A blog by George H. Smith I never met Ayn Rand. I never saw her in person. I never corresponded with her. Yet this woman was to exert a profound influence on my life. I first learned of Ayn Rand in 1967, during the first of her three appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. After that I made a point of watching her other two appearances. The intensity of Rand was captivating, as was the conciseness with which she spoke. But the thing that struck me most was her reply to Carson’s remark, “I understand that you’re an atheist,” Rand tersely replied, “Of course”—as if no other reply was possible for a reasonable person. That was it. No lengthy excuses about how a personal tragedy brought about a loss of faith, and no face-saving qualifications about how she was really a “spiritual” person, even if she didn’t believe in God. Just a simple, straightforward “Of course.” I was impressed, having de-converted from Christianity to atheism nearly three years earlier, during my sophomore year in high school. By 1967 I had been reading avidly in the freethought tradition and greatly admired writers like Thomas Paine. I had also read Walter Kaufmann, Bertrand Russell, Corliss Lamont, and other secular philosophers. Although these thinkers enabled me to hone my critical skills, their ideas never satisfied me. This was especially true in the field of ethics. What was called “humanistic ethics” struck me a little more than a secularized version of Christian ethics. Within a couple of months...
Maybe it was the cover of Atlas Shrugged that caught the attention of the weight-lifting community.  Artist Nick Gaetano’s iconic cover art depicts a mountain of a man, chiseled and sculpted, lifting the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or maybe it was the spirit of the woman, philosopher Ayn Rand: determined, fearless, disciplined. In any event, her fiction and philosophy has sparked ongoing attention from bodybuilders around the world who look to her words on focus and individualism as foundational for their training. Bodybuilding is a celebration of human strength and beauty.  It’s also about changing yourself with knowledge and willpower. In an August 2016 post on the website StrengthAwakening.com, Rand made the list of the top bodybuilding quotes. Coming in at #18 out of 80, the magazine attributed this quote: "The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” While that quote is in fact a condensation of a scene in The Fountainhead -- in response to the Dean of Architecture asking young Howard Roark, “My dear fellow, who will let you?” (i.e. build his mold-breaking designs), the hero answers:  “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?” The spirit is one of those who make their own way -- and for better or worse, sometimes their own rules. The ranks of flamboyant, indeed controversial bodybuilding Objectivists include the artist...
A few years ago, when my 90 year old grandmother was still alive, I told her to make sure she kept her ground floor windows shut to discourage any intruders so that she wouldn’t get raped. “Pfft!” she sniffed, then smiled. “Chance would be a fine thing!” Did she want to be raped? Of course not, it’s called a sense of humour.  Sadly, the peecee social engineers don’t have one, and listening to them try to engineer a public perception of a rape culture defining New Zealand is just tedious – and dangerous. It’s particularly dangerous to men and boys. I will say right at the outset of this piece that in my eyes rape is a heinous, brutal crime.  If any male raped one of my loved ones, male or female, I’d want to kill them with anything I could get my hands on, and probably would.  There are no excuses for that evil deed (though if some little hussy pulled her panties down in front of a horny man and bent over the table saying “come on” – followed by, “no, just kidding,” I would probably consider it a mitigating circumstance). In the aftermath of a couple of Wellington boys making the statement on social media: “If you don’t take advantage of a drunk girl, you are not a Wellington College boy,” precipitating a much media-hyped protest, I think those comments can be safely relegated to the world of edgy humour - much like my grandmother’s comment. No rape was committed, no young girl’s life was ruined and I certainly hope the young lads who have been humiliated...
The Amazons, the ancients tell us, were a violent bunch. “The Scythians call (them) Oiorpata, or as it may be interpreted, men-slayers (for Oeor signifies a man, and pata to kill),” says Herodotus. Hippocrates claimed that they cut off their right breasts in order to more effectively shoot arrows in battle or the hunt (archaeologists say there’s no evidence for this, but it’s still a good story.) Warriors, hunters, killers of men – the Amazons were fabled for brooking no compassion or kindness toward their enemies, and their enemies were almost exclusively men. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve been upheld as role models by some feminists: what better model for soldiers in the war of the sexes than actual soldiers in a war of the sexes? So you might expect the movie Wonder Woman – which draws heavily on the mythology of the Amazons – to follow the feminist narrative. Moreover, given that Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was an early and enthusiastic proponent of the Women’s Liberation movement, and that he explicitly developed his creation as a kind of proto-feminist role model, it seems impossible to expect otherwise. Surprisingly, however, the movie Wonder Woman doesn’t do that at all. In fact, it’s possible to view Wonder Woman as a story that defies feminist politics.  Don’t just take it from me --  the insufficiently feminist slant of the movie was noted, and in a few cases criticized, by plenty of reviewers (the reviewer at Guardian complained...
In his speech withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump cited an econometric study by National Economic Research Associates. The study, which is both credible and alarming, speculated that meeting the emissions targets could cost 2.7 million jobs, with manufacturing hit particularly hard. Overall growth would suffer. To be sure, professional economists today (in contrast to 50 years ago) have doubts about such studies, and are quick to add enough caveats to cover their tracks. The authors of this one did so. Yet you don't even have to read such studies to know that more industrial controls via government will cost jobs and productivity. And perhaps that's why the financial market's response to Trump's move to withdraw was generally positive (unlike the hysterical reaction from the mainstream press). That the US would decline to plot decades and decades of mandatory, top-down regulations governing the precise pace of technological innovation concerning greenhouse gases seemed to reduce some economic anxiety. Indeed, there was a sense of relief in the air. So where precisely does the business community stand on the topic of global regulation of carbon emissions? That depends on whom you ask. “Industry Friendly” The New York Times, in one of the most over-the-top...

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