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Apple vs. the State

In an extraordinary act of defiance against the state, Cupertino, California-based Apple, Inc. refused to comply with the Obama administration after a judge ordered the company to breach its customers’ privacy and contracts, act against its own policies, terms and self-interest and “help” the government decode and destroy the company’s invention and property, the iPhone—all under compulsion in the name of national security.

Leave aside legal, ethical and philosophical consideration of national security implications inherent in the FBI’s public admission that it can’t hack a dead terrorist’s government-issued cell phone, contradicting the Obama administration’s claims that such authority is both successful and crucial to the nation’s defense. As Apple’s chief executive officer explains in his February 16 response, the Department of Justice’s demand that Apple create a means of decoding a single iPhone possessed by the state after an Islamic terrorist attack amounts to all of the above violations of Apple’s individual rights. And, as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision affirms, a company is properly regarded as an individual with absolute individual rights.

Democrat Ron Wyden, a U.S. senator from Oregon and staunch advocate for Americans against the surveillance state, agrees with Apple, declaring that the judge’s order is “unconstitutional”. Wyden, like Edward Snowden in a post on Twitter, correctly implies that the Obama administration’s demand is an inversion of government’s proper role. As Snowden (who is said to have been moved to his heroic whistleblowing by The Lives of Others) posted, “the FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around.” I made a similar and related point in defense of Sony contra the U.S. government over the government’s abdication of national defense in the wake of an attack on one of the Culver City, California company’s movies (“The Undoing of Sony’s ‘The Interview‘”).

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Click to Read Letter

By posting the letter, Apple is fighting back. Exercising its right to absolute freedom of speech, asserting its property rights and the right to run its own business, the company co-founded by Steve Jobs issued the unprecedented public warning against the dangers of mass, unchecked government surveillance and made what amounts to a call to citizen action. In his letter to Apple customers, CEO Tim Cook refuses to accept the legitimacy of the judge’s order and instead insists upon recognition of Apple’s individual rights.

Apple’s letter is a declaration of independence against the oppressive state. The company leads in defending man’s rights against the surveillance state—to my knowledge, not a single technology company has publicly and unequivocally supported Apple’s letter and position—and, whatever its flaws and contradictions, such as referring to the United States as a “democracy” when, in fact, the U.S. is fundamentally a republic, Apple is, in today’s context, 100 percent right and should be supported by advocates of liberty and capitalism.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, whom I interviewed in 2011 when he ran for president in 2012 (read the interview), reduces Apple’s persecution to essentials with a good example: “[I]f the FBI comes across a safe in [a legally sanctioned search of a criminal’s] house, the warrant and permission do not mean it can force the company that manufactures the safe to create a special tool for opening its safes, especially a tool that would make other safes completely useless as secure storage. That’s the situation that Apple’s dealing with here.” Indeed, other than the Clinton administration’s proposed V-chip censorship mandate for all television sets, which failed, I can’t recall a more sweeping manufacturing mandate to violate the rights of individuals.

I’m also not aware of any support for Apple among the field of 2016 presidential candidates.

On the contrary, bombastic GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, appearing on Fox and Friends, denounced Apple’s position. “Who do they [Apple] think they are?” Trump asked. “They have to open it up.” Trump—who supports government-controlled medicine, the massive surveillance state and arbitrary government seizure of private property—said: “I agree 100 percent with the [judge]. In that case, we should open it up.” […] “We have to use common sense.”

In this context, “common sense” means faith in the statethe massive, unchecked surveillance state that can order any company or individual at its arbitrary discretion to create a means to absolutely violate the individual’s rights. Not surprisingly, a Fox News panel with Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, columnist A.B. Stoddard and conservative columnist Stephen Hayes concurs with Trump’s opposition to Apple. They are the embodiment of what Ayn Rand called “Faith and Force: Destroyers of the Modern World,” which was Rand’s first major campus talk, delivered 56 years ago today at Yale University.

As left and right commune in faith—belief without evidence—in the omnipotent state (the NSA, ObamaCare, TSA), one voice of reason opposes in principle and action the initiation of force against the individual; Apple, which refuses to go silently to its—and America’s—doom. As usual, a private, for-profit enterprise, in keeping with the nation’s history of singularly great acts of rebellion against tyranny such as the Boston Tea Party, sets an example in achieving the moral, i.e., egoistic, ideal in action. What happens next will be interesting, potentially decisive and either encouraging or horrifying, and possibly crucial to whether the nation remains in any sense a republic based on individual rights.

Year in Review: 2013

American whistleblower Edward Snowden courtesy of The GuardianThis year gave us two types of men: Edward Snowden and Phil Robertson, or, the man of reason and the man of faith. The young man represents the spirit of youth; Snowden is an idealist who fled his own country for Hong Kong this summer, told the world about indiscriminate government surveillance on the entire population of the U.S. and made thoughtful arguments against government control over people’s lives. He was praised here first before many others even addressed what he did. He was called a hero by Ayn Rand’s heir. He was passionately defended by a prominent conservative intellectual who reported that Snowden had been moved to act by a foreign film about Communist surveillance.

Yet Snowden was roundly denounced for his whistleblowing act of heroism by leftists, conservatives and others, especially those from the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations, and attacked by government. Tea Party types who made a movement based on opposing government control, challenging the welfare state and demanding new, radical solutions to U.S. problems were split on Snowden’s status as a hero.

They shouldn’t be. Edward Snowden is in every sense the best news of 2013, if America is to remain even partially free. Stating that he does not trust the Obama administration, he brought forth bold new evidence at enormous risk to his own life. From his efforts, we know that the government tracks the American people with the latest technology and captures detailed information about every individual without regard to the law. We know that the government lied about doing this. We know that not a single enemy attack or terrorist siege has been prevented, not that it would make mass surveillance right if it had. We know that the ways and means of government surveillance of Americans is enormous, alarming and unchecked. A federal judge challenged the constitutionality and rightly compared the statism to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

All of this is thanks to Edward Snowden.

Snowden brought Americans together in a way that opposing ObamaCare never could, even paving the way for a more unified, principled opposition to that unconstitutional act of fascism. He did so by thinking, speaking and acting on his own judgment, something few Americans do by my observation. He singularly enlightened the West and changed the world and he did it going by reason, of course, not taking Big Government on faith.

Most Americans do the opposite, as we saw in abundance by their rallying to the defense of an archaic old man who thinks, looks and talks like the mass murdering religious terrorist who destroyed the Twin Towers. He goes by faith, not by reason. He is primitive, not cognitive. His name is Phil Robertson. He leads the religious clan at the center of America’s most watched cable TV program.

DuckDynastyoldmanCourtesyofCrossmapDuring an interview with GQ, Robertson said blacks he observed were fine before civil rights laws were passed and gays, drunks and adulterers among others are going to hell. Robertson, a fundamentalist Christian, has previously made similarly ignorant statements, such as promoting the marrying of females as children, and the cable network suspended him when his new comments were widely broadcast. They did so on the grounds that his views are repugnant to their business ethics. When conservatives, including religious conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, erupted in a fury to defend Robertson on improper grounds, i.e., free speech – ignoring that the suspension does not violate the First Amendment – the network buckled to pressure and restored Robertson to the airwaves.

The man of faith triumphed. That he did so at the expense of another group that touts faith (belief without evidence) in dogma, GLAAD, an irrational gay activist group, is irrelevant to what matters. Robertson brought forth vile and repulsive views, in crude expressions reducing sex to the use of orifices, spreading irrationalism to a wider audience. He singularly darkened the West and changed the world. His dark, malevolent beliefs were defended, sanctioned and accepted based on faith, i.e., in conservatism, in false views of what constitutes free speech, and above all in God, tradition and religion.

Robertson is the opposite of Snowden.

Robertson’s mob is emboldened and they are gathering. What we witnessed in 2013 in the Duck Dynasty media backlash, as with other cultural shifts toward irrationalism, is the mainstreaming of religious fundamentalism. The left’s faith in the welfare state was legitimized long ago by conservatives – the right accepts the left’s morality of altruism – and now the right’s faith in the religious state is being legitimized by the left, and also by secular rightists and libertarians such as Camille Paglia, in return. It’s the convergence of left and right in the name of faith, not reason.

We’ll suffer the consequences soon enough. Phil Robertson’s martyrdom has already paved the way for the emergence of another faith-based media celebrity: former quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been hired as a college football analyst by Disney’s ESPN for college football’s SEC Network in 2014. On Monday, Jan. 6, the athlete made famous more for his prayer than for his ability will make his first appearance as an ESPN analyst. “Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal,” said ESPN programming executive Justin Connolly.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a devoutly religious person being popular in the culture. What the Robertson/Tebow broadcasting victories represent is a triumph of ignorance over knowledge, humility over ability, and, in Robertson’s case, depravity over dignity. Anyone who read what Robertson said knows what I mean. It’s bad enough that a publication that once heralded the civilization of man is cashing in on an old bigot’s popularity – and Robertson’s disgusting GQ interview is another instance of the coarsening of the culture which in turn feeds the rise of the religionists – and providing a platform for condemnation of gays, alcoholics and those who have sex outside of marriage, let alone marriage of children and Robertson’s other repugnant views and we should not be surprised if the rise of the Robertsons nets new primitives getting their own shows with high ratings, followings and streams of newly disgusting commentary. Nor will those inclined to denounce such primitives find speaking out easier in the wake of the Robertsons’ rising again.

All it takes to counter the rising tide of the irrational is one voice of reason to object. Like the child in the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, Edward Snowden pointed and named the reality of Big Government and gave America cause to rally for justice. His heroic example may lead to new, bold acts by radicals for a society based on reason and rights, though there will undoubtedly be new, bold acts, such as the continuing faith-based death spiral ObamaCare, by those in the opposite camp. 2013 delivered in two men powerful evidence of both.

Why are America’s Top Generals Being Fired?

The nation’s top military generals are being fired by the Obama administration one by one, according to Reuters in an article published today.

It’s a disturbing trend for several reasons. The government says that each firing does not indicate any type of breach of U.S. military security or preparedness. But this makes one wonder why the generals are being fired. If the purported offenses are so puny – a commander at the crucial U.S. Strategic Air Command was reportedly fired for gambling – as to pose no threat to national security, why are the generals being fired? Contrast this with the administration’s treatment of those who commit repeated offenses, infractions and violations of law in countless government corruption scandals from Benghazi and Boston to the IRS, TSA and ObamaCare and it becomes clear that the firing of America’s military generals is cause for grave concern.

The government’s secrecy in these supposed wrongdoings by the generals is also suspicious. For example, the latest general to be fired is in charge of America’s nuclear missiles and, while the Obama administration insists that his infractions pose no threat to our missile defense and capability, the government refuses to identify, address and explain what the general is accused of doing that merits being fired. This amounts to Obama saying the fired general deserves no suspension, no punishment, no warning – just ‘you’re fired’ but we’re not telling anyone the facts or circumstances and we’re not disclosing why he’s fired but the people must have faith in the state and it’s not a big deal.

But firing one after another military general without cause, explanation or disclosure is a major issue. Especially coming from a government that shoots to kill, as we recently saw when the Secret Service or Capitol Police (we still don’t know which) gunned down an unarmed single mother driving recklessly in the nation’s capital. This is in the context of an administration which is systematically persecuting individuals and businesses and imposing total government control of the economy.

We have reason to believe that former U.S. military Central Commander Gen. David Petraeus, who became CIA director, may have been pushed out by the Obama administration using personal information obtained by secret U.S. government spying on Petraeus through the NSA, as whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden have warned against. Now we have top military generals in command of the most essential military weapons being fired one by one by a government that negotiates with Islamic dictatorships threatening to annihilate the U.S. with nuclear weapons while refusing to negotiate with Congressional leaders over the health care dictate. There’s a sinister pattern here.

million_vet_march_memorialsThis is why it is encouraging that our nation’s oldest and bravest defenders, our war veterans, have resolved to act in defiance of the Obama administration. This Sunday, the vets will march on Washington to storm the barricades erected around that which memorializes their acts of courage and assert their individual rights.

We already know that Obama wants to destroy what’s left of our nation’s republic. But Americans need to know why generals are being fired at the highest levels of military defense. We must know if the NSA is systematically spying on our generals to intimidate and force them into submission. We ought to know more about the American who was gunned down and killed in the nation’s capital, too, such as who fired upon her and why because the rights of the individual are why this country exists. Our immediate future is at stake. The truth may be worse than what’s known. This Sunday, every American should express support for America’s protesting veterans. Whatever happens, each among us should find inspiration in their acts of bravery versus the state, summon the courage to follow their example and become an activist for life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Obama is dictating everything from health insurance to war memorial visits as he negotiates Islamic jihad nuclearization. Now he’s removing top military generals. The people should stand united in opposition.

Book Review: History of the Holocaust

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Buy the Softcover

Oxford University Press recently published the 1998 Politik der Vernichtung (Politics of Destruction) by Peter Longerich (Professor of Modern German History at Royal Holloway, University of London) in English. The result, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews, is an exhaustive account of the National Socialists’ systematic extermination of Jews (among others) during World War 2. Using mostly primary sources from various archives throughout Europe, including Germany and eastern Europe, Longerich examines the Nazi murderers and their decision making process, demonstrating that the mass murder of the Jews was a “central tenet” of the Nazi philosophy, which was crucial to Nazi policies.

This hardcover reference volume, making use of the 1930s archives of the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, which re-emerged in the 1990s after years in Soviet Russia, relies on letters and reports detailing attacks on Jews by Germans. The documents show how the German volk (people) embraced Nazi attacks on Jews. Filled with notes, a bibliography and an index, this is a factual history, not a philosophical examination, of Nazi Germany’s atrocities (for why the Holocaust happened, read The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff).

“In the first month of the war,” Longerich writes, “Jews were almost wholly excluded from German society…In September 1939, for example, an (unpublished) general 8 p.m. curfew was imposed on Jews, their radios were confiscated, and their telephones were disconnected in summer 1940.” He continues: “Jews’ ration cards were marked with a ‘J’, they were only permitted to use certain shops, and the times when they were permitted to shop were strictly regulated by the municipality (and often limited to one hour a day)…These drastic measures had the effect of starving the Jewish population and ensuring that they devoted most of their energies to obtaining food.”

Longerich describes Treblinka as a “densely forested setting” which was “screened off from the eyes of the outside world.” At first, the mass murder at Treblinka was, he writes, “a crazed massacre” with an arrival area that was scattered with corpses. When new Jews arrived to see the mayhem, he explains, “[Nazi] guards reacted to the panic that arose with further shootings.” By the end of 1942, he notes, “precisely 713,555 people had been murdered in Treblinka.”

With a new introduction and new material on the victims, ghettos, and death camps, Longerich, currently working on a biography of SS leader Heinrich Himmler, has “significantly reworked, shortened in some places and extended in others” his history of the Holocaust into over 600 pages. This should be another important resource for those seeking knowledge of the 20th century’s second most evil dictatorship.