Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do We Love Life?

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"Americans love Life. We love Death. That is the difference between us."
- Osama bin Laden

This is the core of the matter. This is the issue. And it's something the attackers knew full well while we in America still struggle to evade and deny it. So here's my rant for today, the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks:

Do we?

Do we love life?

After the attacks, millions across the nation proclaimed that they wanted the Twin Towers rebuilt taller and stronger before. To do so would have been an act of defiance: defiance of pain and suffering and a profound statement that we intend to keep living and loving our lives. Today, Ground Zero remains a vacant lot where two mighty skyscrapers once stood. The proposed 'memorial' is imagined not as a productive edifice rising into the sky, but as a pair of useless reflecting pools underground. Toss into the mix proposed 'cultural centers' to help us understand the Islamic viewpoint, and a supposed 'Freedom Tower' (a name which has been dropped as offensive) designed by an inept postmodernist architect whose design is unworkable and which has snarled the entire site with lawsuits and government agency gridlock.

Do we love life?

After the attacks, millions shouted that they wanted the gloves to come off, that we were ready to fight a war with righteous indignation, to bring down the evil that was threatening our way of life. Today, years after our meek strike in Afghanistan which scattered Al Quaeda, Bin Laden is still at large and still presumably planning attacks. Our foray into Iraq was presented not as a strategic move against a known enemy with the goal of boxing in such terror sponsors as Iran, but as a push to "Bring Democracy" to the poor Iraqis who suffered so much under Saddam. Operation Infinite Justice morphed into Operation Iraqi Freedom as if justice for our dead was just too selfish. And did we create a freedom-loving Republic in Iraq with a constitution of secular virtues and individual rights? No- we created a new Islamic Republic and Iranian satellite. Meanwhile, Iran grows stronger, we're vulnerable, our borders are still open, and our President is persecuting the CIA.

Do we love life?

The World Trade Center was an edifice of CAPITALISM. Within its walls, men and women went to work pursuing their dreams- creating more efficient ways to allocate capital and goods from less-productive sectors to more productive sectors of the economy (the OPPOSITE of welfare redistribution). They were killed for showing up to work, for sitting down at desks, using their minds, and selfishly, joyously making life better for themselves and their families. That's why they were murdered. That's why Bin Laden and the rest of them hate us -- why they attacked in 1993 and again in 2001. I say this proudly: the World Trade Center was an arrogant, selfish, glorious symbol of strength, pride and productivity. Eight years later, Obama proclaimed 9-11 to be a day on which we should rededicate ourselves- not to dreams of greater prosperity- but to the following:

"On this day, and every day, it is incumbent on each of us to uphold those ideals that our enemies were - and are - so eager to destroy: To serve others and give back to our communities."

Of course, because self-sacrifice is SO alien to Islamic suicide squads, isn't it?

Do we love life?

Do we still want to achieve, to build, to reach for grandeur? Or is our national character to become one of "selflessness" where every spine is bent and head bowed to whatever is weak, suffering and "needy"? Are we to allow men and women to live, or are we going to regulate, tax and "nudge" them into a socialist straightjacket? Are we a rational, independent, secular, forward thinking, ambitious, proud nation -- or an emotionalist, consensus-seeking, Marxist/religious, backwards, meek welfare state of appeasers, bleeding hearts and crooks? Osama bin Laden called many times for a religious altruist socialist remake of the world. Between our Republicans and Democrats he may get his wish.

No wonder we haven't been attacked again. We've stopped being a threat and we're now doing by choice what the terrorists inflicted on us by force: we're sacrificing our proud stance, bending our foreheads to the ground, and apologizing for our existence to every scummy dictator on earth.

So, one last time: Do we love life?

Do we?

I just don't know anymore.

-Richard Gleaves

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Racism, by Ayn Rand

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Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.

The respectable family that supports worthless relatives or covers up their crimes in order to “protect the family name” (as if the moral stature of one man could be damaged by the actions of another)—the bum who boasts that his great-grandfather was an empire-builder, or the small-town spinster who boasts that her maternal great-uncle was a state senator and her third-cousin gave a concert at Carnegie Hall (as if the achievements of one man could rub off on the mediocrity of another)—the parents who search genealogical trees in order to evaluate their prospective sons-in-law—the celebrity who starts his autobiography with a detailed account of his family history—all these are samples of racism, the atavistic manifestations of a doctrine whose full expression is the tribal warfare of prehistorical savages, the wholesale slaughter of Nazi Germany, the atrocities of today’s so-called “newly-emerging nations.”

The theory that holds “good blood” and “bad blood” as a moral-intellectual criterion, can lead to nothing but torrents of blood in practice. Brute force is the only avenue of action open to men who regard themselves as mindless aggregates of chemicals.

Modern racists attempt to prove the superiority or inferiority of a given race by the historical achievements of some of its members. The frequent historical spectacle of a great innovator who, in his lifetime, is jeered, denounced, obstructed, persecuted by his countrymen, and then, a few years after his death, is enshrined in a national monument and hailed as a proof of greatness of the German (or French or Italian or Cambodian) race—is as revolting a spectacle of collectivist expropriation, perpetrated by racists, as any expropriation of material wealth perpetrated by communists.

Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements—and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.

Even if it were proved—which it is not—that the incidence of men of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would still tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one’s judgment of him. A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race—and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin. It is hard to say which is the more outrageous injustice: the claim of Southern racists that a Negro genius should be treated as inferior because his race has “produced” some brutes—or the claim of a German brute to the status of a superior because his race has “produced” Goethe, Schiller and Brahms.

These are not two different claims, of course, but two applications of the same basic premise. The question of whether one alleges the superiority or the inferiority of any given race is irrelevant; racism has only one psychological root: the racist’s sense of his own inferiority.

Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowledge—for an automatic evaluation of men’s characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment—and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-esteem).

To ascribe one’s virtues to one’s racial origin, is to confess that one has no knowledge of the process by which virtues are acquired and, most often, that one has failed to acquire them. The overwhelming majority of racists are men who have earned no sense of personal identity, who can claim no individual achievement or distinction, and who seek the illusion of a “tribal self-esteem” by alleging the inferiority of some other tribe. Observe the hysterical intensity of the Southern racists; observe also that racism is much more prevalent among the poor white trash than among their intellectual betters.

Historically, racism has always risen or fallen with the rise or fall of collectivism. Collectivism holds that the individual has no rights, that his life and work belong to the group (to “society,” to the tribe, the state, the nation) and that the group may sacrifice him at its own whim to its own interests. The only way to implement a doctrine of that kind is by means of brute force—and statism has always been the political corollary of collectivism.

The absolute state is merely an institutionalized form of gang rule, regardless of which particular gang seizes power. And—since there is no rational justification for such rule, since none has ever been or can ever be offered—the mystique of racism is a crucial element in every variant of the absolute state. The relationship is reciprocal: statism rises out of prehistorical tribal warfare, out of the notion that the men of one tribe are the natural prey for the men of another—and establishes its own internal sub-categories of racism, a system of castes determined by a man’s birth, such as inherited titles of nobility or inherited serfdom.

The racism of Nazi Germany—where men had to fill questionnaires about their ancestry for generations back, in order to prove their “Aryan” descent—has its counterpart in Soviet Russia, where men had to fill similar questionnaires to show that their ancestors had owned no property and thus to prove their “proletarian” descent. The Soviet ideology rest on the notion that men can be conditioned to communism genetically—that is, that a few generations conditioned by dictatorship will transmit communist ideology to their descendants, who will be communists at birth. The persecution [34] of racial minorities in Soviet Russia, according to the racial descent and whim of any given commissar, is a matter of record; anti-semitism is particularly prevalent—only the official pogroms are now called “political purges.”

There is only one antidote to racism: the philosophy of individualism and its politico-economic corollary, laissez-faire capitalism.

Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful co-existence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.

It is not a man’s ancestors or relatives or genes or body chemistry that count in a free market, but only one human attribute: productive ability. It is by his own individual ability and ambition that capitalism judges a man and rewards him accordingly.

No political system can establish universal rationality by law (or by force). But capitalism is the only system that functions in a way which rewards rationality and penalizes all forms of irrationality, including racism.

A fully free, capitalist system has not yet existed anywhere. But what is enormously significant is the correlation of racism and political controls in the semi-free economies of the 19th century. Racial and/or religious persecutions of minorities stood in inverse ratio to the degree of a country’s freedom. Racism was strongest in the more controlled economies, such as Russia and Germany—and weakest in England, the then freest country of Europe.

It is capitalism that gave mankind its first steps toward freedom and a rational way of life. It is capitalism that broke through national and racial barriers, by means of free trade. It is capitalism that abolished serfdom and slavery in all the civilized countries of the world. It is the capitalist North that destroyed the slavery of the agrarian-feudal South in the United States.

Such was the trend of mankind for the brief span of some hundred and fifty years. The spectacular results and achievements of that trend need no restatement here.

The rise of collectivism reversed that trend.

When men began to be indoctrinated once more with the notion that the individual possesses no rights, that supremacy, moral authority and unlimited power belong to the group, and [35] that a man has no significance outside his group—the inevitable consequence was that men began to gravitate toward some group or another, in self-protection, in bewilderment and in subconscious terror. The simplest collective to join, the easiest one to identify—particularly for people of limited intelligence—the least demanding form of “belonging” and of “togetherness” is: race.

It is thus that the theoreticians of collectivism, the “humanitarian” advocates of a “benevolent” absolute state, have led to the rebirth and the new, virulent growth of racism in the 20th century.

In its great era of capitalism, the United States was the freest country on earth—and the best refutation of racist theories. Men of all races came here, some from obscure, culturally undistinguished countries, and accomplished feats of productive ability which would have remained stillborn in their control-ridden native lands. Men of racial groups that had been slaughtering one another for centuries, learned to live together in harmony and peaceful cooperation. America had been called “the melting pot,” with good reason. But few people realized that America did not melt men into the gray conformity of a collective: she united them by means of protecting their right to individuality.

The major victims of such race prejudice as did exist in America were the Negroes. It was a problem originated and perpetuated by the non-capitalist South, though not confined to its boundaries. The persecution of Negroes in the South was and is truly disgraceful. But in the rest of the country, so long as men were free, even that problem was slowly giving way under the pressure of enlightenment and of the white men’s own economic interests.

Today, that problem is growing worse—and so is every form of racism. America has become race-conscious in a manner reminiscent of the worst days in the most backward countries of 19th century Europe. The cause is the same: the growth of collectivism and statism.

In spite of the clamor for racial equality, propagated by the “liberals” in the past decades, the Census Bureau reported recently that “[the Negro’s] economic status relative to whites has not improved for nearly 20 years.” It had been improving in the freer years of our “mixed economy”; it deteriorated with the progressive enlargement of the “liberals’ ” Welfare State.

The growth of racism in a “mixed economy” keeps step with the growth of government controls. A “mixed economy” disintegrates a country into an institutionalized civil war of pressure groups, each fighting for legislative favors and special privileges at the expense of one another.

The existence of such pressure groups and of their political lobbies is openly and cynically acknowledged today. The pretense at any political philosophy, any principles, ideals or long-range goals is fast disappearing from our scene—and it is all but admitted that this country is now floating without direction, at the mercy of a blind, short-range power-game played by various statist gangs, each intent on getting hold of a legislative gun for any special advantage of the immediate moment.

In the absence of any coherent political philosophy, every economic group has been acting as its own destroyer, selling out its future for some momentary privilege. The policy of the businessmen has, for some time, been the most suicidal one in this respect. But it has been surpassed by the current policy of the Negro leaders.

So long as the Negro leaders were fighting against government-enforced discrimination—right, justice and morality were on their side. But that is not what they are fighting any longer. The confusions and contradictions surrounding the issue of racism have now reached an incredible climax.

It is time to clarify the principles involved.

The policy of the Southern states toward Negroes was and is a shameful contradiction of this country’s basic principles. Racial discrimination, imposed and enforced by law, is so blatantly inexcusable an infringement of individual rights that the racist statutes of the South should have been declared unconstitutional long ago.

The Southern racists’ claim of “states’ rights” is a contradiction in terms: there can be no such thing as the “right” of some men to violate the rights of others. The constitutional concept of “states’ rights” pertains to the division of power between local and national authorities, and serves to protect the states from the Federal government; it does not grant to a state government an unlimited, arbitrary power over its citizens or the privilege of abrogating the citizens’ individual rights.

It is true that the Federal government has used the racial issue to enlarge its own power and to set a precedent of encroachment upon the legitimate rights of the states, in an unnecessary and unconstitutional manner. But this merely means that both governments are wrong; it does not excuse the policy of the Southern racists.

One of the worst contradictions, in this context, is the stand of many so-called “conservatives” (not confined exclusively to the South) who claim to be defenders of freedom, of capitalism, of property rights, of the Constitution, yet who advocate racism at the same time. They do not seem to possess enough concern with principles to realize the they are cutting the ground from under their own feet. Men who deny individual rights cannot claim, defend or uphold any rights whatsoever. It is such alleged champions of capitalism who are helping to discredit and destroy it.

The “liberals” are guilty of the same contradiction, but in a different form. They advocate the sacrifice of all individual rights to unlimited majority rule—yet posture as defenders of the rights of minorities. But the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

This accumulation of contradictions, of short-sighted pragmatism, of cynical contempt for principles, of outrageous irrationality, has now reached its climax in the new demands of the Negro leaders.

Instead of fighting against racial discrimination, they are demanding that racial discrimination be legalized and enforced. Instead of fighting against racism, they are demanding the establishment of racial quotas. Instead of fighting for “color-blindness” in social and economic issues, they are proclaiming that “color-blindness” is evil and that “color” should be made a primary consideration. Instead of fighting for equal rights, they are demanding special race privileges.

They are demanding that racial quotas be established in regard to employment and that jobs be distributed on a racial basis, in proportion to the percentage of a given race among the local population. For instance, since Negroes constitute 25 per cent of the population of New York City, they demand 25 per cent of the jobs in a given establishment.

Racial quotas have been one of the worst evils of racist regimes. There were racial quotas in the universities of Czarist Russia, in the population of Russia’s major cities, etc. One of the accusations against the racists in this country is that some schools practice a secret system of racial quotas. It was regarded as a victory for justice when employment questionnaires ceased to inquire about an applicant’s race or religion.

Today, it is not an oppressor, but an oppressed minority that is demanding the establishment of racial quotas. (!)

This particular demand was too much even for the “liberals.” Many of them denounced it—properly—with shocked indignation.

Wrote The N. Y. Times (July 23, 1963): “The demonstrators are following a truly vicious principle in playing the ‘numbers game.’ A demand that 25 per cent (or any other percentage) of jobs be given to Negroes (or any other group) is wrong for one basic reason: it calls for a ‘quota system,’ which is itself discriminatory. . . . This newspaper has long fought a religious quota in respect to judgeships; we equally oppose a racial quota in respect to jobs from the most elevated to the most menial.”

As if the blatant racism of such a demand were not enough, some Negro leaders went still farther. Whitney M. Young Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, made the following statement (N. Y. Times, August 1):

“The white leadership must be honest enough to grant that throughout our history there has existed a special privileged class of citizens who received preferred treatment. That class [36] was white. Now we’re saying this: If two men, one Negro and one white, are equally qualified for a job, hire the Negro.”

Consider the implications of this statement. It does not merely demand special privileges on racial grounds—it demands that white men be penalized for the sins of their ancestors. It demands that a white laborer be refused a job because his grandfather may have practiced racial discrimination. But perhaps his grandfather had not practiced it. Or perhaps his grandfather had not even lived in this country. Since these questions are not to be considered, it means that that white laborer is to be charged with collective racial guilt, the guilt consisting merely of the color of his skin.

It does not merely demand special privileges on racial grounds—it demands that white men be penalized for the sins of their ancestors. It demands that a white laborer be refused a job because his grandfather may have practiced racial discrimination. But perhaps his grandfather had not practiced it. Or perhaps his grandfather had not even lived in this country. Since these questions are not to be considered, it means that that white laborer is to be charged with collective racial guilt, the guilt consisting merely of the color of his skin.

But that is the principle of the worst Southern racist who charges all Negroes with collective racial guilt for any crime committed by an individual Negro, and who treats them all as inferiors on the ground that their ancestors were savages.

The only comment one can make about demands of that kind is, “By what right?—By what code?—By what standard?”

That absurdly evil policy is destroying the moral base of the Negroes’ fight. Their case rested on the principle of individual rights. If they demand the violation of the rights of others, they negate and forfeit their own. Then the same answer applies to them as to the Southern racists: there can be no such thing as a “right” of some men to violate the rights of others.

Yet the entire policy of the Negro leaders is now moving in that direction. For instance, the demand for racial quotas in schools, with proposals that hundreds of children, white and Negro, be forced to attend school in distant neighborhoods—for the purpose of “racial balance.” Again, this is pure racism. As opponents of this demand have pointed out, to assign children to certain schools by reason of their race, is equally evil whether one does it for purposes of segregation or integration. And the mere idea of using children as pawns in a political game should outrage all parents, of any race, creed or color.

The “civil rights” bill, now under consideration in Congress, is another gross infringement of individual rights. It is proper to forbid all discrimination in government-owned facilities and establishments: the government has no right to discriminate against any citizen. And by the very same principle, the government has no right to discriminate for some citizens at the expense of others. It has no right to violate the right of private property by forbidding discrimination in privately owned establishments.

No man, neither Negro nor white, has any claim to the property of another man. A man’s rights are not violated by a private individual’s refusal to deal with him. Racism is an evil, irrational and morally contemptible doctrine—but doctrines cannot be forbidden or prescribed by law. Just as we have to protect a communist’s freedom of speech, even though his doctrines are evil, so we have to protect a racist’s right to the use and disposal of his own property. Private racism is not a legal, but a moral issue—and can be fought only by private means, such as economic boycott or social ostracism.

Needless to say, if that “civil rights” bill is passed, it will be the worst breach of property rights in the sorry record of American history in respect to that subject.

It is an ironic demonstration of the philosophic insanity and the consequently suicidal trend of our age, that the men who need the protection of individual rights most urgently—the Negroes—are now in the vanguard of the destruction of these rights.

A word of warning: do not become victims of the same racists by succumbing to racism; do not hold against all Negroes the disgraceful irrationality of some of their leaders. No group has any proper intellectual leadership today or any proper representation.

In conclusion, I shall quote from an astonishing editorial in The N. Y. Times of August 4 [1963]—astonishing because ideas of this nature are not typical of our age:

“But the question must be not whether a group recognizable in color, features or culture has its rights as a group. No, the question is whether any American individual, regardless of color, features or culture, is deprived of his rights as an American. If the individual has all the rights and privileges due him under the laws and the Constitution, we need not worry about groups and masses—those do not, in fact, exist, except as figures of speech.”
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Open Letter to John Galt

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September 2, 2012
To: Mr. John Galt
Twentieth Century Motor Company
201 W. Front Street
Starnesville, Wisconsin 53177

Dear Mister Galt,

It has come to my attention via newspaper reports that you have recently performed the first test of a remarkable motor, which promises to revolutionize our energy sector. As it has been explained to me, you've succeeded in overcoming a challenge in theoretical physics that has heretofore seemed insurmountable. I'm told you've produced, as a commercial device, a motor capable of drawing power from static electricity in the air. Congratulations on your achievement. I cannot overstate the importance of this invention to the future of the nation. It is of the future that I wish to speak.

As you know, British Petroleum's accident in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago has wreaked enormous havoc. The resultant oil spill has been used as a pretense by our President to shut down all deep water drilling platforms. Though this situation was to be a "temporary moratorium", it has become open ended. Oil continues to blacken American beaches, and so the pretext remains for keeping our wells inert. The recent revelations about President Obama's financial relationship (Through Mr. Soros) to Brazilian Oil Company Petrobras does not seem to be making much difference politically, and the loss of the drilling platforms to Hugo Chavez' Citgo will likely make reconstituting America's drilling impossible even as it strengthens the People's State of Venezuela.

Those damages pale, however, compared to the adoption of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act (APA) of 2010. Otherwise known as the "Cap and Trade" plan, this act promulgated by the administration (and supported by the National Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for American Progress etc), has truly crippled our nation. In 2011 alone, energy bills have necessarily skyrocketed as congress has mandated emissions limits on all producers of electricity. 

The intent of the APA legislation was originally to address "Global Warming" but, once that became a less viable cover story, it was pitched to America as a way to transition from "suicidal grey capitalism" to a "green economy". High energy rates, we have been told, are a "necessary sacrifice" in order to provide an "incentive structure to innovation"-- i.e. in order to force the market to innovate technologically if human life is to continue. A man will spend $10 a gallon (equivalent) to move his car by solar originated electricity if the only alternative is $20 a gallon gasoline. 

Now we are on the verge of collapse, our factories are silent. Our air may be clean but our children are starving. Our jobless crowd the streets, standing in line for Federal largesse. Our borders are threatened by the oil-dictatorships that have grown fat on our folly. The lights are going out on this, the last vestige of Western civilization. The only thing that can save us is your engine, so I'm making this urgent request of you:

Dismantle it. 

I beg you: take a sledgehammer to every coil of that motor, bend its rotors, crush its cylinder, mangle it beyond reconstruction. Take every paper that contains the secret of your discovery and burn it. Swear your co-workers to secrecy, destroy your achievement, and walk away. Please, for the sake of your own love for existence and in the name of justice: Dismantle it.

And leave us to rot.

I know this may seem like a bizarre request, but America is starting to learn, you see. It is learning the connection between the actions of its leaders and economic destruction. They are beginning to hear a death rattle in the call for "shared sacrifice". The masks are coming off. They are seeing the corruption, the obfuscation, the hatred of achievement, of ability, of success. Americans are starting to understand that their leaders are not rescuing them from disaster, but deliberately leading them to it. They are starting to rediscover the ideals of individualism, reason, constitutional government, rights and reality. They are starting to grow up, as thinkers and citizens. They will reach a tipping point soon, and make a final choice.

There is only one person that can stop the country from finally rejecting the Marxist/Fascist political philosophy that has brought sacrificial ovens and economic destruction to every continent upon which it has been tried. There's only one person that can rescue and vindicate the plans of President Obama and his minions: You. 

YOU can save them. By bringing your motor to market. By flooding the world with cheap clean electricity. "See?", President Obama will say, "I told you I knew best." Even as he mops his brow with relief over his unexpected reprieve. You will buy them a decade, or a year, or a week, in which to further enslave and confuse us.

Yes, Mr. Galt, your motor could save the world from collapse. But the world does not deserve saving. Not as it is.  Let us rot. Until we learn our folly. Until we learn to say "no". Until we rediscover liberty. May that day come quickly. 

With gratitude for your achievement,

Mrs. Frank O'Connor
10000 Tampa Avenue
Chatsworth, CA 91311

PS-- I hear Ouray is lovely this time of year.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Obama vs. Giuliani

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Imagine that it is November, 2001.

Lower Manhattan is smoldering. The site of the World Trade Center is still burning. Very little has been done to rescue anyone injured or trapped. A few groups wander around sweeping dust from one side of West Street to the other, but the rubble itself is still burning. Lower Manhattan has been evacuated and police barricades keep everyone from crossing south of Houston street. After 54 days, the smell of death is toxic and reaches all the way to Pennsylvania.

The fire commissioner has been begging the administration for men, for trucks, for water, for triage centers, for communications, for a place where people can get centralized information. Families are tacking pictures of their loved ones on random walls: "Have you seen this man?" "Have you seen this man?" No help is forthcoming.

Mayor Giuliani has been having a lot of fun, though. He took in a few Broadway shows. He took Judith to a baseball game. He's been making the rounds of cigar bars and had a special concert at Gracie Mansion with Barbara Streisand and Cher.

He is taking political heat for all of this, of course, but his response is that he didn't create the tragedy Al Quaeda did. He can't do anything to stop the hatred bubbling out of the Middle East.  George Bush is to blame for that, and until he solves it, we're just going to have to bear the brunt of the attacks. What do people want from him? He can't go down and lift the rubble by himself. He can't put out the fires with his bare hands.

But, he assures us, he's been on the job from day one. Ever since the planes hit, he has expected Al Quaeda to clean up the mess and he promises to hold them fully responsible and fiscally accountable in court. He even went to one of the funerals and stood in the rain. Ruined a pair of nice shoes.

Why should HE have to give daily press conferences? HE didn't cause the mess.

He has issued a ban on all new building in Manhattan until we figure out what caused the Trade Center to collapse. He's permanently closed the stock exchange.

He's built a nice sturdy fence around the site, and his administration has been hard "at work" doing environmental studies about the impact of the rubble on the quality of life in Battery Park City.

He's terribly sorry that the police and firefighters have had no resources to put out the toxic fires or recover the bodies of their dead comrades, but he intends to "kick some ass" real soon. Real. Soon. Once he figures out why the situation has become so dire. In the meantime, it just underscores how vitally he needs you to vote him a third term. And how about those Yankees?

What would you say?

Have you seen this man?

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parable #9: The Navigation System

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Once upon a time, a young man walked into his local electronic store to purchase a GPS navigation system for his car. He was assured by the salesperson that the Navigon 2100 was the ultimate in directional technology. It was time-tested, infallible, and never made an error. "How do you know it's good?" asked the young man. The salesman smiled and said- "I just know in my heart. Anyone who truly knows electronics will tell you that what I say is true". The young man didn't want to be exposed as ignorant (he prided himself on being technologically minded) and so he purchased the Navigon 2100 and installed it the next day.

On his first drive, the young man set out to the grocery store. It was a Friday afternoon at rush hour. The Navigon proclaimed "Turn right at the next intersection". He complied, and found himself turning the wrong way onto a one way street. Cars rushed towards him, he veered, and pulled into a vacant lot, mud splashing his passenger windows.

Hmm. He thought. I hope the salesman kows what he's talking about. I must have done something wrong or misinterpreted the directions.

On his second drive the next day, he set out for his girlfriend's house. The Navigon piped up "turn left here" and, though he was certain the direction was wrong, the young man complied. He found himself on a dead end back street, lost, and found that the Navigon had no further advice to give. He spent that whole saturday backtracking his route. After much trial and error he found his way back home.

This is ridiculous, he thought, and that night he tore the Navigon off of his dashboard and took it back to the electronics store. "This system is exactly backwards!" He shouted. "Everything it tells me is the exact opposite of what I know I should do! It's going to get me killed!". The salesperson sneered "You just don't understand electronics."

The young man left the store, determined to never make the same mistake again.

The next morning he went to church. He was told that the teachings of Jesus were time-tested, infallible, and never made an error.

How do you know? He asked the preacher. "I just feel it in my heart." Was the reply.

And the young man went out into the world with his Bible in hand. It told him to love his enemies, forgive those who stole from him, to sacrifice his values, to spurn money, to feel guilty about sex, to give up, to be meek, to 'consider the lilies of the field' and not be productive. He was taught that pride goeth before the fall, that this life was a veil of tears to be suffered through, that death was the true aim of life and that happiness after death was the greatest goal to be achieved. He listened, and turned away from this life and towards the next. He turned away from joy, veered from success, avoided pleasure, backed away from self-esteem, gave the right of way to others, yielded to authority, and found himself at the end of his life at a dead end having never reached any destination.

Hmm. He thought. I hope the preacher kows what he's talking about...

And he never saw the connection.

-Richard Gleaves
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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ten Commandments and American Life

Bookmark and Share I'm constantly told that the Ten Commandments somehow underlie our moral and judicial system, but has anyone really thought about this? What are moral commandments and how can they be the basis of our laws?

First of all, the term "moral commandment" is itself an oxymoron (like "wireless cable", "standard options" or "nondairy creamer"). Morality involves ethical choice, not mere obedience. If a man wants to murder, but abstains not out of respect for life but out of fear of hell-- because it is "commanded" by authority-- that does not make him a good man. It makes him an evil man who is too scared to engage in his evil. If a man wants to sleep with other women and obeys the "commandment" out of fear of punishment and not because he loves his wife, that doesn't make him a good husband it makes him a lousy husband who prefers sexual dissatisfaction and heaven over sexual gratification and hell. So, first of all, I think the idea of "commandments" in morality is ludicrous. Commanded, by whom? For what? Validated by what argument? How is one to judge context? A proper understanding of morality as a code of values accepted by choice is incompatible with any authoritarian grab-bag of arbitrary edicts and directives.

Now, to the commandments themselves. Even if you were to grant religion and a commandment-based morality (and I don't)-- which commandments do you go by and how are they to be implemented? You may not know, but there are two sets of "commandments" in the Hebrew bible.

You have to choose one to call the "Ten Commandments" now.

So we must be selective and ARBITRARILY choose the more popular "standard" set. AND we are already arbitrarily choosing the commandments over every other passage, law, commandment and recommendation in the christian bible as well as arbitrarily choosing the christian creed above every other religion past or present, over every ethical philosopher, over the teachings of Shakespeare or the writings of Homer or Euripedes-- again, arbitrarily.

So-- we have settled on the popular ten. What are they and what does it mean to "base our laws upon them"?
1 "I am the Lord your god-- you shall have no other Gods before me". Okay-- if that is a basis for law, then the implementation of it would be to forbid everything that god forbids. Therefore, implementing the first commandment honestly would mean no other god but Yahweh the Lord of the bible shall be worshipped or tolerated in the United States. Religious pluralism is against God's commandments. Jews can stay, so can muslims. ALL OTHERS MUST LEAVE. They are criminals. They are lucky if we let them leave. The punishment for an apostate (murtad) in Islam is death.

2 "You shall have no graven images or idols"
So we must now hack down the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, Mount Rushmore, take all pictures off of the money.  The Oscars have got to go, and every public statue of Jesus also. It is not in keeping with God's will. All crucifixes in the United States are hereby banned. For good measure, we must also forbid showing Mohammed on "South Park".

3 "You shall not take the Lord's name in vain"
This should lead to the immediate arrest of all living people that were involved in the making of "Oh, God", "Oh, God: Book II", or "Oh God, You Devil" (this means you Larry Gelbart & Carl Reiner!). Every person who says goddamit!, Jesus Christ!, or fucking christ on a cracker! whether toe-stubbed or not, shall be put to death in the United States.

4 "Remember the Sabbath Day"
We tried to make this a law for many centuries. Read "The Crucible" in which the hero is accused of witchcraft because he plowed his field on the Sabbath. Here's a long list of other statist attempts to impose this commandment:

5 "Honor your father and mother" again, how is this to be implemented as the basis for law in the United States?
We know how they implement it in the middle east What if your parents are monsters? Certainly they exist, and certainly there are cases where the moral thing to do is to denounce and disown your parents and the evil they commit, just as it is sometimes moral for parents to renounce children if they do great evil.

6 "You shall not murder" here's an example of a good ethical rule (finally) six commandments in. But do we need God to command this? Murder is wrong because it destroys man's life which is the standard of all moral values. In an Objectivist list, this one would come FIRST. That it comes sixth here is testament to the low regard for human life in the Abrahamic religions, and how they place it beneath and secondary to concerns of faith and obedience to god and submission to your parents.

7 "You shall not commit adultery" how do we implement this in law? Jesus said that if you think of adultery you have committed it. So if we base our laws on the bible, is every man who thinks of unmarried sex at any time committing a crime? Is adultery punishable by jail? Why, if it is heinous enough to be condemned by god in the commandments (obviously worse than slavery, which isn't in the top ten) is adultery not an offense punished by criminal law in the united states? In the islamic world they are consistent. We aren't.

8 "You shall not steal" again, we have a good ethical teaching with no moral content. Why shall we not steal? What constitutes stealing? If a Marxist says "property is theft" is property stealing? No? How do we know? How do we prove to him what is objectively true? Where is the instruction manual for these ethical teachings? Is there really NO reason not to steal besides fear of hell?

9 "You shall not bear false witness" a sensible teaching. But, again, it raises the question: why is this a commandment and "thou shalt not enslave your neighbor" is not? And how do we institute this one in law? If I lie to a third party about my neighbor is that punishable? Are gossips to be stoned to death? The punishment for false witness in Islam is 80 lashes. I look forward to seeing Palin introduce that to Congress.

10 "Thou shalt not covet"
All advertisers shall be buried to the neck and stoned with cans of Campbell's Soup.

I honestly do not know how any reasonable or educated person can look at this list and find hardly anything in it that is praiseworthy or moral. Most of it (the first half) is demands for submission and obedience, which any American of self-esteem should reject. The rest, to the degree that they are sound moral principles, are barely the outlines or rough draft of a moral philosophy. They may have been revolutionary 2,000 years ago, but at that time so was indoor plumbing.

What would an America honestly governed by the Ten Commandments look like? In all essentials, like Sharia law in a muslim theocracy. Apostates, adulterers, those who dishonor their parents, who make images of the prophet, who work on the sabbath etc would be punished, and the few sound ethical teachings would be subservient to the will of Yahweh and his worship.

The Ten Commandments can never be the foundation of individual rights and liberty-- they can only be the pretense by which those values are destroyed.

-Richard Gleaves
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Parable #8: Morgan Stanley

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Morgan Stanley sat on a wall

Morgan Stanley had a great fall

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Could put Morgan together again.

But they damn well shouldn't....

-Richard Gleaves
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Parable #7: The Boy Who Cried Racist

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Once upon a time in the small fishing community of Sodom-on-the-Potomac, a woman gave birth to a very unusual child.

Some babies are born a bit blue, some run a bit red. But as the doctor lifted this infant by its legs and raised it to the morning light, its mother could see this child was a deep, lovely shade of... violet!

Some would even say ultraviolet, so startling was the boy's skin.

When the doctor spanked the child, another attribute was revealed-- a stentorian set of lungs:

"Waaaaahhhh!!", it yelled. "WAAAAAAAAH"!!

As the boy grew, both his color and his lung power became more vivid. His mother learned to give the child anything he wanted, from the smallest trifle to lavish parties, otherwise he would stamp his little purple feet and scream:


This is how the child got his name: More.

More grew to be a strapping young man. Well fed, of course, and tall for his age. He would strut up and down the street admiring himself in the plate glass of the neighbor shops, then saunter through whichever doorway he chose and walk out with whatever he liked. Without paying.

It was so easy.

You see, the people of Sodom-on-Potomac were easy to manipulate, for the town possessed a shameful secret: racism. The town elders had built on land stolen from the indigenous green skinned people with the labor of slaves imported from the land of the plaid folk. Their descendants naturally felt remorse for this shameful history, despite the fact that it occurred five thousand years before. They felt acute guilt for it and were keenly conscious of practicing any injustice on a person of differing skin. The Sodom-folk (never call them the other name) were decidedly beige themselves, with a tendency towards burnt umber-- vaguely the color of toffee or toast--- so, with his skin of violent violet, More stuck out like a bright bruise upon the body politic.

The people gave him what he wanted, when he wanted, lest anyone make the horrid accusation...

"Racist!" said More, when he was seven and the local druggist refused to let him read a comic book off the rack.

"Racist!" said More, when he was nine and the umpire called a strike against him.

"Racist!" said More, when he was thirteen and didn't like his haircut.

"Racist!" said More, when he was fourteen and his teacher requested an overdue assignment.

"Racist!" he shouted, when he was sixteen and the girl he liked laughed in his face.

"Racist!" he shouted, when his mom told him to clean his room.

"Racist!" he shouted, when he wanted to ride shotgun.

"Racist!" he yelled, when he was turned down for a job.

"Racist!" he yelled, when he lost his first election for town council.

"Racist!" he yelled, when the voters threatened to vote someone else in as mayor.

And that's how More succeeded. He got his comic book, his trophies, his mohawk, his A+.

He got laid, got hired, got rich, got famous, and got elected to high office. On the strength of one little word.

He did as he pleased when he pleased. He tripled the budget, emptied the treasury, threw parties for himself, passed laws to punish his enemies, and generally answered to no one. He trusted that the magic word would solve all problems, and in the face of every adversity he cried it out, bellowing with his magnificent bullhorn of a voice: RACIST!!!

Until Les came along.

Leslie Teabagger was a pixieish waif of a girl from another town over the hill. Her people did not believe that the sins of the fathers were visited upon their children. They did not feel guilt for the evils perpetrated by long-dead ancestors, for those who were dust could not possibly reflect on those that were flesh.

She moved into Sodom-on-the-Potomac during More's tempestuous second term. She moved into a house down by the fish hatcheries, where she began work.

Within a week on her new job, she had seen corruption, cronyism, distortions of law and common sense. She saw regulations that had no purpose but to please the whim of the mayor. She saw utter nonsense, manipulations and theft perpetrated by bureaucratic bullies. And, everywhere, unprecedented waste.

She was appalled.

Leslie saw that Mayor More was destroying his city, and she decided to do something about it.

So she picketed City Hall.

Alone, she trudged back and forth before the marble steps. She carried a picket that read "Stop the Insanity" on one side and "Limited Government Now" on the other. Back and forth she went, hour by hour, as a crowd gathered to watch.
After some time, she was joined by others. A few picketers became a dozen, then a hundred, then the square was teeming with protestors.

Mayor More heard about the situation from an aide. A crowd of protesting townsfolk? It was astonishing! But no matter. He could deal with them easily.

He strode out onto the steps of City Hall.

He looked down and the seething mass of protestors, smiled, and inhaled....

"Racists!" he yelled.

"Boo!" they yelled back.

Yelled back? How could this be? Perhaps they had not heard?

"Racists!!" he shouted, more loudly.

"Boo!!" the crowd responded, just as before.

This was inconceivable. The secret, magical, wonderful word had never failed him before! He had but to whisper it and the world would crumple to his will! What had happened? Why were the people not cowed?

"RACISTS!" He yelled at the top of his lungs. "RACIST! RACIST! RAACIIIISTS!!!!"

And More's voice finally broke.

He went silent, having stripped his vocal cords. His hand went to his throat. His powerful voice was gone.

The mayor sagged and dropped onto on the marble stair, looking up helplessly at the angry toffee-brown faces of the townsfolk.

The people parted, and a figure emerged from amongst them...

The Mayor gazed-- for the first time-- upon Les, the Teabagger woman who had defeated him, and he understood how she had done it...

He found the answer in her proud stance... in the way she held her head defiantly against the blue sky...

He found the answer in her guiltless smile....

... and in her beautiful violet skin.

--Richard Gleaves
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Parable #6: The Bowing Chicken

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Once upon a time in a small white farm on the edge of the frontier, a chicken was voted leader of the barnyard. She was a particularly fine chicken: robust and cheerful, with smooth orange and white feathers. Her sharp little beak was particularly adept at pecking small seeds out of the dust, and she was well liked and admired by both the other chickens and her fellow animals.

The old dog that had previously been barnyard leader took her aside on her first day.

"Chicken," he said, "the most important job in this barnyard is to protect yer fellow animals from predators. The farmer built a nice fence around the property, but now 'n then some varmint'll get in and try to make off with one of the young 'uns. I figgered the best thing was to set a watch every night. The horse took the first shift, and the cows the second and..."

"Cluck cluck cluck!" said the chicken. "You're not the leader anymore, dog. Elections have consequences. I'll be making the decisions from now on. If varmints are attacking us, I'll know how to deal with them!"

"How, then?" asked the dog.

"Reason, of course! Just like when the pigs wanted to eat Horse's corn! I reasonedwith them. And now everything is fine."

"It ain't the same! A fox ain't a pig. And a wolf ain't a horse. They don't live on a farm with reasons and rules. They're wild beasts!"

"Cluck cluck cluck" said the hen, "Go back to your doghouse and let someone smart run things!"

The dog wagged his head sorrowfully, his jowls flapping, and loped off to his little doghouse to chew an old bone.

The chicken skittered about the yard, giving orders. "Cluck cluck cluck!" she sang, "Everybody work! Make your eggs and cheese! So say I: the barnyard ruler. I do what I please!"

And the little farm obeyed.

The sun sank low on the frontier plains. The animals climbed under their straw and went to bed. The chicken flew to her roost at the tippest-top of the old white barn and tucked her head under her wing.

"Baa!" came a sudden bleat, just as the moon cleared the farmhouse roof. "Thief! Thief!"

"Cluck cluck cluck!" cried the chicken, and she flew down to the sheep corral. "Why are you bleating, you foolish sheep?"

"There! There! By the bushes! A baa-baa-burglar!!"

The chicken trundled over to the bushes and, in the moonlight, saw a raccoon attempting to climb back through the fence. His arms were full of cabbages and carrots, and he was having difficulty.

"Halt, thief!" she said "You will drop those things now!"

"Who says?" said the raccoon, his beady little eyes narrowing behind his mask.

"I, the ruler of the barnyard!". She tried to sound impressive.

"I don't wanna. I got twenty hungry babies in a log by the river. We got nothin'. Why should you guys get dese lettuces? We're starving. We need these carrots more den youse do! I'm taking dese carrots and dese lettuces."

The chicken cocked her head.

"That sounds reasonable." She said. "Oh, noble raccoon. Let me apologize for the farmer's greed. We need to share with our fellows and redistribute the barnyard's bounty. My apologies for our selfishness". And then, with an impressive flourish of her wing, she bowed low before the raccoon.

Then she raised her head. The raccoon the carrots and the lettuce were gone.

"You shouldn't a' done that. Now the farmer will have to sell our eggs and milk."

The chicken turned to see the old dog frowning at her. He turned about and loped into the night.

The next day, the chicken strutted about the barnyard.

"Cluck, cluck cluck!" she sang. "Everybody work! Make your eggs and cheese! So say I: the barnyard ruler. I do what I please!"

And another day passed on the farm.

That night she was dreaming of sunflower seeds when "Neigh!" a deafening cry broke the night!

"Cluck cluck cluck!" She cried, and flew to the stable. "What has happened?" she asked the horse.

"A fox! A fox has been in the henhouse! And he's been drinking the milk!" the old nag whinnied.

She turned and saw a red-tailed fox scurrying through the window, his arms full of eggs.

"Halt, thief!" she cried "You will drop those babies now!"

"Who says?" said the fox, his tail curling into a question mark.

"I, the ruler of the barnyard!". She tried to sound dangerous. She puffed up the feathers on her chest.

"But I was ruler first!" said the fox, wiping a milk mustache from his upper lip. "This was once an open field where the foxes played in the grass. We were at one with nature. Until the evil farmer kicked us off our own lands! These eggs are reparations, until we are given the right of return!"

The chicken cocked her head.
"That sounds reasonable." said the chicken. "Oh handsome fox, let me extend my apology for the suffering the evil farmer has inflicted upon you. Take our eggs and milk with my blessing!" She raised a wing and bowed low to the ground. When she raised her eyes, the Fox and the eggs were gone.

"Foolish chicken!"

She turned to see the old dog in the stable doorway.

"Now the farmer will have no lettuce, no carrots, no milk and no eggs. He will have to kill one of us and send us to market."

And the old dog loped away.

The next day was chaos on the farm. Raccoons came and went, taking everything they could. The foxes were nesting in the old hound's doghouse. Worst of all, two little piglets had been taken for slaughter.

The smell of blood hung thickly in the air. The chicken perched high on a fence post, and called an impromptu press conference.

"Cluck cluck cluck!" she sang. "Everything is bad! Work hard just the same! I inherited this mess. So the dog is to blame!"

The animals mobbed the old hound, picking him up and carrying him away.

"You're making a mistake!" He barked. "There's blood in the air! Something will smell it! Something bad will come tonight!"

The animals heaved and– with a yip!– they threw the dog over the fence. He was never to return.

And a crimson sunset descended on the tiny farm.

In her perch high above, the pompous little chicken tried to sleep. She thought about the warning of the old dog. Was she being foolish? Should she put a watch on the farm? Was there really a danger? She couldn't imagine how the world could be all that dangerous. She had lived all her life in a neat little barnyard. She'd been pampered and spoiled. She'd never faced hardship or battle. The dog and horse and the cow and the other strong animals were just dumb brutes. They chose force when reason was obviously the better alternative.

She wondered now, might the world be wild after all- somewhere beyond the furrowed fields and neat little hogpens- a wild, wild world?

She put her head under her wing and drifted to sleep.

Sometime after midnight, cries erupted all around the barnyard! Animals were bleating and running, scurrying and leaping! They honked and snorted and mooed!

"Wolves!" they cried! "Wolves!"

The little chicken didn't know what to do. She fluttered down, jumping from place to place, wings over her eyes. She caught a glimpse of grey fur, saw hulking forms pouncing on defenseless creatures. She saw a sheep stamping her hooves in terror as she was devoured.
The night was full of growls.

"Cluck cluck cluck!" she dithered. "Oh dear, oh dear!" she hid in an overturned barrel, peeking out through the slats. She trembled as a long grey snout appeared at the opening, and feral eyes glinted in the moonlight. She was about to be eaten!

Then she heard a moo from above and she saw a hoof flash out- knocking the wolf aside! Through slats in the barrel she saw cows and horses forming a defensive ring around the other animals. She heard the blast of the farmer's shotgun.

She heard the voice of the old dog!

"They're on the run! Everybody stick together. Watch the young 'uns! Those wolves can't get us now! No thanks to that stupid, stupid chicken!"

Her feathers on end, she scrambled out of the barrel and perched on top.

"This isn't MY fault!" She cried. "The dog has brought the wolves upon us! He is staging a coup!"

"A coop?" asked the dog.

"A coup! A rebellion. A mutiny! The dog is a radical extremist! This is a plot to take over our barnyard! You– You just don't like chickens!"

"This has nothin' to do with likin' chickens! This is yer fault! Don't you get it? You stupid piece of unplucked poultry! You can't negotiate with wild things!"

"You can so!" Said the chicken. "Watch!" and she fluttered over the fence and out of the barnyard.

As she landed on the other side, the chicken stopped and looked around. She'd never been off the farm before! The world outside was dark, gloomy. The moon shone down on tangled weeds and muddy ditches, on thorny brambles and gnarled branches that reached down as if to snatch her away. Yellow eyes peered from the dark.

"Cluck cluck cluck!" she murmured to herself. She didn't like the world one bit!

Then the Great Wolf appeared.
He padded from the shadows towards her, stopping a foot away. He was muscular, immense, grey, scarred and ragged. She could feel his hot breath.

The chicken cocked her head.

He looked reasonable.

"Oh, noble wolf!" she said, ignoring his rows of teeth. "I am here to apologize for offending you. Too long has the farm shut out your great people. Too long have we been selfish and stubborn– never seeing the wolf's side of things! Let us open a dialog in hopes of reaching a mutual agreement to mutual interest. All animals are brothers and it is my greatest wish that we live together in peace and friendship!"

And, with a flourish of her wing, she bowed low before the Great Wolf.

The last thing the chicken ever knew was the sensation of teeth on the back of her neck...

© Richard Gleaves 2009-11-16
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Parable #5: The Golden Suit

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Once upon a time..
in the land of Potoma (which sat between two rivers in a country I've forgotten on a continent that has subsequently been lost), there lived a clever tailor named Samuel Turkey. Sam Turkey made exquisite suits the like of which were rarely seen. The fabric shimmered, the lapels were perfectly sharp, they were always cut just right in the leg and broke exactly as one expects a perfect suit to break. A Sam Turkey label in a suit guaranteed quality.

One fall, the Emperor of Potoma came to see Sam. His retinue crowded into the tailor shop, parting as the man himself stepped from his long black limousine and sauntered inside, waving to the small crowd which had formed on the street.

Barack, the Emperor of Potoma, was always perfectly dressed. He wore dazzling robes, a smart fur hat, and his fingers glittered.

"I'd like to commission a suit from you" he said to Sam. "A suit the likes of which the world has never seen. It will have gold braid and silver lapels. It will be seamed with rubies and sapphires. It will be woven with platinum thread. I will wear it to the annual ball. Have it completed by a fortnight hence."

Sam Turkey bowed low at this great honor. He spent the rest of the afternoon taking the royal measurements. He did not see the Emperor again. The men of the treasury arrived the following day with all the precious metals required. As Sam stitched and sewed this miracle suit, they kept a careful eye.

As the night of the ball came closer, Sam's work on the suit became more intense. He lined it with rare silks, he embroidered tiny images of Potomac history onto the cuffs, he soaked it in the subtlest of fragrances. Then he gave it a pressing and, for good measure, used a nonabrasive silver polish on the buttons.

On the night of the ball, it was complete. Sam Turkey laid the suit carefully in a box and took a smart pumpkin carriage up Pennsylvania Avenue to the palace. He marveled at the preparations. A small orchestra was tuning beside the dance floor. Flowers festooned the tables, long tapers were set in sconces and awaited the match.

Barack was in his private quarters, still in pajamas, lounging like a cat on silk pillows. He faced a long mirror and, as Turkey entered, it became clear that the Emperor was blowing kisses to himself.

The Emperor was far less impressive in his pajamas than he had been in his flowing robes at the tailor shop, Turkey decided. Without the distraction of the magnificent clothes, one could see that the Emperor was in fact a quite ordinary man; he was greying, lined, a little scrawny, and overall not much to look at. But such thoughts were not to be pursued.

"My Emperor, I have brought the suit as requested!"

"Suit? Oh yes the suit. Well, show it to me then."

Sam unboxed the suit. It caught the fading rays of the sun outside. It sparkled. It shimmered. It set tiny prismatic sparks rotating about the room.

"I don't like it." said Barack.

"But why?"

"You dare question your Emperor? If you must know, it is far too magnificent. It will distract from the magnificence of myself. Keep the suit. The gold of its construction shall be your payment."

And, with this, Barack returned to his reflection and paid the hapless tailor no more mind.

Turkey was stunned. TOO magnificent? Whatever could that mean? He slipped the suit on a hangar, put it over his shoulder, and stepped from the room glumly.

The ball was underway. The people of Potoma were decked out in their finest. Feathers bobbed. Medals glinted. Chenilles and chiffon shifted under the lights. Military boots dueled with high heels on the polished dance floor. It was a magnificent celebration.

Then Sam Turkey stepped into the room.

The orchestra played a fanfare and began to play "Hail to the Emperor" the traditional tune for the head of state. Thinking Barack must be entering behind him, Sam turned and began to bow. But no one was there.

Was the room bowing to Sam Turkey?

No, not to him. To the suit!

All eyes were on the magnificent suit that he carried on his shoulders. As Sam stepped into the crowd, men saluted smartly, women curtsied.

The Emperor's Wife led Sam out onto the dance floor for the traditional first dance. She held the empty sleeve as if it were her husbands arm and she and Turkey spun in circles as the orchestra played "The Mirror Song" from the popular operetta "The Feigned Prince".

As the crowd clapped, Sam looked with wonderment at their faces. They had no idea that the empty suit he held was not their Emperor- so dazzled by it were they. They raised glasses in a toast, and Sam raised a sleeve in salute.

"Stop!" cried a voice. Barack the true Emperor appeared at the top of the marble stairs. He wore his usual robes, thrown back over his shoulder. He pointed a long, accusing finger at the hapless tailor. "Traitor! How dare you impersonate me? How dare you dance with my wife! Guards! Have that man executed!"

Barack strode menacingly towards Sam Turkey. But suddenly guards stood between the two men, blocking the emperor's way. Weapons rallied to Sam Turkey's aid.

"Who is this madman?" came a soft voice at Sam's side.

The Emperor's wife (whose name was Clarissa) was clutching the sleeve of the magnificent suit.

"I am your husband!" cried Barack.

Clarissa leaned her soft cheek on the golden lapel.

"My husband is here" she said. "Take the fool away."

The guards bowed to their Empress and crowded around Barack, seizing him. His tasseled shoes lifted from the polished marble.

"No!" he was heard to cry. "You don't understand! THE CLOTHES HAVE NO EMPEROR!!"

And then Barack the Vain was gone.

For centuries since, the Kingdom of Potoma has been ruled by the sons of Sam Turkey, who act as chief advisors to The Golden Suit.

The Suit itself lies still on the throne, empty as it has always been, waiting till the day that time and tarnish free the people from their bedazzlement...

© Richard Gleaves 2009-12-10
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