Stephen Speicher

A small but measurable effect of ARI

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There is a constant barrage of excellent OP-Eds and Letters-to-the-Editor released by the Ayn Rand Institute, and though many are actually printed I have often wondered just how much of an effect the words have upon readers. Last week ARI put out an Op-Ed against "net-neutrality" and in favor of freedom for ISPs to establish a tiered system for data. I was delighted to just read this opinion piece from The Columbian of Washington State, titled "Internet fees no threat to free speech." Towards the end of the article the author admits to having been resistant to the freedom of a tiered system, but she credits ARI for reminding her the facts that really mattered.

Instead of being opposed to the idea that some customers will have superior access to information, those resistant to the idea of tiered Internet service (such as myself) need to be reminded (as I was by the Ayn Rand organization) that while the Internet began as a government-funded project, content providers, private network builders and hardware companies have made it what it is today. As such, customers have no right to equal access. And just as it is with shoes and food, paying more usually gets you more.

It is nice to know that a mind was changed about an issue affecting us all, as a result of reading an ARI Op-Ed. A small but measurable effect of ARI.

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It is nice to know that a mind was changed about an issue affecting us all, as a result of reading an ARI Op-Ed. A small but measurable effect of ARI.

I know one mind in need of change that sits in the White House...a mind which used ignorance to veto a potential life-affirming stem-cell bill that passed the U.S. Senate. I wish I could forward the ARI Op-Ed's (I have received three via email) regarding the President's veto to the President himself!

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I know one mind in need of change that sits in the White House.

I must have missed something. There are minds in the White House? :(

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I know one mind in need of change that sits in the White House...a mind which used ignorance to veto a potential life-affirming stem-cell bill that passed the U.S. Senate.

Do you support government spending on medicine? (And I have to ask this same question to Dr. Brook! :() Since when is it right to force me to pay for the health of others? And forget about me, since I happen to be all for stem cell research: Since when is it right to force a person to pay for things which he (however mistakenly) believes to be gruesome and immoral?

While President Bush very probably vetoed the bill for the wrong reason, a veto was nonetheless the right answer to it. Dr. Brook is misrepresenting Objectivism when he criticizes the veto without even mentioning that he does not support socialized medicine. While the main controversy is certainly about whether stem cell research should be legal at all, this particular piece of legislation had nothing to do with privately-funded stem cell research and everything to do with government spending on health.

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To the credit of Dr. Brook, he clarifies things in the next press release:

"The government should get out of the business of funding science. But so long as it is involved, it must scrupulously respect the separation of Church and State. Its funding decisions must be made on rationally demonstrable, not faith-based, grounds. Bush's veto clearly violates this principle." "The government should get out of the business of funding science. But so long as it is involved, it must scrupulously respect the separation of Church and State. Its funding decisions must be made on rationally demonstrable, not faith-based, grounds. Bush's veto clearly violates this principle."

Angry face withdrawn. :(

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Thanks, Stephen, for this good news.

Clark County (aka Vancouver, WA) has a lot of large high-tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sharp, and WaferTech, plus countless smaller high-tech companies. It's no surprise, then, to read Hovde's commentary in The Columbian. Those business bring a lot of intelligent and fairly rational people to the area.

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Do you support government spending on medicine? (And I have to ask this same question to Dr. Brook! :() ... Dr. Brook is misrepresenting Objectivism when he criticizes the veto without even mentioning that he does not support socialized medicine.

As you note in your next post, this oversight was corrected in the next press release. I think that Yaron Brook has more than adequately demonstrated his consistency with Objectivism, over an extended period of time. Perhaps in the future a more benevolent attitude than "misrepresenting Objectivism" might be assumed.

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Do you support government spending on medicine? ... Since when is it right to force me to pay for the health of others? And forget about me, since I happen to be all for stem cell research: Since when is it right to force a person to pay for things which he (however mistakenly) believes to be gruesome and immoral?

While President Bush very probably vetoed the bill for the wrong reason, a veto was nonetheless the right answer to it... While the main controversy is certainly about whether stem cell research should be legal at all, this particular piece of legislation had nothing to do with privately-funded stem cell research and everything to do with government spending on health.

The veto was not the right answer. The Bush veto and executive order are not about limiting spending. He is using religious motivations to discriminate against one part of science within an existing, already funded program. The total spending is determined separately by appropriation; within that budgeted amount the funds are divided up among the different projects, supposedly on the basis of scientific merit.

There is always some degree of corruption and favoritism in such government operations, no matter how well meaning and whether intended or not, but this debate is over explicitly institutionalizing such corruption as a matter of principle -- just as proponents of "hate crime" legislation are converting occasional corruption and bias in the enforcement of law into a new category of political crime intended to criminalize ideas as a matter of legal principle.

The Bush policies also impact privately funded research. Research is the last expense to be funded privately after necessary costs are covered. Research expenses are therefore the most sensitive to losses due to taxes. The government's funding of science through taxes harms private research, and the discrimination against stem cell research exacerbates that injustice because it does not refund the funds to those who want to pursue the banned research, instead spending their money on other projects.

But the central issue in this debate is the use of religious dogma to interfere with science, enforced by government. That is appalling and as far as I know unprecedented in modern times. It swamps all other considerations in this debate and is magnified further by the fact that Bush used his only veto to pursue it, indicating how much more important this agenda is to him than anything else.

Even the religious conservatives, including Bush, are not arguing that the funding should be banned because it forces people to pay for something they morally object to. They are opposing it flat out because they say it is "murder", which by implication means that they want also to ban all such private research. They won't normally admit that, but the mask slips every time they say it is to "stop the killing". They are on a roll and feel no need to finesse the issue with subtlety.

You do hear them occasionally say they don't want to pay for something they oppose, but that is a secondary appeal designed to politically support their fundamental agenda -- and you don't hear them arguing that people should not be forced to support any other kind of government program they oppose. This has nothing to do with fighting for "freedom"; it is a pure power grab by religion against science.

You also hear all kinds of pseudo science from them in the name of concern for good science in which they claim that other approaches like adult stem cells are scientifically superior to embrionic cells. In fact they do not know or care what the relative benefits of different approaches are for different purposes -- let alone care that such decisions are properly made by knowledgeable scientists in an environment of scientific and intellectual freedom, not on the basis of their own interference through amateur pontifications and arbitrary rationalizations. Nor do they show such "scientific" concern for comparing and evaluating other methods of no religious concern to them -- Their "scientific concern" only surfaces on issues conflicting with religious dogma. You even hear Rush Limbaugh mockingly arguing that the research is not worthy of support because it hasn't reached the stage of "human trials", as if nothing serious precedes that. The pioneers of the critical term "junk science" in polical debate are using it to the hilt themselves in open demagoguery.

All of their arguments are thinly disguised rationalizations intended to gain political support for one central purpose: to stop scientific research conflicting with religious dogma.

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....It swamps all other considerations in this debate and is magnified further by the fact that Bush used his only veto to pursue it, indicating how much more important this agenda is to him than anything else.

This was particularly striking to me. Before this happened, I was beginning to think Bush would finish his entire two terms without ever vetoing anything. Look at all the bad laws Bush could have vetoed, but did not - and some of them he even knew were bad. (For instance: the "campaign finance reform" censorship law that he signed.)

This is a man who's reluctant to veto anything, yet he did not hesitate to veto something that conflicted with some religious dogma. Whenever I ask myself "what's really important to the Republicans?", I'll think of this example.

...

Nor do they show such "scientific" concern for comparing and evaluating other methods of no religious concern to them -- Their "scientific concern" only surfaces on issues conflicting with religious dogma. You even hear Rush Limbaugh mockingly arguing that the research is not worthy of support because it hasn't reached the stage of "human trials", as if nothing serious precedes that. The pioneers of the critical term "junk science" in polical debate are using it to the hilt themselves in open demagoguery.

...

I began to wonder: since when are these religious conservatives some kind of scientific or medical experts, as they seem to "know" that embryonic stem cell research has no value? As for Limbaugh, it reminds me of his sneering at sick people who want to use marijuana to relieve some of their pain or other symptoms. This pompous man somehow "knows" that marijuana could not possibly be useful for this purpose.

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As for Limbaugh, it reminds me of his sneering at sick people who want to use marijuana to relieve some of their pain or other symptoms. This pompous man somehow "knows" that marijuana could not possibly be useful for this purpose.

I haven't listened in a long time but I enjoy some of what he says (and am disgusted when he goes into religious stuff.) Has he really been so disdainful recently about medical marijuana? That would be massively hypocritical given his major narcotic problem for his own pain (I would grant him the benefit of the doubt that it actually was, at least initially, about pain.)

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I think that Yaron Brook has more than adequately demonstrated his consistency with Objectivism, over an extended period of time.

Absolutely.

Perhaps in the future a more benevolent attitude than "misrepresenting Objectivism" might be assumed.

I was not ascribing an intention to misrepresent Objectivism, just noting that the statement, as it stood, could very easily mislead readers unfamiliar with Objectivism into thinking that Dr. Brook supported federal funding of medical research. To me and other well-versed Objectivists, it goes without saying that he does not, but since these Letters to the Editor are read by a growing number of non-Objectivists (to get back on topic! :(), for whom these things do not go without saying, I think it is important to make them explicit.

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I haven't listened in a long time but I enjoy some of what he says (and am disgusted when he goes into religious stuff.) Has he really been so disdainful recently about medical marijuana? That would be massively hypocritical given his major narcotic problem for his own pain (I would grant him the benefit of the doubt that it actually was, at least initially, about pain.)

Most of my listening to Rush Limbaugh was several years ago and earlier; I don't listen to him much any more. His disdainful comments about medical marijuana that I heard were made, as far as I know, before his own drug and pain problem; I don't know if he has changed his position since that time. I wish I had a time/date reference for when he said what I remember, but I don't.

I only brought it up here as another example of a conservative who claims some kind of medical or scientific knowledge (such as that marijuana can't possibly be useful medically) that he in fact doesn't have; he's just saying what's convenient for his political agenda.

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I haven't listened [to Rush Limbaugh] in a long time but I enjoy some of what he says (and am disgusted when he goes into religious stuff.) Has he really been so disdainful recently about medical marijuana? That would be massively hypocritical given his major narcotic problem for his own pain (I would grant him the benefit of the doubt that it actually was, at least initially, about pain.)

Yes it was real -- a pinched nerve. He started taking the pain medication before it was known how addictive it is.

The evangelizing has become worse in the last few years. He has always provided original and often devastating research and analysis on leftist machinations and the spin they generate, and he still does that. But when he gets off on religious proselytizing, it's so sophomoric it makes your ears wilt. The contrast is embarrassing. But it's not possible to completely separate them: when his religion dominates an issue, objective analysis disappears and turns into apologetics for whatever the religious agenda is (like on Terry Shivavo and stem cell research).

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