TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Keep the Taxman Off the NFL

On a day when more than a hundred million people will enjoy the Super Bowl, some want to “reward” the NFL’s success by having the federal government confiscate more of its wealth.

For example, the Denver Post joins Senator Tom Coburn in calling on the federal government to tax the NFL more:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is pushing a bill to strip professional sports organizations of . . . tax-exempt status, calling it a loophole that amounts to about $10 million in lost revenue annually . . .

The NFL is classified under Section 501(c)(6) of the tax code, which exempts any organization whose primary purpose is to further the industry or profession it represents. Trade organizations typically get this exemption. So do the NFL, NHL and other pro sports organizations.

The NFL league office represents 32 teams, which make billions of dollars on ticket sales, TV contracts, etc. That money is taxable.

However, the league office that is not-for-profit earns its money not from lucrative TV deals but through its membership dues—which accounted for just over a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue in 2012.

The Post complains that the NFL pays its commissioner a $30 million salary and its top executives millions more, and the paper argues that such high salaries justify Coburn’s bill. But by what right does government punish the NFL or any corporation for paying its executives “too much”?

Not only should the government not tax the NFL, it should not tax any association or corporation. That government shouldn’t forcibly seize wealth from anyone is a broader issue for another day. Of concern here is the double taxation involved in corporate taxes. When corporations are taxed, the net income of those corporations is thereby taxed twice: first, on the part of the corporation, and second on the part of the employees and directors, whose salaries are taxed separately.

The NFL should not be stripped of its tax-exempt status; rather, all associations and corporations should be extended such status, and government spending should be cut to accommodate the act of justice.

Everyone who enjoys the spectacle of today’s Super Bowl should say a silent—or, better yet, a public—“thank you” to the businessmen and athletes who make it possible. As for the high salaries many of them receive, they earned it.

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Image: Creative Commons, Jeffrey Beall

Posted in: Sports, Taxation

Obama’s SOTU Address Calls for “Equality” at the Expense of Rights

In his State of the Union address last night, Barack Obama predictably advocated more federal spending on programs including K–12 education, pre-kindergarten education, transportation, high-tech “hubs,” business “loans,” scientific research, subsidies for solar energy and the like, job training, subsidies for the unemployed, and government-backed investment accounts. He also called for stiffer regulations for automotive fuel use and a higher minimum wage.

We get it, Obama: You love federal controls of our wealth, of our children, of our businesses, of our lives.

Although Obama did vaguely refer to “individual dreams” and “individual achievement,” one phrase ominously but unsurprisingly absent in his speech is individual rights.

True, Obama referred to “everyone’s right to vote” (a right that, contra Obama’s philosophy, makes sense only under a constitutionally limited government that protects individual rights), and he mentioned “the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully.” (He did not mention the NSA’s spying on Americans’ communications nor the IRS’s crackdown on conservative speech.)

Why does Obama mention rights only vaguely and utterly detached from the principle of individual rights?

Although Obama did not mention individual rights as such, he did repeatedly mention his major concern, inequality, by which he means that people are unequal in their wealth or opportunities. The reason that Obama does not take individual rights seriously is that he takes forced equality seriously. A government devoted to reducing inequality of wealth or opportunity is a government that necessarily violates individual rights. How so?

Under a rights-protecting a government, each individual is free to earn—and keep—as much as he is able. Some people work smarter or harder to earn wealth; some develop or market innovative products; some invest their wealth more intelligently than do others. Often such people earn spectacular wealth—and when they do, they earn it.

When government seeks to reduce inequality of wealth—by force, the essence of government—it does so by confiscating the wealth of those who have more and giving it to those who have less. Alternately, the government simply throttles or blocks people’s ability to earn wealth, thereby making the more able equal to the less able. (Of course, in some cases the government itself causes greater inequality through its rights-violating policies, but that’s a matter for another day.)

The reason Obama has helped ring up a $17 trillion national debt, the reason he advocates myriad federal controls of the economy, is that he cares fundamentally about using the power of the federal government to cut down people of ability, not to protect individual rights.

Granted, some of Obama’s policies effectively reduce government coercion, as by enabling gay marriage or freer immigration. But the fact that these policies would better-protect individual rights is accidental for Obama. If the policies did not somehow reduce inequality of outcomes (or appeal to the voting base of the Democratic Party), Obama would not support them.

To achieve a government that consistently recognizes and protects the rights of each individual, Americans must reject the notion that government exists to reduce inequality of wealth or opportunity, and champion the fact that each individual equally has the right to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: The Left

Fracking Fuels Post-2008 U.S. Industrial Recovery; Regulation Strangles EU Competitors

The financial crisis of 2008 devastated the productivity of energy-intensive industries in both the European Union and the United States. Today, while businesses in the EU still struggle to recover amidst increasingly onerous regulatory regimes, many in the United States have emerged strong and optimistic. Their success in this regard is due primarily to low cost energy and abundant material feedstock now flowing from the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in shale fields of America.

According to the European Commission, “EU nations will be left far behind the US unless they address high energy costs that are worsening the continent’s industrial decline.” With natural gas costs in the EU four times that of the United States—where fracking is unlocking vast shale gas—EU energy-intensive businesses, including steel, fertilizer, and petrochemical manufacturers, are having an increasingly difficult time competing.

As EU commissioner Antonio Tajani says, “When people choose whether to invest in Europe or the US, what they think about most is the cost of energy. The loss of competitiveness is frightening.”

Yet, rather than promote hydraulic fracturing in the EU, Germany and France have banned the practice. And on January 22, 2014, the European commission published a “recommendation of minimum practices,” which is intended to establish de facto regulations for all EU member countries, and “an Impact Assessment that examined the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various policy options.”

While bureaucrats expend time and resources regulating those who actually make things, many petrochemical producers—already straining under the EU’s stifling regulations—seek the less-expensive electricity and chemical inputs produced by American frackers. Consider some examples:

  • The largest U.S.-based chemical company, Dow Chemical, cited energy regulations as the main reason for limiting its chemical investments in Europe during the past decade. Meanwhile, the company plans to capitalize on the fracking revolution by investing an additional $4 billion in the United States during the next few years.
  • Another U.S. company, Dallas-based U.S. Celanese Corp, is closing facilities in France and Spain but has announced an $800 million dollar joint venture to build a methanol plant in Clear Lake, Texas.
  • Meanwhile, Dutch fertilizer company OCI NV is building what will be the largest methanol plant in the United States at a cost of $1 billion.
  • Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC ) is cutting over 1,000 jobs as it closes some of its EU Facilities, a decision influenced by Europe’s “ageing plants, lack of raw materials, over-regulation and a high-wage labour market.”
  • According to Chemical Export Report, “In 2012, German investment in new chemical plants or expansions in the US rose 54% to [$4.3 billion]. . . . The US now accounts for 41% of the German chemical industry’s foreign investments, up from 28% in 2005.”

Further enabling production in the United States, American frackers have offset some of the economic harms caused by government controls here. Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist for the European Policy Centre, believes (as summarized by EurActiv.com) that “shale gas represents a silver bullet against crisis-hit industries in America.”

According to the American Chemical Council (ACC), “Despite the hindrance of slow global growth, uncertainty and U.S. tax policies that discourage business investment, these strong gains in capital spending for American chemistry are expected to continue.”

“Put simply,” says ACC chief economist T. Kevin Swift, “the U.S. is now the most attractive place in the world to invest in chemical manufacturing.”

The credit for this extremely positive development goes to producers in the oil and gas industry—especially to the developers of fracking technology.

Europeans are slowly strangling their energy and manufacturing industries with rights-violating laws and regulations. American frackers and producers who depend on the products of fracking are thriving largely because government better-protects their rights. If Europeans want to see productivity increases in their region—and if Americans want to further bolster productivity here—citizens must demand that government protect rather than violate the rights of producers.

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Image: Joshua Doubek, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Regulations

Celebrating Mozart’s Music on His Birthday

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born this day in 1756, was not only a musical genius and prolific composer; he also founded or revolutionized several genres of music. Here is an indication of his accomplishments in some key areas.

  • Symphony: Before Mozart, a symphony was little more than a warm-up piece, on a par with an overture or a suite. Mozart’s forty-one symphonies were major and complex works, covering the spectrum of human emotion. The dark and dynamic Symphony No. 40 is among several of his works that anticipate the 19th century romantic movement. The finale of his final symphony, Jupiter, oscillates between conflicting themes, using lyrical woodwinds and stormy orchestration, and ending with a triumphant resolution.
  • Piano Concerto: Mozart transformed the piano into the centerpiece instrument of orchestra. Prior to this transformation, the clavichord or harpsichord was central, each of which was severely limited in its ability to repeat or sustain notes. By moving the piano to the center, Mozart allowed room for flamboyance, but he never engaged in it at the expense of harmony with the orchestra. He wrote twenty-five piano concertos. His Piano Concerto No. 20 delivers great depth of expression as it alternates from furious sections involving the full orchestra to bright and happy melodies by the woodwinds, before concluding with a jubilant piano solo. The Elvira Madigan theme is a delicate ode to love.
  • Opera: Mozart placed harmony, melody, and counterpoint in the center of opera, driving forward the respective plot. In Mozart’s time, opera was the most complex musical genre, combining all of the major branches of the performing arts. Mozart skillfully integrates voice, movement, dramatic expression, and musicality into a beautiful and communicative whole. In The Marriage of Figaro, multiple conversations crisscross but never clash, articulating several different points of view simultaneously. The Magic Flute at once captures the music of a songbird and dramatizes the story of man’s education, which progresses through trial and error, from chaos and superstition to order and understanding. In this sense, Mozart provided the soundtrack for the Age of Enlightenment.
  • Other genres: Mozart wrote eighty-four sonatas, fifty-four works of chamber music, and seventy-six sacred works—including Requiem in D Minor (which he was composing when he died). His German dances were the precursor to the Vienna Waltz. The rich sonority of his Serenade No. 10 is featured in the highly entertaining (albeit historically inaccurate) film Amadeus. Perhaps Mozart’s most famous work is his Serenade No.13, also known as A Little Night Music. In this serenade, with only four instrument sections, strings alternately race with great aggression and precision, then slow into subtle warmth and tenderness.

Queue up some Mozart on this master’s birthday, and enjoy the beauty he bestowed on the world.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: The Arts

Portable Ultrasound: “The Stethoscope of the 21st Century”

The stethoscope, invented some two-hundred years ago and long carried by doctors everywhere as standard gear, may soon be shelved. Some medical experts predict that the stethoscope will be widely replaced by portable ultrasound devices capable of delivering to doctors dramatically better information about patients.

Jagat Narula and Bret Nelson write in an editorial for the World Heart Federation:

At the time of this writing several manufacturers offer hand-held ultrasound machines slightly larger than a deck of cards, with technology and screens modelled after modern smartphones. . . . [M]any experts have argued that ultrasound has become the stethoscope of the 21st century. While few studies have pitted ultrasound head-to-head against the stethoscope, there is evidence that ultrasound is more accurate even than chest x-ray in the detection of pneumothorax [an air pocket that obstructs the lungs], pleural effusion [a similar fluid pocket], and perhaps even pneumonia. Ultrasound allows visualisation of cardiac valve function, contractility, and pericardial effusions with greater accuracy than listening with the stethoscope. And beyond the heart and lungs lie dozens of other organs and structures—well-described in the literature of point of care ultrasound—which are opaque to the abilities of the stethoscope.

Once again, researchers and entrepreneurs are replacing old technology with new to the great benefit of human life. Congratulations—and thank you—to the doctors, engineers, and businessmen working to make these portable ultrasound devices widely available.

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Image: Scripps

Posted in: Science and Technology

Conservatives Concede Moral Premises of Welfare State

Although some conservatives claim to defend limited government and individual liberty, conservatives in fact fail to defend these values consistently. The reason is that conservatives share with their leftist “opponents” a commitment to the morality of self-sacrifice.

Take a recent example. In her article for the Heritage Foundation, “How to Fight Poverty—and Win,” Jennifer Marshall writes,

Sadly, the half-century legacy of [Lyndon Baines] Johnson’s Great Society has not lived up to that noble goal [of eliminating poverty]. . . .

Our responsibility to our neighbors in need demands more: a redirection of public policy and a commitment from each of us to do what we can in our own communities. . . .

[P]olicymakers can’t hide behind reams of programs and billions in spending and declare they’ve done their duty to the poor. (emphasis added)

Although Marshall proceeds to criticize “big government” poverty programs, she has conceded the moral ground that gives rise to such policies. If we have a “duty” to lift “our neighbors in need” or “the poor” out of “poverty,” how can we have a right to our liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness?

Republicans who claim that we have a moral duty to serve our neighbors in need are powerless to slow—much less reverse—the expansion of government programs aimed at making individuals perform that duty. If we have a moral duty to serve the poor, then we cannot have a moral right to cut welfare programs—programs that serve the poor.

This duty premise on the part of Republicans is why we see them feebly oppose spending on such programs, only to apologetically retreat in the face of criticism.

The issue is not whether one cares about or sympathizes with those who are struggling in life or living in poverty. Many Americans have struggled to pay the bills at one time or another; many have helped friends or family members through periods of hardship; and many have donated to charities. Moreover, in semi-free America, anyone who finds himself in poverty—with the exception of people with severe mental or physical disabilities—is able to work his way out of poverty if he chooses to do so.

The issue at hand has nothing to do with empathy or sympathy or caring for those in poverty. The issue at hand is a moral principle and a black-and-white alternative: Either a man’s life is his own, or he is duty-bound to live for others. As Ayn Rand put it,

Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. . . . The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal.

If conservatives wish to fight for a government limited to its proper functions, they must come to see that the notion that people have a “duty” to serve “the needy” or their neighbors or “the poor” undermines that political goal. More fundamentally, they must come to see that the notion that morality requires self-sacrificial service to others is rationally indefensible—that there is, in fact, no such thing as a moral “duty” to serve others. More fundamentally still, they must come to see that being moral consists not in self-sacrificially serving others but in self-interestedly pursuing one’s life-serving values, respecting the rights of others to do the same, and enjoying the fruits of the production and trade that follow from the protection of each individual’s moral right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Welfare and Subsidies

“A Cause Greater Than Yourself”—In What Sense?

Google the phrases “greater than yourself,” “larger than yourself,” and “bigger than yourself,” and you will find millions of related links. We all know the refrain (and its variants): “Live for a cause greater than yourself.” But what does that mean? And is this advice consonant with rational morality?

Consider what a few prominent public figures mean by the phrase.

Barack Obama, speaking at Wesleyan University about “service to one’s country,” says:

It’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role that you’ll play in writing the next great chapter in the American story.

How do you “hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself”? By self-sacrificially serving that “something larger”—by giving up your personal, life-serving values for the sake of that alleged greater good. Such “change will not come easily,” explains Obama, “sacrifice will be required.”

Obama’s view is typical not only among those on the “progressive” left but also among conservatives. John McCain, for example, speaking on the topic of national service, says:

Those who claim their liberty but not their duty to the civilization that ensures it live a half-life, indulging their self-interest at the cost of their self-respect. The richest men and women possess nothing of real value if their lives have no greater object than themselves.

Success, wealth, celebrity gained and kept for private interest—these are small things. They make us comfortable, ease the way for our children, and purchase a fleeting regard for our lives, but not the self-respect that, in the end, matters most. Sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, however, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause.

Similarly, Mitt Romney tells students of Coe College, “Get out of the shallow waters of selfishness and give yourself to causes greater than yourself. Launch yourself into the deep waters of great causes.”

Rather than coming out and directly saying that people have a moral duty to self-sacrificially serve others, who matter more than they do, Obama and company couch their calls to self-sacrifice in the vague and adventurous-sounding language of a “greater cause.” Why?

The answer is that sacrificing your personal, life-serving values for the sake of others is senseless, life-damaging, potentially life-destroying advice. We live and prosper by pursuing our values, not by sacrificing them. The call to sacrifice for a “cause greater than yourself” is intended to make self-sacrifice sound sensible and noble by making it seem as though sacrifice is about joining some grand and meaningful cause. It is not.

Part of the way that those invoking a “cause greater than yourself” obscure their calls for self-sacrifice is by relying on confusion regarding two distinct meanings of the term “greater.” This word can mean “greater in moral significance,” or it can mean “greater in numbers”—as in numbers of people.

Obviously a person morally may join a cause that is “greater than” himself in the mundane sense that the cause involves additional people and resources, shared goals, and the like. In that sense, practically everything a person does is “greater than” just himself in that almost everything he does involves other people or other things. What matters in this context, however, is whether pursuing a cause advances your life and happiness or undermines those values. If “living for a cause greater than yourself” means sacrificing your life-serving values, then, on a rational, life-based morality, doing so is wrong.

Consider an example of a moral cause. If you take a job you love at a company you admire, you will work with others in the cause of producing goods and services you enjoy producing. Obviously, nothing is sacrificial about that; pursuing your career can and should be enormously rewarding, spiritually and financially.

Or consider the cause of raising one’s children. Rational parents value their children enormously; recognize their children’s well-being as essential to their own; and embrace their chosen responsibility of raising their children to be rational, successful, and happy adults. To raise their children well, parents must work with many other people, including grocers, educators, doctors, and so on.

Or consider a political cause. If you advocate a fully rights-protecting government, that’s good for your life; human beings survive by acting on their judgment to produce the things they need in order to live—and to do so they need the freedom to act. Although such a cause obviously involves working with or speaking to others (and is in that trivial sense “greater than” just you), it advances rather than undermines your life and happiness. It is not “greater than yourself” in the sense of taking precedence over your pursuit of your own life and happiness. Its aim is precisely to advance your life and happiness.

Ayn Rand, who famously defends “the virtue of selfishness” in her book of that title, fully recognizes that, in order to act in a rationally selfish way, you must engage with the physical world and other people in it to achieve your values—whether money, love, freedom, self-esteem, or whatever. In her essay “Causality Versus Duty,” Rand argues that the notion that you can have a “duty”—an unchosen obligation—to do anything is baseless. Proper morality, she argues, involves recognizing and enacting “the process by which an end determines the means; i.e., the process of choosing a goal and taking the actions necessary to achieve it.” Rand goes on to explain the importance of looking outward at the facts of reality, not inward toward some alleged duty, in order to achieve one’s values: “A disciple of causation looks outward, he is value-oriented and action oriented, which means: reality-oriented.” This properly applies to any cause you might join—and the causes you do join should be for the purpose of furthering your own life and happiness.

What is the alternative to Rand’s view of morality? The disciple of duty. A disciple of duty is concerned not with his own life and happiness, but with an alleged greater good.

One famous champion of this approach to morality—a 20th-century political leader—advocated “the common interests before self-interest,” called for a “state of mind which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community,” and praised the “individual’s capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men.” That leader was Adolf Hitler, who demanded that Germans live for a cause greater than themselves.

Or consider the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The men who hijacked jet planes and flew them into buildings full of people devoted themselves to a cause greater than themselves—the cause of serving Allah by engaging in jihad.

These are just a couple of examples; I’m sure you can think of many more.

The next time someone asks you to live for a “cause greater than yourself,” ask him whether he means a cause that advances your own life and values or a cause that requires you to sacrifice your life-serving values and thus damages your life.

Any cause that calls for you to sacrifice the values that support your life is vicious. Any cause that assists you in achieving the values that support your life is worthy.

Spreading those important truths to help people you value and to foster a rational society is certainly a cause worth joining.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Ethics

Duck Quacks Don’t Echo: A Fun New Show About Scientific Facts

“The show that proves unusual scientific facts in the most hilarious ways.” That’s the billing for the delightful new television show Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, co-hosted by Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black, and Seth Herzog.

Duck Quacks premiered January 13 on National Geographic Channel, where two half-hour episodes air back to back on Mondays beginning at 10 PM. The show celebrates science via episodic competitions between the co-hosts to see who can present the most amazing scientific “facts.” But the facts—or, rather, hypotheses—are not just presented and explained. They’re also tested. Herein lies the big fun.

  • Is it possible to build a functional hovercraft using readily available household objects? Papa and Herzog rev up two such homemade machines for an in-studio demonstration and race.
  • Can airborne bacteria from a flushed toilet reach your toothbrush six feet away? Hazmat-suited experimenters “go CSI” on a bathroom, employing infrared light and dry ice to see how far aerosolized toilet water travels. (Not all the facts are pleasant!)
  • Is it possible for a person to eat six saltine crackers in one minute without water? Black and Herzog try their respective, um, how shall I put it, “strategies.”
  • When someone lies, does his nose warm up? If so, why? A professional poker player and other experts are marshalled to figure out the answers.
  • Can four ceramic coffee mugs support a two-and-a-half-ton pickup truck? How about with nine people jumping up and down in the back? Audience members participate to find out.
  • Is it possible to dance on top of a vat of pudding without sinking into it? Herzog dons some 80’s dance garb (“You look like Flashdance ate Footloose”) and goes for it.
  • Can male enhancement drugs (such as Viagra™) keep cut flowers erect for a week beyond their normal stamina? (“If your flower remains erect for more than 192 hours, please see a botanist immediately.”)

The foregoing queries and several more are tested in the first four episodes of Duck Quacks. (Some of the experiments in these first few episodes are arguably less than scientifically sound, but the primary purpose here is entertainment.)

Future episodes reportedly will test such queries as whether the color red really makes bulls angry, whether swearing can increase one’s tolerance for pain, whether attractive women can retard men’s thinking, whether a bathing suit cap can be stretched so far that an adult can fit inside, whether when singing the same song choir members’ heartbeats will synchronize, whether it’s possible to scale walls using vacuum cleaners, and much more.

At the end of each episode, the studio audience votes on which host presented the “most impressive, outrageous or interesting” facts, and “the winner takes home the coveted ‘Golden Quack’ trophy.”

In addition to the tested hypotheses are interesting trivia questions such as “The human body contains enough carbon to fill how many pencils? (a) 90, (b) 900, (c) 9,000”; and “By the age of 60, the average person has lost half of their what? (a) Bone Mass, (b) Taste Buds, (c) Hair.”

The most crucial ingredient in the show, however, is the charisma, levity, and wit of the co-hosts: Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black, and Seth Herzog. These guys are pure fun.

Although I’m not familiar with the prior work of Black or Herzog, both men are clearly in their element here. Each shines. I am familiar with Papa, having discovered him a few months ago when my wife happened across his recent stand-up act, “Freaked Out” (which I’ll review later this week). Papa is a maverick comedian and a master entertainer, and his involvement in Duck Quacks not only made the first few episodes especially enjoyable; it also bodes well for the series going forward. My family and I eagerly await the next episode.

In these times of cultural relativism, religious mysticism, and political insanity, it’s good to see some reverence for reason, science, the mind. It’s even better to see it wrapped in benevolent hilarity. Tune in. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

(As to whether duck quacks echo, reportedly they do.)

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Posted in: Media, Science and Technology

“Dr. King Ended the Terror of Living in the South”

The opening scenes of The Butler, although fictionalized, are representative of the horrors that many black Americans faced in the south during the first decades of the 20th century. In the film, a white farm owner rapes a black worker in a shed while her husband and son pick cotton just outside, then the farmer shoots the husband in the head as the boy watches.

As an article reprinted by the Daily Kos describes, black men in the south lived in constant fear of senseless beatings and lynchings, and black women lived in constant fear of violence (including sexual violence) at the hands of whites. (Although Daily Kos typically is collectivistic and viciously anti-American, in this case it published a powerful and mostly good article.)

As the father of the article’s author said to him, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.” Of course King did not do this by himself, nor did the civil rights movement completely put an end to violence against blacks, but King played a vital role in organizing black activists and encouraging them to stand up against violence.

The violence and other rights violations against blacks were widespread and severe into the 1960s. In many ways, state and local governments actively participated in these rights violations by enforcing segregation codes and other unjust laws, by tolerating police violence against blacks, by turning judicial proceedings involving black defendants into kangaroo courts, and by ignoring violence perpetrated by private individuals and organizations against black men and women.

Although King advocated various rights-violating government policies himself, his important and lasting legacy is in helping put an end to the capricious violence and other rights violations against black Americans. Because of his monumental contributions to the cause of freedom, King is an American hero.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law

Peyton Manning and What Matters

For members and fans of the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, today’s AFC championship football game is nearly as important as the Super Bowl. Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time—Peyton Manning and Tom Brady—will lead spectacularly successful teams in one of the greatest athletic competitions of the year.

For Manning, however, it was almost a game—and a season—that never was.

For the 2009 season when he played for the Indianapolis Colts, “Peyton Manning became the first player to win The Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player honor four times,” ESPN reports. But the high-impact sport had taken its toll on his body. In February of 2010, Manning underwent surgery for a pinched nerve. Then, in May of 2011, he had surgery—and a follow-up surgery—for a herniated disc in his neck. Then, in September of the same year, he had surgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck. Early in 2012, the Colts, worried about his health, released him.

An anecdote reported by the Washington Post indicates just how close Manning was to premature retirement. Between surgeries, Manning worked out with his friend Todd Helton, then a Colorado Rockies baseball player, at the team’s facilities:

The first pass Manning threw post-surgery was to Helton, and they were so concerned with privacy that they went to an underground batting cage beneath the Rockies’ stadium. Helton took up a position about 10 yards away and held out his hands. Manning reared back, and threw.

“The ball nose-dived after about five yards,” Manning says.

It didn’t even make it halfway to Helton before it hit the ground. Helton burst out laughing—he thought Manning was joking.

“C’mon, quit kidding,” he said.

“Man, I wish I was,” Manning said.

But Manning was not ready to quit. He signed with the Broncos and underwent rigorous rehabilitation training with the team’s staff, as Sports Illustrated describes in its feature praising Manning as Sportsman of the Year.

SI describes several of Manning’s key attributes: He works extraordinarily hard and has always done so; he demands excellence from himself and his teammates; he applies his mind fully to the task in front of him, whether it is studying an opposing team or recovering from surgery; he is very generous and thoughtful toward his colleagues and his fans; and he engages with or encourages fans struggling with their own health problems.

Regarding Manning’s mental focus, legendary quarterback John Elway, now an executive with the Broncos and instrumental in signing Manning to the team, said (as SI reports):

[Quarterback has] always been a cerebral position, but Peyton made it more cerebral. He was the first one to get in the hurry-up [offense], figure out the coverage at the line, find the right play against the coverage and call everything himself. He really started the no-huddle. Now everybody does it.

Manning’s success in his career—including his success in recovering from injuries and surgeries—is an inspiration.

As SI reports, Jon Torine, one of Manning’s strength and conditioning coaches said: “When Peyton Manning dies, this is what they ought to write on his gravestone: it all mattered to me.”

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Posted in: Sports