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Posts in Category: Politics

Mayor Craig Johnson: Lunatic

I live in a town called Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which sits right up against O’Hare International Airport. Chicago’s Mayor Daley really wants to expand O’Hare by building additional runways, a new terminal, and an expressway extension to serve the new section of airport. Elk Grove’s mayor, Craig Johnson, has essentially run on an anti-O’Hare-expansion platform since he was first elected at some point in the late 1990s. His “aw shucks, I was born and raised in Elk Grove and we can’t let them ruin it” attitude won him popularity, but for those who—like me—opposed the alternatives to expansion (the mythic “Peotone airport”), it started out being funny. “Johnson’s at it again,” we’d mutter every time we received a new community newsletter about the horrors of O’Hare expansion. It’s long and tedious to go into the details of why some perceive this expansion as a bad thing versus why rational people realize it’s probably the best thing for the area; if you’re actually interested, contact me and I will ramble for ages.

It gradually stopped being funny as he continued to increase the amount of taxpayer money appropriated to pay for lawyers to fight Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. He also, at various points, spent money on arbitrary security measures, like increasing police patrols to our (generally abandoned) border with O’Hare to ensure Daley didn’t attempt another Meigs field-style demolition. To offset a potential backlash, he used even more taxpayer money (and raised taxes to do so, approved by the third-airport-loving Village Board) for community beautification projects. Despite the town being incorporated in 1956 (and prior to that consisting solely of vast wheat fields, forests, and a single tavern), he got on this lunatic old-timey kick. “We need cobblestones everywhere! And old-fashioned streetlights and signposts! And an old town square, most of which is actually a giant parking lot! And a clock tower!”

Things with O’Hare have gotten increasingly worse. Johnson paid still more money to hire new lawyers, better lawyers, to take the court battle all the way to the federal level. And…we lost. But wait! Let’s appeal…oh wait, we lost that, too. Basically, there’s nothing left to do but give up. So what will Craig Johnson do to rebuild a community whose economy he ravaged by recklessly spending and raising taxes? First, it was announced a few months ago that he would be spending $75,000 (cofinanced with neighbor Schaumburg) to get REO Speedwagon to play at our 50th celebration. He was quoted as saying, “Everyone loves REO.” True, Mayor Johnson, but let’s put this in perspective: for nearby Roselle’s anniversary celebration, they plan to spend $1500 total for three local bands to play.

And then, I read this in the paper (because I am an old man who wears slippers, smokes a pipe, and slips on a pair of half-glasses to read “the paper” in an overstuffed easy chair):

Elk Grove Village will be hosting a two-day international bike race this summer in honor of the village’s 50th Anniversary.

On Aug. 12 and 13, there will be the Tour de Elk Grove with more than $125,000 in prize money at stake.

Bicycling professionals from all over the world are expected to compete.

The televised event will show viewers on all continents the heart of American industry in Elk Grove Village as well as its tree-lined residential community, village officials said.

The race will carry the fourth-highest purse in North America in 2006 at $125,000, $25,000 of which will go to the individual winner.

The race is in honor of the 50-year anniversary of the incorporation of Elk Grove Village in 1956.

The Tour de Elk Grove? Really? Is he kidding with this shit? I love the town I live in, but a third of it is nothing but factories and warehouses (the “heart of American industry,” and also the largest consolidated industrial park in North America—not too shabby, but also not particularly pretty, though the Portillo’s is nice), another third is full of assholes who wish they lived in Schaumburg but can’t afford it, and the final third are a bunch of blue-collar bums more likely to laugh at and trip passing bicyclists than cheer them on.

I really don’t understand the motivation. Tourism? Luring new businesses? Or does he want people to see Elk Grove on television and say, “Gosh, maybe Mayor Craig B. Johnson is right—all those warehouses on the edge of town, many of which have already been sold to Chicago and abandoned, are so beautiful, they shouldn’t be marred by a half-mile expressway extension. Let us fight for a cause that failed spectacularly in a legal way. I’m going to write a protest song and shackle myself to one of the pickups in that lot on Old Higgins Road!”

Really, this is crazy. The only positive outcome will be the potential interest in broadcasting Channel 6 worldwide. And even that will degrade over time, like TLC becoming the all-Trading Spaces network. I can’t live in a world that shows more than nine episodes of On Duty! a day.

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Letter to Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)

I try not to get on my political soapbox on the blog, because who cares about my political views? You come here for vaguely profane stories about my inability to get along with college classmates, and whiny rants about 3-D. However, my representative is constitutionally obligated to care what I think about politics, in that he cares enough to enslave interns to read letters for him, code them by subject, and start sending form letters related to that topic.

Not along ago, Congressman Roskam sent me a letter explaining his tough stance on the current budget problems. You can read it here. I found the letter so profoundly offensive in its hypocrisy that I felt compelled to respond. You can read the letter I sent to him today after the jump.

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Letter to the Editor of Time

[Musings of an elderly crank in the body of a 29-year-old.]

Re: “One Document, Under Siege”

To the Editor:

In his article, Richard Stengel writes, among other things, “The framers…gave us the idea…that South Dakota should have the same number of Senators as California, which is kind of crazy.”

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Mock the Vote

Expressing pride in being too jaded and lazy to utilize a right that has been won for you, through bloody wars and ugly civil rights confrontations, a right that men and women all over the world in other nations are killed (or worse) for trying to exercise, is just sad. People say, “Everything sucks, we need to make a change,” but then when November comes around it turns into “Well, the system’s rigged, it doesn’t matter, I don’t wanna bother trying.” It’s laziness, nothing else.

You have literally nothing to lose from voting. And a lot to lose by not voting. Unless, of course, you plan to vote Republican. In which case fuck it, man, stay home and read The Blaze.

I’m not attributing the quote above, because the author is a friend of a friend of a friend who may wish to remain anonymous.

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Scary Santa

Over the weekend, my sister relayed the sad tale of my five-year-old nephew. It seems that, for the past nights, he’s cried himself to sleep, terrified that he hasn’t been good enough this year for Santa to visit. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is, my younger nephew, age three. He is so taken with the concept Santa that the only thing he asked for besides toys was a painting of the fat and jolly man himself, an oddly adorable request.

There’s something wrong with this picture, but it’s not greed or consumerism. The morality of Christmas is merely a reflection of Christianity itself: do good things (i.e., give gifts) so that good things happened to you (i.e., you receive even better gifts). I think the reason some Christians these days want to reject Christmas isn’t because of its roots as a pagan ritual, the un-Christian perils of materialism, or the dishonesty of propping up a false idol as the symbol of the holiday; it’s because this plain fact throws into sharp relief the biggest flaw in Christian ethics. Don’t do good things because they’re inherently right (and yes, certain actions are inherently right and wrong); do good things because you’re ascared of God’s wrath, or ascared your seat in Heaven won’t be quite as good.

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Why The Interview Doesn’t Matter

Short answer: Because a corporation is not a government.

Slightly longer answer: As hard as it is for many film critics and pop-culture commentators to accept, Sony Pictures is not in the business of making art; they are, like all entertainment companies, in the business of making money. I offer the following 2014 releases as evidence: Heaven Is for Real, Think Like a Man Too, RoboCop, About Last Night, Pompeii. The fact that sometimes a surefire blockbuster flops (as Pompeii did) doesn’t negate the studio’s driving force. In the same way, the fact that sometimes financial interests overlap with artistic interests doesn’t mean Sony has any interest in art, free speech, or anything else; it’s just a happy accident on the road to earning more.

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Protecting Interests

This is the Persian Empire, known today as Iran. For 2500 years, this land was ruled by a series of kings, known as shahs. In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mosaddegh, a secular democrat, as Prime Minister. He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people. But in 1953, the U.S. and Great Britain engineered a coup d’etat that deposed Mosadegh and installed [Mohammad] Reza Pahlavi as shah. The young Shah was known for opulence and excess. His wife was rumored to bathe in milk while the shah had his lunches flown in by Concorde from Paris. The people starved. The shah kept power through his ruthless internal police, the SAVAK. An era of torture and fear began. He then began a campaign to westernize Iran, enraging a mostly traditional Shi’ite population. In 1979, the people of Iran overthrew the shah. The exiled cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, returned to rule Iran. It descended into score-settling, death squads, and chaos. Dying of cancer, the shah as given asylum in the U.S. The Iranian people took to the streets outside the U.S. Embassy, demanding the shah be returned, tried and hanged.
— Opening narration, Argo (2012)

I’ll try to ignore the fact that much of this narration is factually inaccurate, but I do want to correct a couple of points before I get into what I actually want to talk about:

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What the Fuck, Yaron Brook? — Part I: The Transcript

A Note to Readers: I’ve made the decision to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring both my understanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and why I struggle with publicly calling myself an Objectivist—primarily because of Dr. Yaron Brook and the Ayn Rand Institute distorting important aspects of her philosophy. This is part one of a five-part series.

I’m officially incensed.

This may not surprise longtime readers, if any are left, but it will surprise anyone who’s kept up with the last few sporadic posts. Even I would agree my blog has gotten a lot less entertaining, because I don’t give nearly enough of a shit about neurotic nitpicking, which means I have less to rant about, and the things I do rant about are more political and socioeconomical in nature. Hot-button issues, and so on.

In order to explain why I am incensed, I need to make a couple of things clear. First, I’ve alluded a couple of times to having read a mysterious, life-changing book that helped crystallize my thoughts about society and the world around me. If you are a longtime reader, it will probably surprise you to learn that book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and that I’ve spent a lot of time in the intervening two years reading about her philosophy of Objectivism, other schools of philosophy, and religion.

I’ve never brought any of this up, because I get along much better with people who brand themselves as liberals than those who brand themselves as conservatives, and liberals haaaaate Ayn Rand. Every time I’ve brought up the mystery book, I’ve noted that it would remain anonymous because I don’t have any interest in arguing with people. I still don’t, on this blog or in life. All of my closest friends know I’ve read Ayn Rand’s work and see it hasn’t turned me into a demonic Wall Street cokehead, or worse, Paul Ryan. The only change in our relationship is that occasionally we challenge each others’ views a little more fervently. What I’ve found with most of them, though, is that we generally agree on most issues; we just disagree on the best methods for solving problems.

On a blog… Well, I just never cared to discuss it. I spent a week arguing about fucking Daybreakers; imagine how much more aggressive I’d be if someone attacked a thing I actually care about. The anonymous internet, I’ve found, doesn’t lend itself to high-quality, well-reasoned arguments, especially about Ayn Rand. I see attacks on her all the time, and not just on articles directly related to her. I often see non sequiturs in the comments sections (I really need to stop reading those…) of articles about some form of conservative victory or Tea Party retardation. They tell me, quite clearly, that the author has no idea what they’re talking about. The fine work of Yaron Brook, as President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has confused the left as much as the right in its attempts to transform Rand into the voice of the neo-conservative movement.

Should I try to step in and change their minds? I’m not an activist, so it’s partly an issue of time management—wasting a bunch of my own time trying to open up closed minds—but mainly an issue that I don’t give a fuck what other people believe, unless it has the possibility of hurting other people (especially me). An idiot on a blog who parrots something a comedian who never read Ayn Rand says about Atlas Shrugged has no effect on me, so let them go on thinking what they do. I can think they’re wrong and criticize them, but turning it into an argument means trying to persuade them that their entire belief system is wrong, which it probably is, but I don’t care.

In a sense, though, I’m “outing” myself here now as a form of indirect activism. I’m so irritated that I need to express my frustration in the form of a blog post—that’s what it’s here for, right?—and because Yaron Brook isn’t just an idiot on a blog who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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What the Fuck, Yaron Brook? — Part II: It’s Just War, Baby

A Note to Readers: I’ve made the decision to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring both my understanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and why I struggle with publicly calling myself an Objectivist—primarily because of Dr. Yaron Brook and the Ayn Rand Institute distorting important aspects of her philosophy. This is part two of a five-part series. Read part one here.

Before I dig into my specific issues with what Yaron Brook said, I should say that Brook and I have always been politically misaligned. I want to believe there’s a level of honesty and good intentions in his attempts to make Objectivism more compatible with neo-conservatism, and to give him some credit, he hasn’t (yet) suggested Objectivism is in any way compatible with any religious beliefs (unlike the David Kelley-sanctioned producers of the terrible film versions, who inserted a scene in the third one set in a church in an attempt to suggest that Objectivism can support religion). I’m not sure if Brook honestly believes what he says (and is therefore an idiot much of the time), or is specifically tailoring what he says to make Ayn Rand more palatable to people who don’t actually believe in Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

Brook seems to want to attract the Orren Boyles of the world, almost at the expense of the Hank Reardens; this may be because he thinks that, once indoctrinated, those are the sort of people who will be most open to Rand’s philosophy. Coming from a secular liberal background, and having wholeheartedly embraced Objectivism, I absolutely disagree. I don’t think his method is the best. If he’s being intentionally dishonest to effectively trick people into hopping aboard the O-Train, that makes Brook a fraud. If he really believes some of the things he says, then he’s just a nut who will lure other nuts.

People should believe, with honesty and integrity, what they think is right, regardless of whether or not I personally agree with it. That’s a statement that, maybe, is the biggest indication of where I disagree with ARI. Their stated position, for example, is that Islamic terrorists are a threat to individual liberty and freedom, and therefore all Middle Eastern countries should be bombed back to the Stone Age—except Brook’s native Israel, the bastion of economic freedom and democracy. The reasoning? Thin the herd of dangerous people who disagree with us, and then pick off the rest before the dust clears. No need to win hearts and minds when brute force faster and easier.

Ayn Rand believed all religion, focusing mainly on the Judeo-Christian ethic, was a danger. She didn’t advocate war against them, however. She wasn’t against war in a clear-cut case of self-defense, but hell… The anti-communist to end all anti-communists was adamantly against the fights against its spread in Korea and Vietnam (“If you want to see the ultimate, suicidal extreme of altruism, on an international scale,” she wrote in 1967, “observe the war in Vietnam—a war in which American soldiers are dying for no purpose whatever”). She was even against World War II (part of her reasoning is that the U.S. got nothing out of its participation, and ceded far too much of Europe to the Soviet Union). Her reasons were nuanced and complex, but I’ll try to boil them down: war is pointless if the victors get no direct benefit from it (e.g., Canada invades us; we decimate them so they leave us alone), and a war fought for the purpose of forcing people to change the way they think (or, worse, simply killing as many of those who disagree with you as possible) is patently immoral.

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What the Fuck, Yaron Brook? — Part III: Capitalism and Freedom and Charity and Tyranny

A Note to Readers: I’ve made the decision to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring both my understanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and why I struggle with publicly calling myself an Objectivist—primarily because of Dr. Yaron Brook and the Ayn Rand Institute distorting important aspects of her philosophy. This is part three of a five-part series. Read parts one and two.

The reason Yaron Brook has offended me so deeply, and has engendered this enormous, multi-part rant, is because of his position within the “Objectivist community.” To outsiders, he’s seen as an official leader, a man eminently qualified to talk about Objectivism and frame current events through an Objectivist prism. Objectivism is not a cult, and disagreements occur all the time. One of the virtues of a philosophy that puts primacy on the individual, rather than the collective, is that there can be polite disagreement without animosity. Minor disagreements don’t have to explode into an exaggerated “Us Vs. Them” persecution complex. Philosophy lays out certain general concepts and fundamentals; the specifics are subject to individual passion, interest, thought, and understanding. (And nothing makes me laugh more than Peikoff telling the story of the guy who dyed his hair orange to look like Howard Roark, because he thought that would make him be more of an Objectivist.)

There are dumb Objectivists out there, claiming to speak for the cause without the same authority of Brook. If Brook were someone like Bosch Fawstin (who generally cohosts Amy Peikoff’s awful podcast, Don’t Let It Go… Unheard, and is also possibly the dumbest Objectivist on the planet), his comments on charity wouldn’t bother me. He would just be some guy, claiming to be an Objectivist, with a not-very-bright, poorly-thought-out interpretation of charity based on a mangling of Ayn Rand’s own statements on the subject. Brook isn’t just “some guy”; he’s a finance Ph.D who revels in economic theory and foreign policy, not to mention President and Executive Director of a nonprofit that has Ayn Rand’s name pasted onto it. Brook, unlike Fawstin, has the appearance of authority to outsiders—the appearance of speaking for all Objectivists, of representing the views all Objectivists have, or at least “should” have. But he’s wrong.

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