Thursday, April 26, 2007


Too much work. Been up all night, still have not gone to bed. Candle burning at both ends. (I think that's the right metaphor. The way my mind is swimming right now, I'm not sure.) But at least I didn’t get bit by one of these things. Hope to return over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Minor Skirmish In the Culture Wars

Trey Givens has posted a video of a high school class walking out of a performance by a monologuist, Mike Daisey, who uses adult language.

One of the people walking out poured water on Mr. Daisey’s notes, which is destruction of private property and wrong. (The man later apologized.)

According to Playgoer, Mike Daisey wrote in an email,
"it's a sobering reminder that speech is never free unless it is defended ardently."
This has nothing to do with free speech. Unlike leftists on college campuses, the audience members who walked out of Mr. Daisey’s show did not try to shut him up. Aside from the fool who dumped water on the notes, the Christians were quiet and orderly as they left the theatre. Any audience member has a right to walk out of a show.

Personally, I thought the part of his act on the video clip was funny. Profanity in humor doesn’t bother me much unless it becomes overbearing and an end in itself. Mike Daisey strikes me as a likable, liberal performer. In Mike Daisey’s blog account of the event, however, he comes off as a leftist subjectivist. What really bothers him is that the Christians passed judgment on him, which he (rightly) notes is a contradiction of Christ’s character.
I doubt I will ever forget the look in his face as he defaced the only original of the handwritten show outline--it was a look of hatred, and disgust, and utter and consuming pride.

It is a face I have seen in Riefenstahl's work, and in my dreams, but never on another human face, never an arm's length from me--never directed at me, hating me, hating my words and the story that I've chosen to tell. That face is not Christian, by any definition Christ would be proud to call his own--its naked righteousness and contempt have nothing to do with the godhead, and everything to do with pathetic human pride at its very worst.
But they are not simply fools and idiots--I saw them. They are young and old, they are teachers and students, they are each and every one of us. We are the same family, even if it hurts. The hard truth is that you reap what you sow, and I will not sow hatred and discontent--I refuse. I will not forget what that man, older than I am today, did to my work. I will not forget the cowed silence of those who left. I will not forget their judgment and their arrogance--but I will not hate.
He is making Evan Sayet’s point: to the modern left passing judgment is the root of all evil. And note that his reason for not judging them in return is collectivism, “We are the same family….”

I read that this video has had over 70,000 hits on YouTube. I suspect that most people are like me and had never heard of Mike Daisey before. Those Christians walking out of his show will probably be the best thing that ever happened to his career.

Since I used the term "Culture Wars," the reader might ask, "Which side of the war are you on, Myrhaf?" I have some sympathy with both sides. I bemoan the loss of standards in our culture that has come about with the New Left's cultural revolution. At the same time, I recognize that some traditional values were bad and I'm happy to see them gone. Capitalism and the Enlightenment, after all, were the original destroyers of such traditional values as feudalism, church power and "the divine right of Kings." Capitalism's first enemies were religious conservatives. But ultimately, I cannot profess allegiance to either side today, any more than I could accept the philosophies of intrincism or subjectivism. I would like to see a culture of reason and artistic romanticism develop, which is still, as Ayn Rand called capitalism, the unknown ideal.

Hopelessly Befuddled

An article in the New York Times, “U.S. Command Shortens Life of ‘Long War’ as a Reference,” illustrates the utter confusion and lack of clarity in Washington, D.C. about the war they are supposedly fighting. There seem to be disagreements between the White House and the Pentagon on what to call this exercise.

It looks to me like they want to wage something like the Cold War, which means a long-term effort that is half assertion and half appeasement instead of all-out war.

“This is a generational war, and we are going to be in it a long time,” said a White House official, who declined to be identified. “Nobody I have heard around here is talking about dropping it.”

At the same time, they are so afraid of offending anyone in the Middle East that they tie themselves in knots trying find language to which no one can find offense.

An earlier push to change the way the Bush administration describes its strategy against terrorism was notably unsuccessful. In 2005, the Pentagon argued that the phrase “war on terror” should be replaced by “global struggle against violent extremism.”
I knew they were afraid to mention Islam in their pronouncements, but I had not known they were also afraid of the word “war.”

We have a Pentagon that if afraid to use the word “war.” This is what we have come to.

To give them credit, they are not waging war -- not a serious war with the goal of defeating the enemy -- so maybe they should give up using the word.

The piece ends with this,

Admiral Fallon does not appear to have come up with a catchy substitute for his predecessor’s turn of phrase.

“We continue to look for other options to characterize the scope of current operations,” said Colonel McLaughlin, the spokesman.

They do not how to characterize what they are doing because they do not know what they are doing. Their purposes are contradictory and irreconcilable, thus they are confused.

This is the bind that altruism has America in. Our leaders are trying to make the contradictory premises of self-sacrifice and self-defense work together in some pragmatic policy that will seem coherent for the moment. The contradiction has them hopelessly befuddled.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bill Clinton: Secretary of Appeasement?

Senator Clinton has given us a glimpse at her foreign policy:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that if she is elected president, she would make her husband a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation's tattered image abroad.

Although former president Clinton was impeached after an affair with a White House intern, he remains a very popular figure in much of the world and is considered an effective diplomat.

That's precisely what America needs in the wake of a war in Iraq that's left America isolated and hated throughout much of the world, Hillary Clinton said.

"I believe in using former presidents, particularly what my husband has done, to really get people around the world feeling better about our country," she said. "We're going to need that. Right now they're rooting against us and they need to root for us."
The world hates America because it has dared -- in a halting, partial and apologetic way -- to assert its right to exist and fight back against Islamic totalitarianism. Senator Clinton signals that she has learned nothing in the last six years. She agrees with the rest of the world. The only way to make the rest of the world “feel better” about America is appeasement and sacrifice.

The bright side of a possible Clinton presidency is that we would be open about our appeasement. We would not pretend to be fighting a war when we are actually sacrificing to build a “democracy” in Iraq. It says something about Bush and the neoconservatives that an anti-American New Leftist would bring more clarity to America’s policy than their muddled half-measures.

What a mess we are in.

Around the World Wide Web 3

1. Brandt Ayers wants to bring back the Fairness Doctrine to combat “the barbarians of talk radio.”

2. I’m conflicted about Harry Reid’s remark that the Iraq War is lost. It is a terrible thing for the Majority Leader in the Senate to undermine morale of troops fighting in a foreign land. At the same time, what Senator Reid said is true: the war is lost; it was lost before it began because Bush did not enter it with the purpose of winning, but with the purpose of sacrificing American lives and wealth to build a nation in Iraq.

But there is a difference between Senator Reid and me. The Senator does not believe the war can be won. Perhaps he does not want it to be won. Robert Tracinski in a recent TIA Daily noted this piece by Jed Babbin:

Reid and the rest of the Democrats do not condemn defeat. They do not say they would have done better to win, because the words “win” and “victory” never pass their lips. They never propose an idea that might lead to quicker, more decisive victory in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or the Horn of Africa, or Lebanon, or anywhere else.
Excellent point. Just once I would like to hear a Democrat say, “Here is what we need to do to win.”

3. The tallest buildings in the world.

Wikipedia’s List of Tallest Buildings in the World. Taipei 101 looks to me like a stack of chinese take-out cartons.

Tall buildings, both built and proposed, in Chicago.

Freedom Tower.

Noida Tower, being built in a Delhi suburb, will beat them all at 2,329 ft. It is supposed to resemble the Himalayas. I don’t know if it looks like a Christmas ornament or a bunch of wizard caps.

(HT: Gus Van Horn)

4. More Jed Babbin:

If you want to get inside the liberals decision loop, you have to understand their intent -- to destroy conservative talk radio -- and their capabilities, from blogs to pols and all the politically activist media in between. What would you do if you were, say, George Soros? If you had a ton of money and wanted to render conservative talk radio ineffective in the 2008 election cycle?

What you’d do is employ some group to pick at the statements of the talkers, and make every politically-incorrect utterance a cause celebre. Take words out of context. No one will notice. Make any statement about Hillary, Obama or whoever into some sort of outrageous racial/religious/sexist/whatever slur. Petition the advertisers on that show, bash them by name in every corner of the blogosphere and rely on the media to contrive stories around the blogs. Create media feeding frenzies to threaten advertisers who continue to buy time on the supposedly “offensive” shows.
They can try it, but this is 2007, not 1977. There are too many independent voices on radio and the internet that will set the truth straight and put it in context.

5. In game one of their first round playoff series against the Suns, the Lakers were up by 12 at one point, but lost 95-87. Kobe cannot carry the team for four quarters, it seems. I would love to see them start playing better than they have and beat the Suns, but the team does not seem that good to me.

6. The conservatives are outraged because the Mayor of San Francisco wants to make the city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. From my point of view, illegal immigration is the one issue that is the biggest waste of time in media. The immigrants come here to make money. They make prices lower. Why do we want to interfere with this market force?

I can see limiting Muslim immigration because Islam is more than a religion. Like communism, it is an ideology that wants to destroy America. We are at war with this ideology. Every Muslim should be given a detailed interview before being allowed into the USA.

Friday, April 20, 2007

God's Spokesman

Have you heard of this Fred Phelps character? Being neither homosexual nor religious, I had not paid attention to these people before. His motto is “God hates fags,” which he considers profound. I guess it’s so profound that the profundity eludes my simple mind.

Phelps says that God controls the destiny of every human. If that is so, then didn’t God create fags? Does God hate what He Himself is responsible for? (A form of the problem of evil.)

Doesn’t Jesus talk about loving sinners and not passing judgment? How do these people justify the contradiction?

One of their signs says, “God Sent the IED’s.” They’re saying that God sent terrorists to kill Americans because of homosexuality. Like Dinesh D’Souza, they are apologists for terrorism because they have a problem with America. If Phelps wants something really profound to read, he should try Leonard Peikoff’s essay, “Religion vs. America.”

These people are the best evidence yet that God does not exist. I mean, would an all-powerful God let these fools claim to speak for Him? Not only them, but also the peanut butter guy, not to mention terrorists killing innocent people in His name. If there were a God, then there would be a lot of people out there making Him look bad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 2

Stealing the idea from Gus Van Horn's Quick Roundups, let me just provide some interesting links.

1. Bruce Ramsey, a liberal, uses Dinesh D’Souza’s conservative defense of Muslims to attack America. Never mind that normally he would dismiss anything D’Souza wrote, he is happy to use it to bash America. With his book, D’Souza gave anti-Americans a stick and now they’re using it.

2. Tony Blankley has a piece on Imus worth reading.

3. George Reisman reports on what socialism has done to Montevideo, Uruguay.

4. Grant Jones writes about Just War Theory and a WWII battle I had not heard of before, Falaise Gap. Also check out this comedy monologue from a Brit.

5. Gunman sent package to NBC.
Among the materials are 23 QuickTime video files showing Cho talking directly to the camera, Capus said. He does not name anyone specifically, but he mentions “hedonism” and Christianity, and he talks at length about his hatred of the wealthy.

“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” Cho says. “But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”
Cho, you worm, the guilt is yours only.

6. Obama speaks about the Virginia Tech massacre, saying we need to reflect on violence in our society. What does he mean by violence?

Last week, the big news obviously had to do with Imus, and the verbal violence that was directed at young women who were role models for all of us, role models for my daughters. ... There's the violence of men and women who have worked all their lives and suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job has moved to another country, they've lost their job and they've lost their pension benefits and they've lost their healthcare, and they're having to compete against their teenage children for jobs at the local fast-food place paying $7 an hour. There is the violence of children whose voices are not heard in communities that are ignored, who don't have access to a decent education, who are surrounded by drugs and crime, and a lack of hope. So there's a lot of different forms of violence in our society ...

A freak murders 32 people and Obama, who might be our next president, talks about Imus, low wages and bad education as forms of violence. Words fail me. Obama seems at once vapid, lunatic and liberal cliche. His ideas are unjust.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Most Radically Disruptive Force

Greg Mankiw gives us this snatch of a C-SPAN transcript of an interview with Hillary Clinton:
LAMB: There's a quote here. I want to ask you if you agree with this. This is from Alan Arenhault, author of "The Lost City" -- you put it in your book. "The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation."

CLINTON: I believe that. That's why I put it in the book.
Mankiw provides a quote from Milton Friedman:
"What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself."

-- Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 1961
That’s Senator Clinton all over. She feels that she knows better than the common man what is good for him. She feels this because her intentions are altruistic. Wanting to do good for the collective is the ultimate proof that one is moral and right.

But the will of America’s welfare state philosopher-kings has been thwarted by profit-seeking businessmen. These businessmen have worked with Republicans, who are morally inferior because they do not want to do good for the collective. The result is “the most radically disruptive force in American life for the last generation” -- the unenlightened spending their own wealth, unregulated and uncontrolled by those such as Senator Clinton, who have goodness in their souls.

I’ve said it before: the woman is a nightmare. She could be the next President -- and I very well might vote for her!

A Few Things

1. In last night’s rehearsal I tore a calf muscle. I felt it pop as I was onstage and then I hobbled through the rest of rehearsal. From what I read on the internet, if it is a grade 1 tear, then the recovery is 2-3 weeks; a grade 2 tear takes 1-2 months. If I were a baseball player, I’d be on the disabled list.

Why did this happen? Probably because my part is quite physical and I did not stretch before rehearsal.

Now I have to walk with shortened steps and take it easy and hope this is a grade 1 tear.

2. I have heard the Virginia Tech massacre described as a “tragedy.” It’s not a tragedy, it’s an atrocity. The killer committed an act of evil. The bastard should be judged harshly and reviled forever in our memory. Let us not dishonor the victims by using words that let the miserable little f**k off the hook.

Paying For the Welfare State

Matt Stoller is a liberal who is proud to pay his taxes. He argues that right wingers are unpatriotic because they don’t want to pay taxes. Let’s look at his piece, “Paying For America.”

I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don't like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don't want.
Not to make too fine a point of it, but the USA is republic, not a democracy. I assume by democracy you mean something like “representative government with free elections.” But America didn’t even have an income tax until the 20th century and it was a free country with free elections in the 19th century. Indeed, it was a much more free country then, and taxes were much lower. Taxes are not the price of freedom or democracy, but of the welfare-regulatory state or mixed economy.

Your inference that the right-wing hates democracy because it hates taxes is wrong. The right hates the welfare state, which makes taxes “paying for something you really don’t want.”

Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I'm just being ripped off to pay for someone's summer home.
This is economic ignorance. You think producers arbitrarily raise prices in order to purchase summer homes. If that really happened, then competitors would do without summer homes in order to charge less and win market share from the guys with summer homes.

In this list of services that you resent paying for is health care costs. These are high because of decades of government intervention and regulation of health care. If we had a free market in health care, prices would be a fraction of what they are and the product would be superior.

Patriotism is about recognizing that we are all connected in a fundamental moral and physical sense, that the war in Iraq is our war, that poverty in New Orleans is our poverty, that public funding to cure cancer comes from each of us and not just the scientists who have made it theirs.
Patriotism is not collectivism. My patriotism is based on the fact that America was founded as a nation of individual rights.

The tax burden we face is a very small price to pay for the privilege of taking responsibility for our own freedom and our own society. And the hatred of taxes on the right comes from a hatred for this responsibility. It's childish and immoral and unAmerican.
As I noted above, America had more freedom when taxes were lower. Today’s tax burden is necessary only to pay for the welfare state, a foreign idea that FDR got from Bismark’s Germany. Since America was founded on the principle of individual rights, the collectivist welfare state is truly un-American. It is not childish and immoral to oppose the welfare state, but it is childish and immoral to attempt to paint opponents of taxation as unpatriotic. Our Founding Fathers waged the Revolutionary War because they didn’t want to pay certain taxes.
Now, what is a problem is the complexity of our tax system.
Right. So why do liberals oppose a flat tax?
Complexity is a tool that powerful elites can and do use to intimidate and control people without access to capital and connections.
So why do liberals oppose a flat tax, again?

With modern technology, there is just no reason for this complexity anymore except the business coalitions that push for specific tax breaks and the politicians who love them. This complexity not only upsets and disempowers people like us, it empowers the powerful to skip out on their tax burden.
If we got the government out of the economy, taxes would be lower and simpler. Complexity is a result of our increasingly fascist system, in which the state dictates the economy. Fascism is a type of socialism.
It's not a coincidence that Grover Norquist, the architect of the right-wing ascension to power, runs an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. People like Norquist, who are charlatans at heart and deeply unpatriotic and immoral, use the complexity in the tax code that they help to create to persuade Americans that taxes are bad. This is also true in states all over the country, where it is the unpredictability of property tax burdens and not the amount that causes schools to go wanting for funding.
If our tax code is the result of a conspiracy of powerful elites and unpatriotic, immoral conservatives, why do liberal politicians support it?
Our tax code is the DNA of our nation's moral compass.
This is a mixed metaphor. Compasses are man-made devices and do not have DNA. It would be better to call our tax code the north pole of our nation’s moral compass. Actually, it would be best not to use high-flying rhetoric that is meaningless.
I am proud to pay taxes because I take pride in America, and paying some tiny burden to keep our society running is an extremely small price to pay for being able to call myself an American citizen.
If America were a laissez-faire capitalist nation, you could call yourself an American citizen for free.
The old expression 'you get what you pay for' is apt for all sorts of situations.
Yes, but money taken from people at the point of a gun is not money paid for anything, it is money stolen.
People tend to express what they value in how much they are willing to pay for it. I am willing and feel privileged for the right to pay for my country. The right-wing is embittered to do so, if they do so at all. And that, more than anything, says something about how much they value this experiment called America.
You’re happy to pay for the welfare state. Those who oppose taxation value America, but not the welfare state.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Around the World Wide Web

1. Byron York writes about the left’s push to use the Imus case to restore the Fairness Doctrine against conservative talk radio.
“It is our hope that [the Imus matter] will begin a broader conversation about the responsibility that news corporations, journalists, and media figures have to the American public,” Brock wrote Thursday. “This is an opportunity for the media to truly raise the bar to a higher standard and return to the fundamentals of journalism.”

For Brock and others, that “opportunity” could involve new government regulation. After the Imus affair, former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton said on CNN, “The question becomes whether or not we are going to have a regulatory policy that goes based on how contrite someone behaves or whether or not they step over the line. Are we going to have policy, or are we going to say, ‘If you say you’re sorry or even convince us you are sorry, policy’s out the window?’”

Without changes in the government regulatory structure, Sharpton argued, “The next guy can do the same thing and use the precedent of Don Imus to say, ‘I can’t be punished.’”
2. Since there are only something like 550 days until the election, Big Lizards is looking at electoral votes if the Republicans run a Thompson-Romney ticket. He says they would get all of the South and a few Great Lakes states that Kerry won in 2004, which would make it impossible for the Democrat to win.

My guess is that whoever the Republicans field, he will demolish the Democrat. I also guess that a Thompson presidency would be pretty much more of the same blend of pragmatism and religion we’ve seen in Bush.

3. Christopher Hitchens writes about France’s move to the right.

4. Noodlefood links to a piece about North Korea’s problems as their citizen-slaves find out how much better the rest of the world is.

5. Joseph Kellard has posted his prize-winning journalism. It is a gripping story of justice.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I watched the first season of HBO’s Rome on DVD. It is a mixture of good and bad. Depending on taste, the bad might be too repulsive to make the series enjoyable. It has explicit sex and violence and much brutal naturalism. Typical of the modern approach, the filmmakers take great pride in showing naturalistic touches of ancient Rome that have been left out of more romanticized movies. “Hey, look – ancient Rome had shit and piss and graffiti and garbage!” Well, hallelujah.

The historical naturalism does have a certain value, as do Japanese movies or science fiction, because it’s not the city next door, it’s an exotic, different world. This can go a long way toward making a TV show visually interesting and fascinating, but it cannot replace the requirements of literature.

HBO’s Rome is a world of gangsters, a world where might makes right. As such, there are no heroes in this story, just people clawing at one another in the pursuit of power. Rome was indeed a brutal culture, but it also had a certain nobility as the plays of Shakespeare and Corneille show us. Today’s filmmakers are incapable of understanding or portraying nobility and heroism.

The best thing about the series is that it tells adventure stories about two legionnaires, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. These stories have moments of swashbuckling fun, like Conan the Barbarian. Such historical adventure stories are the last fading glow of the 19th century romantic novels of Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas. Their stories are unfortunately dragged down by a lot of naturalistic drama concerning Vorenus’s family. Neither man is terribly admirable.

The worst thing about the series is Brutus. It just made me cringe how they made Brutus a sniveling neurotic with an Oedipus complex. I can see making him tragically conflicted, as Shakespeare did, but HBO’s modern approach robs him of all dignity and stature and makes him a laughable, whining boy manipulated by a domineering mother. And it's such a cliche; if you wanted to satirize modern drama, you couldn't beat this Brutus.

No famous character is allowed much nobility or dignity in this series. Cato is a crotchety old man, Cicero a second rate grumbler, Marc Antony a cynical gangster, Cleopatra a power-seeking slut and so on.

All in all, Rome is about what you’d expect from historical drama today. Asking for tightened plots, elevated characters and even, ye gods, a theme nobler than “Rome was a dog eat dog world” is asking far too much from today’s filmmakers.

Yet Another Attack On Freedom of Speech

The Ayn Rand Institute gave me permission to post their latest press release:

The U.N. Human Rights Council's War on Human Rights

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

IRVINE, Calif.--The U.N. Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution urging nations to pass laws prohibiting the dissemination of ideas that "defame religion." It appears that the resolution was partly a response to last year's Danish cartoon crisis, where hordes of angry Muslims rioted in violent protest of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

"The advocates of this resolution perversely equate those who drew the Danish cartoons with those who rioted and threatened to murder the cartoonists," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "Both, they say, are guilty of a crime and should be restrained and punished by the government -- with the unstated caveat that the cartoonists are guiltier, since they allegedly incited the violent mobs by defaming Islam.

"To morally equate the Danish cartoonists with the Muslim rioters is to wipe out the distinction between speech and force. It is to declare there is no essential difference between the filmmaker Theo van Gogh,and the Muslim who murdered him for producing a film that 'defamed Islam.'

"Freedom of speech means that individuals have the right to advocate any idea, without the threat of government censorship, regardless of how many people that idea may offend. To silence individuals in order to protect the sensibilities of mullahs and mobs is to wipe out this crucial right -- and it is to whitewash the blood-stained hands of killers by declaring that they are no worse than those who peacefully criticize them.

"Yet this disgraceful moral equivalence is a symptom of the larger moral equivalence that pervades the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is based on the gross pretense that its members -- including belligerent regimes such as Iran and Syria, and oppressive dictatorships such as China and Cuba -- are champions of peace and individual rights. As a result, its main function is to provide a forum for thugs and dictators to criticize free nations such as the United States and Israel, while pushing their anti-freedom agendas.

"The United States should condemn this resolution -- and the morally corrupt organization that produced it."

Copyright © 2007 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.

Evan Sayet recently spoke about how being indiscriminate leads the left to opposing freedom. We can see that on display in the U.N., which is a sort of egalitarianism of nations. When they do not discriminate between free nations such as America and Israel and dictatorships, they end up adopting the standards of unfree nations such as Cuba and Iran.

In light of the recent Imus firing, we now have the U.N. advocating gross violation of freedom of speech. I regard this as another assault from the left on a critical right, free speech.

If rights could be separated and arranged in order of importance, then the freedom of speech would have to be the number one, most important right we have today. Changing the world for the better -- advancing the cause of freedom and individual rights -- depends on changing our culture’s philosophy. It means persuading people with ideas, and this can only be done in a nation with freedom of speech.

Like the religious right, the nihilist left begins by attacking the least defensible speech. The right attacks pornography; the left attacks racism, hate speech, and politically incorrect speech -- speech that I identify as inegalitarian. That is why I defend Imus, even though his speech is wrong. Ideas that “defame religion” are, by the standards of conventional morality and religion, among the least defensible. In olden times such ideas were called “blasphemy” and “heresy.” This move by the U.N. might actually appeal to the right as well as the left -- to Dinesh D’Souza and Jerry Falwell as well as multiculturalist professors. Who knows, this could be the beginning of a bipartisan assault on our freedoms!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wow, the Lakers Really Suck

For the last 10 games the Lakers are 2-8 and the Dodgers, who have been lousy since before this year's high school seniors were born, are 7-3.

Did I wake up on Bizarro World?

In a post early in this basketball season, I actually considered whether the Lakers would remain a .700 baskeball team. (I won't link because it's too embarrassing.) What a joke! The question now, with the Lakers at 40-40 with two games left is: Will they finish at .500 or above? The Lakers are in serious danger of playing themselves out of the playoffs and into the lottery!

Pardon my astonishment -- I know you Atlanta Hawks fans are used to losing, but this is the Lakers we're talking about. The Lakers. Showtime. George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Jack Nicholson -- those Lakers. Chick Hearn, their announcer for a century or so, invented the terms "slam dunk" and "airball." This franchise is not supposed to be a .500 basketball team.

Why are they losing? A lot of people talk about injuries, but there is only one real reason: they are not a good team. It's just not working. They need to get rid of some of their goodish players to get one or two more great players. I offer this advice to Dr. Buss free of charge, out of my love for the purple and gold.

Okay, you can all begin your chant now. "Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA!" I love it when you guys do that, because hey -- we're LA. The rest of the country should want to beat us. I might note that no one chants "Beat Milwaukee! Beat Milwaukee! Beat Milwaukee!" Although Californians have been known to ask, "Where's Milwaukee?"

UPDATE: Corrected MICHAEL Cooper's name, as per Blair's comment.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Only Egalitarian Racist Speech Allowed

In my day job I hear a lot of “shock jocks,” usually the morning hosts on alternative rock stations. Their shtick is to be outrageous and funny, saying the things people do not say in polite conversation. They flout the taboos of both the left and the right by daring to be politically incorrect and to talk about sex.

Their justification, if you ask them, is that they are just being honest. Howard Stern dwells in the gutter, and he does so proudly because that’s who he is: a guy who wants to talk about bodily functions and the lowest kind of gossip. Enough Americans share his view of life that he has become a wealthy man by talking about sex, body parts, flatulence, strippers, drunkenness, and so on. Whenever I listen to Stern, I feel unclean, as if I have been in the presence of cretins who live in a sewer and revel in it and mock anyone with pretensions higher than a sewer. I dismiss Stern’s huge audience with contempt: they get what they want.

The shock jock is a kind of comedian. Listeners do not go to them for serious, elevated, informed opinions. They listen to the shock jocks for a comic take on the news from someone who happily admits he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground on any issue, but will give his opinion anyway.

Shock jocks can be mean and unfair. If a caller is stupid, the shock jock is not afraid to say so. And celebrity stupidity gets the most savage treatment. When Britney Spears shaved her head, I heard her called a “crazy bitch” -- exactly what listeners want shock jocks to say. Listeners can hear psychologists on reputable programs talk about Britney Spears’s “emotional crisis” or whatever, blah, blah, blah. From the shock jock they want crazy bitch. Again: listeners get what they want. Those who do not want this do not listen.

The shock jock can exist only in a free society. Tyrants do not like being laughed at. In the USSR, instead of Howard Stern or Mancow, they had Pravda -- the truth as approved by the state. Shock jocks depend on the freedom of speech; if they can’t say what they want no matter whom they offend, then they cannot function.

Now Don Imus has been fired by CBS for calling the Rutgers girls basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” Usually I agree with Andy at Charlotte Capitalist, but I cannot applaud CBS’s action because Imus’s statement was collectivist.

Imus’s listeners know that all black women are not prostitutes. Humor depends on twisting logic. Imus saw a similarity between the Rutgers players and prostitutes and, being a curmudgeonly, mean-spirited shock jock, he voiced it. He said something that is indeed racist, collectivist and not nice.

Jokes are often collectivist and racist. There’s a long tradition of jokes about drunken Irishmen. Not only is this unfair to the Irish, but it is humor about alcoholism, which is in reality tragic and not at all funny. So, should we fire anyone who jokes about a drunken Irishman? A stupid Pollack? A lazy Mexican? A surrendering Frenchman? Italian men who pinch women’s rears? What about blonde jokes? Surely, they are unfair to intelligent blondes.

Tom Joyner, who has the most popular morning show on urban radio, jokes every day about white people. As a white person, I find it hilarious. Every time Tom’s buffoon, J. Anthony Brown, just says the words “white people,” I laugh. White people, you see, do crazy things that black people are too sensible to do. The jokes stem from a long tradition of humor that goes back to the time of slavery in the 19th century. It’s all good fun -- and thoroughly racist.

What is the difference between Tom Joyner’s racism and Imus’s? In our egalitarian, altruist culture, one can joke about the powerful, but not about the weak and oppressed. Some collectivism is respected, some collectivism will get you fired from CBS. If media corporations were to fire all buffoons who make collectivist statements, then all buffoons would be fired. Indeed, some broadcasters who are not considered buffoons, such as Tom Joyner, would be fired. Imus was attacked and fired not because he was collectivist, but because he was inegalitarian.

The New Left is multiculturalist -- a crude, racist vision of the world that views people not primarily as individuals, but as members of a racial group. Imus, a white male, attacked African-Americans, a class of victims, and this speech is forbidden. As altruism demands, the strong must sacrifice for the weak. White males must not make racist statements about African-Americans.

Racism is a terrible evil, a form of collectivism as Ayn Rand wrote, but the left only views racism by the strong as racism. Egalitarian racism, or multiculturalism, is one of the pillars of the New Left. As egalitarian racists, today's liberals are the most predominant racists in American history. They are also the most dangerous racists in American history. Not only is egalitarian racism (multiculturalism) not reviled, it is idealized throughout our culture and indoctrinated into students. The New Left is transforming America from an individualist nation into a racist one.

I realize that CBS has the right to fire any employee for making racist statements and that this is not a violation of their freedom of speech. Only the state can abridge our freedom of speech. Only state action is censorship in the full meaning of the word. The problem is that in our mixed economy, with the FCC regulating broadcasters, we have to ask: did CBS fire Imus because they feared state action? Did the FCC factor into their thinking at all? And if it did, is not censorship from fear of regulatory action in fact censorship?

The FCC reviewed the Imus case and concluded, for now, that racist statements are protected by the First Amendment. Apparently, for now, broadcasters have more freedom to be racist than the EEOC would allow employers. The FCC, for now, focuses on sexual speech -- but how long before regulators arbitrarily decide that racist remarks are beyond the bounds of what broadcasters should say? How long before “decency” is extended to non-sexual matters?

Imus’s firing was driven by Al Sharpton, a statist who came to fame in the Tawana Brawley case, in which he knew she was lying but proceeded anyway to destroy an innocent policeman’s life. Sharpton said about the Imus affair,

It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves.
Permitted by whom? Corporations under attack from pressure groups? Or does Sharpton want government regulations on speech? If “hate speech” is a crime, why should broadcasters be allowed any more freedom than the rest of us?

Does anyone think the left will stop at Imus? Or will they be emboldened and energized to go after more broadcasters? Now that Imus has been slain, who is next?

Now that radio talk-show host Don Imus has been banished, it's time to clean up the rest of talk radio, says a partisan media watchdog group headed by David Brock.

Next in the crosshairs for alleged expressions of "bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity" are, according to Media Matters for America, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, John Gibson and Michael Smerconish.
What are some of the statements that Media Matters finds offensive?


Limbaugh: "The government's been taking care of [young blacks] their whole lives"

On March 1, 2005, Limbaugh said "[w]omen still live longer than men because their lives are easier."

Savage was also taken to task by Media Matters for advocating a ban on Muslim immigration into the U.S., banning the construction of mosques and making English the official language.
This one is similar to the Imus case:

On the March 31, 2006, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Neal Boortz said that Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) "looks like a ghetto slut." Boortz as commenting on a March 29 incident in which McKinney allegedly struck a police officer at a Capitol Hill security checkpoint. Boortz said that McKinney's "new hair-do" makes her look "like a ghetto slut," like "an explosion at a Brillo pad factory," like "Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence," and like "a shih tzu." McKinney is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Georgia.
Why should Imus be fired, but not Boortz?

The premise behind the left’s attack on Imus, Limbaugh, Savage and Boortz is: inegalitarian speech is bad. And make no mistake, the left will use such statist tools as the FCC and the Fairness Doctrine to combat speech they find offensive.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Marie Antoinette of North Carolina

The story of Elizabeth Edwards’s distrust of her neighbor is revealing of the statist mindset.

RALEIGH -- Elizabeth Edwards says she is scared of the "rabid, rabid Republican" who owns property across the street from her Orange County home -- and she doesn't want her kids going near the gun-toting neighbor.

Edwards views Johnson as a "rabid, rabid Republican" who refuses to clean up his "slummy" property just to spite her family, whose lavish 28,000-square-foot estate is nearby on 102 wooded acres.

Johnson, 55, acknowledges his Republican roots. But he takes offense to the suggestion he has purposefully left his property, including an old garage he leases for use as a car shop, in dilapidated condition.

Johnson said he has lived his entire life on the property, which he said his family purchased before the Great Depression. He said he's spent a lot of money to try and fix up the 42-acre tract.

"I have to budget. I have to live within my means," Johnson said. "I don't have millions of dollars to fix the place."
Her attitude is typical of how rich people are supposed to scorn the poor – and yet her husband has made his political career as a defender of the poor!

Although collectivist-statists are egalitarian, in reality their policies create and strengthen class differences. Government intervention in the economy results in a privileged political class and then the rest of us. The Soviet Union, based on a radical egalitarianism, had a Nomenklatura ruling class and the masses that were, in reality, their slaves.

Most societies throughout history have had small ruling classes and masses of peasants. Capitalism was the revolution that saw the growth of the great middle class, what the Marxists sneer at as the “bourgeosie.” America has always been and still is a nation of a vast middle class; as such, it is the least class conscious nation in history. The middle class is a product of freedom.

There are rich people in America, and some "old money" types have been snobbish toward the poor, but many wealthy people began poor or middle class and never stop thinking of themselves as such. Andrew Carnegie started poor, but became fabulously wealthy and he was always on the lookout for competent young men to promote in his steel business, regardless of their class origins. Charles Schwab, for instance,
...started as a stake driver in Andrew Carnegie's steelworks and in 1897 rose to become president of the Carnegie Steel Company at the age of 35. In 1901, he negotiated the secret buyout of Carnegie Steel by a group of New York-based financiers led by J.P. Morgan. After the buyout, Schwab became the first president of the U.S. Steel Corporation, the company formed out of Carnegie's former holdings.
Andrew Carnegie is a classic example of a rich man's attitude toward the poor in a free country. All that mattered to him was competence and character.

With the growth of the state, we are seeing the beginnings of new class consciousness in America. Our rulers in Washington think they are different from the unwashed masses. Elizabeth Edwards offers a glimpse into the thinking of our nascent ruling class.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Various Things

1. Via Ego we read,
"When we put forward the view that respect for human freedoms and rights were lacking in Cuba, it led to a furious outburst from the Cuban ambassador about Sweden's blood, colonialism, imperialism, Vikings and oppression and so on and
so forth. We have said that this is an unacceptable use of language," said Bildt.
The Swedes make the rather understated criticism that human rights are lacking in Cuba, and the Cuban ambassador responds by bringing up the Vikings? You can’t make this stuff up.

Next we’ll have demands from the Native Americans that Scandinavians apologize for invading Vinland 1,000 years ago.

2. Before Stephen Speicher died I knew his condition was not good when it was reported that his heart had suffered so much damage that he needed a heart transplant. So many people survive heart attacks that sometimes I forget how serious they can be. A piece in the New York Times looks at the lessons of heart disease.

The key to minimizing heart damage seems to be rapid response. My father and my best friend’s father both died of heart attacks in their 50’s, and both men ignored the symptoms. Had they gone to the hospital when they first felt angina, how much longer would they have lived?

3. It looks like Grindhouse is a bomb. Could it be because a woman with a machine gun for a leg is just stupid?

4. Red dwarfs seem to have hot Neptunes, but not hot Jupiters. Soon they will find Earth-like planets in the habitable zone. “[T]he detection of an Earth-like planet in the closer habitable zone of an M dwarf is actually within reach of today’s best spectrographs.”

This red dwarf is only 14.67 light years away. Traveling at .1c, which is 10,000 faster than any manmade object traveled in the 20th century, astronauts could get there in just 146.7 years, not counting time for acceleration and deceleration.

5. "U and Dat" by E-40 Featuring T Pain – is E-40 Featuring T Pain a rap artist or a motor oil?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hey, Can't You Take A Joke?

I know politicians are weasels, but this is a bit much.
Clinton operatives have warned donors not to contribute to other campaigns, and put a price on disloyalty: early supporters will be valued and latecomers scorned.

The Clinton campaign denies that it has strong-armed anyone, saying the warnings were made in jest.
Those Clintonites have such a wacky sense of humor!

Forgetting the Enemy

Via Mike at Primacy of Awesome, we get this story from a New Jersey school:
BURLINGTON, NJ, April 3, 2007 ( – On Thursday, March 22, officials at Burlington Township High School enlisted the help of two local policemen to carry out a mock ‘hostage situation’ drill at their school. The drill invoked disapproval from Christian students as the student body was told that the alleged gunmen were “members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the 'New Crusaders' who don't believe in separation of church and state.”
Well, I guess it could happen. But given the terrorist attack on a school in Russia, wouldn’t it make much more sense to pretend the gunmen are Islamic fundamentalists? Since totalitarian Islam is, you know, at war with us, isn’t that a more likely threat?

But then that high school would be insulting an enemy that fights back. Moreover, the liberals in Burlington would be going against the dogma of their religion – multiculturalism.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Idea That Ideas Don't Matter

Michael Caution has some interesting thoughts on people who give up believing that ideas matter. You meet these people all the time. Philosophy is just an ivory tower matter to them; it has nothing to do with day to day living.

Modern philosophy, especially the analytic school with its technical jargon and focus on individual words, encourages the idea that ideas do not matter. Of course, the idea is much older than modern philosophy. The purest expression of the mind-body dichotomy is still Plato. But I think the single most important contributor is the split between morality and practicality in altruist ethics. People are taught to equate morality with sacrifice, but then they go about their lives earning money and pursuing happiness. They learn to compartmentalize: ideas are one thing and day to day life is another. Philosophy is at best a Platonic ideal that has nothing to do with life on this earth; in the meantime we are stuck in this reality with our hormones and our hungers, our human frailties that make us incapable of living up to ideals.

Shakespeare, of whom I wrote a recent post, does not believe ideas matter. When a character such as Brutus or Ulysses espouses philosophy, he is then shown to be a hypocrite or tragically misguided by his ideas.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Busy Boy

The crunch is on. I'll be working or rehearsing from now until 6am Thursday morning. No blogging.

I had planned to solve 30% of the world's problems, delight millions with my style, wit and lucid insights, and take the first steps toward a Theory of Everything, but all that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Alien Hexagon On Saturn; President Bush Oddly Silent

A hexagon has been discovered on Saturn’s north pole. The nutcases will have a field day with this one.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thoughts on the Mystery of Shakespeare

Lines are due today, so I’ve been working hard on them. The best way to learn lines is to work on them every day over the course of weeks or even a month. When you work on lines, then sleep on them and then go back to them the next day, you really cement them in the subconscious mind. The worst way is to do what college students do and wait until the last minute and cram. But even if you work over the course of weeks, there will be some cramming come the last moment, especially on the scenes at the end of the play that you have not gotten to in your previous study sessions.

I have a big role in Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff; he is the central character in the story and he has a LOT of lines. I don’t know if I have ever played a role that gives me so much opportunity to clown around and do funny things. Falstaff is a character of seemingly infinite comic freedom.

I also have a small role in Julius Caesar, Titinius; he has one big scene at the end of the play. I did not anticipate getting too excited over Titinius, but as I work on these lines, I am discovering a fabulous part. If you want to know what I mean, get out your Shakespeare – you have a Shakespeare, right? – and look at Act V, sc. iii of Julius Caesar.

For example, on discovering Cassius’s dead body, one of Titinius’s lines is “Mistrust of my success hath done this deed.” In other words, he is saying, “Cassius killed himself because he thought I would screw up.” The line has guilt, grief and vulnerability. Any actor would kill to say this line – and I get to say it!


Shakespeare was not a writer to agree with Nietzsche’s line, "It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book." No, when his pen started moving, it seems he had to fight to stop it. Ben Jonson commented on Shakespeare’s speed and ease of composition:

I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech.

He continues,

Many times he fell into those things could not escape laughter: as when he said in the person of Caesar, one speaking to him, "Caesar, thou dost me wrong," he replied "Caesar did never wrong, but with just cause," and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.
Shakespeare was an artist of abundance, but not, perhaps, the best editor of himself.

Tolstoy hated Shakespeare. It would take a whole essay to analyze his provocative thoughts fairly. Some of his points might be valid, but they must be disentangled from his mysticism. Essentially, Tolstoy thought Shakespeare had nothing to say:

All his characters speak, not their own, but always one and the same Shakespearean pretentious and unnatural language, in which not only they could not speak, but in which no living man ever has spoken or does speak.... From his first words, exaggeration is seen: the exaggeration of events, the exaggeration of emotion, and the exaggeration of effects. One sees at once he does not believe in what he says, that it is of no necessity to him, that he invents the events he describes and is indifferent to his characters -- that he has conceived them only for the stage and therefore makes them do and say only what may strike his public, and so we do not believe either in the events or in the actions or in the sufferings of the characters.
He alone can write a drama who has got something to say to men, and that something of the greatest importance for them: about man's relation to God, to the Universe, to the All, the Eternal, the Infinite. But when, thanks to the German theories about objective art, the idea was established that for the drama this was quite unnecessary, then it became obvious how a writer like Shakespeare -- who had not got developed in his mind the religious convictions proper to his time, who, in fact, had no convictions at all, but heaped up in his drama all possible events, horrors, fooleries, discussions, and effects -- could appear to be a dramatic writer of the greatest genius.

But these are all external reasons. The fundamental inner cause of Shakespeare's fame was and is this that his dramas corresponded to the irreligious and immoral frame of mind of the upper classes of his time and ours.
It is fascinating that Tolstoy attributes Shakespeare’s popularity to German philosophy. One wonders – if modern philosophy gave way to a more rational philosophy, would Shakespeare’s popularity wane? But then, how do we explain Shakespeare’s popularity during the Enlightenment, before modern philosophy?

Philosophy aside, I think Tolstoy shows an inadequate appreciation of poetry and theatricality. Shakespeare was a first-rate poet and a first-rate theatre professional, and the combination makes for powerful playwriting, even if he had nothing to say.

George Orwell responded to Tolstoy’s attack. The most interesting thing in his essay to me is how much he concedes to Tolstoy:

Shakespeare is not a thinker, and the critics who claimed that he was one of the great philosophers of the world were talking nonsense. His thoughts are simply a jumble, a rag-bag. He was like most Englishmen in having a code of conduct but no world-view, no philosophical faculty. Again, it is quite true that Shakespeare cares very little about probability and seldom bothers to make his characters coherent. As we know, he usually stole his plots from other people and hastily made them up into plays, often introducing absurdities and inconsistencies that were not present in the original. Now and again, when he happens to have got hold of a foolproof plot — Macbeth, for instance — his characters are reasonably consistent, but in many cases they are forced into actions which are completely incredible by any ordinary standard. Many of his plays have not even the sort of credibility that belongs to a fairy story. In any case we have no evidence that he himself took them seriously, except as a means of livelihood. In his sonnets he never even refers to his plays as part of his literary achievement, and only once men-tions in a rather shamefaced way that he has been an actor. So far Tolstoy is justified. The claim that
Shakespeare was a profound thinker, setting forth a coherent philosophy in plays that were technically perfect and full of subtle psychological observation, is ridiculous.
George Bernard Shaw, who coined the term “Bardolotry,” was another Shakespeare hater. I believe he called Shakespeare a coward, afraid to take a stand, but I can’t find the passages online. I suppose I’ll have to read his book on Shakespeare and report back later.

Aside from poetry, I think Shakespeare’s greatest genius was in his observation of human character. I would disagree with Orwell: Shakespeare's plays are full of subtle psychological observation. As an actor, I am astonished time and again by little moments in his lines that show acute psychological insight. Characters say the exact thing one would say in a situation.

I suspect, although I cannot prove, that his genius is something particularly British. As Orwell wrote above, "He was like most Englishmen in having a code of conduct but no world-view, no philosophical faculty." Britain has a long philosophic tradition of empiricism stretching back at least as far as William of Ockham. Having “nothing to say,” as Tolstoy held, fits the empiricist mind. Shakespeare could depict characters in specific situations and could show all sides, but he did it without ideology. Modern critics, in our age of naturalism, think this is a virtue. I don’t know if I would go as far as Tolstoy and Shaw, but something central in Shakespeare does seem to be missing.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stephen Speicher, RIP

Stephen Speicher died in the hospital after recently suffering a heart attack. I send my condolences to Betsy Speicher and all of Stephen's family and friends.

When I first got on the internet in 1996 I found my way to the usenet forums, alt.philosophy.objectivism and then humanities. philosophy.objectivism. I discovered a lot of libertarian types there who made the forums exasperating and unpleasant, but there were also some Objectivists arguing their side. Among the Objectivists there was none so doughty and courageous as Stephen Speicher. He would fight back against any irrational opinion, any smear of Ayn Rand or other prominent Objectivists, or any distortion of the philosophy. He single-handedly made hpo interesting and kept me reading it as long as I did.

Stephen called hpo a "cesspool," which it certainly was, and eventually left it with Betsy to create a happier, more rational place for Objectivists to exchange opinions on the internet, the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans.

We communicated via email about an interest we share -- or I guess I should now write shared -- the Aristotelians of Renaissance Padua, Pomponazzi and Zabarella. Very little has been written about Renaissance Aristotelians in English, and I mentioned how frustrated I was because I could not find William F. Edwards's dissertation, The Logic of Iacopo Zabarella on the internet. Stephen got it for me through a service for academics.

I never met the man. I hoped I would meet him and his wife at an ARI speech in Southern California someday, and I planned to introduce myself and thank him in person for sending Edwards's dissertation. I did not get around to it and now it will never happen.

It would be inaccurate, perhaps, to say that a man I never met was a friend, but I feel as though I have lost a friend. You can learn a lot about people just by reading their words. He was an internet friend, you could say. Stephen Speicher's death is a great loss to internet Objectivism.

UPDATE: Betsy Speicher on Stephen.