Activism Recap

Oct 312010

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

This week on Politics without God, the blog of Coalition for Secular Government:

This week on Modern Paleo Blog, the blog of Modern Paleo:

Open Thread #212

Oct 312010

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

Rationally Selfish Q&A Webcast

Oct 312010

My experiments in webcasting continue! This morning, starting at 9 am MT (8 am PT, 10 am CT, 11 am ET), I’ll be doing a “Rationally Selfish Q&A” webcast. It will be hosted on my channel on

The plan is to discuss as many of the questions from this Google Moderator session as possible during the next hour, before the OLists Twitter Brunch. It’s going to be very impromptu, with lots of feedback between me and the audience. Or so I hope! As before, I’ll be on audio and video, and you’ll be able to join me in the chat. You’re welcome to post and vote on questions until right when the webcast happens.

During the appointed hour, you can go to my channel on Or you can try accessing the video and the chat below:

Craig Biddle’s Lectures Canceled by ARI

Oct 302010

This morning, Craig Biddle posted the following update to Facebook:

I regret to announce that because of my recent statement “Justice for John P. McCaskey,” the Ayn Rand Institute has cancelled my ARI-sponsored speaking engagements in the coming weeks. These include scheduled lectures at Kansas State U, U of Michigan, U of Minnesota, U of Wisconsin-Madison, and U of California-Irvine. I’m sorry that ARI has canceled these events, and I hope to reschedule them in the near future.

At present, I’m not aware of any further public information on that decision. As much as that worries me, I’d recommend not leaping to conclusions, as I can imagine some reasonable explanations for ARI’s action. Whatever those reasons, I very much hope that ARI explains its decision and its policies publicly. That strikes me as very important now.

Also, I strongly urge OAC students to take advantage of the upcoming OAC call in order to better understand ARI’s position on this whole controversy. (Even though I’m still an OAC graduate student, I won’t be on the call because I’m not currently involved in any OAC programs. They didn’t offer any graduate classes last year, and they don’t seem to have plans to do so this year.) I hope the call goes well, and that it’s helpful to students.

Adam Mossoff in the WSJ

Oct 292010

Adam Mossoff’s work on patents was recently discussed in a Wall Street Journal blog post entitled What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War by David Zax. It begins:

The smartphone market is highly lucrative, has many competing players, and involves countless patents. In other words, it’s a recipe for lawsuits. In the last month alone, Microsoft lobbed a suit at Motorola, who in turn sued Apple. Nokia and HTC both have sued Apple, and Apple has sued both Nokia and HTC.

The web of competing claims on smartphone technology might seem a uniquely 21st-century problem. But according to legal scholar Adam Mossoff, the smartphone woes are reminiscent of a forgotten 19th century legal melee: the Sewing Machine War.

It’s a quick look into some fascinating history that’s very relevant to policy debates about patents today. So go read it!

If you’re interested in these thorny and crucial questions about intellectual property, I strongly recommend that you join Adam Mossoff’s upcoming webcast. You have until November 6th to pledge, and the details can be found in this post. This evening, I’ll set up Google Moderate for the people who pledged enough to participate in the asking of and voting on questions. (Those pledgers will get an e-mail from me with the URL.)

If you’d like to pledge, here’s the form:

I’m really excited about this lecture, and I do hope that you’ll join us!

Craig Biddle: Justice for John P. McCaskey

Oct 292010

Craig Biddle posted a personal statement this morning about Leonard Peikoff’s moral condemnation of John McCaskey. You can find it on his personal web site, here: Justice for John P. McCaskey.

If you’re interested in this issue, I recommend that you read it. Paul and I will have something to say about it next week.

My comments are open to discussion of this statement and related matters. However, my strict comment policy stands: any commenters must be not just civil but also respectful in the process. I will strictly enforce the rule against personal attacks by deleting objectionable posts.

Update 10/29: To forestall any confusions, Paul and I wanted to make one point clear now. Like Craig Biddle, we think that a person can judge Dr. Peikoff’s ultimatum about and moral condemnation of Dr. McCaskey as wrong, while still very much respecting and admiring Dr. Peikoff and his achievements. Moreover, a person can do that while judging the Ayn Rand Institute to be blameless in this matter. That’s basically Paul’s and my view. We have some concerns about ARI’s future, but we regard their silence on Dr. Peikoff’s letter and Dr. McCaskey’s resignation as the right course. Unless something changes, we expect to continue our support of ARI.

Update 11/7: Craig Biddle has posted a short FAQ — Answers to Questions about ‘Justice for John P. McCaskey’ — to reply to questions that he’s received on his essay.

NoodleCast #40: Interview with Earl Parson

Oct 292010

Last Sunday, architect Earl Parson was kind enough to endure all kinds of technical troubles for the sake of a 35-minute informal webcast interview with him about his work.

I wanted to interview Earl now because he’s speaking in Denver on November 6th on “The Role of Ideas in Architecture.” I thought that a video interview would be a great introduction for the people in the FRO community who don’t yet know him. Sadly, technical troubles prevented me from recording the video feed of him from Skype. (That’s particularly sad, because Earl is darn handsome!) Hence, as you’ll see, the video below shows far too much of me at the beginning and the end. However, don’t despair! You’ll see lots of great pictures of Earl’s in-progress Tennessee House in the middle. Also, the sound and video quality from the interview isn’t great, due to the fact that I had to use to the version recorded as a live webstream.

Now… without further ado or apology, here’s the video:

If you prefer to just listen to the audio, you can do that here:

Listen Now

40:37 minutes

Download This Episode

Here are the pictures of the Tennessee house discussed in the interview:

Last but not least, here is the announcement for Earl’s upcoming FROST lecture:

Earl Parson on “The Role of Ideas in Architecture”

Please join us on Saturday, November 6th for a FROST Supper Talk by Architect Earl Parson:

  • What: FROST Supper Talk by Earl Parson on “The Role of Ideas in Architecture”
  • When: Saturday, November 6, 2009, 3:00 pm Doors Open; 3:15 pm Lecture Begins; 4:45 pm Q&A Begins; 5:30 pm Dinner at Dixon’s Downtown Grill. (Note: Dinner is optional and everyone is expected to pay for what they order, plus tax and 20% gratuity which will be automatically added to our bill.)
  • Where: Room 640 (Zenith) in the Tivoli Student Union Building, UC Denver Campus. (That’s Building 7 on the campus map. See also the parking map.)
  • Cost: $30 for regular attendees; $15 for students
  • RSVP by November 1st to [email protected]. Please indicate whether you plan to attend the dinner or not.
  • Payment: You may pay at the door via cash or check. To pay in advance, please send a check to: “FROGS Inc.” c/o Betty Evans; 1140 US Hwy 287 STE 400-283; Broomfield, CO 80020. You can also use PayPal to send your payment to [email protected].

About the lecture:

“The events of any given period of history are the result of the thinking of the preceding period.” — Ayn Rand, “For the New Intellectual”

Join architect Earl Parson as he explores the application of this brilliant observation by Ayn Rand, regarding the relationship of ideas to history, to the field of architecture. By examining primary source documents, including writings, drawings, and photographs of existing buildings, we will examine the ideas that emerged in 19th Century architectural thinking which led to, and made possible, the fabulous career of one of the 20th Century’s greatest architectural minds: Frank Lloyd Wright.

As a designer, Wright was a superlative genius. As a young man, his creativity was channeled and focused by his close relationship to perhaps the greatest architectural thinker of all time: Louis Sullivan. Sullivan’s early theories of modern architecture were themselves heavily influenced by the writings of French architect and theoretician, Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

This presentation will examine these men, their theories, and their buildings, to discover the link between their ideas and concrete actions in 19th and early 20th Century architecture.

Earl Parson is an architect, and an Objectivist, practicing in Los Angeles. You can follow the construction progress of his latest designs at his blog, Creatures of Prometheus.

I hope that you can join us!

Objectivist Roundup

Oct 282010

3 Ring Binder hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go check it out!

Free Speech Versus Regulated Speech: My Experience

Oct 282010

As some of you might recall, the Coalition for Secular Government is subject to Colorado’s campaign finance laws due to our pledge-funded policy paper against Amendment 62: The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life.

For those of you curious about the ins and outs of the speech regulations with which I must comply, I present this excerpt from Colorado Campaign and Political Finance Manual:

Issue committees

Definition: Any person, other than a natural person, or any group of two or more persons, including natural persons, that has a major purpose of supporting or opposing any ballot issue or ballot question, AND that has accepted or made contributions or expenditures in excess of two hundred dollars to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question OR has printed two hundred or more petition sections.

Issue committee status applies to organizations made up of members who support or oppose an issue in their community. Please familiarize yourself with the laws concerning issue committees before you as a group engage in political activity, to ensure that you comply with any campaign finance laws that may apply.

You must register an issue committee if you:

* Are a group of two or more individuals (natural persons) or businesses (or both);

* That supports or opposes a ballot issue or ballot question (see below for definition); AND one of

* You have accepted or made contributions or expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose that ballot issue or ballot question; OR

* You have printed more than 200 petition sections or more than 200 petition sections have been accepted. (This provision effective 1/1/2011)

Registration and reporting requirements

Registration is required within 10 calendar days of accepting contributions or making expenditures in excess of $200 to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question.

Issue committees at the state, county, or special district level, or those active in multiple counties or special districts, register with and report to the Secretary of State. Municipal issue committees (those supporting or opposing ballot measures at the local municipal only) register with the municipal clerk. Filing dates vary depending on whether your issue committee is statewide, county, special district, school district, etc. Please consult TRACER for the filing calendar applicable to your committee.

Only the registered agent may sign and electronically file the committee’s reports.

Any amendments or changes to your registration must be filed with the appropriate officer within five days of the change.

There are no contribution limits or prohibitions for contributions to issue committees.

The name and address of the contributor must be reported for all contributions of $20 or more, and the contributor’s occupation and employer must be listed for contributions of $100 or more.

An issue committee may only be closed by filing a termination report indicating a “zero” balance. Issue committees may return unexpended campaign funds to the contributors or donate them to a charitable organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

A disclaimer statement is required on communications produced by expenditures of more than $1,000 made by an issue committee.

Major Contribution Report

Contributions received within 30 days before a primary or general election, which exceed $1,000, must be reported as “major contributions” in the TRACER system in addition to reporting such contributions on regular reports.

The Coalition for Secular Government is clearly subject to those regulations: we’re a group, our major work is our policy paper against Amendment 62, and we’re accepting and spending more than $200, thanks to the generous people who pledged to support the policy paper. Hence, we must comply.

Initially, I thought that those campaign finance instructions were clear enough. They’d be a pain, but at least I’d know what to do. However, now that I’ve submitted two reports, I can’t say that any longer. For example:

  • I’ve promoted the policy paper via Facebook advertisements. I used my own personal credit card for that, and I’ve not yet reimbursed myself from CSG’s funds. So when does that become an expenditure that I must report — when my personal credit card is charged or when I reimburse myself?
  • Many people paid me through PayPal, which was awesome, because that’s more convenient than checks. However, PayPal automatically takes a small percentage in fees from such transactions. So what do I report as the donation amount — the amount given or the amount received?
  • When I receive checks, I don’t report them until they’re deposited in the bank. However, does the same apply to payments via PayPal? And in my case, I had limitations placed on my PayPal account for a while that prevented me from accessing the funds. Was I obliged to report those funds, even though temporarily inaccessible?

In short, the laws are just not clear. As a result, I’ve tried to do whatever seemed like the safest option open to me. I don’t have an army of lawyers to guide me… and even if I did, that might not be enough! With every wrong move, I risk $50 per day in fines.

Of course, the fundamental problem with such regulations is not that compliance is difficult, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. That’s true, and it’s important, but it’s not essential. These campaign finance regulations would be wrong, even if compliance with them was easy, quick, and fun. Even in that case, the regulations would be a blatant violation of every person’s free speech rights. People should not have to register with the government to speak their minds. They should not have to register with the government to donate money so that others can speak for them.

Speaking personally, I feel that violation of free speech rights more clearly and more personally now than ever before. I’ve been forced — coerced, at the point of a gun — to spend hours of my time attempting to comply with these regulations, so that I might have permission to speak my mind. That’s vile — and it’s disheartening to me.

And I’m not alone in those feelings. The practical result of such speech regulations that is that ordinary citizens keep quiet, while well-funded “special interests” dominate the political debates. That’s not an unintended consequence: that’s what the politicians and bureaucrats want, I think. Free speech in America is under assault — not by outright censorship but rather by devious regulations in the name of “transparency” and “fairness.”

I hope that makes you angry — angry enough to want to strike back at the politicians and bureaucrats muzzling all of us. If so, then let me suggest that you donate to the free speech work of the Institute for Justice. IJ is the only organization that I know to be fighting for free speech, including against campaign finance laws, on principle and by concerted effort. And they’re effective too! I plan to write another check to IJ — once again, directed toward their free speech projects — in the next few days. If you want to protect free speech rights in America, then I urge you to do the same.

Free Speech Versus Colorado Law

Oct 272010

Robert Frommer of the Institute for Justice published an excellent op-ed in the Denver Post today about the incomprehensible morass of Colorado’s campaign finance laws. It begins:

In America, the only thing you should need to speak out is an opinion. But this election season, groups of concerned citizens around the country are finding out that they need more than just their opinions; they also need a lawyer.

But even that isn’t enough, as Clear the Bench Colorado discovered. Go read the whole op-ed for the details. Although I’m sadly familiar with Colorado’s campaign finance laws, this case flabbergasts me. It’s non-objective law at its finest.

I’ll have more to say on my own experience with campaign finance laws tomorrow.

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