Individual Rights and the Tea Party Movement

On Friday, September 11, 2009 the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and the Competitive Enterprise Institute held a briefing at the National Press Club for Tea Party Organizers. Perhaps 300 people listened to four talks on the historical, economic, and moral bases of the tea party protests.

My own talk–15 minutes plus Q&A–focused on the need for a moral principle to integrate tea party activities: the principle of Individual Rights. This is America’s Founding Principle–the idea that guided the American Founders, more than any other, to establish this nation, and to create its limited government. About two dozen crowded around me afterwards, wanting more information and asking questions about the meaning of rights.

Here is an audio of the talk:     Press Club 9-11-2009 Rights

The audience response confirms one of my key selling points: when speaking about rights, don’t water down the principle. Speak in clear, unambiguous terms about each person’s right to his own life and liberty, and his right to pursue his own happiness. People today are surrounded with mealy-mouthed slogans, with arguments based on costs, and with claims that success can come only through compromise. People are hungry for a clear statement of a moral principle–because they need guidance on how to understand the many issues with which they are confronted every day.

Don’t argue about incremental steps toward statism–about a 7.5% versus 8% sales tax, about health care co-ops versus a government option, about a carbon tax imposed by legislation versus EPA diktat–for each of these is the same thing in principle. Don’t allow a tea party to be reduced to a series of disconnected issues, approached willy-nilly and without a guiding thought. A tea party without individual rights is not for anything, and cannot have any lasting influence.

The next day, September 12, I had the distinct pleasure of standing near the speakers’ platform at the foot of the capitol steps. I saw a sea of individuals that reached from behind my left shoulder, across my entire field of view, to over my right shoulder–and stretched from the steps of the capitol to beyond the Washington monument. I cannot offer an accurate count of people–where are the overhead images?–but it must have been close to a half a million or more. The signs I saw were almost all hand-written; very few were manufactured, and many decried socialism. I met people who had driven from Detroit, and had come from Nebraska, California, New Mexico and Georgia.

The speakers did not, by and large, offer much intellectual content. This was a rally, and given that most speakers were given only 3 minutes, the overall effect was to boost people’s awareness that they are not alone in their concern for the growth of government power and the increasing attacks on our freedom. There was a rap music group that performed conservative themes, a couple of politicians (Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina for instance), and a young black woman who argued passionately against an obsessive focus on race. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights was cut-off at two minutes, but managed to make the point that your life is yours, that to be the best person you can be is the truly American way to live, and that you are not your brothers’ keeper.

All in all, this was the most amazing public gathering I have ever seen. I do not agree with everything said. I do not agree that religion, which values humility and sacrifice before a divine being, can provide the basis for individual rights. I do not agree that there is any difference between “Give unto the poor” and “To each according to his need.” History shows that the most religious periods–Rome under Christian emperors, the dark ages, Calvin’s Geneva, the Religious Wars of the Reformation, Holy Mother Russia–were defined by stagnation, oppression and warfare. This history was broken only when the American Founders elevated the individual’s self-interested right to his own life into a founding principle, and established a government limited to that purpose.

But the protesters of 9-12-2009 stood by their own energy against the power of the state, and expressed a healthy sense of self-esteem. They demanded that American politicians cease attacking the freedoms of American citizens, and cease adding to the tide of government power that threatens us all with moral, political, and financial catastrophe.

A Revolution in the Science of Education

From the Van Damme Academy’s new blog Pedagogically Correct:



Many people understand that education is in desperate need of reform, but few recognize how radical the reform must be. What is needed is not a bigger education budget, a stronger teacher’s union, smaller class sizes, or more rigorous testing procedures. But neither is the solution simply a return to Classical Education. What is needed is a basic, pedagogical revolution—a revolution in the science of education—a revolution in the selection of content taught to students, and the method by which that content is presented. VanDamme Academy is the leader of that revolution. Pedagogically Correct is our newsletter.

Iran Calls for Temporarty Cease Fire to Give Islamic Terrorists Time To Destroy Israel in the Long Term

From Cox and Forum:

From FoxNews: Ahmadinejad’s Mideast Solution: Destroy Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the solution to the Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel, state-media reported.

In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah.

“Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented,” Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site Thursday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev accused Ahmadinejad of trying to rally the region to support Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

“Our operation in Lebanon is designed to neutralize one of the long arms of Iran, Hezbollah,” Regev said. “Hezbollah is their proxy, being used as an instrument of Teheran to advance their extremist agenda and the blow to Hezbollah is a blow to Iranian interests and a blow to all extremist Jihadist forces in the region.

From CNN: Hezbollah threatens to strike Tel Aviv.

On the diplomatic front, France circulated a revised draft resolution for the United Nations Security Council on Thursday calling for an immediate halt to Israeli-Hezbollah fighting and spelling out conditions for a permanent cease-fire in Lebanon.

The U.S. State Department said it hoped for a cease-fire resolution by Friday, but U.S. diplomats were prepared to work into the weekend to achieve a deal.

A sticking point has been the timing of a cease-fire. France and other European countries support Lebanon’s call for an immediate cease-fire. The United States and Britain have said an immediate cease-fire would not eliminate the long-term threat that Hezbollah imposes on Israel.

In TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski has been providing excellent coverage and analysis of the big picture in the Hezbollah vs. Israel war. These are a couple of his must-read articles:

From RealClearPolitics: Iran’s Strategy Is Crudely Obvious–So Why Can’t We Fight It?.

The new Lebanon War, like much of the War on Terrorism, has a strange character. It is a war in which everyone knows the enemy’s strategy, in which it is child’s play to see through all of his ruses and propaganda tricks–and yet our leaders, rather than devising their own counter-strategy, fall for every ruse and play along with the enemy’s game. …

Everyone knows that Iran is using Hezbollah’s war in Lebanon to distract attention from its nuclear weapons program. …

The Iranian strategy to buy time is utterly transparent and not especially clever. It is simple to defeat: declare that Hezbollah’s aggression against Israel is proof of Iran’s evil intentions and that we don’t require any further diplomatic justification to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and bring down its regime.

Instead, Western leaders fell for the Iranian strategy, and the Iranians have pretty much gotten what they wanted. …

Secretary Rice has a reputation as an intelligent, hard-charging woman who doesn’t scare easily. Over the past few months, she has blown that reputation, caving in to Iran and its European sympathizers–and now allowing herself to be panicked into appeasement by predictable images of Lebanese civilian casualties. The Iranians have not been playing a sophisticated diplomatic game–yet they have consistently outplayed Secretary Rice.

Just as obvious as the strategy of the Iranian Axis are the destructive consequences of America’s diplomatic retreat in the face of Hezbollah’s war.

Also by Tracinski at RealClearPolitics: What Part of ‘War’ Don’t We Understand?.

Part of the reason America hesitates to act is because generations of Pragmatists have tried to turn our brains into bags full of knots–making it harder for us to see the big picture and the bold strokes that are actually necessary to defeat our enemies.

Just as powerful is the warped logic of the “suicide bomb morality” of altruism, which identifies self-sacrifice as the essence of virtue. In any conflict, the good guys are expected to prove that they are good by backing down and sacrificing their interests–while nothing is expected of the bad guys, precisely because they are evil. That’s why a Los Angeles Times op-ed demanded that Israel “has to be the most responsible party” by declaring an immediate ceasefire. Why should Israel be the first to back down from the fight? The author answers: “What, after all, can we expect from Hamas or Hezbollah?”

Notice the warped psychology this fosters: the onus is always on the good guys to turn the other check and submit to evil. This is a moral outlook that empowers the evil because they are evil and restrains the good because they are good. Should we then be surprised to see the evil emboldened to greater acts of destruction?

There is no longer any doubt what is driving the conflict in the Middle East: it is the Syrian-Iranian strategy of using proxies to strike at the US and extend Iran’s fanatical influence over the region. The only question is whether we can stop tying our brains into knots and stop turning the other cheek long enough to strike back and topple these two regimes.

“Changement de Rythme” (or “Broken Time”) is a fencing term meaning “a sudden change in the tempo of one fencer’s actions, used to fool the opponent into responding at the wrong time.” Or perhaps in the wrong way, as in the case of the cartoon.

From the Jerusalem Post: As Ahmadinejad watches by Caroline Glick. (via Regime Change Iran)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the man to watch these days. And yet it would seem that those in positions of power are paying him little heed. …

This week the UN Security Council is supposed to pass a resolution giving Iran until August 31 to end its nuclear programs. The obvious meaning of the new deadline is that until then, in spite of Iran’s direction of Hizbullah’s war against Israel – a state which Iran daily threatens to destroy – no action will be taken against Teheran.

Indeed, in all the talk of Security Council resolutions regarding the war that Iran’s proxy force Hizbullah is waging against Israel, no one has mentioned the possibility of condemning Iran, or Syria, for their sponsorship of Hizbullah.

AS THE STAKES of the war against Israel rise by the day, we find the international community, led by the US, and willingly followed by the Olmert government, scope-locked on a diplomatic agenda that is irrelevant to the imminent dangers Israel and the world now face in the midst of this Iranian sponsored jihad.

Global Jihad: “Make Yourself Martyrs”

From Cox and Forum:

From CNN: Al Qaeda: War with Israel is ‘jihad’.

Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from “Spain to Iraq.” In a taped message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahiri said the terrorist organization would not stand idly by while “these (Israeli) shells burn our brothers. “All the world is a battlefield open in front of us,” said the Egyptian-born al-Zawahiri, second-in-command to Osama bin Laden. “The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires … . It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails … from Spain to Iraq,” al-Zawahiri said. “We will attack everywhere.” Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims until they were driven from the country at the turn of the 16th century.

Al-Zawahiri declared that Arab regimes were complicit in Israeli fighting against Hezbollah and the Palestinians. “My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit…and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies…make yourselves martyrs.”

From AP: Iranian volunteers set off for Lebanon.

Surrounded by yellow Hezbollah flags, more than 60 Iranian volunteers set off Wednesday to join what they called a holy war against Israeli forces in Lebanon. …

Iran says it will not send regular forces to aid Hezbollah, but apparently it will not attempt to stop volunteer guerrillas. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah’s main sponsors. …

“We are just the first wave of Islamic warriors from Iran,” said Amir Jalilinejad, chairman of the Student Justice Movement, a nongovernment group that helped recruit the fighters. “More will come from here and other Muslim nations around the world. Hezbollah needs our help.” Military service is mandatory in Iran and nearly every man has at least some basic training. Some hard-liners have more extensive drills as members of the Basiji corps, a paramilitary network linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Other volunteers, such as 72-year-old Hasan Honavi, have combat experience from the 1980-88 war with Iraq. “God made this decision for me,” said Honavi, a grandfather and one of the oldest volunteers. “I still have fight left in me for a holy war.” The group, chanting and marching in military-style formation, assembled Wednesday in a part of Tehran’s main cemetery that is reserved for war dead and other “martyrs.” They prayed on Persian carpets and linked hands, with their shoes and bags piled alongside. Few had any battle-type gear and some arrived in dress shoes or plastic sandals. Some bowed before a memorial to Hezbollah-linked suicide bombers who carried out the 1983 blast at Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemen. An almost simultaneous bombing killed 56 French peacekeepers. …

“We cannot stand by and watch out Hezbollah brothers fight alone,” said Komeil Baradaran, a 21-year-old Basiji member. “If we are to die in Lebanon, then we will go to heaven. It is our duty as Muslims to fight.”

From the New York Sun: An Explicit Debt by Daniel Johnson.

A second key similarity between today’s Islamists and past Arab nationalists relates less to ideology than to geopolitics. Both movements are more or less openly imperialist. As the historian Efraim Karsh convincingly shows in his new book “Islamic Imperialism,” the pursuit of empire has been a constant theme since the time of Muhammad.

Both Islamists and Arab nationalists, however, deploy anti-imperialist rhetoric against Israel and the West. Ayatollah Khomeini notoriously denounced America as “the Great Satan” while attempting to annex his neighbor, Iraq. The purpose of Osama bin Laden’s jihad on behalf of “oppressed Muslims” is to subject them to a universal Caliphate. Even as Nasser dreamt of what John Dulles called “an empire stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean,” the Egyptian dictator posed as the champion of the “non-aligned” nations, struggling against European colonialism and superpower hegemony.

Cowardly Blending

From Cox and Forum:

The U.N. official quoted below has been spouting the typical moral equivalence about the Israel/Hezbollah war, but his specific criticism of Hezbollah is surprisingly frank and accurate. From FoxNews: U.N. Chief Accuses Hezbollah of ‘Cowardly Blending’ Among Refugees.

The U.N. humanitarian chief accused Hezbollah on Monday of “cowardly blending” among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks of cross-border violence with Israel. The militant group has built bunkers and tunnels near the Israeli border to shelter weapons and fighters, and its members easily blend in among civilians. Jan Egeland spoke with reporters at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus late Monday after a visit to Lebanon on his mission to coordinate an international aid effort. On Sunday he had toured the rubble of Beirut’s southern suburbs, a once-teeming Shiite district where Hezbollah had its headquarters.

During that visit he condemned the killing and wounding of civilians by both sides, and called Israel’s offensive “disproportionate” and “a violation of international humanitarian law.” On Monday he had strong words for Hezbollah, which crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12, triggering fierce fighting from both sides. “Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending … among women and children,” he said. “I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don’t think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men.”

Americans SupportingThe Murderers of 241 of Their Countrymen

From Cox and Forum:

From the Arlington National Cemetery: The Bombing of the Marine Barracks, Beirut Lebanon.

On October 23, 1983 at 6:22 a.m., a large delivery truck drove to the Beirut International Airport where the Marine Barracks was located. After turning onto an access road leading to the compound, the driver rushed through a barbed-wire fence, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through the gate, and slammed into the lobby of the barracks. The driver detonated explosives with the power equal to more than 12,000 pounds of TNT. The explosion crumbled the four-story building, crushing service members to death while they were sleeping. The terrorist attack killed 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service members who were stationed there to help keep the peace in a nation torn by war. It was the bloodiest day in the Corps’ history since World War II, when Marines fought to secure Iwo Jima.

From CNN: Iran responsible for 1983 Marine barracks bombing, judge rules.

Iran is responsible for the 1983 suicide bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 American servicemen, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday [May 30, 2003]. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said the suicide truck bombing was carried out by the group Hezbollah with the approval and funding of Iran’s senior government officials.

From TimesOnline: God’s army has plans to run the whole Middle East by Amir Taheri.

Terror has been its principal weapon. Throughout the 1980s Hezbollah kidnapped more than 200 foreign nationals in Lebanon, most of them Americans or western Europeans (including Terry Waite, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy). It organised the hijacking of civilian aircraft and more or less pioneered the idea of suicide bombings against American and French targets, killing almost 1,000 people, including 241 US marines in Beirut and 58 French paratroopers.

Charles Johnson is doing a excellent job of rounding up photos and reports of anti-Israel demonstrations around the world. The fact that a pro-Hezbollah sentiment has been repeatedly witnessed is disgusting, especially in America. Below are links to his posts but be sure to click on the links within the posts for many more photos.

In America:
Mayhem at the Defend Hizballah Rally, Boston
Terror Supporters in New York City
Terror Supporters in Los Angeles
Terror Supporters in Chicago
Hizballah/Hamas supporters in San Francisco

Elsewhere:
Terror Supporters in Moscow
Terror Supporters in Montreal
Thousands of Terror Supporters in Sydney
London Muslims: “We Are All Hizballah”
Terror Supporters in Switzerland
Terror Supporters in Copenhagen
Thousands of Terror Supporters March in Berlin

Faith Freedom Intl. has posted pictures and video from a demonstration in Ottawa, Canada. Craig Eisenberg has a few more NYC pics.

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