TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

TOS’s Week in Review for April 3, 2011

Week in ReviewNoteworthy news and opinion items from the week ending April 3, 2011

1. Islamist Fantasies toward Future Atrocities

FrontPage Magazine reports that the Iranian government has produced a “documentary” claiming that “Ayatollah Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Nasrallah are talked about in Islamic prophecy as leaders who will wage war to bring about the arrival of the Hidden Imam, which the film says is ‘very close’ to happening.” This development underscores the urgency of eliminating the Iranian regime and of persuading the Iranian people—especially those involved in the Green movement—to embrace the goal of establishing a right-respecting republic. Excerpt:

Reza Kahlili, a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who spied for the CIA and authored A Time to Betray last year, procured the entire film and says it was created by close associates of Ahmadinejad and was shown to top clerics two weeks ago. His chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is said to have played a role in its creation. Kahlili allowed FrontPage to view a shortened version of the film over the weekend, which he says the Iranian regime intends to distribute to mosques and Islamic centers throughout the region with an Arabic translation and is currently being shown to members of the Revolutionary Guards and Basiji.

The purpose of the film is to make the case that Iran is prophetically destined to lead the war against Islam’s enemies, which is as a prelude to the appearance of the Hidden Imam, also called the Mahdi, who brings the final victory for Islam and reigns over the whole world. It uses current events to argue that “the final chapter has begun” and the Mahdi’s arrival is imminent. Most disturbingly, it teaches that Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah are the individuals prophesied to make this happen. . . .

The current uprisings in the Arab world are viewed as the fulfillment of prophecy and confirmation that they are to wage this final war against the enemies of Islam. . . .

If the film reflects the private views of the Iranian leadership, then it is clear the regime believes it is now on the precipice of leading a coalition to destroy Israel. . . .

The documentary produced by the Iranian government confirms that it believes a final grand war against Islam’s enemies, which will culminate in the destruction of Israel, is not something to be avoided, but something to be sought. Recent events are being interpreted by the Iranian regime as prophetic fulfillments confirming that this war is near and its duty is to lead it. This is not a belief system that the West can accommodate.

Read the article here. Watch the “documentary” here. And for a clear explication of how America should deal with this and similar evil, see “‘No Substitute for Victory’: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism.”

2. The U.S. Arms Its Islamic Enemies—Again

As the cliché goes, insanity may be defined as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Richard Salsman surveys the insanity of the United States once again aiding an enemy of our enemy and apparently expecting different results. Excerpt:

Evidence grows with each passing week that in Libya the U.S. government and its allies are providing air cover and arms directly to its avowed enemies—including thugs from al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, and Taliban—those who’ve devoted the past decade to slaughtering American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Worse, top U.S. and U.K. officials now acknowledge this and condone it.

At this week’s London conference on the Libyan war, while U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said the tyrant Gadhafi must go, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that if Gadhafi were to go, Libya could become a hard-line Islamist state, but the “gamble” was worth it. Above all, both stressed, Western allies must convey “humility” and forswear any desire to “impose” its preferred type of law-abiding government in Libya or anywhere else in the region. . . .

This craven and self-sacrificing policy is deadly, yet embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike in the U.S., albeit obscured by quibbles over the timing and tactics of Obama’s invasion. Both believe the world must be made “safe for democracy”–for mob rule and the almighty ballot–which means, in the Middle East: made safe for the rise and spread of Islamic rule. To “accomplish” this end the West is to “gamble” the lives and fortunes of its own citizens, while ensuring that secularism, the rule of law, individual rights and constitutionalism have no real chance in the Middle East, since that would entail “imperialistic colonizing”. . . .

Read the whole thing here.

3. Israel Asks the UN to Help Block Planned Gaza Flotilla

Anti-Israel barbarians are planning yet another flotilla of aid destined for Hamas terrorists in Gaza, and Israel is asking the UN (of all organizations) to help prevent it. Why the Israelis are asking for help from the UN is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably safe to assume that the request is intended to preempt criticisms from the UN regarding whatever steps Israel deems necessary to protect itself later. (e.g., “We asked for your help and you did nothing, so we had to take matters into our own hands.”) The Reuters report begins:

Israel asked the United Nations on Friday to help prevent activists sailing to Gaza on the first anniversary of the bloody Israeli seizure of a Turkish ship that tried to reach the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist umbrella group, said the May flotilla would comprise 15 ships with international passengers including Europeans and Americans.

“We sail not just for Gaza,” the group said in a March 31 posting on its Website. “We sail to confront an entire apartheid regime that must be dismantled through citizen action.” . . .

Read the whole report here. For a recap of the last flotilla incident and an indication of the proper way to deal with such efforts, see “Israel and America’s Flotilla Follies (and How To Avoid Them in the Future).”

4. China Stealthily Cracks Down on Political Speech

While all eyes have been focused on uprisings in the Muslim world and disasters in Japan, the communist regime in China has been nipping the buds of any anti-tyranny protests that might otherwise erupt there. A report in The New Yorker begins:

Step by step—so quietly, in fact, that the full facts of it can be startling—China has embarked on the most intense crackdown on free expression in years. Overshadowed by news elsewhere in recent weeks, China has been rounding up writers, lawyers, and activists since mid-February, when calls began to circulate for protests inspired by those in the Middle East and North Africa. By now the contours are clear: according to a count by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group, the government has “criminally detained 26 individuals, disappeared more than 30, and put more than 200 under soft detention.”

Some of the disappeared have resurfaced; in one case that illustrates how strange it’s all getting around here, a novelist and blogger called his assistant to say he was being followed by three men, and then vanished for several days before resurfacing in a hospital, saying that he was “recovering” without specifying from what. He planned to fly out of the country tomorrow. (Others who have disappeared are not listed in the numbers above: the lawyer Gao Zhisheng vanished nearly a year ago; when human-rights monitors at the U.N. asked for information about him this week, the foreign ministry told them to “respect China’s judicial sovereignty”—an unfortunate choice of words, considering that Gao has yet to appear in a court of justice, as far as anyone knows.)

Read the whole piece here.

5. Is America Becoming a Nation of Parasites?

According to the latest from Stephen Moore, the statistics are ugly. (They shouldn’t be surprising, though. A once-productive culture that increasingly regards wealth production as evil because it is selfish will not remain productive for long.) Excerpt:

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills? . . .

Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren’t willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles. . . .

Read the whole article here.

6. The Shale Gas Revolution

Here’s a story about a productive hero whose ingenuity is rendering allegedly scarce resources more and more plentiful. (If one didn’t know better, one might call it a miracle!) The article begins:

In the early 1980s, George P. Mitchell, a Houston-based independent energy producer, could see that his company was going to run out of natural gas. Almost three decades later, the results of his effort to do something about the problem are transforming America’s energy prospects and the calculations of analysts around the world.

Back in those years, Mr. Mitchell’s company was contracted to deliver a substantial amount of natural gas from Texas to feed a pipeline serving Chicago. But the reserves on which he depended were running down, and it was not at all clear where he could find more gas to replace the depleting supply. Mr. Mitchell had a strong hunch, however, piqued by a geology report that he had read recently.

Perhaps the natural gas that was locked into shale—a dense sedimentary rock—could be freed and made to flow. He was prepared to back up his hunch with investment. The laboratory for his experiment was a sprawling geologic formation called the Barnett Shale around Dallas and Fort Worth. Almost everyone with whom he worked was skeptical, including his own geologists and engineers. “You’re wasting your money,” they told him over the years. But Mr. Mitchell kept at it.

The payoff came a decade and a half later, at the end of the 1990s. Using a specialized version of a technique called hydraulic fracturing (now widely known as “fracking” or “fracing”), his team found an economical way to create or expand fractures in the rock and to get the trapped gas to flow.

Today, in an age that craves innovation in energy, George Mitchell’s breakthrough in the Barnett Shale has opened the door to a potentially profound change in the global energy equation. . . .

Read the whole piece here.

7. The Senate’s EPA Showdown

While some people work to exploit the earth and support human life, the Environmental Protection Agency works tirelessly to stop them from succeeding. Fortunately, some politicians—including perhaps some Democrats—are coming to recognize the destructive nature of at least certain EPA efforts and are seeking “to mitigate the agency’s abuses.” The Wall Street Journal reports that “Democrats face a moment of truth on regulatory cap and trade.” Excerpt:

The Environmental Protection Agency debate lands in the Senate this week, amid the makings of a left-right coalition to mitigate the agency’s abuses. Few other votes this year could do more to help the private economy—but only if enough Democrats are willing to buck the White House.

This moment arrived unexpectedly, with Majority Leader Harry Reid opening a small business bill to amendments. Republican leader Mitch McConnell promptly introduced a rider to strip the EPA of the carbon regulation authority that the Obama Administration has given itself. Two weeks ago, Mr. Reid pulled the bill from the floor once it became clear Mr. McConnell might have the 13 Democrats he needs to clear 60. . . .

A vote to overrule the EPA is also needed to remove the regulatory uncertainty hanging over the economy. This harm is already apparent in energy, where the EPA is trying to drive coal-fired power out of existence. The core electricity generation that the country needs to meet future demand is not being built, and it won’t be until the EPA is bridled. This same dynamic is also chilling the natural gas boom in the Northeast, and it is making U.S. energy-intensive industries less competitive world-wide. . . .

Read the whole article here.

8. The Economic Absurdity of “Green Energy”

The push for “green energy” is destructive in myriad ways; and clear, concise refutations of the lies employed by its advocates are crucial to the defense of those individuals (such as George P. Mitchell) and industries (such as coal, natural gas, and oil) that actually provide the world with clean, safe, inexpensive energy. Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren have written just such a refutation, in which they list five reasons why “green energy” is economically senseless. Their article begins:

“Green” energy such as wind, solar and biomass presently constitute only 3.6% of fuel used to generate electricity in the U.S. But if another “I Have a Dream” speech were given at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, it would undoubtedly urge us on to a promised land where renewable energy completely replaced fossil fuels and nuclear power.

How much will this particular dream cost? Energy expert Vaclav Smil calculates that achieving that goal in a decade–former Vice President Al Gore’s proposal–would incur building costs and write-downs on the order of $4 trillion. Taking a bit more time to reach this promised land would help reduce that price tag a bit, but simply building the requisite generators would cost $2.5 trillion alone.

Let’s assume, however, that we could afford that. Have we ever seen such a “green economy”? Yes we have; in the 13th century.

Renewable energy is quite literally the energy of yesterday. Few seem to realize that we abandoned “green” energy centuries ago for five very good reasons.

First, green energy is diffuse, and it takes a tremendous amount of land and material to harness even a little bit of energy. Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment and senior research associate at Rockefeller University, calculates, for instance, that the entire state of Connecticut (that is, if Connecticut were as windy as the southeastern Colorado plains) would need to be devoted to wind turbines to power the city of New York.

Second, . . .

Read the whole piece here.

9. Microsoft Assaults Google for Using Its Property to Its Advantage

The Irony here is too rich for comment. The CNN piece begins:

Microsoft plans to file a formal complaint with the European Commission Thursday, accusing Google of abusing its position as the region’s dominant search engine.

The software giant—once subject to its own landmark antitrust investigation in the United States and Europe—claimed in a blog post that Google is preventing rivals from creating a competitive alternative to its search technology. Microsoft operates the two-year-old Bing search engine, which, though a partnership with Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500), is the second-largest search website in the United States and Europe.

Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) cited several examples of what it said was Google’s abuse of its dominant position.

For instance, the company claims that Google is impeding fair competition by restricting rival search engines from “properly accessing” the Google-owned YouTube for their search results. Google supposedly won’t release YouTube’s so-called “metadata,” which includes video categories, favorites and ratings.

The company also said that Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) released superior YouTube applications for its own Android platform and Apple’s iPhone, but designed a limited YouTube app for Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. Microsoft said it wants to release its own high-quality YouTube app, but it requires access to YouTube’s metadata to do that. . . .

Read the whole article here.

10. Atlas Shrugged Fans Overwhelm Theater Chains

According to a PR Newswire report, demand for the Atlas Shrugged movie (Atlas Shrugged: Part I), which is scheduled to open this April 15, has become so great that the initial release has been expanded from eleven markets to more than fifty. Excerpt:

“AMC called directly to report their online contact system was being hit too hard. They requested we direct traffic to a specific address just to handle the volume,” said producer Harmon Kaslow.

“While it’s unusual for showtimes to be listed this early, the doors of the exhibitors have been thoroughly beaten down by Ayn’s fans. Many of the theaters are now posting showtimes so tickets can be pre-purchased,” continued Kaslow. “And, theaters and showtimes are now being reported as sold-out.” . . .

Read the whole piece here. For information on theaters that will be showing the movie, click here. To demand it in your area, click here. And for a taste of the movie, here’s a newly released film clip:

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(TOS does not necessarily agree with the content of the articles to which we link.)

Posted in: Ayn Rand and Objectivism, Environmentalism, Foreign Policy and War, Free Speech, Regulations, Religion, Science and Technology, Welfare and Subsidies

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