The Objective Eye

"Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demand for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen."
- Ayn Rand, "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business" (1961)

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Week of July 23-27: Cultural Highs

Now Playing: One of the tunes off of Takanaka's "Rainbow Goblins Story", I forget which. It's not actually on, just bouncing around my head relentlessly. I think it's the concert's last tune, "You Can Never Come To This Place." 'Gotta dig out that video later...

This last week was the aesthetic equivalent of catnip for me, a characteristically-spectacular concert by Rush at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday, and similarly-spectacular weeklong immersion into J.K. Rowling's magnificent final book of the Harry Potter saga, "Deathly Hallows."

[RUSH at the Hollywood Bowl - Photos taken by and © by me, 07-23-07.]

As I've alluded earlier here, Rush struck a chord with me from the first time I slapped an older sibling's copy of "Fly By Night" onto the turntable as a wee lad back in 1975. Something about the way they played was immediately appealing to my ingrained individualist streak, on a gut level. I'd listened to some of the progressive rock available at that time, but there was always something uniquely logical about Rush's extended instrumental flourishes that was not present with other bands. It was a musical affinity that happened several years before I would discover, then gain comprehension of, the philosophy that would influence their work - and my life - so profoundly over the years: Objectivism.

That beat-subtraction thing they did in the middle of "By-Tor and the Snow Dog"; that tight, stop-on-a-dime precision that seems almost telepathic; Peart's elevation of rock percussion - which in a typical percussionist is mundane timekeeping at best - to a level of artistry in which percussion literally shapes the compositions...!

An interesting and telling fact is that despite their incredible musical ability, their career has been hampered - nay, vilified - by the music media from the release of "Fly By Night" onward, doubtlessly because the objectivist sentiments in its first track "Anthem" flew smack in the face of the unspoken, requisite leftwing conformity within rock, almost as a kind of heresy. The career of Rush bears a striking resemblance to that of a certain literary architect, as a matter of fact - which is not a coincidence:

"Howard Roark stood as a role model for me - as exactly the way I already was living. Even at that tender age [18] I already felt that. And it was intuitive or instinctive or inbred stubbornness or whatever; but I had already made those choices and suffered for them." - Peart, in a September 1997 interview in Liberty

Though Peart has devolved intellectually from objectivist to "objectivish," his insights are always thought-provoking even when infuriating, and their music remains some of the most innovative and radically individual (not to mention individualistic,) within the rock genre. Musically, it is no exaggeration to say that they have lost nothing to age except, obviously, in Geddy's ability to sing at that same mega-high-pitch as the '70s. They tore through two enormous sets last Monday with their trademark precision and commitment to excellence. It was on May 5, 1977 that they played the first concert I ever attended - with the irrepressible Max Webster opening - and in attending another ten tours since...well maybe it's the bias of a hardcore fan but not one of those performances - nor any of the dozen audio/video concert recordings I've heard and memorized note-for-note since - has ever been substandard. These guys just continue to amaze.

In an age in which all that's needed for a successful career in music is a sequencer, an ability to shout violent juvenile epithets, and/or a frothing leftwing/countercultural "message," it is a truly magnificent thing to hear rock musicians who not only can play musical instruments (imagine that,) but do justice to and frequently surpass studio compositions that are as complex as they are powerful.

The setlist:

Digital Man
Entre Nous
The Main Monkey Business
The Larger Bowl
Secret Touch
Between The Wheels


Far Cry
Workin' Them Angels
Armor And Sword
The Way The Wind Blows
Natural Science
Witch Hunt
Drum Solo
Distant Early Warning
The Spirit Of Radio
Tom Sawyer


One Little Victory
A Passage to Bangkok

LiveDaily has a good encapsulation of the concert, and if you're curious there are copious bootleg videos of wildly-varying audio and video quality posted at YouTube. My pick for best of the lot is this excerpt from Neil's solo. You hadda be there, really - so just do it.
Peart's writeup on the making of their latest album is also a great read, in pdf format and titled The Game of Snakes And Arrows.

Copious thanks go to the Bergomeister for the great 2nd-row tickets BTW - only the second time someone's given me Rush tix as a birthday present. The first was in 1981 - from someone ten times curvier and a damnsight prettier, but second row at the Hollywood Bowl beats the hell out of back-end nosebleeds at the late, great Met Center (now buried beneath the Mall of America.) 'Had other things on my mind besides band visibility then anyway, fortunately... (!)

But I digress. I claim my reminiscence waiver! Sorry.


And Rowling's Potter saga... What can you say about a modern masterpiece that began as a fanciful tale for kids and almost instantly unfolded as literature on a par with Tolkien? The seventh and final book is signed, sealed and delivered - and, perhaps barring fourteen or fifteen people in a remote village in the jungles of East Timor, now devoured by every literate human being on the planet.

The sixth of the series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," was a significant disappointment - all flat, journalistic exposition and oddly little in the way of drama or suspense to carry it. I had worried that JKR had run out of steam, but "Deathly Hallows" blew that notion to smithereens. (And if you've ever actually seen a smithereen, well let me tellya....)

The primary flaw in the series has been the implicit ethics of self-sacrifice, and though it does indeed form the catalyst for the final climactic battle, it's thankfully understated enough to be palatable. I've read criticisms from objectivists focusing on that fact, but I think a dose of perspective is needed here.

Rowling is not an objectivist and her work exhibits mixed premises, to be sure, but the baby/bathwater analogy applies fully here. I was surprised and relieved that the standard-default self-sacrificial climax - which would have been stoked to a maudlin crescendo in the hands of a lesser writer - took a back seat to the multitude of virtues - and I mean virtues in the objectivist sense - that Potter and the rest of Rowling's primary characters have exhibited throughout the series.

Scholarship, productivity (a.k.a. hard work,) achievement, justice, honesty, integrity, volition, independence and courage have been the most vivid characteristics of Potter and his gang from the beginning of the series to the last chapter. To find these elements prominent in what is perhaps the most popular fictional series of the present day is something worthy of ovation, not condemnation. The sheer quantity of positive themes and lessons for readers of all ages within these books is staggering, and, I would argue, vastly outweigh the philosophical flaws of altruism, determinism and arbitrary chance.

Rowling just nailed the caricature of Hillary Clinton (either intentionally or not,) with the power-crazed bureaucrat Dolores Umbridge introduced in Book 5, "Order of the Phoenix" - and that in itself makes the entire series worthwhile, IMO. A more vivid dramatic exposition of the mechanism by which statism slowly but inexorably confiscates freedoms, is something I can't recall since Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" itself. To find such a thing in a series ostensibly written for children is just fantastic. As a shameless plug, you can now get the Scare Pair's '08 campaign sticker:

Though I wouldn't rank "Deathly Hallows" as the best of the series - I think that's a toss-up between "Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Order of the Phoenix" - it's on a worthy par with the rest of the series, and a magnificent rebound from the lackluster "Half-Blood Prince." Hats off to Ms. Rowling, and let's hope she dives right back into something new after what I would expect will be a well-deserved hiatus.

Related reading: "Thank You, Harry Potter!" by Dianne Durante of ARI.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Left, The War, and The Only Argument They Know

Now Playing: "Sunday Papers" by Joe Jackson. I'm not bringing this tune up for sake of relevance - it's been in my head since doing it on karaoke last night, so of course I had to put it on...

It seems that the leftwing, er, publication The New Republic didn't quite clue in to the overall message of its infamous Steven Glass story-fabrication scandal some ten years ago. On July 13 it published a story called "Shock Troops," essentially an anecdotal hit piece against American troops in Iraq written by an anonymous "soldier" who goes by the pseudonym "Scott Thomas." It describes a number of incidents chosen both to shock and titillate: Two soldiers in a mess hall cruelly trash-talking a female comrade who'd had part of her face "melted" by an IED; another running around with parts of an Iraqi corpse - nay, an Iraqi child's corpse, presumably for added emotional impact - balanced on his head; another running down stray dogs with a Bradley armored vehicle.

Now if you're looking for a link to the TNR article you won't find it here. I refuse to link to its TNR page directly because I will not give those creeps any more publicity even than what's necessary to post this commentary on it - in any case it's a subscription-only read. Dean Barnett hits the essentials over at talk radio host Hugh Hewitt's site (scroll to the Thursday, July 19 entry "'The New Republic' Supports the Troops.") Barnett points out there are only three possibilities:

- The "soldier" is real and the story is completely true;
- The "soldier" is real and the story is heavily embellished for effect;
- The "soldier" and/or the story are fabricated.

I think scenario #3 is the most likely but the world may never know.

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard quotes extensively from the article and asks the public for factual data to either back up or refute its claims, and not surprisingly most of the article's key points are debunked by military and civilians with first-hand experience with the situations and hardware described. The devil's advocate could say the respondents are expressing personal biases of their own, but a point by Barnett remains indisputable: there is no corroborating evidence to support the "Scott Thomas" accounts. In logic the burden of proof lies with he who makes the assertion. Until independent verification is forthcoming we can only treat the "Scott Thomas" story as a kind of leftwing urban legend.

For my part I can testify as to the configuration of the Bradley fighting vehicle - there were a couple of them parked on the grounds of a defense contractor by which I was employed awhile back. The driver sits on the left front side of the vehicle and is therefore in no position to see anything to the immediate right of the vehicle, much less to out-maneuver something as small, agile and demonstrably invisible to the driver as a dog.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Call me a polemicist but I tire of the habit among non-leftist commentators - even those wise enough to know better - of granting to the American left the benefit of the doubt as to attitudes on the American military.

Barnett states, ever-so-gently, that he "...[finds] it impossible not to get the sense that even though they [the left] purportedly support the troops, they sure do seem to relish every setback the troops incur." I hate to resort to slang, but the most appropriate response to this would be:

Well, Duh.

If you take, as a whole, the statements and actions of leftists on America at war - from The New Republic's Steven-Glass-relapse to the relentless attempts by Democrat-Socialists in Congress to grab defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq - the overriding message is this:

Leftists want America - and the cause of security, freedom and civilization in Iraq - to be defeated. Full stop.

I have long bristled at the characterization of über-leftists as "smart" - a characterization we heard, and still hear, repeatedly in reference to the Clintons. A vestigial, slavish devotion to an ideology that has left a mountain of corpses with a tally running to nine figures can be called many things, but "smart" is not one of them. Nonetheless, I find it decisively impossible to believe that the likes of Reid, Feinstein, Pelosi etc. are incapable of understanding the gravity of America's current position and the logical implications of retreat from Iraq. I'm not talking about the likely Cambodia-style bloodbath that would erupt in the wake of an American pullout, but rather a pullout's implication for radical Islam's perception of American resolve. It would be an engraved invitation to al-Qaida types to go back on the offensive - at precisely the time when we ought to be pursuing al-Qaida militants to the ends of the Earth.

As Barnett puts it (correctly this time,) in his July 18 post titled "How Big a Problem?":

"That’s one of the reasons that the Battle of Iraq is so vitally important. If the fans of Sharia (like Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and their tens of millions of philosophical fellow travelers) get the idea that America won’t fight and can be chased from the battlefield, we will have sent them an incredibly toxic message. Remember, they consider the whole world to be part of the battlefield, including Lower Manhattan, Washington D.C., Madrid, London..."

The leftists either cannot grasp, or are in denial and strenuously evading, the nature of evil and of its political concomitant, the initiation of force. They were dead wrong on the Soviet Union, they were dead wrong on Reagan's intransigence (which ultimately defeated it,) they are dead wrong on Islamofascism and the current conflict with it. It can be boiled down to a shopworn but accurate truism: aggressive thugs ultimately understand nothing but force, and must be dealt with on that basis.

Something I've learned in a decade or so of debate with leftists is that they really have no arguments. Collectivism is a self-contradictory philosophy at root, therefore every argument attempted on its basis is inescapably just as illogical. That leaves its proponents with few options beyond the classic logical fallacies.

I've found that the ad hominem is far and away the most common form any given leftwing argument takes, and this New Republic hit piece is no exception. What it amounts to is a vast smear of every American soldier, presented in lieu of any kind of substantive argument in favor of surrender and retreat.

For their part, Congressional Democrat-Socialists just concluded a loudly-publicized but unsuccessful "all-nighter" - a symbolic vote to pull the rug from beneath the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq. Reams have been written on this and there are a number of different things to be said about it, few of them complimentary.

What the behavior of Congressional and civilian leftists says to me is that they have descended to a level of intellectual corruption and seething hatred of all things Bush so deep that they've transformed themselves into a kind of kamikaze or runaway train, willing to sell America's national security down the river for the sake of destroying Bush and the Bush Presidency.

Can one oppose war in Iraq honorably? Certainly. At the other end of the spectrum, can one object to the pusillanimous, altruistic way in which Bush has conducted the war? I certainly do. (Relevant here would be a pithy quote about "doing" vs. "trying" that comes from a short bald guy with enormous ears...)

But the Demo-Socialist Party is actively striving to achieve disaster in Iraq, so as to have something impressive to blame on the Bush Administration in the thick of the 2008 campaign. Impressive, indeed.

These people have jettisoned any care for what message this would send to the evil creatures who want to kill us - if indeed they had any such care to begin with. Even on an altruistic level, they care not a whit about the virtually-certain slaughter that would occur in Iraq if Congress forced a withdrawal.

They have become the Party of Rage, locked in a death-embrace with an emotionalism that blinds them to all other considerations, up to and including their own safety along with yours and mine. One can argue the merits or lack of them for engaging the war on Hussein's Iraq, but every major Democrat now trying to short-circuit American foreign policy voted to go to war there, and we are, in fact, now in it. We either win it or we lose it - there is no third alternative.

These corrupt politicians must not be allowed to secure defeat - in Iraq or anywhere else.

As for The New Republic, well we already knew American journalism, at least in its traditional forms, has been dead for years.

Addendum, 07-27-07: The New Republic's "Scott Thomas" Identified

The New Republic, apparently feeling the backlash from their anonymously-published hit piece on the U.S. military in Iraq, have identified its author, one Scott Thomas Beauchamp. He is indeed an enlisted Army private, at least for the moment. So now that the kid's identity is established, the military people in charge of getting to the bottom of his "story" are busily doing so, but a few relevant facts are already known: He is apparently a hardcore leftwing activist who fancies himself a writer/poet/diarist of the Hunter S. Thompson/Jack Kerouac mold. Along with many, many other suggestions for him I'd add: pick some better heroes. He's also been publishing a blog where, in addition to identifying his ideological proclivities conclusively, he confesses that his motive in enlisting in the military was specifically to "...add a legitimacy opinions" and for "...chasing down the muse..." In other words, he had an agenda going in.

Assuming, devil's-advocate-fashion, that every word of what he wrote is fact, the story (*sigh* - the boycott has to end for the sake of reference,) describes actions that are aberrant by any standards, particularly those of the military. So why was it published? Well, this is the left we're talking about, and the left, as posted previously, share with the Islamofascists a common hatred of America and of Western Civilization - therefore of American military success in their defense.

The best dissection of Beauchamp's "Shock Troops" I've read is John Barnes' "The Scott Thomas Affair", written before the Great Coming-Out.

Bottom line: What we have is The New Republic going ahead with story of unsubstantiated - likely unsubstantiatable - events highly defamatory of American soldiers in wartime; a story apparently written for the sole purpose of generating notoriety for its author, who enlisted in the Army for the sole purpose of gaining "legitimacy" in a hoped-for future writing career at...The New Republic as yet another left wing war critic.

On the whole the incident is valuable as a glimpse into what goes on within that horrid place between the ears of ethics-free leftists. I'd wager that his college professors are shedding tears of pride.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Now Playing: Pluie de Etincelles by Shawn Lane, from "Abstract Logic" with Hellborg & Baker, 1995

It's America's most important holiday and my personal favorite, so I'm off to enjoy a little freedom. I trust most understand the importance of the concepts being celebrated today and their implications for how governments ought to be, but generally aren't, run. The list of ways in which our own government has undermined and openly confiscated freedoms guaranteed to us under individual rights is staggering, but today is a day to contemplate the source of liberty in reason and individualism, to take a breather, and renew our commitment to their restoration.

It's also a day to make a not-so-silent "thank you" to the Founders who engineered this great but constantly-besieged nation. We still have the ability to correct the continued expansion of our leviathan government; we can defeat the enemies of Western Civilization on both the Islamofascist and Ecofascist fronts.

One of the foremost proponents of the latter, a Mr. Albert Gore, is sponsoring another propaganda blitz this coming weekend. If you haven't already, set aside an hour this Saturday and view British filmmaker Martin Durkin's "The Great Global Warming Swindle as an essential reference.

Beyond simply boycotting Gore's coming anti-humanist spectacle I urge everyone to find the most visible, public way of voicing opposition to ecofascism open to you. Letters to the editor are important - though most American news dailies have devolved into left wing broadsheets; posting on any of the myriad Internet forums is an option; blogging is another.

Perhaps this is also a good time to contact your government representation and tell them to defend, not attack, the industrial civilization upon which our very lives depend.

And of course there's always your bumper:

You can get one here.