In Quest of a Review

May 312006

I’m seeking a copy of the letter/review/comment/whatever that Leonard Peikoff and some others (David Harriman, Gary Hull, and Andrew Lewis, I think) wrote about On Ayn Rand. Since I bought the collected backissues of The Intellectual Activist for the Peter Schwartz and Robert Stubblefield eras, I have the original review written by Darryl Wright in Volume 14, Number 3. I’d like to read the second review, but I’m not even sure where to find it.

So can anyone help me out? I’d like to at least know when it appeared, since then I could then borrow the relevant issue from a friend. Or maybe someone with a fancy straight-to-pdf scanner like my mine could e-mail me a copy, if it’s not already in digital format? I would be grateful.

Update: Thanks to Craig Ceely, I found the second review. It was published as a letter to the editor in Volume 14, Number 5 of TIA. Excellent!

A Request

May 302006

Would the person who posted an off-topic comment a few days ago under the name “Brett Patrocelli” please e-mail me from his real address? (I deleted the comment and I want to explain why, but the e-mail address given bounced.)

Weekend Trip

May 302006

This past weekend, I visited New York City for the first time since I was something like five years old.

On Saturday, my family met in Rye to spread some of the ashes of my grandparents, Jim and Allegra Mertz, on the Long Island Sound. After lunch at the American Yacht Club, we sailed out on the Allegra to spread the ashes. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, all very well-planned but never rushed.

On Sunday, Trey Givens, Tony Donadio, and I spent the day eating, touring, and talking. It was a genuine pleasure, mostly due to the excellent company. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Eric Barnhill; I was just too exhausted by the time he returned to town on Sunday. However, I enjoyed NYC enough that I’ll surely return for another longer visit sooner rather than later.

Oh, and I just discovered that my cat Elliot liked Grape Nuts. No, really. A few months ago, he developed an interest in human food. He particularly likes crunchy things. So while I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been feeding him small piles of Grape Nuts… and he’s been eating them.

Product Placement

May 302006

Paul reads the first issue of The Objective Standard while snuggled in the warm and cozy comfort of his fabulous new Slanket.

What We Owe Our Soldiers

May 292006

Alex Epstein has written an excellent op-ed in honor of Memorial Day: What We Owe Our Soldiers. I’m reprinting it in its entirety here, with permission:

Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily–because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.

The proper purpose of a government is to protect its citizens’ lives and freedom against the initiation of force by criminals at home and aggressors abroad. The American government has a sacred responsibility to recognize the individual value of every one of its citizens’ lives, and thus to do everything possible to protect the rights of each to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This absolutely includes our soldiers.

Soldiers are not sacrificial objects; they are full-fledged Americans with the same moral right as the rest of us to the pursuit of their own goals, their own dreams, their own happiness. Rational soldiers enjoy much of the work of military service, take pride in their ability to do it superlatively, and gain profound satisfaction in protecting the freedom of every American, including their own freedom.

Soldiers know that in entering the military, they are risking their lives in the event of war. But this risk is not, as it is often described, a “sacrifice” for a “higher cause.” When there is a true threat to America, it is a threat to all of our lives and loved ones, soldiers included. Many become soldiers for precisely this reason; it was, for instance, the realization of the threat of Islamic terrorism after September 11–when 3,000 innocent Americans were slaughtered in cold blood on a random Tuesday morning–that prompted so many to join the military.

For an American soldier, to fight for freedom is not to fight for a “higher cause,” separate from or superior to his own life–it is to fight for his own life and happiness. He is willing to risk his life in time of war because he is unwilling to live as anything other than a free man. He does not want or expect to die, but he would rather die than live in slavery or perpetual fear. His attitude is epitomized by the words of John Stark, New Hampshire’s most famous soldier in the Revolutionary War: “Live free or die.”

What we owe these men who fight so bravely for their and our freedom is to send them to war only when that freedom is truly threatened, and to make every effort to protect their lives during war–by providing them with the most advantageous weapons, training, strategy, and tactics possible.

Shamefully, America has repeatedly failed to meet this obligation. It has repeatedly placed soldiers in harm’s way when no threat to America existed–e.g., to quell tribal conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. America entered World War I, in which 115,000 soldiers died, with no clear self-defense purpose but rather on the vague, self-sacrificial grounds that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” America’s involvement in Vietnam, in which 56,000 Americans died in a fiasco that American officials openly declared a “no-win” war, was justified primarily in the name of service to the South Vietnamese. And the current war in Iraq–which could have had a valid purpose as a first step in ousting the terrorist-sponsoring, anti-American regimes of the Middle East–is responsible for thousands of unnecessary American deaths in pursuit of the sacrificial goal of “civilizing” Iraq by enabling Iraqis to select any government they wish, no matter how anti-American.

In addition to being sent on ill-conceived, “humanitarian” missions, our soldiers have been compromised with crippling rules of engagement that place the lives of civilians in enemy territory above their own. In Afghanistan we refused to bomb many top leaders out of their hideouts for fear of civilian casualties; these men continue to kill American soldiers. In Iraq, our hamstrung soldiers are not allowed to smash a militarily puny insurgency–and instead must suffer an endless series of deaths by an undefeated enemy.

To send soldiers into war without a clear self-defense purpose, and without providing them every possible protection, is a betrayal of their valor and a violation of their rights.

This Memorial Day, we must call for a stop to the sacrifice of our soldiers and condemn all those who demand it. It is only by doing so that we can truly honor not only our dead, but also our living: American soldiers who have the courage to defend their freedom and ours.

Alex Epstein is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand–author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Copyright (c) 2006 Ayn Rand Institute. All rights reserved.

For an extended discussion of the motivations for and consequences of America’s selfless wars, I strongly recommend
“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein. It’s available for free from The Objective Standard.

Pasnau on Churchill

May 282006

This letter to the editor on the Ward Churchill scandal was published today as an op-ed in Boulder’s Daily Camera. It was written by the chairman of my department, Bob Pasnau. And it’s yet another reason why I like and respect him so very much.

Since the investigative report released earlier this month on the Churchill affair, little has been heard from CU faculty. This is understandable, since the whole affair is such a quagmire, but still the silence is unfortunate, since no one is so well placed to judge the matter. I hope these remarks will provide some helpful context.

A careful reading of the investigative report (available on CU’s web site [here]) shows the committee to have discharged its duty with tremendous care for the many nuances of the case, scholarly and political. Ironically, however, the very care taken in the report, which runs to over 100 pages, may have kept the full seriousness of the charges from being fully appreciated. In short, the committee found two cases where Churchill extensively plagiarized the work of others. They found other cases where he first wrote articles under a false name, and then in a later work cited those earlier articles as providing independent confirmation for his own claims. They found a great many places where apparently detailed footnotes turned out on close inspection to offer no support whatsoever for the claims being made, and found that Churchill continued to stick with these false sources in later work even after being confronted in print with their inadequacy. Assessing the cumulative impact of these tactics, the committee describes “a pattern and consistent research stratagem to cloak extreme, unsupportable, propaganda-like claims of fact that support Professor Churchill’s legal and political claims with the aura of authentic scholarly research by referencing apparently (but not actually) supportive independent third-party sources.”

The fact that this disparate group of highly distinguished scholars could reach its verdict with complete unanimity — save for the final, delicate question of what sanction to impose — should give one a great deal of confidence in their verdict. No such confidence can be taken from Churchill’s own statement (available on the Camera’s web site [here]). A careful reading of the original report, next to his response, shows him to have misstated and ignored the committee’s findings at every stage. Indeed, one might almost laugh at the way his slipshod responses reenact the very sorts of intellectual failings that the report originally highlighted.

One might laugh, that is, if the whole affair were not so depressing. Perhaps its most unfortunate aspect, beyond the immediate and very serious damage to CU, is the impression it seems to have left in some quarters that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here my own experience is relevant. In the course of my duties evaluating the work of my colleagues, I have never encountered a single instance of fraud or misconduct, or even the bare allegation of such. Additionally, in all of the graduate seminars I have conducted, and dissertations I have read, I have never seen anything even remotely resembling this sort of conduct. Furthermore, over many years of evaluating thousands of job applicants, reviewing their qualifications with the greatest care, I have never seen or heard of even the shadow of this sort of behavior. Finally, in all my years of scholarly research, over the countless articles and books that I have read, I have never encountered anything of this kind.

Happily, it does not fall upon me to decide what sort of penalty is appropriate in this case. But were such misconduct discovered among my own faculty, or in my own field at large, I would be the first to seek that person’s dismissal.

Professor Robert Pasnau
Chair, Department of Philosophy, CU/Boulder
1837 Mapleton Ave., Boulder, CO 80304

Although I haven’t yet read the report in detail, the proven misconduct of Ward Churchill clearly warranted his firing, particularly since he steadfastly refused to acknowledge any substantial wrongdoing. Yet just one committee member positively recommended that sanction: two actively opposed dismissal, recommending suspension without pay for two years instead, and two accepted dismissal as appropriate but recommended five years suspension without pay for two years instead. Those four committee members were terribly unjust: although they formed the proper moral judgment, they failed to act upon that knowledge.

So I certainly wish that Bob Pasnau — or men and women more like him — composed that faculty committee. Then Ward Churchill would have been fired as he so richly deserves. Sure, he would have sued, then the University would have bought him off with some outrageous sum of money. Still, the proper moral message would have been clear. As it stands, even the most basic forms of academic integrity and honesty are no longer required of the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Marginal Humans

May 272006

Too many moons ago, I uploaded my paper “On the Margins of Humanity” to my web site without announcing it. The paper attempts, probably not terribly successfully, to attack the marginal humans argument for animal rights. Frankly, I think that properly understanding this issue requires a good theory of broken units, but I couldn’t see a way to argue that in a graduate paper. Nonetheless, I suspect the paper contains at least a few true and interesting thoughts.

Speaking of High Gasoline Prices…

May 262006

As another example of the free market in action, business is booming for Dogwood Energy, a small company in Tennessee that makes home “stills” to allow owners to distill their own ethanol for use in automobiles. According to the article:

An upstart Tennessee business is marketing stills that can be set up as private distilleries making ethanol — 190 proof grain alcohol — out of fermented starchy crops such as corn, apples or sugar cane. The company claims the still’s output can reduce fuel costs by nearly a third from the pump price of gasoline…

Dogwood Energy says it costs about 75 cents per gallon to make ethanol at home. Adding 15 percent ethanol to $3 gasoline reduces the cost of a fill-up to $2.40 per gallon, [company spokeswoman Shelley] McClanahan said.

A blend with 85 percent ethanol cuts the cost to $1.09 for a blended gallon, she said.

Sasher’s stills, which stand about 6 feet tall and easily fit in an airy garage corner, sell for about $1,400 each. Blueprints each sell for about $45 and buyers who are good salvagers can build a still themselves for less than $1,000, McClanahan said.

Potential customers should be aware of one legal caveat:

Buyers of stills need a federal permit to make ethanol on private property. In what amounts to an honor system, they are to add a poison to their homemade alcohol so it isn’t white lightning.

The Anichkovsky Horses

May 252006

I recently finished re-reading We the Living (which I hadn’t read in over 10 years), and I was especially struck by this magnificent passage near the beginning of Part 2. Rand is describing the famous statues on the bridge near Anichkovsky palace:

Four black statues stand at the four corners of the bridge. They may be only an accident and an ornament; they may be the very spirit of Petrograd, the city raised by man against the will of nature. Each statue is of a man and a horse. In the first one, the furious hoofs of a rearing beast are swung high in the air, ready to crush the naked, kneeling man, his arm stretched in a first effort toward the bridle of the monster. In the second, the man is up on one knee, his torso leaning back, the muscles of his legs, of his arms, of his body ready to burst through the skin, as he pulls at the bridle, in the supreme moment of the struggle. In the third, they are face to face, the man up on his feet, his head at the nostrils of a beast bewildered by a first recognition of its master. In the fourth, the beast is tamed; it steps obediently, led by the hand of the man who is tall, erect, calm in his victory, stepping forward with serene assurance, his head held straight, his eyes looking steadily into an unfathomable future.

After some Google searching, I was able to find images of each of the four sculptures. (Much to my surprise, there was no single website that had an image of all four).

For those with a taste for art collection, the Hermitage Museum also sells tiny replicas of all four statues for $70-80 apiece.

Backwards Movies

May 242006

“Ever wondered what happens when you play a film backwards? You get an entirely new film.” Some examples:

Star Wars

A rather large moon-sized spaceship suddenly appears in the vast depths of space and, to prevent it from disappearing again, a nice young man called Luke extracts a bomb from its central chambers. The space station re-assembles a disintegrated planet, saving its occupants, and slowly begins to dismantle itself as a group of rebels become more and more disorganised. The young man goes home to his farm.


An enormous iron ship surges up from the vast depths of the ocean in order to save a large number of people who are inexplicably, and somewhat foolishly, floundering in the water near an iceburg. It then kindly takes them back to Southampton.

The Lord of the Rings

A mentally challenged Hobbit overcomes his disability by retrieving his finger – and a golden ring – from the depths of a sinister volcano. They then travel through the countryside as we observe the journey of a band of adventurers who go around saving people by pulling swords out of them. The Hobbits spend the rest of their days in the peaceful idylls of the countryside.

The Matrix

After a long day of beating people up in videogames, neo gets a sleeping pill from a black guy in sunglasses so that he can wake up in time for his boring office job in the morning.

Pride & Prejudice

Sparky heroine Elizabeth Bennett becomes increasingly disillusioned with her husband Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the two divorce. The shame of such action in 18th century England motivates her younger sister Lydia to divorce her husband but continue to live in sin with him in a bedsit in Brighton. Darcy encourages their actions but Lydia tires of the arrangement and soon returns home. Elizabeth and Darcy attempt to remain friends, but their relationship is strained when she suffers an unexpected bout of amnesia. The villagers of Meryton begin to weary of the family’s antics and their acquaintanceship dissolves. The film ends as local recently-divorced bachelor Mr Bingley moves away from Netherfield while a moving voiceover proclaims the ineffectiveness of love and the selfless attitudes of women in the game of marriage.

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