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An American in Hong Kong

Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.” — Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old ex-CIA technician who has come forward to self-identify as the source for news reports about massive government monitoring of U.S. communications under the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, warns his fellow Americans that the state is erecting what he calls an “architecture of oppression” which will lead to turnkey operations serving a government based on tyranny. Based on what I’ve seen in this video interview and based on what is known, and despite the parts of his statements and viewpoints with which I disagree or find troubling, I trust Edward Snowden more than I trust the United States government.

As I wrote a few weeks ago in a post titled “New Left America,” the state, mired in corruption amid several recently disclosed scandals, is a vast, left-wing conspiracy that’s taking the country toward dictatorship. I must add, however, that the left-wing distinction is rapidly becoming a point of particular origin, as conservatives are rushing to defend the Obama administration’s mass surveillance of U.S. communications. Charles Krauthammer approves of indiscriminate government monitoring. So does Rep. Mike Rogers, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Sen. Lindsey Graham and others who also support other Bush-made, Obama-enforced government programs, such as the TSA, Homeland Security and selfless military missions of mercy in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which should exist and all of which ought to be immediately abolished. The fascist state, and that is what America is becoming, is rising based on the false premise – supported by those on the left and right alike – that we must have government control of individual rights in order to protect lives and defend the republic – or, worse in the case of the leftists, to serve the collective and, worst of all, in the case of conservatives, to serve God, tradition and family.

Mixed, leftist or conservative, they’re all wrong. Liberty is not contingent upon security – a proper national defense neither requires nor necessitates surrendering liberty – and individual rights are inalienable, as America’s founders knew and wrote when they created the United States of America. Today, we face a crucial, urgent battle between liberty and slavery. Whatever flaws in his position and in his philosophy, Edward Snowden speaks softly and strongly and righteously about what he says he knows and he is an articulate, brave spokesman for truth in this context and we have every reason to take him at his word and no reason to take the U.S. government’s word. That makes Mr. Snowden, who by all appearances is young, honest, intelligent, independent, principled and outspoken, more American than the American state.

imagesAs he put it in his interview with The Guardian of Britain – a country which once ruled Americans until we broke away, declared our independence and waged an American revolution, fighting and winning a war, and creating a free republic: “I don’t see myself as a hero because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” Mr. Snowden is wrong that selfishness is not compatible with heroism – selfishness is, as Ayn Rand wrote, the highest virtue – but he’s right to blow the whistle on America’s emerging totalitarianism and he deserves every true American’s 100 percent support. Knowing that truth is the recognition of reality, as Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, he’s earned mine.

New Left America

Years ago, Hillary Clinton, speaking as the president’s wife, went on NBC’s Today Show and complained of what she called a “vast right-wing conspiracy” without citing evidence. She said there was a conspiracy to discredit her husband over the scandal of his having an affair with an intern. It turned out that there was a conspiracy by the president and White House staff to cover-up his affair.

In the past several days, several newly disclosed facts provide evidence that our government, led by New Left intellectuals and activists such as Mrs. Clinton and chiefly Barack Obama, conspired against Americans’ individual rights and against defense of the United States during an attack on September 11 by Moslems at Benghazi. The scandals are still breaking, and the evidence mounts by the hours, but it’s been known by top government officials that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted specific groups of individuals based on their political views, violating their rights to free speech and association. That these organizations, which include Tea Party groups, Jewish groups supporting Israel and right-wing organizations with the word patriots in the name, were seeking compliance with the tax code is a crucial point. The left’s incessant criticism of the Tea Party is that it is anti-government, an assertion which is on its face not true. But the fact that Tea Party affiliates were targeted by the state while they were attempting to comply with the laws of the United States government is essential to understanding why this administration is more anti-government in the fundamental sense than the worst conservatives and libertarians.

New disclosures also show that the U.S. government issued orders to monitor two months of phone records on 20 lines used by 100 reporters and editors for the Associated Press, apparently in order to identify the source of an AP report about the CIA stopping an Islamic terrorist plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the U.S., a leak which CIA Director John Brennan, who it was once claimed converted to Islam, described as an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.” This is a particularly chilling disclosure. Given what we know about how the U.S. government concealed the truth about the Islamic attack at Benghazi, and concealed the truth about the Islamic attack at Boston, the notion that the director of intelligence regards a press report as “dangerous” and that our government is spying on the press has ominous implications. In fact, the upshot is clear that our government conceals and lies about Islamic terrorism against America and instead targets the press and those describing themselves as patriots.

The word for that is conspiracy, not scandal. The Obama administration is a vast left-wing conspiracy against the United States and that is an assertion based strictly on what we know.

Maher’s Hard Left Turn

Maher-lib-620x363Comedian Bill Maher recently railed against Ayn Rand in his repudiation of libertarianism in an amusing if ignorant display (watch it here) that underscores that the woman who created Objectivism is right to reject libertarianism.

Maher has been a left-wing libertarian and his renunciation, which is putting his comments kindly, is both a full hard turn to the left (i.e., environmentalism and welfare-statism) and a drop of any pretense that Maher takes ideas seriously, as anyone who has seen his biting shows figured out long ago. He’s a clever comedian with a vague, passing interest in ideas – he once booked Ayn Rand’s heir on his show – who has finally put himself in his place as a lazy shill for what amounts to dictatorship.

But part of what makes the cynic’s diatribe humorous is that he’s right to suggest that libertarians are inconsistent and to imply that the nation’s top libertarians, such as Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan, are unserious about advancing liberty and more interested in just being self-centered. Libertarians are anti-government, not anti-government control, and they fail to articulate a coherent position on anything relevant to people’s lives because they stand for nothing. Both Sen. Paul and Rep. Ryan graft Ayn Rand’s consistently rational philosophy – which is not anti-government, contrary to Maher’s monologue – onto their Judeo-Christian politics of theocracy. What results is a confusing presentation of fragments of good ideas mixed with bad ideas that remind us that libertarians, such as the Cato Institute, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, are at best misguided in attempts to advance liberty and capitalism and at worst they propagate the ethics of the totalitarian welfare state.

If Objectivists infiltrate what is more of a loose political movement made by scuzzy hippies than a political philosophy that makes sense and have some degree of influence for restoring individual rights, I say way to go and have at it. But I think it’s a waste of time and I think we’re better off just being Objectivists – selfish, honest, proud, productive and rational – and trying to persuade people who think. Having a biting, leftist libertarian comedian ditch libertarianism for leftism while denouncing Ayn Rand on the wrong grounds may be marginally interesting, but it is not a sign of progress and I doubt that differentiating libertarianism from Objectivism will move the culture toward reason.

Activism

Obama-Obamacare-SignatureFrom the day I first became an activist – when my best friend told me that his family’s home was being seized by our hometown government when we were in the third grade (as I recently wrote about here) to this black day in our nation’s history, March 23, which, contrary to decades of my best activist efforts, marks three years of health care dictatorship known as ObamaCare (as I wrote about in an op-ed in this week’s Washington Times), I have learned the essentials of activism.

Key lessons include matching message to media, objectively communicating on principle, and not without consideration of factors which may at first seem irrelevant, an important aspect that many well-meaning activists, especially Objectivists, fail to grasp and master. For example, in the case of the third grade property rights action – we took on city hall with our door-to-door canvassing throughout the town – seeing two eight-year-olds walking across town to save a child’s home from government-sponsored seizure and demolition for the sake of a park concretized for residents that having a place for children to play seemed beside the point if it means depriving the child of a home to live in. Our campaign for justice was the perfect counterpoint in reality to the local government’s claims. They backed down. We won. My friend grew up in that home.

We bought time and we set an example of activism; he was able to keep his home. Seeing the bastards buckle was, for me, a tonic to the counterculture which I knew I hated. I could not have conceptualized it this way at the time, but I sensed that the New Left, which later spawned the ultimate nihilist Obama and was spreading all around me as a child, was sinister – I was being subjected to it every day in government schools amid ‘progressive’ education which was pure poison – and even as a boy I knew the left was contaminating the government. Whatever had almost happened to my best friend was caused by some dark intellectual force I had yet to identify but knew was lurking and slithering around me in various forms such as hippies, drug users and dealers and all sorts of toxic hosts that people remarkably still refuse to acknowledge: teachers, priests, political operatives and especially college professors. There were good ones, too, which must be said. But the bad ones put their professions to shame and were feeding off New Left dogma – if it feels good, do it; whatever works; love the one you’re with; just believe; who are we to know?; what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me – and bloodsucking the life out of youths. I learned to be on guard. In this sense, I learned that the New Left radicals have a point; the personal is the political and the reverse is also true and both to the extent that politics apply to one’s life.

I had also learned as a child to commit to physical action, whether for property rights, charity (ringing bells for the Salvation Army and soliciting on street corners to raise money to help the blind), safety (as a crossing guard and kids’ safety school instructor) and politics, standing at blustery Chicago locations to promote individual rights. Chicago Police detained me without cause when, tipped off by a sympathetic union source, I joined a peaceful protest of a Carter/Mondale union rally. That’s where I learned the value of the proper maneuver, getting to know reporters on site and communicating the message to the right recipient. That day, we failed, outfoxed by unions and corrupt cops, ignored by the broadcast media that turned the other cheek to youths being wrongly evicted from an exercise in free speech. We had been unprepared for hostile reaction.

Over years in campaigns and, later, on Capitol Hill with John Porter, on the advance team for Ronald Reagan, whom I met and talked with, and while running editorial operations for free market health care and patient advocacy, while reading Ayn Rand’s writings and reporting on news, sports and commentary, I developed the ability to quickly assimilate facts and action with a principled purpose, often in a crisis with a distinct and legitimate requisite for some degree of theatrical appeal. In Chicago, I had faced harsh weather and physical threats. I was also threatened with physical force on the streets in Philadelphia, where I coached and advised a student protest against state-sponsored voluntary servitude. There were lessons in Miami, too, when I met Elian Gonzalez days before he was seized at gunpoint by the U.S. government only to be returned to a Communist dictatorship.

At times, the activists walked away thinking we had won when, in fact, we’d lost. In other instances, the team figured we may have wasted time when, in fact, we had advanced the cause for freedom in some small but measurable way; the campaign to liberate Elian, which was opposed by some top Objectivists, comes to mind. The team had mobilized and activated thousands in unity in an unprecedented national effort which provided crucial experience to future leaders and serious artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals. Most of the time the results were as mixed as the culture, a fact of reality which yields the best lesson of all: that, with regard to activism, reality is beyond one’s immediate control and you have to let go of what you can’t control to focus on what you can control, which may be an extremely difficult balance to achieve in an activist moment. Yes, one must act on principle to be a rational activist, as I learned in my youth. But one must act, which I have observed in 40 years of experience most Objectivists do not. When they do, it is often with self-aggrandizement, sanctimony or sneering that puts people off and precludes an intended audience from being receptive to persuasion from an objective communication about what’s in philosophy for them.

I’ve made scads of mistakes and the record proves it. We did not stop welfare statism or eradicate the notion of being morally obliged to “give back” to God, religion or others. We are losing that intellectual battle and fast and on an epic scale. We lost free choice in medicine to health care dictatorship and a child refugee to Communism. But, for the few who have activated their minds in principled action, and you know who you are, activism is not hustling in a self-centered way as most right-wing think tanks and professional political activists do. Activism offers a trade. When properly executed, results are the reward: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), a moral challenge in action to those who seek to rule by force in the heart of where they gather – Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC – and a house a child calls home.

There are other benefits of rational activism: a strong, seasoned, unified network of rare, exceptional intellectuals, neither ivory tower types nor hucksters, who activate like real-life superheroes in a given crisis in a nation heading toward catastrophe, buying more time to live, which buys more time to be happy here on earth. For myself, I know firsthand that activism should not be a sacrifice, and that the greatest reward is having acted in my self-interest. From the life of the late John David Lewis, whose Tea Party speeches for free market medicine and victory in war with jihadists were as passionate as his lectures on history, to the example of Leonard Peikoff, who learned from Ayn Rand (who was also an activist), I have learned that the more the altruist-collectivist axis enacts a dictatorship, the more urgently the egoist-individualist and his allies must self-activate.

On this horrible date in history, the day the dictate ObamaCare became law, Americans should keep in mind the words of Leonard Peikoff, who said, when faced with the prospect of government-controlled medicine – and he said it to a general audience, not to a cluster of academics, let alone Objectivist academics: “So long as people believe that socialized medicine is a noble plan, there is no way to fight it. You cannot stop a noble plan—not if it really is noble. The only way you can defeat it is to unmask it—to show that it is the very opposite of noble. Then at least you have a fighting chance.” The upshot of this thought is to fight on principle; to know enough to fight to win and live life. In this sense, activism means fighting to live and this is a balance; one must keep in mind both that the point is to live and that living means active fighting, not passive griping, forwarding of e-mails and sharing of posts or making jokes, memes and comments. Activism is not only reading, listening and making donations to others. It means going on the offense, deep into the adversary’s field of operations. It means the opposite of sloughing off the world at large; it means engagement, not disengagement. As Ayn Rand wrote, it is sooner than you think. I think this is still true.

Objectivism is a philosophy for living on earth. Its application requires thought and action. Today, especially on this day, this means being an activist, not for the sake of activism but for the sake of your life. Dr. Peikoff’s forementioned health care activism resulted in an instantaneous standing ovation. I know because I was there and, as I remember it, I was first to stand up. The injustice he was fighting, the Clinton health care plan, was not only defeated; unlike ObamaCare, it never went to the White House for signing. That’s because it never made it to the congressional floor for a vote and that’s because it never became a piece of legislation. This is what activism can do.

Obama’s Re-Election

By most accounts, Obama won re-election (my forecast was way off, though I did say that the U.S. is so contaminated that my projection might be wrong). It turns out that Romney, godfather of ObamaCare whom I denounced early during his campaign as “Obamney”, a term coined by an even lesser opponent, was a poor facsimile of his father’s nemesis, Barry Goldwater, in the historically disastrous 1964 presidential campaign; he ran a decent campaign and then blanked on his best themes in the final weeks, winning the first debate with a relatively robust offense against Obama only to refuse to challenge Obama on his outrageous handling of the Islamic terrorist attack at Benghazi and instead agreeing with Obama on nearly every major issue, especially the morality of the welfare state, which he, like his running mate Paul Ryan, never challenged. Faced with another milquetoast, me-too Republican – and Romney tried to put voters at ease with his rubbery positions – more voters chose the real thing: a New Left destroyer of capitalism, individualism and America.

Those same voters are set up to be destroyed, one by one, and they will have deserved it. Those who do not deserve it will also be destroyed, as more innocents are crushed by Big Government day after day, month after month, year after year, which is why time is more urgent and precious than it was yesterday. We learned that there are more looters and moochers, in Ayn Rand’s terms from Atlas Shrugged, than there are creatives and producers, or at least more of those who vote. And to paraphrase a famous saying there’s a special rung in hell for those who did not vote, or wasted their vote on a third party candidate, or disdain politics altogether. There is another special rung in hell for religious people who seek to mix religion with secular government. Their lunatic candidates were trounced in the election, and the loss contributed to Romney’s loss, with their faith-based views making faith-based Obama seem reasonable. Obama will expedite the nation’s destruction. I don’t pretend to know which form the collapse may take or when but I know that people who want a republic based on individual rights and capitalism haven’t much time. Ayn Rand often cautioned that “it’s sooner than you think”, so Objectivists should think and re-think what we’re doing to communicate Rand’s ideas. That includes the Ayn Rand Institute, other leading free market intellectuals and, of course, my own efforts. We are heavily outnumbered – so were the founding fathers and patriots – and we should take stock of what we’re doing and whether we’re getting good enough results.

There are multiple sources for knowledge, understanding and inspiration, especially my favorite novel, Atlas Shrugged, and also Leonard Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (1982), the best history of philosophy book I’ve read, and Dr. Peikoff’s new book, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights in the West Are Going Out.

We have less time with Obama in power and it is best to choose expenditures of time and effort wisely. I have been engaged in the battle for individual rights for over 30 years, since I was a teenaged campaign staffer in the land of Lincoln, and I’ve chronicled our downward spiral, from the forced removal of Elian Gonzalez to the death of the medical profession – ObamaCare – two years ago. I feel as if I have been an eyewitness to a botched surgery and autopsy and now it is time to bury the corpse. Hours after I met Elian in Miami, Florida, at the turn of the century, days before the child was seized at gunpoint and forced to return to slavery in Communist Cuba, someone I admire took note of the public’s rejection of Elian’s plea for life and freedom and told me: “The West is doomed.” At the time, I was shocked. I didn’t believe it was true. A few weeks later, during the government’s pre-dawn raid to snatch Elian, I reconsidered whether it was true. A year later, on September 11, I figured that we are probably doomed after all.

Today, I know we are. Before the election, I watched an episode of Frontline on PBS (yes, I know it’s government-sponsored TV), contrasting Romney and Obama. It was well done though slanted for Obama like everything else in the media including that stuff on Fox News Channel. Romney came across as a clean-cut, anachronistic American missionary turned successful businessman whose parents imbued in him a sense of purpose in delivering America into what the Romneys believe is a sacred prophecy. Obama, too, came off as someone who was raised to think he was some sort of savior for a cause – only, in Obama’s case, the cause is the delivery of America’s total destruction. Obama’s profile featured several comments, including a foreigner’s remark, intended as a compliment, that he “didn’t think of [Obama] as an American friend.” Then, Frontline covered Obama himself expressing a fond recollection for belonging to a collective of drug-induced, college-bred hippies known as the “choom gang.” And, in one of those tossed-off racist lines that we’re not supposed to think is racist because it’s pronounced by a black person – one of Obama’s college classmates – there was this formative comment. Upon learning that Obama’s real first name was Barack, not Barry, the black classmate suggested using Barack instead, asking Obama: “What kind of a name is Barry for a brother?”

Of course, we now know that Obama, who was admittedly and chronically obsessed with his own blood, did change his name to Barack, and we also know that he believes his identity is partly based on race. We know he thinks that government should control our lives, that we’re “all in this together”, which means each individual belongs to the collective and must submit to the dictates of its elected leader. We know, too, that Obama and wife hold creators in contempt – “you didn’t build that!” – as pre-advantaged people who must be brought down by force for the sake of other people, based on class, race and culture.

In the end, there were more people who accept the philosophy of altruism, collectivism and welfare-statism and wanted Obama than there were of the mixed, mangled bunch of us who wanted Romney for any variety of reasons, some of them, such as lighter forms of statism and outright theocracy, bad reasons. More Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama and, if you think about it, you will realize, as I have, that to cast a vote for Romney required a certain exertion of effort, filtering and thinking things through so that the choice we faced yesterday was not obvious, particularly to those without an explicit philosophy. So, do not hate everyone for re-electing Obama, even if you think they should have known better. Buck up and read, or re-read, Atlas Shrugged, clarify and if necessary improve your own thoughts and arguments and act on what you know so that, in the next election, if we have one, and today part of me doubts we will, there will be a clearer, better choice. It is a fact that we live under a government on the fast track toward becoming a dictatorship. Giving up on integrating philosophy into life, which even more urgently requires persuading others to stop passively supporting violation of your right to life, makes life unbearable and sooner than you think.

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it. Reality is what it is, so there is no denying that life will be harder now, much harder. The headline that matters at this moment is not that Obama was re-elected; what matters is today’s other headline that “ABC News Loses Power in Times Square Studio”. This is an example of the reality we should face, align with and resolve to fix. Life is already hard, and it is true that Obama’s re-election makes life more difficult and imminently more dangerous (ObamaCare). Things are going to stop working. Power will go down. Cities will go dark. Traffic on government roads will get worse. Waiting in government hospitals will be longer and the treatment will be inferior. Attending government schools will be more harmful to children. Businesses are going to be destroyed. People are going to starve and people are going to die. I will live, enjoy and make the most of my life while life is still possible, knowing that there is a destroyer with some degree of power over my life. My estimate that there are more voters who grasp that Obama is a destroyer than those who do not (or, worse, who know it and want destruction) was wrong. I should have known better: four years ago, I didn’t know Obama was a destroyer. Knowing it now is better than not knowing it and four years from now there may be more of us, perhaps enough to steer what’s left of the West toward freedom.