actually face everyday.)

1. Certain Muslims have demonstrated that they do not belong in civilized company. Simply because a Danish newspaper published some cartoons that are "disrespectful" of Mohammed, these Muslims "think" (more accurately: "feel") an appropriate response is to throw stones and fire bombs, destroy property, threaten murder, and otherwise reveal themselves as the religious nut-job fanatics they are. It is such over-the-top actions that help reinforce Western stereotypes about Muslims. Any Muslims who think they have a right to initiate violence against others merely because they are "offended" by a cartoon -- or whatever -- reveal themselves for the savages they are. Fine, boycott Danish products if they so desire (though even this response demonstrates collectivistic thinking at its core: punishing innocents merely because they share the nationality of those who "offended" them), but anyone demanding death as the price for presenting an unpopular idea deserves death in return. Muslims storming an embassy with rocks or flames or climbing the walls: shoot them. That's better than they deserve.
2. The Safety Nazis are at it again. This time their target is Britney Spears, a vapid music star who had the temerity to hold her baby in her arms while she was driving her SUV. While perhaps not the wisest choice of actions on her part, in no way was she directly harming or endangering her infant. The very notion that the State can dictate to parents how they must or must not raise their children is repugnant. Preemptive laws -- prior restraint, in effect -- violate the essence of proper legality. The State has no business forcing parents to place their babies or toddlers or children in seat X or Y for Z years. If the child is injured and if the State can prove that the parent was negligent, then fine, charge her with something. But otherwise butt out and let the woman raise her kid the way she wants. 
3. There has been a lot of hype promoting the movie Crash. While I agree that the film is technically well-done, I did not find it particularly "brave" or "enlightening." Yeah. There is racism in America. And the sun rises in the east. Whoop-deedoo. Hardly a message designed to shock or reveal anything we didn't already know. These guys remind me of teenagers who think they were the first ones to discover sex. If, however, the filmmakers had been truly insightful and courageous, they would have focused on why there is still racism in this country. How about exploring class-warfare promoted by a paternalistic State? Affirmative action? Collectivist thinking? Disparagement of individualism? Avoidance of personal responsibility? That would be a start. 
4. We have a new Supreme by the name of Samuel Alito. More of the same or worse, I suspect. What was sadly funny during his confirmation hearings was his ardent insistence that he was no "ideologue." In other words, he does not believe in principles and has none. This passes for leadership these days?
5. A recent news story on ABC television revealed the shocking fact that people in this country are still able to buy and use some phones anonymously (like the Tracfone I own). Why, our wiser cousins to the north require identification to make such purchases! What is wrong with us?!? Well, maybe we still cling desperately to a few shreds of freedom and privacy in this nation. As a country, Canada abandoned that a long while ago. Because "terrorists" might, might use such phones to commit crimes, the rest of us are supposed to blithefully surrender one more piece of our liberty. Screw that.
6. The fascists are at it again, this time in Maryland trying to force that bad ol' debbil WalMart either to provide health care coverage to their "underpaid" employees or fork over some money to the State to "pay" for medical care these employees get for "free" from their government, i.e., stolen from their fellow citizens. A lawsuit is underway. Who knows if it will succeed? But the very fact that such a law could be implemented does not bode well for avoiding nationalized health "care" in this country.
7. Hillary Clinton recently garnered headlines by claiming the Republicans were like masters running a plantation. From the mouths of babes... Of course the Republicrats treat the rest of us as slaves, to be "cared" for and commanded. But so do the Demicans! And the Emperor has no clothes!
8. I laughed awhile ago when I heard some dolt on television state with obdurate certainty that "Everyone agrees this is a good first step." This idiot was talking about laws requiring citizens to sign their names and provide ID when buying certain cold medicines containing methamphetamine precursors. Like hell "everyone" agrees. Maybe statists and assholes. Those of us who retain an ounce of respect for freedom recognize this violation of rights for what it is: B.S., and I ain't talkin' baloney sauce... The Drug War is an abomination. Those who support it are knowingly or unwittingly supporting tyranny. For now, I guess it is either laugh or cry for the rest of us.
9. Along the same lines, that bastion of reason -- ha! -- Singapore continues its fine tradition of imprisoning or hanging people for drug or firearm use. If that were not bad enough, they used to ban chewing gum. But, golly, now all one has to do is register and one can then buy and chew gum. Gee. Ain't freedom grand?
10. The Fearmongers are attacking Teflon again. Horrible, horrible Teflon. Even though the chemical used to make it does not show up in the final product, they want to -- guess...! -- ban Teflon. Why, each and every one of us has traces of the bad chemical in our blood. Aiieee!!! We're all gonna die! Well, yeah. Eventually. Some day. But not from Teflon. Good grief.

1. It's a symptom of the altruistic poison coursing through the veins of this country that some of the residents of New Orleans continue to complain that the rest of the country is "not doing enough" to rebuild their ravaged city. In a recent television story I saw, one of the folks interviewed said that if America truly is a great country, then there should be no question but that the citizens will spend whatever is necessary to rebuild the Crescent City. Now, I love New Orleans as do millions of others who have fond memories of visits there. But to presume that anyone has a moral duty to spend their money so New Orleans can rise again from the muck is to claim that the rest of us are nothing more than slaves to be used as others see fit. I truly do hope New Orleans is able to recover. But...only those who voluntarily choose (and how sad is it that that redundant adverb must be added here...)...that any money spent to rebuild the city must come from private sources. Let people via the free market decide what deserves to be resurrected and what does not. Let businesses decide how to rebuild the levees...or whether they should be rebuilt, at all. Let individuals work together in recasting their lives in Louisiana or elsewhere. Those who live along the Gulf must be the ones who accept and bear the risks involved in being in such a pleasant environment. The costs -- the subsidies -- should not be imposed upon the rest of us.
2. Another story I saw lamented the disappearance of marshlands south of New Orleans. With the river contained within the levees constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the floods that used to spread silt from the Mississippi River have largely become a thing of the past. With the supply of raw materials choked off, the marshlands that helped buffer the city from the full effects of hurricanes have been drastically reduced. Estimates on rebuilding these marshlands run into the billions. Without them, one researcher claims that within fifty years, New Orleans will become an island. Whether this prediction is accurate of not, I don't know. What I do know is that this is yet another example of how State interference and "benevolence" has wreaked far greater havoc than the original danger ever could. Compare this to State subsidies that helped drain much of the Everglades; that bring subsidized water to deserts for people and crops; that damage the environment far more than any privately-funded projects ever could. But no one on television that I saw made the connection between problem and solution. Instead -- as usually happens -- the problems created by the State lead to cries for even more State involvment...that will lead to yet more unforeseen difficulties and more State involvement and...

3. A recent story on National Public Radio discussed the slaughter of horses for meat that occurs in this country. Now, I would never knowingly eat horse. Indeed, I cringe at the very thought of killing a horse for its flesh. But I would never, ever think to legally prohibit the right of owners to use their animals in such a fashion. Unsurprisingly, such a course of action was precisely what was advocated on NPR. But banning any peaceful behavior to assuage the ruffled feelings of those who object is a gross violation of rights. Property rights are sacrosanct. Doesn't matter if the property in question is a horse or a dog or a cat or a car or a cheeseburger. No one but the owner has a say! Accept "exceptions" to that principle, and you have destroyed the principle. The next property they come after may be yours.

4. The prohibitionists are not content to rest there, of course. There are calls again to ban Internet gambling. I expect such inexecrable crap from politicians, but it is even sadder to hear owners of such sites beg to be regulated. A television story on this topic featured the sorry spectacle of an owner asking to be regulated so those "other guys" won't be able to do bad things to their customers. Heaven forfend that people should actually do research before they hand over their credit card information. This guy gasped in horror and told the interviewer that, wow, imagine what would happen if people were "allowed" to do whatever they want! Disaster! Chaos! Anarchy!
Or maybe just "freedom."
5. What can one say about the recent handgun ban voted in San Francisco? Idiots. Tyrants. Fools. Bah.
6. So it was little wonder what I saw on an episode of the Fox television show, "Bones." The female lead in this series asked the FBI agent with whom she works to help her get a gun carry permit. After all, she said, she faced dangerous criminals on a regular basis and might need to defend herself. After summarily rejecting her application, the FBI guy cavalierly said, in effect, "You have a Constitutional right to apply for a permit to carry." No right to purchase and carry firearms. Just a right "to apply" for a "permit." What can one do other than shake one's head?
If this is the state of rights and freedom in this country today, I'll take peppermint.

1. How much sympathy can you have for people when they act like idiots? I see the people in Florida (and earlier in New Orleans) who did not leave the area before Hurricane Wilma came roaring across the state. Why is it that the loudest complainers did little to nothing to prepare ahead of time? Why did they not fill up their bathtubs and other containers with water? Stock the freezer with extra ice? Fill up their grill tanks or their cars with gas? Buy charcoal? Lay in extra nonperishable food supplies? Buy a generator? No. These whining infants prefer to clamor like so many baby birds for Mama State to drop what they need into their mouths. Heaven forfend such folks should look first to themselves and their own resources for sustaining their lives. How tragic if they should pay the price for all those other months of great weather rather than forcing the rest of the country to subsidize their insurance, their housing, their lives. I am bled dry of sympathy for anyone who expects as a right help from the State, i.e., their fellow citizens. I am not a sacrificial lamb, to be offered up for their serving whenever they grow hungry through their own ignorance, stupidity, or greed.
2. Even though most people -- fans and non-fans alike -- have highly rated Joss Whedon's Serenity movie (based on his series Firefly), some people have attacked it. Arguing with some of these people who don't like Serenity; who don't understand the differences in the requirements between episodic TV and a movie; who drop the context of the making of this film; who focus on trivialities instead of a movie's essence; arguing with such folks is a waste of time. Nothing will convince them they are wrong since what they are complaining isn't what they really think is wrong.

I'm sick to death of people who simply don't like what happened in this movie (or any movie, for that matter) and who then use their negative reactions to claim the movie was "poorly" made, that there was "bad lighting," "lazy writing," "cheap special effects," "choppy editing," "too much exposition," that it was a "TV movie," etc. etc.

If someone does not like this story, then, fine, just say so. But I get the impression that many negative critics have trashed the film because they were expecting Firefly and got Serenity instead. It's akin to someone wanting a mild green pepper and finding a hot pepper, then attacking the hot pepper as being a "bad" pepper. Come on! I see a lot of movies I dislike because of a story's theme or approach or philosophy. But I don't confuse my rejection of such values with the quality of the film's production itself.

Serenity is a well-crafted, well-written, well-acted, well-produced example of good film making.

(As for those who attack Serenity because it actually celebrates freedom, such people are truly hopeless.)

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. No one is entitled to his own reality.

1. Trying to select from among the daily assaults on our freedom for special scrutiny is akin to focusing on a single water droplet from the falls crashing down upon your head. Hardly seems worth the effort given the "reward." The undeclared war in Iraq. The "PATRIOT" Act extensions and additions. The Supreme Court's repudiation of property rights. The ever-expanding war on Americans via the convenient excuse of "drug" usage. The stark inhumanity of denying sick people an effective means of keeping down their medicine. Requiring prescriptions for over-the-counter cold medicine. The arrogance of Transportation "Security" Administration petty thugs who presume themselves to be above the Constitution as they assault travelers, free speech, and due process. Random bag searches of NYC subway passengers in a pointless attempt to be seen "doing something" regardless of the action's effectiveness or morality. The REAL ID card that is a real threat to federalism and freedom. The push to bond religion with education and government. The expansion of Big Lies such as "A-bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified" or that any national politician (except Ron Paul) believes in freedom. The inane notion that steroid use should (a) be illegal or (b) any of Congress's friggin' business. Forcing those with moral objections to pay for stem-cell research. The shuddering fact that we even have a governmental agency with "Homeland" in its name. The astonishing belief that accusations of criminal activity constitute proof of guilt; that such individuals are not covered by the Constitution and have no rights; and that torture is perfectly acceptable. The frightening prospect that so many idiots citizens of this country seriously consider Hillary The Witch Clinton as a viable and desirable presidential candidate. The self-contradictory statement that free trade requires even more laws and regulations (see CAFTA). The criminal cooperation of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo with the Chinese dictatorship in its attempts to censor the Internet. The likelihood of a Islamic state being established in Iraq for which thousands of our soldiers have died or been maimed. Even the NCAA "banning" Indian names for athletic teams. (And screw that stupid nonsense of calling American Indians "Native Americans." Christ. I was born in America. I am a "native" American. I sure as hell did not immigrant here)...
A pox upon them all. And upon all who support them, even a little bit.
2. On a more intimate front, I had a fun encounter with a student. In a free-wheeling discussion about admitting women to a military academy, I said that the purpose of the military is to kill people and blow things up. Well...! One student found this statement absolutely beyond the pale. After class (I'll call the student X), X told me that s/he was "offended" by my remark and that I should "watch" what I said in the future (with an implied "or else..."). Needless to say, I was rather astounded at this response.
When told that the military does other things, I said, yeah, sure, but its primary purpose, the fundamental reason -- when push comes to shove -- we have an army is for our soldiers to kill the enemy and destroy their property. I hardly saw that as an insult. I want our military to do such things when and if we are unjustly attacked by others. But, no. Still not good enough for X who proceeded to tell me with all the wisdom of a typical college student that the military does other things during peacetime. Uh. Hello? I said, sure, but I didn't think I had to specify that the killin' and blowin' up referred to times of actual war. Who in his right mind would suggest the military should kill and destroy during times of peace? I hardly thought pointing out the obvious was necessary.
But, of course, I was wrong. Student X kept harping on the fact that s/he was "offended" by what I said and that simple fact alone should suffice to convince me never to utter anything in the future that s/he or another student might find "offensive." Anyone remotely aware of my beliefs can guess how I reacted to such a statement. I told X that I was offended at X's being offended; that I saw such a remark as an assault on my academic freedom; that I was not responsible for X's misinterpretation of my words; that it was hardly reasonable to expect me to stop an open discussion to explain in excruciating detail the entire context and limitations of each and every thing I said. Student X focused very little on the issue of whether my claim was true or false, something that could actually be debated. No. The real bone of contention was X's being "offended," the magical word that is designed to stifle and trump all objections and make the self-proclaimed "victim" deserving of apology or worse. The mere charge that I said something "offensive" was supposed to convict me.
I told the student that I regretted s/he took my words the wrong way, but I maintained that X's reaction was X's responsibility. Not mine. I had said nothing wrong.
Gah! Nee ta ma duh!
3. Speaking of which... I've been enjoying the trailers for the upcoming "Firefly" movie, Serenity. Like a lot of Browncoats, I've been hoping the film will have a big box office and long legs to ensure the reality of the two sequels the actors have signed to do. If you haven't watched the DVDs, what are you waiting for??? The first two comic books designed to bridge the time from the end of the series to the beginning of the movie are out; one to go. The entire Firefly movement, if you will, is a needed antidote to the kind of crap I discussed in point 1 above. Go for a bit of emotional fuel. You'll thank yourself.
4. I just finished the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Unlike one asshole who revealed the book's big secret in the first line of his review and thus spoiled any suspense for me, I'll just say it was interesting but not as good or freedom-leaning as the last novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I would still recommend it, though, and look forward to book seven and the climatic battle between Harry and Voldemort.

1. On a recent vacation, my wife and I camped in northern Minnesota and Michigan, traveled through Ontario, Canada, twice, camped in upper New York state, and visited friends in Burlington, Vermont. In Ontario along the upper shore of Lake Superior, radio stations are infrequent. A few times I listened to the Canadian version of the U.S.'s National Public Radio. The biggest news seemed to be a politician who "defected" and threatened the government. Gee. An unfaithful politician. Who woulda thunk it? But what caught my attention more was a story dealing with a U.S. situation. The station spent nearly half an hour covering the controversial subject of hunting for game via the Internet. Live-Shot offers people -- for a large sum of money -- the opportunity to shoot and kill contained animals by remotely controlling (via the Internet) a gun set up in Texas. It's touted as a chance for handicapped people to hunt or a way for those in cities to hunt that they otherwise might not have. Man. The way some folks carried on, you'd have thought these guys were targeting human babies crawling about the bush. The reporter interviewed some state-level, Midwestern politician who wanted to ban the practice in his state. Oh, heavens! He saw this Internet hunting as oh-so-terrible! Even a paraplegic they interviewed who had used the service had his reservations about "normal" folks hunting game in this fashion. To no one's surprise, that grand defender of freedom, the National Rifle Association, [*urp* Excuse while I try to keep my lunch down...] called for prohibition of this heinous activity.
Give me a friggin' break.
The way these people were beating their breasts, you'd have believed this was a major societal problem, that hunters were abandoning the woods wholesale to sit in their shorts in their living rooms, swilling beer, and banging away at helpless animals thousands of miles away. But according to the company spokesman, most people simply use the site for target practice. Five -- count 'em: five -- customers had gone the whole magilla. Good grief. What a tempest in a teapot. I hardly think an animal cares if its killed via the Internet or in person. In neither case is anyone's rights being violated. While not my cup of tea -- heck, I don't hunt, at all -- I don't care if a handful of folks want to hunt this way. (One interviewee twisted himself into logical knots when asked about hunts where the shooter was there in person but the game was confined, anyway. This dolt didn't want to ban this, even though there is little functional difference between that type of "hunting" and Live-Shot.)
When will people learn that the way to stop behavior with which you disagree is not through laws? Haven't these yo-yo's ever heard of persuasion? But that, of course, would require some real work, some real time. To hell with freedom. Ban it!
2. Another lovely story on this Canadian radio station involved an American woman who moved to China. Talk about sick. Not that she moved to China. No. Her considered opinion was that democracy was highly overrated. (Well, it is. But not for the reasons she cited.) She much preferred a simple dictatorship (!) (I kid you not...). That way she would not have to worry about studying up on the candidates, learning what they believed (supposedly), and going to the voting booth. Heck. Let the dictator decide all that and keep the country running smoothly and without all that arguing! If anyone deserves to be shot, this idiot would be at the top of the list.
3. Speaking of idiots...the Supremes keep on with their sterling record by ruling that the Federal Drug Thugs trump any laws states might pass to "allow" sick people to smoke that evil marijuana to alleviate their symptoms and, ya know, maybe continue living. Better to die than be seduced by the evil Weed!!!! Bwahahaha! And checks-and-balances? State's "rights"? Ha! Funny joke. Why, that ol' Commerce Clause in the Constitution -- that was designed to prevent states from putting up barriers to trade among the states -- can, in fact, be twisted all around to prohibit trade...even within a single state! I hope the cretins who voted to keep the Drug War thriving will one day contract the most virulent form of cancer imaginable; that they suffer intractable pain; and that they have no avenue available to them to soften their daily torture.

1. Notice how the media and their audience obsess ad nauseum about a woman who runs out on her fiance and on a musical superstar accused of pedophilia while the State passes a national ID card with barely a ripple in the cultural or news firmament; and passes a law that gives the director of Homeland Insecurity (seig heil!) carte blanche to ignore any and all laws without review on our "border" in order to catch those wascally immigrants intent on doing jobs most Americans find beneath them.
2. Here are some representative links to the "REAL ID." Here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here.
3. I'm simultaneously unsurprised and amazed that so few people in life or in the media have even reported -- let alone been upset -- that we now have a national ID card in this country. I can just hear some of the comments: "Oh. It'll be really convenient!" Or: "Oh. If you have nothing to hide, why should you worry?" Or: "Oh. I'll do anything if it will make me safer." Gag me with a knife. A NID, from the folks who promised that a SS # would "never" be used for identification purposes; that the income tax would "never" affect more than 2% of the richest folks in America; that War X would make the "world safe forever." Mission creep. (And I mean creep...) Abuse. Control. It's all there in a NID. An internal passport, without which you will be unable to fly or do anything that involves the feds. Or eventually any aspect of life touched by the State...which today is (in principle, if not yet in practice) every aspect of life. Police State USA. Apparently, nobody cares. One day, though, (I predict) they will. A lot.
4. Which brings me to literary news: I just received my reviewer's copy of F. Paul Wilson's latest Repairman Jack novel, Infernal, from Gauntlet Press. Here is a man -- RJ -- whose whole raison d'etre is staying under the State's radar in order to maintain a bit of freedom. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to yet another nail in the coffin that is "privacy" in America. My review will appear in the next issue of Atlas Magazine. (It will be print-published in July in the Prometheus newletter published by the Libertarian Futurist Society.) (As an ironic footnote: the package arrived yesterday mangled as though a dog had ravaged it: holes in the envelope, the spine of the book torn, the cover bent, the edge of the paper discolored. The Post Awful had wrapped the whole mess in a plastic wrap with a "Oh, dear. We're so sorry," note attached...but no offer of compensation.)
5. I continue to be amazed at the savage treatment many libertarians and even some so-called "Objectivists" afford Ayn Rand's premiere work, Atlas Shrugged. People who have not a smidgeon of her knowledge, understanding, or talent have the nerve to tell me she didn't "pay attention" to what she was doing; that having certain minor characters die from the consequences of their own irrational decisions is "wrong" and too "violent"; that she should have found "some other" to get her points across. Pardon my French, but screw these idiots. They don't understand Rand's version of Romanticism. (They prefer the "realism" of Naturalism and are "offended" by a fictional demonstration of the relationship among choices and actions and consequences.) They don't understand literary criticism. (They focus on some minor points in the book, expand their importance to the most central issues in the novel, and either misapply the principles of Romanticism or apply the wrong principles, i.e., those of Naturalism.) They confuse the "reality" of a fictional world with the reality in which we actually live. (They want a one-to-one correspondence between what the characters in this novel do and what we as individuals should do in our everyday lives.) Christ. Trying to deal with these sanctimonious, condescending, smug nobodies is pointless. But don't get me started...
6. I address some of these issues regarding the unconscionable treatment of Rand and Atlas in a book chapter -- "Fuel for the Soul" -- appearing this fall in a book edited by Ed Younkins. The chapter deals specifically with Atlas as a source of emotional fuel for those of us who are interested in advancing freedom. When the book is published, I'll post the chapter here.
7. Some people are finally waking up to the fact that WW II was not such a "noble," absolutely "necessary" conflict. See "The Imperial Mythology of World War II: An Ethical Blank Check" by Richard Drayton. See also Pat Buchanan's "Was World War II Worth It?" Add to these, books such as Thomas Fleming's The New Dealers' War and we have a good start on demythologizing WW II and, especially, FDR. When and if the day ever comes that people revile FDR, Wilson, and Lincoln as much as they now revere them, we will then be well on our way to restoring the spirit of true liberty that once animated the American soul. Don't, however, expect this turnaround anytime in the near future...

8. By now, I've viewed many times the new trailer for Serenity, coming out September 30, 2005. It looks wonderful. The energy and humor and dedication of the original Firefly series shines through. Two advance showings in multiple cities all sold out within a day.

1. I have to admit it. Un-PC as it is (and I know my readers realize just how PC I am...), I am completely and thoroughly sick of all the news coverage about the dying of the last pope and the election of the new one. The former reminded me of vultures counting down the days. The latter is a lot of attention paid to someone who should, in the Twenty-first Century, be nothing more than a curiosity, a footnote of mild cultural interest. As long as so many millions of people look to some guy in the Vatican to "lead" them and tell them what they should or should not be doing, we will never create a rational world. While it is encouraging that some Catholics routinely ignore the pope's edicts regarding birth control and divorce, they should just cut the ties and rely upon their own minds, their own judgments as to what is proper and what is not. An "infallible" person like the pope should be an irrelevant anachronism people long ago outgrew. (Compare to the silly notion of "royalty" and kings and queens. Who gives a flying f...?) The only redeeming feature of all this nonsense is that the pope has no way to coerce anyone into doing anything. Sadly, those who adhere to the self-destructive policies of religion, in general, and this religion in particular, do so voluntarily. But... enough already!!
2. Another anniversary passes of that prime example of (government) terrorism: the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, and the murders of over seventy men, women, and children who had done nothing deserving such a death penalty. While the State has (surprise!) exonerated itself time and again of any wrongdoing, the fact remains that the Feds had no business being there. Of course, our government's jihad against "terrorism" does not extend to its own illicit acts. The major media outlets are complicit in this whitewash. While spending considerable time on the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, they never mention the connection with Waco nor the fact that the State's actions at Waco helped set the grounds for that later bombing. Compare this, of course, to 9-11: the interventionist State helped create the conditions that led to that infamous day yet refuses to admit its complicity. Worse, even "libertarian" supporters of the war ignore or denounce anyone who dares point out the emperor's nudity. Many of us predicted long before 9-11 what State terrorism would lead to. The chicken hawks attack us Cassandras even now -- long after all the "justifications" for the war have proven to be wrong time-and-again -- for being "unrealistic" or "rationalistic" or "appeasers." No. We are none of those. We are simply right, and that the supporters of an unnecessary and unconstitutional war cannot abide.
3. The State is "cracking down" on websites that dare to respect the judgments of individuals and sell them prescription drugs without a prescription. Citizens must be protected from themselves! But rather than importing drugs from Mexico or wherever, any adult should be able to go into any drug store and buy whatever the frig he or she wants to. No prescriptions. No "permission." Just cash. If somebody screws up and takes a drug he shouldn't, well, thems the breaks. Stupidity has its costs. (Even in a free society, I would rely upon my doctor's expertise most of the time regarding what drugs I should take. I wouldn't mess around with such things any more than I would mess around with the innards of my car. I know the limits of my ignorance.) On the heels of this, I saw a report on TV complaining about doctors basing prescriptions on appeals from drug reps. (Imagine that! A salesman encouraging a client to use his product!) If doctors didn't control the pipeline for drugs, there would be less room for shenanigans. If one didn't need State approval to practice medicine, there would be more competition for doctors and lower prices. If the State hadn't mucked with private health insurance in the first place, we'd have lower prices and more individual responsibility. If the State hadn't... Well. You get the idea. Every intervention breeds more and more interventions to "fix" the problems created by the last "fix." Basic economics. Unfortunately, people never learn the principles involved and clamor for more and more State interventions even as the situation grows worse and worse.
4. Are you ready for your internal passport? Coming anyday now. The next step is requiring passports to visit Canada or Mexico. You already need State-approved ID to fly. Are trains and buses next? No one seems to care. Too many people roll over and show their bellies, all in the name of an illusory "security" to "fight terrorism." Freedom is too much for them to handle. Threaten them with freedom, and they run screaming into the night and the waiting arms of Big Brother to "protect" them. It's sickening.
5. "Feminist" Andrea Dworkin died. They say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead.... Screw that. I say, good riddance to bad rubbish. I'm sick of those out to destroy our freedom being coddled. Politeness to our enslavers is a betrayal of honor and dignity and morality. Let them be polite to me and leave me the f... alone.
6. A lovely telemarketer witch called me today. She asked for Mr. W. I said there is no Mr. W. here. (W. is my wife's last name.) I asked her who she was with. She said, "Why are you being such an asshole?" Ahh. Yes. Arrogance and condescension from someone disturbing my peace and quiet. Lovely. You may imagine how I responded to someone lecturing me on how to behave in my own home.
7. Some states are resisting the Feds' takeover of their educational systems via the stupid "No Child Left Behind" law. (See here.) Some local governments have also rejected the misnamed PATRIOT Act. Any state, of course, has the right to engage in nullification of unconsitutional laws. Too bad they have caved in so frequently before to State blackmail. Seatbelts, speed limits, drunk driving laws are only some of the areas the Feds have usurped control. Let's bring back the Ninth and Tenth Amendments from their graves. Now.

1. The Supreme Court continues to demonstrate that it knows next to nothing about freedom. First, the supreme dolts refused to strike down an Alabama law that banned sex toys. (See here.) Gee. I didn't realize that people wanting to buy vibrators threatened the rights of anyone else. Second, they further eroded our rights through the obscene War on "Drugs." Now, cops can use dogs to sniff up your car, even if the stop had nothing to do with illegal drugs. (See here.) Not only are dogs hardly the infallible creatures corrupt cops pretend they are, they add yet another avenue for those who "protect" and "serve" us to throw us in jail.
I'm waiting for the Supremes to uphold the unconscionable abuse of eminent domain in seizing private property to give to other private citizens...all in the name of increasing a city or state's tax base. (See here.) (There should, of course, be no eminent domain, under any circumstances.) Let us hope they have a temporary bout of sanity and reject this heinous practice.
2. It was refreshing to see racism and political correctness alive and well at the Oscar's ceremony last month. First, the notion of singling out blacks who are honored as newsworthy simply reinforces focus on race. Then, the folks with the statue continued their silly policy of saying, "And the Oscar goes to..." rather than "The winner is..." Get real. People win. People lose. It's part of life. Get over it, already. It's no wonder so many students these days are wimpy, whiny do-nothings who think that anything that emerges from their mouth is deserving of praise. Everyone is afraid to tell them that, hey, your answer is wrong!
3. The unconstitutional usurpation of the airlines also swells. The idiots at the Transportation "Security" Administration (seig heil!), in all their glory, have banned cigarettte lighters on planes. (See here.) Cripes. If they are all that concerned with our safety, they should immediately remove all barriers to pilots carrying weapons. And, passengers, too, of course. And eliminate themselves from existence.
4. If it wasn't bad enough that we had to endure a stupid ban on "assault," i.e., scary-looking, rifles that Clinton passed, now more and more states are threatening to ban them and -- maybe -- grandfather old single-shot rifles in if you get a "permit" from your local gestapo leader. Screw 'em.
5. John Gilmore continues his battle against the unconstitutional requirement that we be legally forced to provide (government-issued) ID before we are "allowed" to fly. As the only person engaged in this important fight, he is -- despite the opinions of some -- a hero. (See here.) At issue here are:1. Secret laws; a police state tactic. (The feds claim it would violate national "security" to show him the law that mandates such ID's!) 2. Mandatory travel ID's, i.e., internal passports, another police state tactic. Seig heil! 3. Unconstitutional law; the feds have no legitimate authority to regulate the airlines or assume security duties in airports or on planes. 4. Violations of privacy; the State has no legitimate right to demand I identity myself. See the Fifth Amendment. I have a right to be anonymous (as long as I do not do so for criminal purposes [that actually violate rights]). 5. Another example of conditioning the populace to silent and unthinking compliance to the State with dissenters ridiculed, intimidated, or arrested.
6. I have no way of knowing, of course, if this story about the faking of Saddam Hussein's capture is true or not. (See here.) But it certainly is plausible. This version doesn't make SH look like such a coward. Since the State "recreates" or stages things all the time for public consumption, e.g., McArthur wading ashore in the Philippines, there's no reason it wouldn't fake this, too, for PR reasons. After all, the whole WMD thing in Iraq was a fake.

1. As winter winds down, we see yet again the predictable results of State interference in our lives. Earlier this season, the government announced that only people in "high risk" categories -- such as old folks, kids, hospital workers -- would be "allowed" to get flu shots. We saw long lines of folks scared by the government's dire warnings about the flu. We saw blackmarket provision of flu shots. We saw bogus flu shots offered to scam desperate souls. We saw individuals outside the permitted categories and/or their "suppliers" arrested for getting shots. And, of course, we ended up with an excess of vaccine as most people simply stayed home. Unsurprisingly, most of those shots will have to be tossed. Ain't government "compassion" great...?
2. The Supreme Court continues its unique brand of "justice" by ruling that, hey!, if you're stopped in your car for the (non-crime) of going sans seat belt or for speeding, why, the cops aren't violating your rights by bringin' out the ol' drug-sniffin' canines to give a quick once-over of your vee-hick-ul. (See here.) The Supreme idjits "justify" this nonsense by claiming that the Fourth Amendment protects property rights but not though one of the functions of property is to provide privacy. The Drug War, a.k.a., the war on people, is a thoroughly sick abomination that should be ended yesterday.
3. The idiots of Iowa are joining the millions of idiots in other states as they prepare to enact a law placing cold pills behind a counter, require ID and a signature, and offer to hand over their info to the cops if they decide according to some arbitrary standard that you have purchased "too many" pills. (See here for an example.) And, of course, the feds -- in their total evasion of enumerated rights and the division of power -- are all set to pass a national law controlling cold pills. Even as military pilots are given speed to help them on long hauls.
So much for me "owning" my own body.
4. The insane march towards complete State-control over health care continues. Now the health fascists want to scare the bejeebers out of everyone by telling us that -- even with insurance -- a major illness can drive anyone into bankruptcy. (See here.) For most of these yahoos, of course, the "only" solution is "universal" health care...or "don't get sick." Hey. Ignore the fact that the government got us into this mess in the first place by licensing and insurance and tax laws; by creating Medicare and Medicaid; by mandating what must be covered; by creating HMO's; by taxing over half our income; by regulating us to death; etc. etc. Yet another prime example of each new intervention creating more problems and those new problems being used to justify even more interventions, ad infinitum.
5. Just received the new Reason with Rand on the cover. Sadly, some of the articles simply confirm my growing dissatisfaction with the publication. While there are some principled writers published there, too many are "pragmatic." They are quite happy to propose solutions involving the State without even mentioning what the moral and best principled solutions are to our problems.
Then there is the rather blatant anti-Rand mentality at Reason. The editor, Gillespie, makes no bones of his dislike of Rand. And Cathy Young continues her mealy-mouthed writing, castigating Rand and her philosophy as erring in its "totalism" and then slapping Atlas Shrugged as "clunky and extremist." It's been my experience that those who sneer at Atlas or Rand's writing as "clunky" or "turgid" are precisely those people who eschew principled thought; who don't realize that reality is seamless; who prefer to indulge their idiosyncratic prejudices rather than do what is right.
When my subscription to Reason runs out, I don't believe I will bother sending them any more of my money.
6. Get ready for national ID cards. (See here and here.) My novel The Guardian Project becomes more prophetic day-by-day...
7. Another danger in pretending an embryo is a person deserving of rights: suing a clinic for "wrongful death" when it accidentally destroys a frozen embryo. (See here.) Ideas matter. So does a proper understanding of morality, rights, and their proper foundations.

1. A change of pace this issue. "Rain on Rocks" is a short story -- science fiction, I suppose -- that explores the nature of bravery in the face of oppression...and how our actions often have positive consequences of which we may never become aware.
I have a number of homeless short stories that may make it into Atlas this year. Some are more freedom-oriented than others, but I don't want to forget that it was Rand's fiction that launched me into Objectivism and the libertarian movement. In this centenary of her birth, I want to honor that fact by offering writings of my own.
2. I saw on ABC-TV this morning a woman professor who walked out of a speech given by the president of Harvard. He dared raise questions about the unquestionable: that the "glass ceiling" is due solely and completely to sexist men intent on depriving woman of their proper places in the world. Listening to this woman's PC silliness was embarrassing. Sure, there are sexists out there in all fields (male and female). But to deny the reality that some women prefer to devote a significant portion of their limited lifespans to having/raising children rather than slogging away to reach the most rarified reaches of their chosen careers is ludicrous. Men who do the latter miss out on much of their children's lives. Why is "career success" the "desired" goal rather than the time a mother has with her children?
As for stating that men and women have different aptitudes, why should this even be controversial? That reality is hardly surprising. While many women are better than many men at science/math, I think it is hardly a news bulletin that men -- on average -- tend to seek out those areas more than women, and there are sufficient evolutionary reasons for that propensity that such a possibility should not be dismissed out-of-hand as some kind of sexist blather (as this woman prof did on TV).
Heck, I have little aptitude for music or nursing or a host of other things. That's part of being a human being. Women's brains are hard-wired differently than men's. Plenty of research -- in addition to everyday experience -- backs up that conclusion. So what if we're different? Viva!
But then the PC-crowd (like the enviromento-nuts, the anti-gun nuts, etc.) don't care about facts: only power over other people. They can yap all they want about being "offended" (as though they have an innate "right" never to be offended...), but they truly offend me. But then -- for these wacko types -- restrictions are always one-way: from them to the "unenlightened."
(It's odd, but my article "Shattering the Glass Ceiling" remains the most accessed of my articles. Apparently, it remains a very hot topic in academia. It shouldn't be. But then academics are notorious for beating dead horses and disputing the obvious.)
3. My wife and I recently watched "The Terminal," a Spielberg movie starring Tom Hanks. While the film has some definite credibility/believability issues (which may partially account for its relatively low box-office), overall we enjoyed the story. Surprisingly, there were a number of issues raised that most libertarians can applaud: a clear demonstration of the oppression and control inherent in State-mandated passports, visas, and searches that limit our right to travel where and when we -- not they -- see fit; the ludicrous effrontery of drug-control laws that dictate who may or may not purchase and possess certain drugs (when a desperate traveler seeks to deliver medicine to his father -- which he cannot do without permission -- but can have if it is for an animal, like a goat); and the vindictive actions of petty bureaucrats who will use any means at their disposal to make the lives of innocent others miserable in order to assert their power (as when the airport security director denies the Hanks character an avenue to earn quarters for food by returning luggage carts). Overall, worth seeing. Now, if Spielberg would really see the light and devote his talents and influence to producing a real freedom-themed story...
4. At this late juncture, I'll simply add my voice to those who condemn the U.N. and others who yap that the U.S. is "stingy" because the whiners haven't gotten as much of our stolen money as they want to deal with whatever the tragedy-of-the-day is. And an equal raspberry to those altruist S.O.B.s in this country who have the temerity to endorse the not-so-implicit assumptions of the professional do-gooders of the world. Even given the outrageous tax burden in this country, Americans have donated millions to strangers. Let us keep the half of our money the State robs from us, and perhaps we could be even more generous. But in any event, the purpose of our government is to protect our rights, not to provide for the needs -- legitimate of not -- of the rest of the world.
5. Nice to see Germany has failed to learn the lessons of liberty as they seek to ban the swastika throughout Europe because some spoiled British prince chose to act stupidly and wear a Nazi costume to a party. Freedom of expression? What's that...?

1. The politicians continue to try to turn the American people into a bunch of hysterical, whimpering ninnies. See Cato's "A False Sense of Insecurity" for a recent examination of this sad trend. I covered this same issue long ago in "The New Boogeymen." I wrote "True Terrorists" before 9-11. Its conclusions are as valid now as then. Americans need to grow a collective pair; engage in a bit of rational risk assessment; and quit acting as though the end of the earth is nigh. As it's going, the terrorists have already won: we're tossing aside our freedom as we scramble from our self-induced hysteria and into the arms of the modern American police-state.
2. Author David Mayer, sadly, joins the ranks of other libertarians such as John Hospers and certain Objectivists who conflate the legitimate fighting against al-Qaeda with the war in Iraq. (See here.) Funny. He says we're in WW IV. Supposedly, the Islamic extremists are a threat to the very existence of civilization. Yes, they want to destroy the U.S. So did the Soviets. But these libertarian war-supporters rarely follow the logic of their position. If it was a good idea (not just "justified" but something we should have done) to invade Iraq because of the "possibility" or "probability" that Saddam might have had WMD's or harbored terrorists, then why are we not invading Iran? Or North Korea? They have more of a potential for WMD's and have, indeed, supported terrorists. Or why didn't these war-supporters advocate the invasion of the USSR or Red China or Cuba or Eastern Europe during the Cold War? (Oh, wait. We did invade Cuba...) If WMD's and being a threat to the U.S. not merely justifies but mandates that we invade Iraq, should we not also have invaded all other countries who posed or pose even greater threats to us?
I am still amazed at how so many war-supporters grant almost Satanic powers to terrorists to justify their WW IV idiocy. If these terrorists are so devilishly clever and potent, why haven't they followed up on 9-11 here in the U.S.? I doubt it is solely due to the "competence" of our CIA or Homeland Security or FBI: they demonstrated so well their abilities in the past...
3. The recent national election proved (yet again) that most people -- probably 98% -- who vote are voting for more slavery, more rights-violations, more statism and collectivism. I do vote, but only for libertarians who are pledged to end all those rights-violations. As a process, voting would be fine if all we voted for were caretakers of our rights, i.e., if we still had a truly limited republic. After all, if a miracle occurred in my lifetime, and a majority of voters elected real libertarians, I wouldn't reject the result merely because it arose from an election. But I don't kid myself that my vote now makes any real difference. I vote for whom I do as a protest. I can see the argument that the mere act of voting might be an endorsement of the status quo and imply acceptance of the outcome, but I also think a protest vote can be a vote of conscience, which I see as a good thing, especially when I am voting for someone who rejects nearly everything the Demicans and Republicrats "stand" for. Regardless, I'll continue to complain and write and persuade as best I can. After all, we were relatively free not that long ago. Maybe someday after I am gone, a majority of Americans will understand freedom again and vote the bastards out. It's either that or armed rebellion. Maybe someday our descendants will have to emulate the Founders in that regard. That would be fine, too.
4. An apt quote from Samuel Adams for all the disparagers of freedom out there:
If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
5. John Stossel recently sent a post quoting from a journalist who claimed that we do not own our money, the government does. Amazing. I sent Stossel a reply:
I was simultaneously astounded and completely unsurprised by Mr. Aldridge's comments. Astounded that someone would be so blatant in his claim that we are, in essence, slaves, that is, that the product of our labor belongs to someone else. Unsurprised because this is the view of the 98% of the voting populace who supported Bush and Kerry and their promises to "take care of" us all...with our own money. Amazing: stealing our money and then bribing us with those same illicit funds.
I wonder how much of Mr. Aldridge's money belongs to me? I'd be happy to have him send a check directly to me and bypass the middlemen. But, of course, when he claims a fiction is true -- that everyone can live happily ever after by stealing from everyone else -- what he is actually saying is that no one has a right to his/her own life. What does money represent, after all, other than the time (that is, a portion of our lives) we spend earning that money?
But the concepts of "earning" or "property" or "involuntary servitude" (outlawed, by the way, by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution) are apparently beyond Mr. Aldridge's limited knowledge.
Mr. Aldridge is the one who needs not only a civics lesson but courses in history, philosophy, and ethics. Sadly, though, he is correct about how democracy operates: a grab for other people's money to support "our" gang's goals at the expense of the "losers." But our country was not founded as a democracy. It is (supposed to be) a republic: another concept foreign to Mr. Aldridge's warped thought processes.
Mr. Aldridge would do well to read my article, "The Miracle of Voting," that nicely demonstrates the absurdity of his unfounded claims.
Mr. Aldridge needs to grow up and quit thinking that being a "ballot box bully" in order to get his goodies from unwilling others is any way for a civilized human being to act.

1. Above (see here) are the names of those readers who contacted me with their scores on the Freedom Quiz. Congratulations to all of them. We need more people who are committed to defending liberty under all circumstances, not just when it is convenient or psychologically comfortable to do so.
2. The most negative responses I received were in regard to the question in the quiz on the relationship between people and their pets. Amazingly, there are people who profess to be libertarians but who reject in whole or in part the fact that humans can own other animals. Some go so far as to assert without proof that it should be illegal for people to abuse their animals because the animals have "rights"! They think that animals have a "right to be free"! This is offered, of course, in complete evasion of the nature of rights, i.e., rights as a moral concept governing the social interactions among beings who require a moral code for guiding their actions; that morality is a requirement of creatures who possess a conceptual level of consciousness, have free-will, and a rational capacity they use to understand the world around them. But, of course, animals, in general, do not possess the traits/capacity necessary to be rights-worthy beings. Even in borderline cases involving certain cetaceans and great apes, the evidence is murky, at best. Some of my critics "solved" this dilemma by asserting that the burden of proof was on me to prove that animals do not have rights. Hmm. Seems that some folks need to bone up on their logical fallacies (in this case, an appeal to ignorance) and study what "proving a negative" means. Unless and until proof to the contrary is provided, the position of humans as the only rights-bearing beings on this planet remains unchanged.
3. Of course, I understand that many people get upset envisioning a person being cruel to or torturing their pets or animals. But an emotional response is not a proper means of establishing a principle. Too many of these folks seem incapable of distinguishing between what people have a right to do and what is the right thing to do. Freedom is of little value if it is only protected when the actions have majority approval. It is precisely the unpopular minorities that are most in need of having their liberty protected from those more powerful than they. A quote someone offered (in another context) from Ayn Rand captured the utter necessity of never compromising freedom: "In the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners. In this case, the disgusting nature of [those concerned] makes it a good test of one's loyalty to a principle." Abridge the liberty of animal owners who abuse their property, and you have begun the destruction of property rights and, thus, of freedom. Despite the words of the evaders and collectivists and statists, freedom is all of one piece. Trying in vain to separate one aspect of it from the rest serves merely to kill it all. (See my essay, "One Freedom.")

4. The presidential election looms in a week from today. Whether Tweedle-Dum or Tweedle-Dumber wins, you can bet that we and our freedom will be the losers. And with the First Amendment-destroying "campaign finance law" now in force after the collusion among the three branches of government, ordinary folks -- you know, those people of whom, by whom, and for whom government is supposed to exist -- we are the ones being silenced...and screwed.

5. And still the warmongers conflate the battle against al-Qaeda with Iraq, rationalizing all the lies, distortions, and half-truths the politicians tell us to "justify" the squandering of American lives and American dollars in a pissant country that only gets our attention because of its possession of lots and lots of oil. After all, if we "had" to invade Iraq because of the "threat" of Saddam Hussein and his "ties" to terrorists, then we "have" to invade Iran and North Korea and dozens of other dictatorships around the globe whose citizens are suffering as much or more than the Iraqis ever did.

6. Maybe some day all those people who are trying to scare us to death about "terrorism" will grow a pair. They have blown up (no pun intended...) terrorists into this hugely dangerous, Satanic entity capable of "destroying civilization." Yeah. Right. We lose 3,000 people in an attack, and we're ready to take on the shackles of our masters. More people than that have died in Iraq since the war "ended." We lose more than a dozen times that number of lives to murder in this country every year, yet that never justified such abominations as the PATRIOT Act. Yes, some terrorist groups are dangerous (to us). But I thought we were supposed to be a competent people. Why do the politicians want us quaking in our boots? (Well. The answer's obvious...) We simply need to acknowledge the reality of the danger. Prepare and deal with it the best we can. And realize that perfect safety is impossible. Danger is no excuse for violating our rights and increasing the hatred for our country. Calling the danger we face "World War IV" is a ludicrous hyperbole.

7. Now that the idiots politicians have declared war on a tactic, i.e., "terrorism," I wonder how long it will be before they declare a War on Robbery. Or a War on Stealing. Or a War on Lying. Or a War on Rape. Or a War on Assault. They'll have just as much "success" as they're having in the War on Terror. Stupidity compounded.

1. Once again the smoking fascists go to the trough in their attempt to demonize and rob the tobacco industry. (See here.) Now the feds are suing the tobacco companies for racketeering. Gee. And I thought RICO was only supposed to be used against actual criminals, like, say, mobsters. Another prime example of incrementalism as the greedy State branches out in its attempts to consolidate its power and rob citizens of their wealth. After all, poorer people smoke the most. It's their puny incomes that will be most affected should the feds win. Why anyone would suppose that politicians actually care about the less fortunate is beyond me.
2. The death-of-a-thousand-cuts of the First Amendment continues in this election season as campaign finance "reform" serves to limit the free expression of those who have something to say. And, of course, our lovely prez now wants to place even more restrictions on those organizations who dare question his actions or priorities. Censorship is alive and well in Amerika.
3. Bet you didn't know that a prime purpose of the State was to function as the Egg Police. (See here.) First, they forced restaurant owners to place "warning" labels on their menus lest we poor, ignorant consumers risk our lives by ordering our eggs with soft yolks. Now they're sticking their noses farther under the tent to protect us from salmonella. I've eaten eggs all my life and never gotten sick. Billions of eggs are consumed every year and rarely cause any problems, at all. But, hey, the feds have the best of intentions, right? Why, in this era of danger from terrorists, it's nice to know that Deadly Eggs rank so highly in the State's priorities.
4. Just as FDR envied his fascistic counterparts, I imagine our current Fearless Leader must be nodding in approval as Russian dictator, er, leader, Putin, consolidates his power. (See here.) It's become a familiar refrain in the past three years. Cry "terrorism" to justify any power grab. Look how far our own prez has carried that schtick. I'm sure he's chomping at the bit for his next window of opportunity. PATRIOT III? IV? 24?

5. The "assault" weapon ban expired this month. How long will this teeny, tiny reversal of statism last? I suggest you stock up on big capacity magazines while you can. Just wait until the next mass shooting involving an AR-15 or AK-57 or whatever. The vultures will swarm again. And with both candidates in favor of the ban, what do you think will happen?

6. How much longer must the rest of the country subsidize the lifestyles of those living along the Gulf? They build their houses along the shores and enjoy the nice weather most of the year. Their houses get blown down by a hurricane. Their subsidized insurance pays them to rebuild. Our own insurance rates elsewhere in the country rise. The cost of building supplies rises, as well. Restart the cycle. As much as I can sympathesize with individual sufferers, for those who believe it is their "right" to receive below-market insurance and disaster relief funds, screw them.

7. I sometimes wonder exactly what decade I am in. Why is Vietnam a core issue in this election? It's bizarre. It's politics. It's Amerika.

8. First, the increase in violence in Iraq was because of the imminent "turn over" of control to the Iraqis. Now it's because of the election in our country. Soon it will be because of the Iraqi election in January. Then it will be...neverending.

1. It's almost unheard of. An incumbent losing a primary and not even getting a chance to be on the ballot. For once, a politician gets his comeuppance for supporting anti-self-defense measures. The soon-to-be ex-governor of Missouri is probably cursing himself for attempting to placate the anti-gun crowd. (See here.) 'Course, it's sad that a vote to "allow" concealed carry of weapons should even be an issue. Unless I am mistaken -- and I do not think I am -- there are certain areas of life that are not supposed to be subject to the democratic process in a republic. Self-defense is one of those. But when so many people today confuse the ability of the State to control, restrict, or ban something with the prohibition being justified, it's little wonder that people who are trying to exercise their rights have to endure such B.S. indignities. Nowadays -- at least where the State is concerned -- a vast majority of people believe that might makes right. That hoary fallacy was long ago discredited, but somehow it continues to endure, vampire-like, to suck the life's-blood from our culture and our liberty.
2. Ask your (non-libertarian) friends and co-workers and family members what "enumerated powers" are. See how many blank stares you receive. Ask them what the purpose of the Constitution is, why it was created. See how the folks edge warily away from you. Ask them what rights the Bill of Rights grants to citizens. See how they surreptitiously reach for their phones to call 911... The answers of course are: delegated powers that authorize what the State is permitted to do; to subordinate the State to the citizens, i.e., to limit its power; the Bill of Rights grants nothing: it merely codifies, recognizes, and guarantees preexisting rights that people have; it does this by forbidding Congress to pass laws on certain issues or to infringe in any way on peaceful, voluntary behavior.
3. In a recent discussion with some of the college students I teach, virtually all of them saw nothing wrong with the explosive growth of surveillance cameras in this country. No one would admit that he feels it's creepy to be watched wherever we go. Few offered any differentiation between cameras in your local Target or monitoring by the State. And, of course, a few of them offered that over-used excuse, "Well, if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear." Hmm. None recognized that relatively "benign" watchers can be easily replaced by malignant ones in the future. Or that mistakes can be made. Or that individual watchers can simply use their position to make our lives miserable or to satisfy their sick curiosities. Some students did vaguely grasp the notion that in our homes, at least, it did not really matter that they "weren't doing anything wrong" when it came to objecting to surveillance there. Maybe a scintilla of hope remains.
4. I'm currently working on a detective novel set in the near future, Death Is Easy. I'm about half-way through. In this novel, though, I'm trying something different. I'm setting the story in our society after it has once again become a free country. I want to see what differences large and small occur when people operate in an environment devoid of the choking web of unnecessary and unconstitutional laws that now encase us. The liberty-oriented issues lie quietly in the background while I focus on the day-to-day problems that will not vanish even in a free nation. Sometimes I grow so weary of having others dictate so much of what I may or must do. As Ayn Rand said, she wrote Atlas Shrugged in order to experience -- just for a little while -- what it is like to exist in such a world. While my goals are much more modest, of course, I, too, want to escape the dreary reality of our swelling police state. I want to create characters who appreciate their liberty and can take it as a given as they simply go about the sometimes difficult process of life. Maybe someday.

1. Watching the Democratic national convention in Boston and its razor-wired and fenced-in "free speech" zone makes me wonder what the hell there is left of freedom to preserve. Random searches. Disruption of daily lives and businesses to protect a bunch of anti-liberty political hacks. A dizzying array of bribes offered to politicians either in hopes of being left alone (a laudable goal) or in order to obtain special favors (i.e., money and/or power) at the expense of the innocent (a despicable act). Meanwhile the media remains clueless, cluck-clucking about special interests while never pausing for a second to consider that maybe -- just maybe -- if the politicos did not have anything to sell, there would be no buyers, either. But to end political corruption would mean limiting the power of the State, and the mass media would recoil in horror at the possibility that their Fountain of All That Is Good and Holy might have the spigot closed a trifle, let alone turned off completely.
2. A woman who was eating a candy bar on the way in to the D.C. subway was admonished by a cop to discard it. Ever vigilant to threats to our freedom, the cop wanted to ensure that no one violated the "no eating" policy. The woman popped the last of the candy in her mouth and placed the wrapper in the trash. But then she committed the ultimate sin: she did not cowtow submissively to this Agent of the State but dared question his priorities. The cop demanded she stop and present an ID. (For what probable cause? Treating an ass with disrepect? Another bit of fallout from the Hiibel case.) When she kept walking, she was cuffed and arrested. The lesson: bend over, take it, smile, and never, ever, ever complain or resist in word or deed. (See here.) A sad commentary on the arrogance of some police officers and a system that rewards such boorish and petulant behavior. But, hey. They have the guns, no? Especially in D.C., the symbolic center of our "free" society.
3. The 9-11 Commission completed their report and called for an intelligence "czar." Ah, yes. That's what we need. More bureaucracy. More jealous protection of turf. More taxes tossed down the drain. But, of course, no one is held accountable for his screw-ups. No one is fired or even demoted. Heaven forfend we should damage the reputation of a politician or a political flunky. And while this administration proclaims that we are "safer" because we invaded Iraq, they simultaneously declare that the "danger is greater than ever" and that an "attack is inevitable." So we lose more and more of our freedom and end up with the exact same result of less security? Does that strike anyone else as a tad disturbing?
4. We are headed for a record federal deficit, approaching half-a-trillion dollars. But, hey, it's not the largest in terms of a percentage of our economy. Now. Don't you feel all better? Hmm? Makes me wonder how big this year's debt would be if they didn't cook the books by shifting stolen Social Security taxes into the general fund. Or if we did not have a president who is in favor of "smaller government," "freedom," and a "balanced budget."
5. Some gun owners in Virginia dare to obey the law and openly carry their guns. Citizens panic. Cops are called. People are arrested. They're set free. Victim disarmament groups are outraged. Tough. What we need are more people openly carrying handguns so the novelty wears off. Pretty sad when a Constitutionally guaranteed right is treated as though it were a hardware version of the plague.

1. The ugly subject of the draft continues to gain attention. Once more, involuntary servitude becomes fashionable. The politicians mire us in an untenable situation in Iraq that violates the Constitution then -- as do all statists -- use the mess they created as an excuse to erode even further our barely breathing rights. This evil policy of treating our citizens as fodder is a vampire that refuses to die. For a fuller explication of what is so horribly wrong with conscription see my essay, "The Forgotten Thirteenth: Slavery and Conscription." This essay was published in November of 2001. How sad yet unsurprising that so many of my comments and concerns are becoming reality. People are far too willing to expend other people's lives.
2. The government via its unconstitutional body the FCC wants to fine CBS television stations over half-a-million dollars because they were not seers and failed to predict that Janet Jackson would bear her breast for a few nanoseconds on national television. Yes, the stunt was tacky. But I seriously doubt anyone -- not even children -- suffered any significant or irreparable harm because of this bid for publicity. Heck, let the kids see dead, mutilated bodies on the evening news, no problem. A bare breast, though, and its a heart-stopping scandal. These statist yo-yo's wouldn't recognize "obscene" if it rose up and bit them on the ass. Hmm. I wonder if they could bite themselves on the ass? After all, its the politicians and their anti-liberty attitudes and actions that are the true obscenity in today's society.
3. There is a report that the Republicrats are funneling money to Ralph Nader's campaign in an effort to siphon votes from their arch foes, the Demicans. Gosh. I wonder if the Demican fat-cats would be willing to fling a few million in the direction of the Libertarian Party in the hopes of depriving the Shrub-ites of enough votes to alter the election outcome? Whom do I call?
4. Once again a corporation succumbs to the victim disarmament nuts. Wal-Mart caved to the statists in Connecticut and have agreed not to sell "guns, hunting bows and even paintball guns." (!!!) They've swallowed the collectivist nonsense that a "community" is some kind of monolithic entity. What about the part of the "community" that wants to be able to buy cheaper guns? But, of course, they don't count. The jerk of a police chief made that clear when he said he was "concerned" even about lawful possession of guns! Don't ya just love principled businesses?
5. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is the target of a sex-discrimination class action lawsuit. Oy. One, I don't know if they have discriminated against women or not. Two, if they have, they have a right to be stupid. Three, if they claim to be an "equal opportunity" employer, they should be sued for fraud if they have discriminated when they said they would not. Four, class-action lawsuits should not be permitted. This ensnares people who might not even be upset or who might wish to pursue their own legal remedies. The only people who benefit in the end are the lawyers. Five, the disgruntled women should boycott or quit, not sue. Enough, already.
6. Anti-freedom freaks like Bill O'Reilly continue to weep and gnash their teeth because they failed in their attempts to further curtail an already crippled First Amendment in regard to online pornography. Screw the responsibility of parents to watch their children. Let the government pass a law and abridge what they have no right to abridge. Meanwhile, these same lovely folks have yet to apologize for supporting an illicit war in Iraq that continues to send American soldiers home in not-to-be-seen body-bags.
7. Speaking of Iraq: the Iraqis now have political "control" over their country. Pay no attention, however, to those permanent U.S. military bases being built or the 130,000 or so American soldiers still "policing" a country that was supposed to pay for its own reconstruction and be "ready" for democracy as soon as we "liberated" it. Now we have soldiers who are trained to destroy and kill acting as traffic cops and construction workers.
8. Why does NATO continue to exist? It was formed as a means of countering the USSR. That entity no longer exists. So rather than disbanding, NATO continues to grow. Let Europe defend its own stupid self. Leave us the hell out of it. We've taken on enough dragons for a lifetime.

1. During the last two weeks of May, we did a 4800 mile road trip from Iowa to Seattle and back. Since my wife had not visited Mt. Rushmore, we spent a night outside Rapid City and drove up to the monument early the next morning. The monument has changed considerably since I was there solo a quarter-century ago. The rather low-key restaurant and stores have been replaced by an imposing construction reminiscent of what one might have expected from a Thirties German propaganda film. A large amphitheater nestles in the hill below the stony presidential visages. Presumably, they have programs there now, but the area was vacant when we visited. There is a nice trail that winds along the base of the sculptures where one can see up close the impressive skill it took to construct these busts. At least the restaurant is run by a private organization.
2. Before Rushmore, we wended our way through the Badlands. Visited a sod house constructed nearly a century ago, now with an attendant town of white prairie dogs. Stopped -- briefly -- to witness the "wonder" of the Corn Palace. Stayed overnight in Butte, Montana, with a side-jaunt through the historic district of town. Across the tip of Idaho and then down...and down...and down towards Seattle. We camped for a few days in the San Juan Islands (on Orcas). Rendezvoused with some friends on San Juan Island. Then we took a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula and a round-about drive to the Hoh rain forest (part of Olympic National Park) and a visit to a Pacific Ocean beach. After marveling at tsunami warning signs, we braved the traffic between Tacoma and Seattle. We managed to find our friend's apartment, where we stayed during our Seattle visit.
3. Seattle is definitely a liberal city. Petitions abounded pushing some statist cause or another. (One incident at the newly dedicated Seattle Central Library did inspire an essay that will be appearing in an upcoming issue of The Freeman: "A Consensus Society.") We joined a tour of the Seattle underground. Enjoyed water-taxi rides. Scratched our heads at obedient pedestrians waiting at red lights when not a car could be seen for two blocks. (Apparently, Seattle cops inflict stiff fines for jaywalking. Guess they don't have anything better to do, like, ya know, catching real criminals...) Great seafood. (Mostly) polite people. Expensive prices.
4. We headed home via Mt. Rainier (foggy and with snow aplenty). Ate at Paradise Lodge. Drove through Oregon where we visited remnants of the Oregon Trail formed by some 300,000 intrepid pioneers seeking better lives. Then we drove and drove and drove via southern Idaho, a slice of Utah, across the lower part of Wyoming and the last of the antelope, and then the long stretch through Nebraska until, finally, we arrived home.
5. Despite all the insane politicians, the statists and collectivists that infest our society, I still love this country. That's one reason I fight so vigorously against any and all infringements of our rights. I -- and this nation -- deserve better. Maybe someday the majority of those around me will regain passion for the liberty our ancestors fought so hard to obtain.
6. All the hoopla surrounding the death of former President Ronald Reagan became rather unseemly after awhile. He was a politician who appeared to be a nice guy but whose actions did not match his rhetoric. His status looms larger than it really should mostly because of the nimnulls who bracketed him as chief executive. He was not our king. He did not rank up there with the Founders. He should have been buried in peace and at private expense. We need to view politicians -- all of them -- with suspicion, not awe. They are not our superiors. They truly should be our servants, our employees. Too bad that particular reality is long gone. Presidents are not supposed to "run the country." We do. Or should. They are supposed to run the government, something they do poorly enough, as it is.
7, And speaking of excess... The spectacle of the latest G-8 "summit" at Sea Island, Georgia, was a sorry sight. Gone was free speech as the mayors of Brunswick and Savannah treated protesters as irritating specks to be controlled. Ten to twenty thousand cops. Armed troops everywhere seeking to intimidate peaceful citizens. Coast Guard patrols. Check-points. Restrictions. Annoyances. And for what? So a bunch of statist jerks can walk on a nice beach and enjoy the view. If they were so frigging concerned about "security," let them meet in the middle of Montana. (Or as one writer suggested, on an aircraft carrier.) We don't need "summits" or "agreements" or "treaties" to improve international trade. We can unilaterally drop all tariffs, all duties, all restrictions, and simply let individuals decide for themselves with whom they want to engage in voluntary trade.
8. The wimps of the Supreme Court once again demonstrated their cowardice and lack of integrity. They ruled that a father seeking to stop the use of "under God" in the socialist-inspired Pledge of Allegiance in public schools did not have "standing" to bring suit since he did not have "custody" of his daughter. Hey. Just because he's her dad. Hell. What does that matter these days.
9. I stopped saying the Pledge. States do have the right to secede. To hell with Lincoln

My Day in Court: Not long ago, after three decades of being registered to vote, I finally received a notification to report for jury duty. The experience turned out to be as enlightening as it was frustrating. When I arrived at the courthouse, I faced that omnipresent fixture of modern life: a metal detector. The notice I had received had made it clear that no knives of any kind nor any sharp objects would be permitted into the glorious sanctity of this government structure. I had remembered to leave my Buck folding knife with its wickedly long two-and-a-half inch blade in my car. But since I was running late, I had forgotten to remove my folding scissors with its one-inch long business end from my key chain. Hoping against hope, I held up the probably offending object for the deputy sheriff to peruse, thinking that the world might be ending and he'd exercise a whit of common sense. As it turned out, the world was not ending. He told me sternly and in no uncertain terms that I would have to "take that outside." No regretful, "Sorry. The rules say you can't bring that in." His storm trooper attitude greatly increased my pleasant state of mind as I stomped the two blocks back to my car. After making the courthouse Safe In Our Time, I marched back to the mini-gestapo where I emptied my change, remaining keys (each longer than the dastardly folding scissors), my metal pen (much longer than the dangerous weapon with which the State feared I would seize control of the courthouse), and my belt with its ultra-violence-prone metal buckle. Grudgingly, the defenders of Truth and Justice and the (New) American Way permitted me to enter the hallowed halls of modern law enforcement.
I checked in with the clerks. I then consumed ten minutes or so trying to ferret out the location of a vending maching so I could get my morning cola fix. (See, not only does the State officials here tremble in dreadful fear of teeny-tiny knives and scissors, they also grow white as sheets when confronted with the horrendous prospect of someone bringing in liquid from the Outside. No coffee. No pop. No nuthin'. They generously offered to supply coffee for the waiting hordes of potential jurors, but anyone seeking carbonated refreshments had to fill the coffers of the State rather than risk the safety and lives of the members of the Court by bringing in their own cheaper drinks. Not even taking a drink from the Suspicious Fluid would satify these ever vigilant bureaucrats. Common sense was verboten in that realm. (Who knows what apoplexy these people would have suffered had someone arrived carrying a real weapon. Heaven forfend anyone -- other than the agents of the State -- should be able to defend himself. A pox on any citizen who thought the State should trust the citizens who hired it or sought to emulate other States where ordinary folks can bring their guns into State buildings...including courthouses.)
After a bit, we were all herded into a room where we watched a videotape informing us how the process worked. I was waiting for one particular bit of propaganda to emerge and was not disappointed. The "everyday" people in the tape made it very clear that jurors were to judge the facts and nothing else. Of course, I doubt any of my fellow jurors had ever heard of the morality and the necessity -- the long and honorable tradition -- of judging the law as well as the facts. Fully informed jury...? Excuse me while I laugh myself silly... Far be it from the minds of the State that we potential jurors should be told that a serious part of our obligation as citizens is to act as a final bulwark -- a last check -- against State tyranny and injustice. A government of and by the people...? What a joke.
Back in the lobby, we sat around some more. A couple dozen of us were called to trudge up to a court room for possible selection as jurors for a man accused of exposing himself. (Heavy duty stuff here...) First the prosecutor and then the defense attorney questioned us. Some of us were asked how we go about resolving different stories to arrive at the truth. A number of my fellow citizens had little clue as to any of the principles involved in analyzing arguments. Regardless, I was not selected to sit on the panel. Who knows why? Perhaps it was my answer that some people lie, some people tell the truth, and some people think they are telling the truth but are not. Perhaps I was released because I have relatives who were or are cops. Perhaps they simply didn't like my looks. I don't know.
A few minutes later, we rejects were sent home, not to be recalled for at least two years.
As I said, the experience was instructive...but I'm not sure I learned the lessons the State wanted me to learn. I did, however, learn what I needed to know...

1. The 9-11 Commission hearings plod on. And on. And on. We are now treated to new excuses for the State failing miserably in fulfilling its fundamental task, i.e., defending Americans. I've not seen so much weak-kneed cowardice and lack of character since my students offered up their latest batches of "reasons" why they could not finish an assignment and why it was not their fault but someone else's...usually mine. Time and again, the yo-yo's from the FBI and CIA whined that the issue was a "structual" flaw. "It's not me! It's the system!" Yeah. Right. But the system did not materialize from the brow of Zeus. The system is people, and those people did not do their jobs. If they were not receiving the information they needed, it was their job to dig it out and be certain they did learn the facts necessary to protect U.S. citizens from criminals of the terrorist flavor. Instead, bureaucratic dead-heads were and are more concerned with jealously guarding their slice of the power-pie. Covering their asses from their own incompetence is now their sole focus. An interim director of the FBI told the committee that he tried to tell that jolly-idiot Ashcroft about serious security concerns. For his trouble, Ashcroft's flunkies told him not to bother bringing up that news again. Of course, Ashcroft denies that he ever said such a thing to this man trying to raise a flag. But this is nothing more than plausible deniability, lying by adhering to the kind of technicality immortalized and popularized by Clinton with his inane and disingenuous reliance on the meaning of "is." Sure, Ashcroft might not have personally, face-to-face talked with this guy. In that narrowest of senses, his testimony might be "true." But I don't believe he was ignorant of the situation. He was simply more obsessed with covering up naked breasts on a statue and imprisoning pornographers who dare to provide willing consumers with a product they want. None of the leaders have an ounce of integrity. None has offered his or her resignation. No one has been fired. They screech about having insufficient resources. More money! More people! More power! How about more brains? How many frigging billions of dollars is really required to accomplish their tasks? How much more unconstitutional power will enable them to remove their heads from their nether regions and get their act together? The CIA head says five more years will pass before his agency will have human assets capable of providing them useful intelligence. Five years? In the private realm, such gross incompetence would be rewarded with the Trump-treatment: "You're fired!"
2. As war-weary soldiers in Iraq have their tours of duty extended yet again -- breaking still another promise from the their "leaders" -- talk is percolating of activating the draft. Of course, the administration denies they have any such plans. That's almost a certain indicator that it's coming. Soon. Involuntary servitude may be unconstitutional in this country, but the politicians obviously have no conception of what the Constitution says or what it means or, if they do, they simply don't give a crap.
3. That shill for compromise and the loss of our rights to self-defense, the National Rifle Association, is gearing up its push for Bush campaign. Conveniently, they will ignore what Bush has done (and not done) and focus merely on the meaningless words he or his minions have uttered. Here is a prez who says he supports the Second Amendment but is primed and ready to sign an extension of the unconstitutional 1994 bill prohibiting clips larger than ten rounds and "dangerous looking" rifles. And there's his Attorney-General who claims to accept the Second Amendment as protecting individual rights yet cannot name a single person-control, victim-disarmament law that he opposes. They are all scum bags who should be charged, tried, and convicted as traitors to their oaths of office and to the people of this nation. They deserve no sympathy and no support.
4. What the tens of millions of gun owners in this country should do, of course, is vote for the Libertarian candidate for president. Even if he failed to win, imagine the impact such a vote would have on whoever is elected to the presidency. He would think twice -- thrice -- before proposing any asinine and immoral victim disarmament laws. I'm still waiting for a repeal of even one gun control law. The sunsetting of the 1994 ban does not count since no vote is required to sustain it and the administration is already on record as opposing the expiration of the law.

1. Some people accuse Objectivism of being a religion or a cult because there are individuals who blindly parrot key phrases penned by Ayn Rand and exhibit other faith-like behavior. But this type of criticism seems remarkably similar to the epistemological error that occurs when someone conflates the denotative meaning of a concept, i.e., the existents grouped together/classified by a particular concept, with its connotative meaning, i.e., the attitudes/emotional reaction etc. that someone has towards a particular concept based on his personal experience. (For example, someone who hears "cop" and thinks the very concept includes negative aspects whereas the actual concept means nothing more than, say, an individual who enforces laws within a particular jurisdiction). Objectivism is not the first philosophy which has been condemned because some opponents confuse the misuse of the philosophy with the philosophy itself. But I believe that a philosophy as a guide for living one's life is nothing more (in terms of the philosophy itself) than its principles -- primary or secondary -- and, I suppose, its implications (though the latter are often context-specific).
There is nothing inherent in Objectivism that encourages or supports cultism or authoritarianism. I say that acknowledging full-well people exist who treat it as such. But, again, how someone (mis)uses a philosophy -- especially in an erroneous or vicious way -- is an inappropriate standard for judging the philosophy itself. Judge the people, not the ideas. This approach seems so basic and obvious to me.
Indeed, some are so afraid of being associated in the minds of others with those who are more fanatical than rational that they flee from the very notion of identifying themselves as "Objectivists." But why should I allow the bad actions of other people to determine how I will refer to myself? This attitude seems more collectivistic than individualistic; a kind of second-handism. Should I hide my "whiteness" because there are a plethora of white racists? Should I hide my "maleness" because too many men are pigs? Should I condemn selfishness or freedom or capitalism because others have negative connotations about those concepts?
Hell, no. I am proud of what Ayn Rand accomplished, of what she represented. I am proud to defend selfishness, freedom, capitalism...and Objectivism. I am not ashamed of what I believe. If others are so ignorant, stupid, or close-minded that they refuse to discuss the philosophy with me and try to understand what it actually means, that is their problem. Not mine. Such evaders unwilling to defend their view but ready to categorically write me off because of a label don't deserve my attention or expenditure of energy. I'll devote my efforts to others -- even those who oppose me -- who are seeking the truth, even if we disagree at the moment on how to identify that truth.
Each person has to decide for himself what makes the most sense in terms of his own context. What I resent and oppose is any blanket condemnation of Objectivism as a religion and any implication that those who call themselves Objectivists are necessarily cultists because of the very nature of that philosophy. That is way off base. I am not a group of people. I am an individual.
2. Things continue to go swimmingly in Iraq, don't you think? Simply because a small group of hot-heads continues to kill Americans every day is no cause for concern. Nor is the new tactic of kidnapping civilians from a wide variety of nations and threatening to burn them. How gauche is that? Nor the growing cooperation of the Sunnis or Shiites united against the U.S. After all, we want everyone just to get along, don't we? Nor the billion dollars a day this is costing Americans. Won't we recoup that from all the Iraqi oil? Nor the diversion this is from al Qaeda. We're going to wipe them out anyday now, aren't we? Nor the fact that Iraq is a rallying point for creating new recruits for the terrorists. Aren't they simply getting desperate because they just know we're about to win? Let's just retreat to the pool have a drink, shall we?
3. I sometimes get the sneaking feeling that all the brouhaha attendant to the 9-11 Commission is just a prelude towards justifying PATRIOT II or some other abomination that will lead us farther from both freedom and safety. There is already talk of creating yet another bureaucracy to consolidate current agencies and "ensure" the same mistakes don't reoccur. Oh. I can believe they may not make the same errors. They'll just make new ones.
4. Tax-time, children, is but two days hence. Aren't you just deliriously happy that so much of your income is being "voluntarily" sent to an entity that has done so much to improve your life? You are, aren't you? And if you are pleased and satisfied with this state of affairs, then, by golly, why don't you send the State all of your money and be done with it? Then your existence will really be grand.

1. Listening to the drones from the past two administrations dissemble before the 9-11 Commission to save their butts, I wonder how much they talked with one another beforehand to come up with the same phrasing "justifying" their ignorance and stupidity. Again and again, I heard the idiotic phrase, "actionable intelligence." If these yahoos had any intelligence to begin with, we wouldn't be in this ungodly mess that is modern American politics. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said in response to a question, "I didn't say that we didn't know about al Qaeda using airplanes as missiles. I said I didn't know." (Quote paraphrased from memory.) Excuse me? The issue here is why the hell didn't he/they know? It was (and is) his/their job to know. All we get are excuses. We also get populist tunnel-visioners like Bill O'Reilly who complain about anyone who dares even to ask these people how and why they failed to get it right. "Let it go! What are we gaining from this?" I guess he believes that being ignorant and failing at one's job excuses all. Apparently, the whole notion of responsibility and accountability escapes the spin-head. People -- especially people who get others killed -- should have their feet held to the fire when they screw up. But not one sanctimonious, lying sack of sh... in this administration has been fired, disciplined, or -- heaven forfend! -- had the integrity and decency to resign over this fiasco that was 9-11 and is Iraq. It's disgusting.
2.Worse. Anyone who believes that the 9-11 Commission is seriously interested in getting to the truth needs a refresher course in politics. First, the administration delays and dallies with documents or claims they "don't remember" what are crucial meetings and statements, and the investigators do little to bring them to their senses. Second, the commission will get air time and publicity but will, in the end, most likely conclude, "Well, there were mistakes made, but it's the system. No one is really to blame here. What the government needs is more power and more money to correct the problem." And so the coercive arms of the State will expand once more.
3. For a reminder of what happens in situations where the State is clearly at fault, review the travesty that was the Waco investigation. Despite promises to "get to the bottom of this" and so forth, no one was fired, no one was indicted, no one was punished. The lesson is, if you want to commit murder, be sure you're wearing a badge.
4. There are whispers in the media about the impending twin disasters that are Social Security and Medicare. They keep talking about "running out of money," but, of course, there's no money there now. Imagine being able to loan all your income to yourself, write IOU's to yourself, and claiming that those IOU's represent an asset. I don't expect the power-mongers in D.C. to do much substantive. And, of course, journalists can't be bothered with the facts. In one report I saw on the Social Security mess, a reporter correctly called S.S. a Ponzi scheme. But then the story compared placing one's retirement savings in the stock market with gambling in Vegas! Geez. I didn't know that investments were the equivalent of placing your dough on 32 black. Funny how the reporter never bothered to discover that -- even including the Great Depression -- the stock market has, over time, consistently had a positive return. Strange, too, that so many wise people would place their wealth in a system that favors the house, as does gambling. But the only "house" we should be worried about here is a bankrupt (financially and morally) State that seizes half our income every year and treats us like silly, recalcitrant children who would die without its stern but benevolent guidance...
It is to puke.

1. Mel Gibson laughs all the way to the bank as his controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, passes the quarter billion dollar mark. All the chest-beating as to whether this is an anti-Semitic film seems off the point. If one is a Christian, then one must accept that the Jews who delivered up Jesus were merely do as God ordained. I mean, what? The Jews had the power to go against God's will? What kind of god is that? They should be applauded for fulfilling their role in seeing Jesus crucified for all mankind's sins. After all, was that not specifically what this third of God came to earth to accomplish? Christians should celebrate what those Jews did and thank them profusely for helping create the conditions that permit their eternal salvation. And Jews should humbly bow their heads in acknowledgement of the good they did by delivering Jesus up to the Romans for crucifixion. As an atheist, I have no dog in this fight. But I am more than a little annoyed at those who are attempting to smear the character of an honorable man such as Mel Gibson (even if I do strongly disagree with his beliefs in this instance.)
2. As for all the crap I've read and heard regarding the "violence" in the film, give me a break. If those critics would focus a smidgeon of their indignation on the real violence perpetrated against real people today, every day, by the State, then maybe they could help improve the world instead of perpetuating the insanity that is gripping it. I've seen "We Were Soldiers" and "Braveheart" and "Patriot" and "Black Hawk Down" and similar movies with graphic violence. But -- as Gibson himself has stated -- such in-your-face violence is merely a tiny fraction of how vicious war truly is. I see that video violence, and my resolve to oppose injustice and statism merely hardens. Such violence that results from the efforts of those seeking our enslavement is abhorrent and unnecessary...if the State and its collectivist supporters would Assuming Jesus was a real person, his messy death was likewise unjust and abhorrent. As far as I can tell, he did not violate anyone's rights (except when he assaulted the money-changers in the temple). Nothing much has changed in the two-thousand-years since.
3. Any thinking, honest person can tell that Martha Stewart was royally screwed when she was convicted of "lying" about a "crime" (insider trading) with which she was not even charged. Imagine if this principle were more widely applied by the State: "You're pleading innocent to robbery? Well, we won't charge you with robbery, but we will charge you with lying to us by maintaining you did nothing wrong. How dare you!" At least robbery is a real crime. I think anyone charged with a (non)crime should be rewarded for lying to the State, especially if she thinks it will keep her out of the clutches of her persecutors.
4. Gay marriages. Oh. Such a burning issue to expend our energies upon while our freedom and our money are shredded daily by the State. Good grief. The State should not be in the marriage business. At all. (Lessee... Where does the Constitution grant the feds the authority to legislate on marriage...?) Adults can form any unions they want to: gay, polygamous, communal, serial... Let them sign whatever contracts they want, dividing responsibilities and privileges as the parties involved best see fit. Let the State enforce those contracts in case of disputes. Otherwise, the State can just butt the hell out. Whether it's prayer in school, teaching evolution vs creationism, mandating the Pledge of Allegiance, requiring student drug testing, or on and on, once the State sticks its ham-fisted self into the mix, non-issues become national crises.
5. Some people recently got up in arms about the prospect of cloned embryos being used for research or medical treatment. They stack the deck by calling these embryos cloned people. But they are not. Yes, they are human embryos (as opposed to pig embryos, say), but they are not humans (as in persons possessing rights). This argument contains the same intellectual error as pervades the abortion debate. Both sides assume what they need to prove, i.e., that an embryo is/is not a person. (See here.)
6. The State has declared that it intends to "do something" about obesity. Run for the hills! Your cheeseburgers are not safe! (Again, precisely where in the Constitution are the feds granted the authority to concern themselves with how fat people are...?) While Rome burns, the prez and Congress are also in a tizzy about steroid use by athletes and want to mandate testing. Gosh. Maybe they all have a different version of the Constitution than I do...
7. I'm sickened by the continued hypocritical santimony of the State as it lambastes Enron and other corporate no-good-niks for doing precisely what they State itself does. Lying about costs and income? Writing itself loans? Shifting monies about in an elaborate shell game? Ponzi schemes? Throw them all in the hoosegow, corporate crook and politician alike. They deserve each other.
8. Did you notice that the Motion Picture Academy continues the bankrupt notion that there are no winners or losers anymore? No one "wins" the Oscar. The presenters are all careful to say, "The Oscar goes to...," like its given for nothing more than being selected at random from the nominees. PC cowards who fear linking accomplishment to work or boldly asserting that X is actually better than Y.
9. UCLA is in an uproar because one of its employees sold parts from donated cadavers. Of course, if a donation is given with the specification that it not be sold, that's fine. But people should also be able to make some bucks from the earthly shell that is left after their death. Why deprive poor people of a means of improving the lives of their families? But the statists never really want to improve the lot of the poor they claim to champion. If they did, they would lose a prime excuse for interfering in our lives.
10. Because five incidents (out of how many millions of users?) of paintball CO2 canisters exploding occurred, the State is ready to declare them a problem deserving of "investigation." If the State is really concerned about our safety, it should investigate -- then outlaw -- itself.
11. Black scholarships are okay? Then why would anyone get upset by scholarships reserved for whites only? Do you really have to ask? It's the same reason the proponents of "diversity" blow a cork whenever groups opposing affirmative action sell cookies and determine the price depending upon your race. (See here.)

1. The demonization of alcohol as a means for controlling others continues. A woman in California is suing Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing because her daughter was killed in a car accident by a drunk-driving teenage boy. On national television, this grieving mother and her lawyer admitted that the companies they are suing had nothing to do with her child's death! Of course, it does not require much research or reflection to realize how little respect the concept of "personal responsibility" has these days. Rather than holding the drunk driver's cojones to the fire, this woman and others (see here) go for the deep pockets of the beer producers. These statists tell us that the beer companies are targeting underage drinkers with their advertising (sound familiar? Joe Camel, anyone?) and are thus responsible for the freely chosen actions of any Tom Idiot out there. But an influence is not a cause. (See Defending Joe and Media, Effects, and Politics.) Using one's legitimate grief as an excuse to violate the rights of others and diminish freedom even farther is obscene and does a disservice to one who died through no fault of her own.
2. Nor is tobacco yet free from the anti-smoking fascists. The Georgia legislature is considering a law mandating that if children are present in a car and an adult is smoking, then the windows must be rolled down. Now, I would be among the first to express my displeasure with the smell of smoke. Nor would I maintain that cigarette smoke is beneficial to those who inhale it. Yet there is no good evidence that such smoke poses a real danger to a (non-allergic) child. This do-gooder proposal is nothing more than yet another inroad on the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit. (See also Inmates Running the Asylum.) Seatbelts, bike helmets, knee pads, second-hand smoke, fat kids...there is no escaping the condescending arm of the State.
3. An while I am on the subject of abrogating responsibility, dram laws that hold the servers of booze responsible for what their drunk customers do should be abolished. Now. Heck. While we're at it, let's disband MADD, as well. (See Mothers Against Common Sense.)
4. While many states are rethinking their support of the Total Information Awareness substitute, MATRIX, my own state, Iowa, is moving towards joining in this monstrous data base. Apparently, no amount of private information is too much for the State. And it's all in the name of "security" and "law" enforcement, of course. Really, gang. I think I would be much better off if you simply quit doing things "for" me.
5. I received the March, 2004, issue of Reason recently. They have a piece in there "debating" the use of coercion vs consent in a free society. Professor and author Richard Epstein led the article. In essence, he concludes that "Our limited use of coercion is done with the paradoxical intention of expanding the scope of individual freedom." He says we must "avoid...any categorical reluctance to use coercion to initiate forced exchanges that benefit us all." (Mostly he supports taxation and eminent domain. ) Ugh. Puke. Despite any good Epstein has done in limiting government, his "exceptions" sell us all out. As Ayn Rand said, once one grants even the smallest breach in freedom, there is no limit to what the State can justify. Though I've been aware of his general positions for years, I find such personal and professional blindness -- or, worse, indifference -- on Epstein's part to be sad, annoying...and, ultimately, disgusting. This article simply demonstrates -- yet again -- the bankruptcy of utilitarianism/pragmatism as a means of guiding ones life. Epstein's fundamental ideas are an arrogant portrayal of those who accept the basic premises of collectivism and statism: that the "public good" is paramount when the group's desires are "thwarted by individual holdouts." Gone are property rights, principled morality, and freedom. Please. Somebody hand me a bucket...

1. The process of tracking all Americans continues. With the new database coming soon that will determine whether or not you deserve to fly or be banned from the air, we can look forward to increased delays, rising misidentifications (for which the government will assume no responsibility), and greater indoctrination of the populace in the heinous idea that we are all guilty until proven innocent. This unconstitutional and immoral prior restraint shares similar false premises with highway checkpoints, asset forfeiture, and ID card requirements that treat us all as criminals.
2. While on vacation in Florida recently, I listened to a radio program about the female bicyclist in California killed by a mountain lion. A man who tried to save her was interviewed. How pathetic the situation sounded when he described throwing bits of wood at the lion as it tried to take away its prey. What the guy -- and the dead woman or her fellow biker -- needed, of course, was not a rock or a stick. What he (or they) should have had was a gun. But our glorious leaders have reduced us to the level of cavemen...or, actually, worse than cavemen. At least primitive men would have had knives and spears, maybe even a bow and arrow with which to defend themselves. This is the kind of "civilization" delivered by statists, in which our hard-won technological advances are tossed into the gutter all in the name of a "safety" that spells our doom.
3. Rush Limbaugh continues to fight the thugs in Florida intent on making an example of this icon of conservatism for his use of prescription painkillers. How odd it is to hear that Rush has suddenly discoverd a right to privacy, a right he previously declared to be nonexistent when it comes to the Supreme Court's justification for permitting abortions. (As an aside, "privacy" is, of course, not the proper rationale in this issue: one's self-ownership is.) Somehow Rush maintained that because the Constitution doesn't list "privacy" among protected rights, such a right does not exist. Guess he never heard of the Ninth Amendment...though perhaps he has by now. Maybe he'll retract his previous comments regarding privacy and abortion...Nah...
4. The Drug Thugs expand their reach by banning ephedra, a weight-loss pill sold in supplement stores. The to-be-predicted response has been a massive increase in ephedra sales. (The same thing happened with firearms just prior to Clinton's gun-banning.) I have no idea whether ephredra does help individuals lose weight or what objective dangers it presents. I don't really care. Adults have the right to determine what risks they will accept. And if ephedra is actually dangerous and folks don't bother to learn that fact, then they have no one to blame but themselves should they suffer negative consequences. In any event, the FDA can go F themselves.
5. For another example of anti-drug idiocy, I recently purchased some Goop at a local national discount chain and was asked my age. "Why?" I asked. The girl at the register said she didn't know for certain but "probably because some kids might use it to get high." And at the local grocery chain (Hy-Vee), the nannies there "voluntarily" decided to place products with pseudoephedrine behind lock and key. Seems some folks were buying too much of this product, an ingredient in the Iowa growth business of meth production. To purchase such cold remedies now at these stores, you have to sign your name. No thanks. I'll go elsewhere to buy such medicine...for as long as I am allowed to do so.
6. The president can take his (our) $1.5 billion dollars to "promote heterosexual marriage" and place it in certain dark nether regions. Does he honestly think that people will not get married or stay married unless the State convinces them to do so? Yeah, right. This is nothing more than yet another avenue for the State to insinuate itself into our private lives. Oh, yeah, That's right. We have no right to privacy...
7. Remember how the Census Bureau assured us during the last census that the data they collected would be used only for census business? Guess the folks there are suffering from dementia. How else to explain the fact that those guardians of our personal information have turned over their files to those lovely folks developing their database for profiling airline passengers. Now, why would I not believe the State when it tells me that we face an imminent terrorist threat or that Saddam had WMD's or that it will be a good steward of my money or that there have been no civil rights violations arising from the PATRIOT Act...?

1. The Administration continues its usual charade of mouthing the words of freedom while engaged in a concerted effort to destroy that very liberty. How long will people pay more attention to what politicians say rather than what they do. Our would-be leaders prattle on in their unceasing efforts to frighten us to death. Every holiday elicits another inane "color" change to frighten us with vague warnings that have yet to come true. Far be it that citizens grow "complacent" and actually live their lives...or become active participants in their own defense. 
2. Talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, continues to complain about the legal troubles his dependency on painkillers has engendered. Sadly, he has yet to confront the reality of the gross immorality represented by all aspects of the "Drug War," a.k.a., the War on People. This "war" is a good candidate for the worst source of assaults on our rights today...though the bogus War on "Terrorism" (rather than Terrorists...) is giving it a run for the money. Whether it is the militarization of our police; the inanity of asset forfeiture and the destruction of the presumption of innocence; no-knock raids that make a mockery of proper search-and-seizure protections; loss of financial privacy with "money laundering" regulations; anti-self-defense laws that limit our ability to protect ourselves; the corruption of law enforcement and the drop in respect for a legal system that criminalizes peaceful behaviors; we need to put this turkey on the block and chop off its head. Now.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a great movie. It is rare for a film to combine action, depth of characterization, and thoughtful exploration of deeper issues. This trilogy seems to act as a Rorschach test for many viewers, though. While some uphold it as a metaphor justifying American troops venturing into every pissant nation in the world, I see its as a warning to those being seduced by political power bereft of conscience, a world in which "convenience" outweighs principles. No one -- I mean, no one -- has the right (let alone the wisdom) to have power over the peaceful actions of others.
4. A good observation from The Two Towers comes when Eowyn remarks to Aragorn that even those without swords can still die upon them. When will Americans realize that disarming honest citizens simply transforms them into potential -- and real -- victims?
5. I don't know why so many people downplay the value of the second Lord of the Rings film. Despite my immense enjoyment of both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King, The Two Towers may be my favorite of the three. The build-up in suspense left me waiting for more, but perhaps even greater was my enjoyment of Smeagol/Gollum. I am not referring here to the special effects that created the images -- fantastic though that feat was -- but rather to Smeagol as a character in and of himself. His schizophrenic battle with the survivor that is Gollum; his mercurial swings from rage to despair; the depth and quality of his "acting"... Computer-generated or not, Smeagol should have received an Oscar nomination. How long before the members of the Academy focus more on a performance and less on its origins?

Return to ATLAS Home
Return to Russ Madden's Home Page