Google Life Sciences to Fund Heart Disease Program – Article by Reason

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The New Renaissance Hat
November 22, 2015

An interesting next step from Google Life Sciences: they are putting forward $50 million in search of a laboratory to propose a program that pushes forward the state of the art in research and treatment of heart disease. Spent over ten years, that would produce an organization about the present size of the SENS Research Foundation, or a tenth of the Buck Institute, for purposes of comparison – and smaller than many of the research groups presently dedicated to the study of heart disease. So this is a sizable and welcome investment in medical research, but the significance is overhyped by the reporting organization here; no-one is going to cure heart disease with a $50 million project, since heart disease is caused by aging, and in the most general sense. This is an effort to change the funding landscape, stir things up, and make some progress.

If you walk through the list of forms of cell and tissue damage that causes degenerative aging, near every one of them contributes to structural failure of the cardiovascular system. The loss of stem cell activity and consequent decline in repair of tissues is only one of these: oxidized lipids that contribute to atherosclerosis in blood vessel walls; extracellular cross-links stiffen blood vessel walls and cause hypertension and consequent structural weakening in the heart; senescent cells wreck havoc on all the tissues they accumulate in; transthyretin amyloids that accumulate with age are implicated in heart disease via their ability to clog the cardiovascular system; and the loss of lysosomal function in long-lived cells, including those of the heart, progressively damages their function. Curing heart disease, removing it from the picture, requires treatments that effectively address near all of the causes of aging.

Quote from “Google Aims a $50 Million Moonshot at Curing Heart Disease” by Davey Alba, WIRED, November 16, 2015:

Cardiovascular disease people on Earth than anything else – over 17 million a year, and the number keeps going up. Of those deaths, more than 40 percent is due to coronary heart disease. Medicine has drugs that can treat it and practices that can help prevent it, but nobody really knows what causes it or how to cure it. Now, Google and the American Heart Association aim to change that by dropping a $50 million funding bomb on the problem. And as you might expect from a Silicon Valley giant that believes in moving fast and breaking things – an approach that hasn’t always transferred well to basic scientific research – the company isn’t spreading the money around. Google Life Sciences and the AHA said the money would go to one team over five years. “Traditional research funding models are often incremental and piecemeal, making it difficult to study a long-term, multifaceted subject. AHA and Google Life Sciences have committed to a bold new approach.”

The AHA, already the largest funder of cardiovascular research in the US outside of the federal government, says the program will be its most heavily funded initiative in nearly a century. Applications begin in January and if all goes according to plan, they’ll be due by February 14th. (Valentine’s Day. Get it?) If you want the $50 million, your idea has to fit on a single page. And Google won’t take a financial or intellectual property stake in the results. The organizations hope that the program will accelerate the field of heart research much like Google’s self-driving car eventually compelled the entire automobile industry to follow its lead.


Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on


Life Today – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

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The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
November 22, 2015

Altho’ it’s true that we in the early 21st century all live in a notably illiberal Dark Age culture of considerable sadness, sickness, ignorance, irrationality, malevolence, and tyranny, nevertheless: it’s still quite possible for those of us in the West to gain great knowledge about, and then practice, a highly liberal philosophy and lifestyle. And this intellectual system of reason and science in epistemology, individualism and self-interest in ethics, and dynamism and heroism in aesthetics and spirituality, can still easily foster a mostly good, great, magnificent, and happy life.

Today’s philosophical liberalism – massively influenced by the pure genius of Ayn Rand – can create a way of life which is deeply meaningful, purposeful, satisfying, enjoyable, and even ecstatic. Yes, some people around us are hugely irrational, illiberal, corrupt, hypocritical, foolish, and depraved. And yes, the political system around us is remarkably powerful, malicious, and authoritarian. But in the West you can still minimize contact with such people, and such a system. Life today is still potentially beautiful, wonderful, and almost unbelievably pleasurable.

Liberals who are relatively mature experienced, educated, smart, clever, and slick can mostly keep the forces of evil at bay. The illiberals haven’t ruined everything on this planet — or even come close. Aristotle, Epicurus, Cicero, Horace, Bacon, Locke, Smith, Voltaire, and Jefferson still have a lot of power and influence. Even Hayek and Rand.

There’s still plenty of good stuff in the world to enjoy: movies, t’v’ shows, music, dance, paintings, video games, comics, classic novels, sports, conversation, family, friends, and other sources of enjoyment. Properly understood and practiced, liberalism doesn’t just show the way to an outstanding, wondrous, and exalted lifestyle. It also provides a great shield against the Bad Guys. Soon enough, it’ll provide a great sword.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  ( and author of Pure Liberal Fire: Brief Essays on the New, General, and Perfected Philosophy of Western Liberalism.


A Monument to French and Western Civilization – Art by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
November 21, 2015


This monument was constructed using the computer game Minecraft to celebrate the cultural achievements of the French civilization and its contributions to Western civilization more generally, as well as to express solidarity with the people of France as they confront the savage menace of militant Islamist fundamentalism terrorism, and to commemorate the hundreds of innocent victims of militant ISIS barbarism. The culture of France has been integral in giving rise to the Age of Enlightenment and innumerable advances in science, art, architecture, music, and literature. This monument calls for a more assertive expression of the values that elevated mankind out of barbarism – an unapologetic embrace and defense of the distinctive ethos of Western civilization, which should become a global civilization with the collaboration of all decent people everywhere.

The monument’s stone and glass are colored with the blue, white, and red of the French flag. The structure is open to the air through three tiers of golden arches. On the inside there is only one floor and a vast chamber rising toward the sky. The viewer’s attention is directed upward, much like in a cathedral, except there is only one focal point – representing the upward aspiration of a worldview that embraces progress and meteoric improvement in the human condition.

This structure was created within the Imperial City map in Minecraft, a collaborative project coordinated by user Rigolo and freely downloadable here.

Left-click for a full-image view of each screenshot. Right-click to download the image.

Stolyarov_French_Monument_11Stolyarov_French_Monument_12Stolyarov_French_Monument_10Stolyarov_French_Monument_9Stolyarov_French_Monument_5Stolyarov_French_Monument_7Stolyarov_French_Monument_6Stolyarov_French_Monument_8Stolyarov_French_Monument_4Stolyarov_French_Monument_2Stolyarov_French_Monument_3Stolyarov_French_Monument_1The images on this page may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.


Who Are the Syrian Refugees? – Article by Alex Nowrasteh

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The New Renaissance Hat
Alex Nowrasteh
November 20, 2015

This is the demographic information on all 2,234 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States from October 2010 through November 2015, according to the Refugee Processing Center.

Data on religion for all refugees is from the same source; some additional information comes from the American Community Survey.

Gender and Age

Refugees from Syria are overwhelmingly young. 43 percent of all Syrian refugees are children under the age of 14.


The gender ratios for Syrian refugees are more balanced. 53 percent are male, 47 percent are female.


Males aged 14-30, the most potentially dangerous group, are 13 percent of all Syrian refugees.



Data on religion was collected for all Syrian refugees admitted from fiscal year 2011 to today.

About 96 percent of the refugees are Muslim of any denomination; about 3 percent are Christians of any denomination. About 1 percent are nonreligious or of other faiths.


The Syrian refugee flow is much more Muslim than the global average. Of all refugees resettled in the United States, 44 percent are Christian, compared to less than 3 percent from Syria.


Note about worldwide religious data: I suspect there is some double counting.  


The Syrian refugees are 87 percent Arab and 10 percent Kurdish, with small representations from other ethnic groups.



Education Level

Since 43 percent of the Syrian refugees are under the age of 14, and 56 percent are under 20, Syrian refugees tend to be less educated. 9.4 percent have a technical, university, college, or graduate school level of education. Since the refugee flow skews young, this group should become more educated as they age.


Adult Syrian Americans — over age 25 and born in Syria — are more educated than the current refugee flow.

Overall, Syrian Americans are both more and less educated than the population as a whole. 44 percent of Syrian immigrants have just a high school diploma or less, compared to 38 percent of native born Americans, but 39 percent of Syrian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30 percent of the native born.


Sources: American Community Survey, 2014, 1-Year Sample, S0501 and S0201 Syrians


Syrians resettled in the United States are highly concentrated in a few states.

Six states (CA, TX, MI, IL, AZ, and PA) have together received more than half of Syrian refugees.


Twenty states (AR, CO, ID, IN, KS, LA, ME, MD, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, OK, OR, TN, UT, VA, WA, and WV) have received fewer than 50 refugees.

Fourteen states (AL, AK, DE, HI, IA, MS, MT, NE, ND, RI, SC, SD, VT, and WY) and Washington, DC, have not received any.

Alex Nowrasteh is the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.


On Viewing 2001: The First Transhumanist Film – Article by Edward Hudgins

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The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
November 20, 2015

I recently saw 2001: A Space Odyssey again on the big screen. That’s the best way to see this visually stunning cinematic poem, like I saw it during its premiere run in 1968. The film’s star, Keir Dullea, attended that recent screening and afterward offered thoughts on director Stanley Kubrick’s awe-inspiring opus.


He and many others have discussed the visions offered in the film. Some have come to pass: video phone calls and iPad tablets, for example. Others, sadly, haven’t: regularly scheduled commercial flights to orbiting space stations and Moon bases.

But what should engage our attention is that the film’s enigmatic central theme of transformation is itself transforming from science fiction to science fact.

From apes to man

The film’s story came from a collaboration between Kubrick and sci-fi great Arthur C. Clarke. If you’re familiar with Clarke’s pre-2001 novel Childhood’s End and his short story “The Sentinel” you’ll recognize themes in the film.

In the film we see a pre-human species on the brink of starvation, struggling to survive. An alien monolith appears and implants in the brain of one of the more curious man-apes, Moonwatcher, an idea. He picks up a bone and bashes in the skull of one of a herd of pigs roaming the landscape. Now he and his tribe will have all the food they need.

We know from Clarke’s novel, written in conjunction with the film script, that the aliens actually alter Moonwatcher’s brain, giving it the capacity for imagination and implanting a vision of him and his tribe filled with food. He sees that there is an alternative to starvation and acts accordingly. The aliens had juiced evolution. Kubrick gives us the famous scene where Moonwatcher throws the bone in the air. As it falls the scene cuts ahead to vehicle drifting through space. Natural evolution over four million years has now transformed ape-men into modern technological humans.

From stars to starchild

In the film, astronauts discover a monolith buried on the Moon, which sends a signal toward Jupiter. A spaceship is sent to investigate, and astronaut Dave Bowman, played by Dullea, discovers a giant monolith in orbit. He enters it and passes through an incredible hyperspacial stargate. At the end of his journey, Bowman is transformed by the unseen aliens’ monolith into a new, higher life form, an embryo-appearing starchild with, we presume, knowledge and powers beyond anything dreamt of by humans. He is transhuman!


Kubrick and Clarke are making obvious references to Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. In that book Nietzsche offers a vision of a human going through three transformations, ending up as a child. “Innocent is the child . . . a new beginning . . . a first movement . . . a holy ‘Yes’.” The child is the creator and the potential for the creation of new values. And, of course, Kubrick used the introduction/sunrise music from the Richard Strauss tone poem named for Nietzsche’s work in the film’s famous opening; in the scene when an idea dawns in the brain of the ape-man; and at the end, when the human is reborn as the starchild. This is as over-the-top symbolism as there ever was!

From evolution to creation

In 2001 natural evolution and alien intervention transform ape-man, to man, to übermensch. Today, we humans are taking control of our own evolution and are beginning to transform ourselves—but into what?

Futurists like Max and Natasha Vita More and Ray Kurzweil have given us the transhumanist philosophy, the idea that we humans can and should use technology to overcome our biological limits, enhancing our physical and mental capacities. Scientists, researchers, and engineers today are doing just this.

They are creating advanced bionic implants and prosthetics to replace lost limbs or body parts. They are working on brain-machine interfaces that could better merge the two. They are experimenting with actually implanting information into brains. They have genetically engineered certain cells to attack only cancer cells. They are working to program nanobots to do the same. And they are understanding the deep mechanisms that cause cells over time to break down, and are exploring ways to “turn off” this process—that is, to actually stop aging. Could we engineer superbrains for real, eternally young übermenschen in decades to come?

Today, the fundamental theme of 2001, human transcendence, is being made real by we humans rather than by alien monoliths. So when you next see this classic film, you might see still see the starchild as a piece of evocative fiction. But you can appreciate that we humans are putting ourselves on a path to something in the future beyond anything dreamt of by humans.

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit


A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
November 15, 2015

The recent slaughters of hundreds of innocent civilians in Paris, in Ankara, in Beirut, and aboard the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 illustrate without a shadow of doubt that the threat from the barbaric sect known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, and the Islamic State cannot be contained within the Middle East. ISIS is an enemy of humanity, decency, and Western civilization. It will continue killing completely peaceful civilians of Western nations, both in their home countries and abroad, in gruesome ways. ISIS is a cancer upon humanity, and it will continue to metastasize and inflict damage until it is either eradicated or until it completely kills its host. Like cancer, ISIS cannot coexist with a healthy humankind. This cancerous “Islamic State” should be eradicated using the resources of any willing parties.

Now is the time to put aside petty rivalries, animosities, and power politics among advanced nations. All of Western civilization – indeed, the entire world – needs to stand with the people of France and recoil at the atrocities perpetrated against the victims of the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015. There can be no excuses and no apologies for the perpetrators. Anti-modern fundamentalist savagery must be condemned, and the innocent should be mourned. Western civilization needs to send a unified signal that it will have no tolerance for murderous intolerance.

eiffel-tower-303341_1280A concerted, multifaceted strategy is needed to eliminate ISIS while preserving the Enlightenment values which ISIS threatens: liberty, humanism, secularism, tolerance, and progress. No single measure will succeed in solving this dire problem, but a combination of approaches can dramatically reverse the current predicament of Western civilization suffering setback after setback due to the rampages of a relatively small group of barbarians. The representatives of Western civilization should mount a decisive, unapologetic response that not only physically destroys ISIS but also eliminates the societal, economic, and cultural preconditions for its emergence.

If I had the ability to set the United States’ policy for eliminating the ISIS menace, I would institute the measures described below as expeditiously as possible. I estimate that, within approximately one year of the implementation of these measures, ISIS would be completely destroyed, and the probability of any successor organizations emerging would be rendered negligible through the continued application of these approaches.

(1) Setting Aside Foreign-Policy Differences: ISIS threatens everyone – citizens of France, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the United States, to name just a few. Now is the time to pursue complete cooperation among the governments of countries which have a compelling interest to eradicate ISIS. To achieve such cooperation, the United States government should send a strong signal that all other foreign-policy differences are relatively unimportant and will be overlooked. For instance, with regard to Russia, the United States should openly renounce all strategic ambitions in Ukraine and all intentions to depose the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The cessation of the demonization of Russia over the Ukrainian civil war (where there is truly no good side) would serve as a major sign to Vladimir Putin of the United States’ goodwill and desire to collaborate on a true existential threat to Western civilization. As for Assad, he – for all of his despicably dictatorial behavior – is an enemy of ISIS, and ISIS would not have emerged had the United States not previously funneled weapons and training to anti-Assad rebels, who either were quickly overwhelmed by the more ruthless ISIS or themselves joined ISIS. For ISIS to be eradicated, Syria’s civil war must end, and peace and order must be restored. Assad may be a dictator, but he does not instigate hostage-takings and mass murders in European cities. Likewise, the United States government should welcome support from Iran in combating the ISIS presence within Iraq. ISIS is a fanatically intolerant Sunni Muslim sect that poses as much of a threat to the Shiite Muslim theocracy of Iran as it does to non-Muslim “infidel” Westerners. A collaborative effort to defeat ISIS would also help to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran by demonstrating to the Iranian regime that the United States does not have imminent intentions to “preemptively” attack Iran out of the (largely unfounded) fear of the continued development of Iran’s nuclear program.

2000px-France_Flag_Map.svg(2) Targeted Multinational Expeditionary Force: It is possible that France will invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which pledges other members of NATO to come to its defense as a result of the attack by ISIS against French civilians on French soil. While I question the wisdom of the continuation of the NATO arrangement generally, it may be useful for achieving a coordinated response to the ISIS threat in particular. Furthermore, all willing non-NATO powers, including Russia and China, should be invited to take part in the response. ISIS has murdered citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Turkey, Russia, and many other countries. Every country can claim with some justification that ISIS is waging war upon its people.

The key for a successful international response against ISIS is to target the response against the actual, known members of ISIS and to minimize damage to innocent civilians. Instead of indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns or conventional military offensives, a far superior tactic would be to assemble multinational teams of highly trained commandos who would infiltrate key ISIS bases and assassinate the leaders of ISIS, while also sabotaging ISIS’s logistical systems and preventing ISIS from obtaining weaponry and other materiel required for continuing military operations. No civilians should be caught in the crossfire. Instead, the multinational commando teams should actively recruit local residents, who are suffering under the yoke of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, into auxiliary roles. The support of locals could assist with obtaining more reliable on-the-ground intelligence and also in building goodwill for the ouster of ISIS from the communities it currently terrorizes.

While this expeditionary force should be completely friendly to local civilians, it should be completely merciless toward any ISIS fighters. Anyone who has fought and killed on ISIS’s behalf has renounced his right to life by depriving others of their lives in horrific ways. The expeditionary force should be authorized to execute confirmed ISIS fighters, but not to torture or humiliate them. This restraint from savage behavior would illustrate the stark moral contrast between the West and ISIS. ISIS has engaged in outrageous acts of perversion – essentially committing every type of violation of human beings imaginable. The West needs to show that its representatives will only use deadly violence in retaliation and only against those who initiated its use – and even then in a surgical, professional manner necessary to eliminate the threat but to go no further. Moreover, anyone who provides physical support to ISIS but does not directly perpetrate violence, should be arrested and subjected to an on-the-ground military tribunal aimed at procuring a swift determination of guilt or innocence and a proportional punishment in the event of guilt – instead of the prolonged limbo that has characterized American detention facilities of terrorism suspects in the past.

(3) Replacing Bombs with Information: The drone killings perpetrated by the Obama administration during this decade have inflamed the ire of anti-Western militants and have radicalized large segments of the Middle East in reaction to indiscriminate killings of civilians via “signature strikes” that presuppose that any men in their prime are terrorist militants. The problem is not with the drone technology, but rather with the payload that it carries. If bombs and missiles are replaced with informational leaflets, USB drives, and small samples of the material abundance of Western civilization, then this more benevolent use of drones can help convince Middle Eastern residents that ISIS is the path toward suffering, whereas embracing modernity and Western values would be the path toward universal prosperity and happiness. The more Middle Eastern residents find out about Western technologies, philosophies, and opportunities made available within a free, tolerant, hyper-pluralistic society, the less inclined they will be to embrace a Dark-Age mentality of brutally enforced homogeneity.

(4) Elimination of Indiscriminate Surveillance; Escalation of Targeted Surveillance: The indiscriminate electronic surveillance perpetrated by Western governments – particularly those of the United States and the United Kingdom – against their own populations, has clearly not helped to prevent murderous terrorist attacks. Instead, surveilling everyone not only grossly violates individual liberty, but also dissipates the limited resources that could more effectively be prioritized toward known troublemakers. All mass surveillance should cease, but efforts at sophisticated, targeted surveillance of individual terrorism suspects should be escalated. The surveillance itself can be sufficiently surgical as to be non-intrusive to the daily lives of those being surveilled, as long as no imminent threat exists, but should enable a swift response if any plans to do harm are discovered. Surveillance should be focused exclusively on the following categories of individuals: (1) those known to have organizational ties with ISIS, al-Qaeda, or other Islamist terrorist groups; (2) those who, in any medium, espouse militant Islamic fundamentalist views, including anyone who asserts that it is acceptable to kill in the name of Islam; and/or (3) those who originate from majority-Muslim countries and have violent criminal records. This targeted surveillance would not constitute racial or religious profiling, since all peaceful and respectable Muslims (those whose views are compatible with modern Western civilization), as well as peaceful non-Muslim emigrants from majority-Muslim countries, would be spared any surveillance. However, any Islamic fundamentalist who believes in the acceptability of religiously motivated killings, as well as any person connected to the terrorist organizations or known to have committed violent crime that might have any relation to Islamist convictions or influences, should be subjected to additional scrutiny to enable the development of an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the sources of risk facing the Western world. Most importantly, it is time to jettison the political correctness that subjects any non-Muslims to this preemptive surveillance. The threat is one of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Non-Muslims are not part of the threat by definition and could not possibly be allies or associates of ISIS. Emphatically, this is not to say that all Muslims are part of the threat; rather, it is simply to recognize that surveilling non-Muslims is a waste of resources as well as a hyper-intrusive violation of the liberties of completely innocent people. The following diagram illustrates the simple insight that could channel limited surveillance capabilities toward detecting actual threats.

Diagram of Possible Sources of Threats of Islamist Terrorism

Surveillance_Threat_Diagram(5) Technological and Economic Transformation of the Middle East through Innovation and Freedom of Exchange: Organizations like ISIS are only able to emerge in a deeply backward cultural, societal, and economic environment, where the embrace of violent, totalitarian seventh-century dogmas could appear even remotely attractive to an uneducated populace with miserable future prospects. Only by a fundamental modernizing, Westernizing transformation can the Middle East escape its current status as a fertile breeding ground for violent fundamentalist criminals. Only by seeing the West as a source of enlightenment and economic prosperity can the populations of the Middle East cease viewing ISIS and similar groups as bulwarks against a perceived Western threat. Therefore, Western governments should lift all political barriers to the free flow of goods and ideas between Western and Middle Eastern countries. All sanctions, embargoes, tariffs, and quotas should be abolished, and the way cleared for the import of technologies and products, as well as the establishment of major branches of Western companies in Middle Eastern countries. In particular, emerging technologies that have the potential to vastly alleviate material scarcity should be encouraged. Biotechnology, including genetic modification, is particularly promising in this respect. As futurist B.J. Murphy pointed out, in response to my analogy between ISIS and cancer, “Like cancer, [which] lately we’ve been using gene editing techniques to finally start punching holes into its existence, maybe we’ll begin using those same techniques to effectively combat against ISIS – genetically modified soldiers to fight, genetically modified crops to combat hunger and malnutrition, and a genetically modified ecosystem to combat poverty.” In a strategy that would constitute the opposite of erecting trade barriers, Western governments should become agents of economic liberalization. They should actively pressure Middle Eastern regimes to accept the importation of genetically modified crops and to amend local laws to permit cutting-edge biotechnological research and experimentation. As a pathway toward economic prosperity, majority-Muslim Middle Eastern nations should emulate an outlier in their region – Israel. Despite its relatively tiny size and the near-constant hostilities in its vicinity, Israel has prospered through the tremendous innovativeness and technological capital of its people. It is an example of how to thrive by cultivating an advanced, technologically oriented economy.

(6) Preserving Individual Liberty at Home: The multifaceted efforts to eradicate ISIS should have absolutely no effect on the freedoms and opportunities available to Americans and other residents of Western nations. It is necessary to decisively illustrate just how unlike the totalitarian ideal of ISIS the Western world is. If those who claim that the Islamist fanatics “hate us for our freedoms” have a grain of truth to their statement, then it is all the more imperative to proudly assert those freedoms, instead of suppressing them in the name of “security” or avoiding offense. Western governments should explicitly reaffirm the protection of free speech and the absolute freedom of individuals to engage in anti-religious expression. The US Congress should pass a resolution strongly supporting the right of any individual to “blaspheme” against any religion, for any reason – justified or not. All blasphemy laws in all Western countries should be repealed, and all politicians should take an explicit stand in favor of tolerance for “blasphemous” speech, no matter whom it might offend. As with the shift from mass to targeted surveillance, all screenings at airports, border crossings, and other mass-transit locations should focus away from the general population and toward Islamist fundamentalist fanatics and likely terror suspects. As a result of this refocusing of resources, for every single suspected Islamist plot, a team of police and intelligence experts should be constantly aware of the status of the threat and prepared to launch a sophisticated response with minimal or no disruption to the general public. Everyone else should be enabled to lead peaceful, dignified lives where the government does not violate the physical bodies or private information of the innocent – similar to the situation for most people in Western countries during the late 1990s.

A successful campaign to defeat ISIS would need to achieve a short-term goal and a long-term goal. The short-term goal – the physical eradication of ISIS – can be accomplished within a year if major world powers set aside their foreign-policy differences and deploy a merciless but scrupulously moral expeditionary force, combined with a powerful informational campaign that transforms tools of destruction into vehicles of Enlightenment. The long-term goal is the modernization and Westernization of the Middle East – the emergence of widespread economic prosperity and major technologically driven uplifting of living standards. The secularization of Middle Eastern governments and the development of more tolerant, enlightened variants of Islamic theology – akin to the transformation of Christianity during the 18th-century Enlightenment in the West – should also be encouraged. To achieve this long-term goal, Western civilization must stand proud once more and cease apologizing for its technological, economic, and cultural superiority to the contemporary Middle East. As beneficial side effects of the struggle against ISIS, the Western world might rediscover the values of the Enlightenment that have been so vital to its progress to date – and reapply and disseminate these universally desirable values in a more potent, assertive form. Furthermore, standing united against ISIS will help avoid needless hostilities among the United States, Russia, China, and Iran and thereby strengthen the prospect for peaceful coexistence among all who value it.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.


When You’re Popular, You Don’t Need Freedom of Speech – Article by Andrew Syrios

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Categories: Culture, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Andrew Syrios
November 9, 2015

Free speech is not something that people would normally see as a realm of economics, but in many ways, an economic understanding of the support and opposition to free speech can shed a lot of light on what’s happening now in the West.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that the left is winning the culture war. Even though more people identify as “conservative” than “liberal” in the United States, more people now identify as “liberal” than in the past by a substantial margin. Attitudes toward gay marriage shifted extremely quickly toward the left while support for legal abortion stayed mostly steady. And obviously the media, academia, and Hollywood are far to the left as a study by the non-partisan political analytics firm Crowdpac found (and as anyone who watches anything other than Fox News can tell after about five minutes).

Now, some of this is certainly good, such as the shifting views on marijuana legalization. Some is troubling, such as the growing popularity of socialism.

Regardless though, the left, having ascended to cultural dominance, is no longer in need of free speech. After all, no one ever got in trouble for agreeing with the conventional wisdom. As Noam Chomsky said, “Even Goebbels was in favor of free speech he liked.”

On the other hand, the right is behind the eight ball in the culture wars and thereby supports the concept of free speech because they need it lest their very opinions be outlawed. In an economic sense, this could be called the “diminishing marginal utility of free speech.”

The law of diminishing marginal utility states that while keeping consumption of other products constant, there is decline in marginal utility that a person derives from consuming an additional unit of that product. In this case, the product is free speech. New leftists may have proposed unfettered free speech back in the early 1960s, but that was just because the right was the one in power culturally at the time. Free speech had a high utility to the left at the time and low utility to the right.

Now the situation has reversed. The right is at the disadvantage so it appeals to free speech. The left is ahead and no longer needs free speech, so it has discarded it.

If that statement sounds hyperbolic, just think of all of the campus speech codes and the ever expanding list of mostly trivial microagressions that can be taken for “hate speech.”  Here is just a small sampling of examples to illustrate how absurd this has become:

  • Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla after a massive backlash for having opposed gay marriage.
  • A candidate in the European elections was arrested in Britain for quoting a passage from Winston Churchill about Islam.
  • Gert Wilders, a politician in the Netherlands, was tried on five counts including “criminally insulting Muslims because of their religion.”
  • Conservative radio host Michael Savage was banned from the airwaves in Britain.
  • Both Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant were dragged in front of the Canadian Human Rights Commission on charges of being “Islamophobic.”
  • A man was fired because someone eavesdropped on his joke about dongles and caused a fuss about it on social media.
  • A group called Color of Change applied enough pressure to get Patrick Buchanan fired from MSNBC for expressing politically incorrect opinions in his book Suicide of a Superpower.
  • The “Pickup Artist” Julien Blanc was barred from entering Britain for making sexist comments.
  • A student at Purdue University was found guilty of “racial harassment” for reading (yes, reading) a book called Notre Dame Vs the Klan in which — it should be noted — the Klan is the bad guy.

Indeed, the list goes on endlessly, and is perhaps best summed up by the almost unconscionable lack of self-awareness required by University of Manchester feminists who recently censored the anti-feminist columnist Milo Yiannopoulos from participating in a debate on — you guessed it — censorship.

Of course much of this is just social pressure or the decisions of private institutions, which is permissible (albeit not condoned) under a libertarian framework. But much of it does involve outright government force, or the longing to use it. For example, Adam Weinstein wants to literally “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers.”

Indeed, while many believe that the youth of today are the most politically tolerant in history, they are actually the least. As April Kelly-Woessner notes, “political tolerance is generally defined as the willingness to extend civil liberties and basic democratic rights to members of unpopular groups.” Which groups are unpopular, is not the question being asked.

So, for example, someone who believes that a man should be able to marry his pet goat is not necessarily politically tolerant. What would make him tolerant in this sense is whether he is willing to recognize the rights (particularly regarding speech) of those who disagree with him and his marital proclivities.

In this respect, political tolerance has declined substantially. For the first time since it was measured, the political tolerance of young people has fallen below that of their parents and as Kelly-Woessner again notes, “… is correlated with a ‘social justice’ orientation,” at least for those under forty.

Indeed, the inability to tolerate political views that run counter to one’s own, particularly on the left, has become so ridiculous to be comical. Just take, for example, Judith Shulevtiz’s description of the “safe space” set up at Brown University because of a debate between the feminist Jessica Valentia and Wendy McElroy where McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture.”

The safe space … was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

Well, at least they actually let the debate happen.

But the left has not always had a monopoly on anti-free speech thought and legislation. Nor does the right seem to be opposed to it when it can push such things through today. Helen Thomas was fired from the White House Press Corps for saying “The Jews should get the Hell out of Palestine.” Shirley Sherrod was fired for allegedly anti-white statements, a Kansas woman was fired for a fifty-word Facebook post that was considered anti-American-soldier, and the right went into a fervor over Jeremy Wright’s “chickens coming home to roost” comment.

Whereas liberals want to ban words such as “slut” and, at least in Sheryl Sandberg’s case, “bossy” too, conservatives used to all but ban those “seven words you couldn’t say.”

When the right had more cultural authority, alleged communists were being dragged in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Civil Rights activists were harassed, and the Motion Picture Production Code banned Hollywood directors from showing things such as miscegenation.

But that was then and this is now. As the pendulum of cultural prominence swung from one side to the other, the left and right swapped their support for free speech.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to draw a false equivalence here and say the right would be just as bad as the left if they were winning the culture wars. Much of the ideology on the left, at least the far left, is derived from the likes of Herbert Marcuse and other cultural Marxists who explicitly wanted to limit the free speech of “oppressor classes.”

Discerning what exactly free speech is can sometimes be challenging, as in cases of libel, slander, and direct threats. But these are really not the issues at heart here. The vast majority of speech being “regulated” today is simply that of an unpopular opinion. Yes, many ideas are bad. And they should be refuted. Moreover, resorting to the use of political force to silence adversaries is a sign of the weakness of one’s own position. But, in using force to silence others, anti-speech crusaders are making another argument. They’re arguing that political force can and should be used to silence people we don’t like. What idea could be worse than that?

Andrew Syrios is a partner in the real-estate investment firm Stewardship Properties. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Business Administration and a Minor in History.

This article was published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.


Does the Bell Toll for the Fed? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
November 9, 2015
Last week Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen hinted that the Federal Reserve Board will increase interest rates at the board’s December meeting. The positive jobs report that was released following Yellen’s remarks caused many observers to say that the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase in almost a decade is practically inevitable.

However, there are several reasons to doubt that the Fed will increase rates anytime in the near future. One reason is that the official unemployment rate understates unemployment by ignoring the over 94 million Americans who have either withdrawn from the labor force or settled for part-time work. Presumably the Federal Reserve Board has access to the real unemployment numbers and is thus aware that the economy is actually far from full employment.

The decline in the stock market following Friday’s jobs report was attributed to many investors’ fears over the impact of the predicted interest rate increase. Wall Street’s jitters about the effects of a rate increase is another reason to doubt that the Fed will soon increase rates. After all, according to former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar, protecting Wall Street was the main goal of “quantitative easing,” so why would the Fed now risk a Christmastime downturn in the stock markets?

Donald Trump made headlines last week by accusing Janet Yellen of keeping interest rates low because she does not want to risk another economic downturn in President Obama’s last year in office. I have many disagreements with Mr. Trump, but I do agree with him that the Federal Reserve’s polices may be influenced by partisan politics.

Janet Yellen would hardly be the first Fed chair to allow politics to influence decision-making. Almost all Fed chairs have felt pressure to “adjust” monetary policy to suit the incumbent administration, and almost all have bowed to the pressure. Economists refer to the Fed’s propensity to tailor monetary policy to suit the needs of incumbent presidents as the “political” business cycle.

Presidents of both parties, and all ideologies, have interfered with the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy. President Dwight D. Eisenhower actually threatened to force the Fed chair to resign if he did not give in to Ike’s demands for easy money, while then-Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns was taped joking about Fed independence with President Richard Nixon.

The failure of the Fed’s policies of massive money creation, corporate bailouts, and quantitative easing to produce economic growth is a sign that the fiat money system’s day of reckoning is near. The only way to prevent the monetary system’s inevitable crash from causing a major economic crisis is the restoration of a free-market monetary policy.

One positive step Congress may take this year is passing the Audit the Fed bill. Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul is using Senate rules to force the Senate to hold a roll-call vote on Audit the Fed. The vote is expected to take place in the next two-to-three weeks. If Audit the Fed passes, the American people can finally learn the full truth about the Fed’s operations. If it fails, the American people will at least know which senators side with them and which ones side with the Federal Reserve.

Allowing a secretive central bank to control monetary policy has resulted in an ever-expanding government, growing income inequality, a series of ever-worsening economic crises, and a steady erosion of the dollar’s purchasing power. Unless this system is changed, America, and the world, will soon experience a major economic crisis. It is time to finally audit, then end, the Fed.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.


The War on Cars Is a War on Workers and the Poor – Article by Gary M. Galles

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The New Renaissance Hat
Gary M. Galles
November 6, 2015

A just-released poll of Los Angeles residents found that 55 percent of respondents indicated their greatest concern was “traffic and congestion,” far ahead of “personal safety” — the next highest area of concern — at 35 percent. So if their city government was working in their best interests, it would be doing something about automobile congestion.

It is. Unfortunately, it will make things worse.

Los Angeles’s recently adopted Mobility Plan 2035 would replace auto lanes in America’s congestion capital with bus and protected bike lanes, as well as pedestrian enhancements, despite heightening congestion for the vast majority who will continue to drive. Even the City’s Environmental Impact Report admitted “unavoidable significant adverse impacts” on congestion, doubling the number of heavily congested (graded F) intersections to 36 percent during evening rush hours.

Driving Saves Time and Offers More Opportunity

Such an effort to ration driving by worsening gridlock purgatory begs asking a central, but largely ignored, question. Why do planners’ attempts to force residents into walking, cycling, and mass transit — supposedly improving their quality of life — attract so few away from driving?

The reason it takes a coercive crowbar to get most people out of their cars is that automobile users have concluded cars are vastly superior to the alternatives.

Why is automobile use so desirable:

  • Automobiles have far greater and more flexible passenger — and cargo-carrying capacities.
  • They allow direct, point-to-point service.
  • They allow self-scheduling rather than requiring advance planning.
  • They save time.
  • They have far better multi-stop trip capability (this is why restrictions on auto use punish working mothers most).
  • They offer a safer, more comfortable, more controllable environment, from the seats to the temperature to the music to the company.

Those massive advantages explain why even substantial new restrictions on automobiles or improvements in alternatives leave driving the dominant choice. However, they also reveal that a policy that will punish the vast majority who will continue to drive cannot serve residents effectively.

How Restrictions on Automobiles Punish the Working Poor the Most

The superiority of automobiles doesn’t stop at the obvious, either. They expand workers’ access to jobs, increasing productivity and incomes, improve purchasing choices, lower consumer prices and widen social options. Reducing roads’ car-carrying capacity undermines those major benefits.

Cars offer a decrease in commuting times (if not hamstrung by city-government planning), providing workers access to many more potential employers and job markets. This improves worker-employer matches, with expanded productivity both benefiting employers and raising workers’ incomes.

One study found that a 10-percent improvement in travel time raised worker productivity 3 percent. And increasing from a 3 mph walking speed to 30 mph driving speed is a 900-percent increase. In a similar vein, a Harvard analysis found that for those lacking high-school diplomas, owning a car increased monthly earnings by $1,100.

Cars are also the only means of assembling enough customers to sustain large stores with highly diverse offerings. Similarly, “automobility” dramatically expands the menu of social opportunities that are accessible.

Supporters like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may dismiss the serious adverse effects of the “road diets” they propose (a term whose negative implications were too obvious, getting it benched in favor of the better-sounding “complete streets”). But by demeaning cars as “the old model” and insisting “we have to have neighborhoods that are more self-contained,” the opponents of auto use do nothing to lessen the huge costs or increase the very limited benefits they plan to impose on those they supposedly represent.

Further, the “new model” of curtailing road capacity to force people out of cars is really a recycled old far-inferior model. As urban policy expert Randal O’Toole noted in The Best-Laid Plans:

Anyone who prefers not to drive can find neighborhood … where they can walk to stores that offer a limited selection of high-priced goods, enjoy limited recreation and social opportunities, and take slow public transit vehicles to some but not all regional employment centers, the same as many Americans did in 1920. But the automobile provides people with far more benefits and opportunities than they could ever have without it.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read. Send him mail. See Gary Galles’s article archives.

This article was published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.


Benjamin Franklin: Pioneer of Insurance in North America – Video Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
November 6, 2015

Mr. Stolyarov discusses Benjamin Franklin’s multifaceted contributions to combating the threat of fire, including the founding of the first fire insurance company in North America – The Philadelphia Contributorship for the Insuring of Houses from Loss by Fire.

This presentation was originally prepared for and delivered at the October 26, 2015, educational meeting of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the CPCU Society. This video and enhanced slideshow are a slightly expanded version of that presentation.

The slides can be downloaded in PowerPoint format  and PDF format.

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin (1767)

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin (1767)

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