May 12, 2023 | Politics
In two related cases — against Harvard and University of North Carolina — the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn admissions policies that consider applicants’ race. Such “affirmative action” policies are defended for fostering “diversity” and fixing “underrepresentation.”
But what are the philosophic ideas underlying these goals? Are these goals coherent? How can collectivized, race-conscious thinking remedy racism and its legacy? In this podcast episode, Onkar Ghate and Elan Journo analyze the philosophic issues raised in these cases.
• How the court cases reveal a pernicious reliance on race in college admissions;
• Ayn Rand’s opposition to quotas and affirmative action;
• How previous rulings left the value of “diversity” unchallenged;
• Why the role of diversity in education doesn’t justify race-based admissions;
• The baseless claim of diversity as a “compelling state interest”;
• Justice Sotomayor’s shocking claim that there is de jure racial segregation;
• The crucial difference between private and government-mandated racial standards;
• The arbitrariness of legal racial categories;
• Why rhetoric about racial “representation” still amounts to racial quotas;
• Why current admissions policies are racist, not a remedy to racism.
Apr 25, 2023 | Politics
Excellent discussion by Elan Journo and Ben Bayer on how Ayn Rand’s evaluation of “liberalism” was different from that of “conservatives,” and how today’s “liberals” are different from (and worse than) those of Rand’s time.
Apr 25, 2023 | Politics
In his opposition to COVID lockdowns and Federally imposed “private mandates” of vaccines, Ron DeSantis became a star for freedom by opposing them. His much smeared “Don’t Say Gay Bill” was in fact a legitimate parental rights in education bill given the context. However, he has made many missteps: from his verbal attacks on the freedom of speech of corporations, like Disney, which makes him appear thin-skinned, to now this:
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill approved by the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
The governor’s office said in a statement late Thursday that he had signed the legislation. The ban gives DeSantis a key political victory among Republican primary voters as he prepares to launch an expected presidential candidacy built on his national brand as a conservative standard bearer.
This is a recipe for DeSantis winning a battle (Republican Primary voters) but losing the war (winning a National election which requires independents).
The law contains some exceptions, including to save the woman’s life. Abortions for pregnancies involving rape or incest would be allowed until 15 weeks of pregnancy, provided a woman has documentation such as a restraining order or police report. DeSantis has called the rape and incest provisions sensible.
Drugs used in medication-induced abortions — which make up the majority of those provided nationally — could be dispensed only in person or by a physician under the Florida law. Separately, nationwide access to the abortion pill mifepristone is being challenged in court.
Abortion bans are popular among some religious conservatives who are part of the GOP voting base, but the issue has motivated many others to vote for Democrats. Republicans in recent weeks and months have suffered defeats in elections centered on abortion access in states such as Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Have we learned nothing?” House Democratic Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said of recent elections in other states. “Do we not listen to our constituents and to the people of Florida and what they are asking for?”
DeSantis, who often places himself on the front lines of culture war issues, had said he backs the six-week ban but had appeared uncharacteristically tepid on the bill. He has often said, “We welcome pro-life legislation,” when asked about the policy. [AP]
On a personality level, DeSantis needs to imitate the demeanor of Reagan and not Trump.
On a political level he needs to study the ideas of philosopher Ayn Rand.
Rand held that America was the most moral country on earth because in principle it was based on individual rights: unrestricted freedom in both the economy and in one’s personal life, which means supporting a woman’s right to abortion.
This is a lesson he has yet to learn.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Apr 25, 2023 | Politics
In the wake of Fox’s shelling out $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems to avoid a defamation trial, we learn that FoxNews’s number one personality, Tucker Carlson, has left FoxNews.
From the fact-finding to the defamation trial, we have learned that Carlson privately expressed doubts about Trump’s stolen election claims, while noting that publicly Carlson had this to say about Trump’s campaign lawyers alleging massive election fraud in the 2020 election:
So we invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week, actually, and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention.
But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they also told us Powell had never given them any evidence to prove anything she claimed at the press conference.
Powell did say that electronic voting is dangerous, and she’s right, but she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one. [Tucker Carlson: Time for Sidney Powell to show us her evidence, 19 Nov 2022]
Whatever reason Carlson left FoxNews it doesn’t appear to be because of the Dominion Voting Systems defamation trial.
Tucker Carlson Aired a Perspective Hard to Find Elsewhere
Writes Harald Uhlig on Losing Tucker Carlson in City Journal:
Tucker Carlson—willing to report stories no one else would touch. Speaking up when no one else in the mainstream media would do so. Highlighting issues barely mentioned elsewhere. The voice and conscience of a large chunk of the conservatives in the United States.
One can argue about instances where Carlson may have gone too far, or where the perspectives he platformed were wrong. I cannot condone what he did to Ray Epps, for example. And I often watched his show with a good dose of skepticism—as I do any news media these days—and checked on one thing or another. Some checked out, and some did not. But they all got me to think.
Many celebrate Carlson’s departure, but they shouldn’t. His show was important because it aired a perspective hard to find elsewhere. The expression of diverse viewpoints is crucial to free debate. Journalists who are unafraid and, yes, who occasionally cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed are an important part of a functioning free press. Hate them or love them, they are foundational to the freedom we enjoy. Debate and disagreement are essential for resolving differences through democratic means. Tucker Carlson Tonight was an important part of that. Now it’s gone, and that’s a loss for the country.
Mar 9, 2023 | Politics
Here is the full text of the letter:
March 7, 2023
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Northwest Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden:
It has been reported that Novak Djokovic has formally applied and been denied permission from your administration to enter the United States so that he may compete at the upcoming Miami Open tennis tournament. This denial is unfair, unscientific and unacceptable. I urge you to reconsider. It’s time to put pandemic politics aside and give the American people what they want—let him play.
While Mr. Djokovic is surely a supreme competitive threat to his fellow tennis professionals, his presence in our country poses no meaningful health or public safety risk. I note that since the onset of COVID-19, Mr. Djokovic has visited the United States at least twice – including once during your presidency – without any apparent health incident. It is also not clear to me why, even by the terms of your own proclamation, Mr. Djokovic could not legally enter this country via boat. Please confirm no later than Friday, March 10, 2023, that this method of travel into Florida would be permissible.
Furthermore, even as you enacted the Proclamation on air travel that remains in force to this day, your administration pointedly allowed thousands of unvaccinated migrants to enter our country through the southern border. In sum, the current “travel ban” as applied to Mr. Djokovic and presumably millions of other potential unvaccinated foreign visitors – seems completely ungrounded in logic, common sense, or any genuine concern for the health and welfare of the American people.
Affectionately known as “Tennis’ 5th Grand Slam,” the Miami Open is the second most popular tennis event in the United States and routinely attracts hundreds of thousands of fans as well as premier tennis professionals from around the world. Novak Djokovic, as you surely know, is the most accomplished tennis player in history and the reigning top-ranked player in his sport. As a result of his illustrious career and philanthropic efforts, he has a strong following of loyal fans in the United States. There can be no question that his inclusion in the Miami Open would be a tremendous boon both for this treasured tournament and the tennis community at large.
The only thing keeping Mr. Djokovic from participating in this tournament is your administration’s continued enforcement of a misguided, unscientific, and out-of-date COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign guests seeking to visit our great country. American tennis legend John McEnroe recently termed this restriction “absurd.” He was quite right to say so.
We are now three years since the onset of COVID-19, and we have learned many valuable – and often painful – lessons during that time. For one thing, it is now clear that the COVID-19 vaccines are not as effective as initially advertised. A new study in the Lancet has found that natural immunity is at least as effective as the COVID vaccines (“Our analysis of the available data suggests that the level of protection afforded by previous infection is at least as high, if not higher than that provided by two-dose vaccination using high-quality mRNA vaccines.”). Furthermore, data also suggests that exposure to COVID-19 is now significantly less likely to result in hospitalization or fatality. Finally, not only is the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine now in question, but recent scientific studies have identified serious potential health risks from the vaccine. Florida’s Surgeon General has issued guidance recommending against the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for males ages 18-39 years old – precisely the cohort of Mr. Djokovic.
Here in Florida, we took a leadership role in rejecting vaccination mandates. Since November 2021, it has been illegal for businesses to require their patrons to be vaccinated against COVID-19. I am proud of these efforts, which unquestionably promoted personal liberty and economic growth without exposing our citizens to any substantiated harm. Although it has taken some time, most of the rest of the world has now come to recognize COVID-19 vaccination requirements as obsolete. At present, it appears that the United States is one of only a handful of countries that requires foreign visitors to have received a COVID-19 vaccination. Indeed, in an interview on September 18, 2022, you personally declared that “the pandemic is over,” and your administration has already communicated to Congress that the COVID-19 emergency will formally end on May 11. The time has come to give up the fiction that COVID vaccines remain a necessary tool to promote public health.
Mr. Djokovic is an extraordinary tennis player who should have every right to compete in this year’s Miami Open, which will commence on March 20. I respectfully ask you to grant his requested exemption so that he may delight and inspire tennis fans in Florida and around the Nation.
 Your October 25, 2021 Proclamation “governs the entry into the United States of noncitizen nonimmigrants — that is, noncitizens who are visiting the United States or otherwise being admitted temporarily — traveling to the United States by air.” (emphasis added). Beginning in January 2022, your Department of Homeland Security announced similar restrictions for non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders. But your administration does not appear to have issued analogous restrictions for non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter our country by boat.
Mar 9, 2023 | Politics
Write Yaron Brook & Elan Journo on Why Nationalism Is Hostile to America:
Nationalism in the last century ravaged Europe. Nationalists today would have us believe their agenda will somehow lead to different results. Despite wrapping themselves in the Stars and Stripes, they push essentially the same destructive ideas.
They argue that to counter nationalism requires embracing “the Enlightenment ideals at the foundation of the American experiment.” Namely, reason and individual rights:
For most of human history, government was an instrument of domination over the individual. Individuals were duty bound to kneel before some authority, whether embodied in a tribe, throne, or church. The individual was literally a pawn at the disposal of the rulers. With the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, however, the ground began to shift. Thinkers such as John Locke advocated a fundamentally different view of the relation between individual citizens and the state. That political shift stemmed from a philosophical emphasis on reason. The individual, these thinkers believed, is capable of observing the world, understanding it, and discovering truths; and so, people could use their reason to guide their own lives. What emerged was a recognition of the individual as sovereign—in thought and in action.
Consequently, a new view came into focus regarding the individual’s relation to the state. The state’s purpose was not to dominate and exploit, but rather to protect the individual’s sovereignty. This view informed the Founders, and it reverberates in the words of the Declaration of Independence. The individual—every individual—has the rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and government exists “to secure these rights.” When government “becomes destructive of these ends,” it is the right of the governed to abolish it and institute a better system that “shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.” Thus, the state’s raison d’être is to protect individual rights, that is, to protect individuals’ freedom to pursue life and happiness based on their rational judgment.
From refrigerators to silicon chips, they go on to explain how such political freedom are responsible for America’s material success, concluding:
These material advances, coupled with a culture in which liberty is protected, have made the United States a beacon to the rest of the world, an inspiration to be emulated. That is why the brightest and most ambitious people from all over the world have sought and continue to seek to immigrate to America. What made America such a success story? Its foundational ideals of reason, individualism, and freedom—and the human spirit they unleash.
Nationalism is hostile to all of those.
They correctly note that, as a political ideology, “Nationalism is not synonymous with loyalty to one’s own country; it is a specific political-social doctrine. The essential feature of nationalism is the very un-American notion of elevating the group over the individual.”
Continue Brook & Journo:
“Because nationalism devalues the individual, it is at odds with the principle of protecting individual liberty. Indeed, nationalism is best understood as a species of collectivism. Fundamentally, writes the philosopher Leonard Peikoff, collectivism “holds that in human affairs, the collective—society, the community, the nation, the proletariat, the race, etc.—is the unit of reality and the standard of value. On this view, the individual has reality only as part of the group, and value only insofar as he serves it.” It is predicated, observed Ayn Rand, “on the view of man as a congenital incompetent, a helpless, mindless creature who must be fooled and ruled by a special elite with some unspecified claim to superior wisdom and a lust for power.”
Nationalism is a repudiation of the sovereign individual, the ideal central to a free society. Whatever semblance of credibility nationalism may have had in the last century, it lost that on Europe’s corpse-strewn battlefields and in the gas chambers. Today, at the forefront of the campaign to revive nationalism are the self-described “national conservatives.” What reason if any is there to believe that their ideas will lead to a different outcome?
As today’s “democratic socialists” and “woke progressives” rebuke the results of Stalin’s & Mao’s socialism, so do “national conservatives” of the 20th century nationalists, yet theirs is still an Anti-Enlightenment Crusade:
National conservatism fundamentally devalues the individual’s rational mind, and consequently, it repudiates the principle of individual rights. In his book, The Virtue of Nationalism, Hazony argues that—contrary to the evidence—human reason is incapable of arriving at universal truths. He writes that, “no human being, and no group of human beings, possesses the necessary powers of reason and the necessary knowledge to dictate the political constitution that is appropriate for all mankind.”[ix] Therefore, he believes, it is wrong to regard the principle of individual rights as a universal truth. Instead, he downgrades it to a “cultural inheritance of certain tribes and nations.” (And as we’ll see, despite pro-liberty rhetoric, this view empties the principle of individual rights of all meaning.)
Will a national conservative state protect your individual rights? To have even a semblance of freedom, in this view, you have to live in a tribe or nation where that is a “cultural inheritance.” (Tough luck if you’re born where “honor killings” and female genital mutilation are accepted cultural inheritances.) Whatever degree of freedom you may be afforded is not a matter of your moral right, but rather a permission granted by the collective, and hence a permission that it may withdraw. Essentially, your life and freedom actually belong to the nation. To echo Hegel, your life is “something subordinate,” and if the collective “claims life, the individual must surrender it.”
In the U.S. the inheritance “national conservatives” seek to implement is theocracy – the melding of chuch & state, or in the author’s words: “National conservatism is an ideology crusading for religious authoritarianism.”
To understand why read the entire article.