Monthly Archives: April 2012


Ron Paul’s Wins in Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, and Elsewhere – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

“When will Ron Paul win a state?” ask the mainstream media. Well, now he has a clear majority of delegates in Minnesota, and the Paul-Santorum unity slate in Colorado has also attained a majority. In Iowa, the state GOP has been transformed by the entry of Ron Paul supporters into the highest positions. Other caucus states, including Nevada, are due to have their own conventions.

Mr. Stolyarov points out that there is no longer *any* way in which the mainstream media could claim to accurately reflect the truth about this Republican primary season.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

– “Ron Paul Wins in Iowa and Minnesota, Romney in a Panic” – Doug Wead – April 23, 2012
– “I Think Ron Paul Just Won Iowa!” – Rachel Maddow – April 23, 2012
– “Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders” (the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on strip searches) – Wikipedia
– “CISPA is the New SOPA” – Article by Ron Paul – April 24, 2012
– “A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom” – Article by G. Stolyarov II – April 11, 2012
– “A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom” – Video by G. Stolyarov II – April 13, 2012


CISPA is the New SOPA – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
April 24, 2012
Recommend this page.

Earlier this year, strong public opposition led by several prominent websites forced Congressional leaders to cancel votes on two bills known in Washington as “SOPA” and “PIPA.”  Both of these bills threatened search engines and websites with possible shutdowns if the Justice Department deemed them insufficiently cooperative with our phony “war on terror,” or if they were merely accused of copyright infringement.  Fortunately the American public flooded Capitol Hill with phone calls and Congressional leaders dropped both bills.

But we should never underestimate the federal government’s insatiable desire to control the internet.  Statists of all parties, persuasions, and nationalities hate the free, unbridled flow of information, ideas, and goods via the internet.  They resent the notion that ordinary people can communicate and trade across the world without government filters or approvals.  So they continually seek to impose controls, always under the guise of fighting terrorism or protecting “intellectual property” rights.

The latest assault on internet freedom is called the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act,” or “CISPA,” which may be considered by Congress this week.  CISPA is essentially an internet monitoring bill that permits both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications with no judicial oversight–provided, of course, that they do so in the name of “cybersecurity.”  The bill is very broadly written, and allows the Department of Homeland Security to obtain large swaths of personal information contained in your emails or other online communication.  It also allows emails and private information found online to be used for purposes far beyond any reasonable definition of fighting cyberterrorism.

CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism, as it further intertwines government with companies like Google and Facebook.  It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing well-established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you without recourse for invasions of privacy.  Simply put, CISPA encourages some of our most successful internet companies to act as government spies, sowing distrust of social media and chilling communication in one segment of the world economy where America still leads.

Proponents of CISPA may be well-intentioned, but they unquestionably are leading us toward a national security state rather than a free constitutional republic.  Imagine having government-approved employees embedded at Facebook, complete with federal security clearances, serving as conduits for secret information about their American customers.  If you believe in privacy and free markets, you should be deeply concerned about the proposed marriage of government intelligence gathering with private, profit-seeking companies.  CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people. We can only hope the public responds to CISPA as it did to SOPA back in January.  I urge you to learn more about the bill by reading a synopsis provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on their website at  I also urge you to call your federal Senators and Representatives and urge them to oppose CISPA and similar bills that attack internet freedom.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, is a Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.


Objectivist Virtue Ethics in Business – Article by Edward W. Younkins

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Categories: Business, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Edward W. Younkins
April 24, 2012
Recommend this page.

Virtuous actions can lead to the achievement of values. When one’s context is reduced to business, virtue theory contends that pursuing virtuous principles, strategies, and actions can result in firms realizing their values including their mission, purpose, profit potential, and other goals. Virtuous employees tend to carry out their roles in a competent manner that is congruent with the firm’s goals. Virtues are instrumental allowing a person to act to gain values. When business people conform to the Objectivist virtues, they increase the likelihood of achieving their values and goals. Virtue ethics stresses the importance of each individual employee being able to make contributions of value. Valid virtue concepts are required to describe what it means to be an excellent director, leader, manager, or employee. To be successful, a business needs to espouse a set of virtues that are reality-based, non-contradictory, integrated, and comprehensive.

Virtue theory holds that ethics is an inherent part of business and that it is necessary to integrate moral theory into management theory and practice. The role of the virtues in business is to direct and motivate behavior toward the success of the business. Strategic management and business ethics converge because each area has an explicit interest in the nature and goals of business. In business, the virtues facilitate successful management and cooperation and enable a company to attain its goals. The Randian virtues can provide a moral framework and integrating strategy to guide a business in achieving its goals.[1]

The virtues connect ethics to business positively and provide a sound logical foundation for business ethics. Given the laws of nature and of human nature, there exists a set of virtues that fit reality and that are most likely to lead to success and happiness in business. Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ethics specifically recognizes production as the central human value. In addition, the personal virtues that she advocated have a direct bearing on work: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. These virtues can be used as guiding forces in a business career and in the management of a business. They define the excellent manager (or other employee) and provide the principles that a corporation should adopt with respect to investors, employees, customers, vendors, and others.

A case can be made that virtue ethics has priority over, and perhaps grounds, other competing ethical approaches to business. In most cases being virtuous will be sufficient for leading a morally decent life in the world of business. Virtue theory is more attractive, positive, unified, comprehensive, and practical than are traditional approaches to business ethics because it is concerned with the type of person that one should be rather than with rules that tell people how they ought to act. Virtue theory is concerned with the cultivation of character and provides a framework through which a person can lead a flourishing and happy life. Moral growth comes from choice rather than from conformity to rules or codes.

Traditional approaches to business ethics (i.e., deontology, consequentialism and codes of conduct) are viewed as formulaic, prescriptive, constraining forces that legislate the form of moral deliberation. Conventional approaches focus on a set of prohibitive principles or rules that tell people how they ought to act. Kantian and utilitarian act-oriented approaches concentrate only on the development of principles while neglecting the cultivation of an individual’s character. Neither deontic nor consequentialist judgments are apt to supply sufficient action guidance for resolving particular dilemmas. Virtue ethics should be viewed as a precondition of, and complement to, moral reasoning based on a deontological focus on one’s obligation to act and on a teleological focus on the consequences of an action. Virtue ethics is more fundamental, and in many cases, preempts the consideration and application of deontic and utilitarian rules. An emphasis on virtuous behavior is motivational because it depends upon a person’s ability to aspire to excellence through virtuous acts. Virtue ethics emphasizes the process of individual moral character development. Above all, virtue ethics is concerned with the flourishing and happiness of the human agent (Mintz 1996, 537-38; Arjoon 2000, 159-78; Whetstone 2001, 101-14).

Virtue theory provides a context in which strategies, plans, tactics, policies, and procedures can be developed to attain a business’s stated mission and other relevant values. Virtues can play a causal role in achieving economic success. Virtues-driven firms tend to maximize profits. However, acting virtuously does not always result in wealth creation because other factors can come into play. Despite such an occurrence, virtuous employees still can experience the internal rewards of pride, self-esteem, and the joy of knowing that they did their jobs well.

The achievement of a firm’s telos, mission, purpose, ultimate end, or ultimate value requires virtuous action on the part of the company’s employees. The ultimate value for a business is financial value. The purpose of a business is to maximize owner value over the long-term by selling goods and/or services. Most corporation mission statements explain this purpose explicitly, or at least implicitly. It is necessary to recognize a business’s distinctive purpose when organizing and integrating human effort into purposeful long-term activities. Purposeful behavior requires a single overarching valued objective function. In a corporation market price per share can be a surrogate for owner value. More specifically, the ultimate purpose of maximizing total long-term market value can provide a criterion for management decisions and choices among competing alternatives, Virtues are instrumental and support a firm’s overall telos.

To accomplish a corporation’s ultimate purpose requires the attainment of a number of goals within a business. It is possible look upon both a firm’s ultimate purpose and its goals as values that need to be achieved. Although technically a value is an object of goal-directed action, in general parlance, the terms, goals and values, are often used interchangeably. For our purposes, we can consider both the ultimate end of a corporation (i.e., the long-term maximization of firm value) and the goals that can lead to the ultimate end to be values.

Goals (sometimes referred to as objectives) are specific quantitative targets that a business needs to meet in a manner consistent with ethical principles in order to accomplish its purpose. Typical goal areas in a business include: profitability, sales, sales growth, return on investment (ROI), profit margin, cash flow, market share (or position), customer loyalty, productivity, efficiency, cost control, research and development, product leadership, employee development, employee attitudes, employee loyalty, expansion or contraction of product and service lines, reducing business risks, and so on. Each and every goal should be analyzed to determine the potential impact on firm value and whether or not they are contributing to the attainment of the firm’s target valuation. Goals whose achievement does not contribute to increasing shareholder value should be eliminated.

To succeed a business must have a superior vision and purpose to work toward and the strategic focus and direction of effort to achieve them. The Objectivist virtues can enable people to direct their actions toward the attainment of a company’s goals and values including the maximization of owner value. Virtuous actions can lead to better customer service, gains in productivity and efficiency, higher employee retention rates, reduction in employee absenteeism, improvement in employee morale, better communications both internally and externally, honest and reliable internal and external financial reporting, the flexibility necessary to adapt to market conditions, increased innovation and the more frequent and more timely launching of new products and services, higher sales and profits, sustainable competitive advantages, greater flourishing and happiness of the firm’s employees, and so on.

Virtuous behavior is required at all levels of a company from employees who realize that business is a natural and moral means by which they can satisfy their needs and attain their actualization as individual human persons. Virtuous employees are energetic, productive workers who: (1) focus on reality; (2) think objectively, rationally, and logically in applying relevant knowledge; (3) ask clear, pertinent, insightful questions and listen carefully; (4) search for facts in their total context before judging and evaluating business situations; (5) use time efficiently and effectively; (6) organize their lives and work toward accomplishing worthwhile endeavors; and (7) set value-producing goals and strive to accomplish them.

A virtuous employee begins by understanding what the facts are and does not evade the distinction between the real and the unreal. Evasion detaches a person from reality. Virtue begins with the effort to confront reality as it is. Given that there is no standardized algorithm for making business decisions, an employee needs to use his reason to make rational, logical decisions based on the facts of reality. One needs to apply conscious, prudent, rational judgments and choices in various business contexts in order to identify, execute, and implement profitable and ethical internal and external exchange transactions.

Much of morality in business falls under the rubric of honesty. Honesty means being in accord with reality. Honesty is basic to the structure of human relationships in virtually all contexts. Dishonesty is self-defeating because it involves being in conflict with realty. Morality in business involves objectively recognizing and dealing with customers, employees, creditors, stockholders, and others as autonomous rational individuals with their particular goals and desires. The trader principle should govern the course of all human interactions because voluntary value-for-value relationships are consonant with human nature.

Honesty is closely related to the virtue of justice. Justice, a form of faithfulness to reality, is the virtue of granting to each man that which he objectively deserves. Justice is the expression of man’s rationality in his dealings with other men and involves seeking and granting the earned. A trader, a man of justice, earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. For example, a virtuous manager must make sure that customers get what they pay for. In addition, he needs to identify employees for what they accomplish and treat them accordingly. Employees should be objectively appraised and compensated based on their contribution toward achieving a firm’s mission, values, and goals. A virtuous manager will discriminate among all those that he deals with (i.e., customers, suppliers, workers, etc.) based on relevant qualities and personal merits such as ability, competency, performance, and character. He will not improperly discriminate based on irrelevant characteristics such as sex, race, nationality, and so on.[2]

Although individuals can learn from each other, the fact remains that each of us thinks and acts alone and is responsible for his own actions. Independence requires the acceptance of one’s intellectual responsibility for his own existence, requires that a man form his own judgments, and that he support himself by the work of his own mind. It is not a corporation’s fault if someone does not attain his goals. Each employee is responsible for his favorable or unfavorable outcomes in a business setting where responsibilities are defined by, and arise out of, his particular role. Of course, a goal may not be completely under one’s control. It may require interdependence with or on other employees who co-contribute to whether or not someone attains a goal. Positive change and innovation in a company are based on the creativity of logical independent thinkers. It is through such employees that a firm discovers and invents ways to improve the fiscal bottom line thereby increasing the firm’s market value.

Integrity is the refusal to permit a breach between thought and action. It means acting consistently with rational principles that will lead to success and happiness. In business, an employee’s rationally-made plans are integrated with his actions in order to bring values into existence. From more of a macro viewpoint, we could say that the integrity of a business is maintained if the purpose for which it was created is followed (i.e., the maximization of owner value).[3]

Productiveness, the virtue of creating material values, is the act of translating one’s thoughts and goals into reality. Productiveness comprises an important existential component of virtuousness and is a responsibility of every moral person. It involves a commitment to creating value and to being self-responsible for bringing what one needs and wants into existence. Workers in a business are committed to producing wealth and bringing about well-being by taking the actions required to achieve the firm’s mission. Profits are an indicator of productive work on the part of people who want to achieve, produce, and improve well-being. Because people differ with respect to their intelligence, talents, and circumstances, the moral issue becomes how a particular employee addresses his work given his facticity, including his potentialities and concrete circumstances. In a business, the Randian virtues (including productiveness) offer a set of principles for getting the most value from one’s work. Rand’s Objectivist ethics recognizes that individuals search for meaning and purpose in the various components of one’s life (i.e., one’s work life, love life, home life, social life, and so on). Each of these is an end-in-itself and a means to the end of one’s life in total. One’s life in total is an end-in-itself and an ultimate value.

Pride, also called moral ambitiousness, is a man’s commitment to achieving the best in his life thereby effecting his moral perfection. Pride is the reward we earn by living by the other six Objectivist virtues. A businessman’s drive for success is a result of his taking pride in the business portion of his life. Each employee needs to work in a way as to be able to be rightfully proud of what he has done. Work is needed not only for sustenance, but also for one’s psychological well-being—it can be viewed as a means by which a man can maintain an active mind, attain purposes, and follow a goal-directed path throughout his lifetime. Through work a man can achieve his highest potentials. Doing work well in accordance with the goals of a firm (which are aligned with the personal goals of the worker) can cause an employee to positively enhance his self-esteem.

Dr. Edward W. Younkins is Professor of Accountancy at Wheeling Jesuit University. He is the author of Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise [Lexington Books, 2002]. Many of Dr. Younkins’s essays can be found online at his web page at You can contact Dr. Younkins at


[1] Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ethics is specifically related to business and business ethics in Kirkpatrick 1992; Greiner and Kinni 2001; and Hicks 2003.

[2] See Locke and Woiceshyn 1995 for an argument for honesty in business from the perspective of rational egoism.

[3] Paine 1994 provides an interesting perspective on how to manage for organizational integrity.


Arjoon, Surendra. (2000). Virtue theory as a dynamic theory of business. Journal of Business Ethics, no. 28: 159-78.

Greiner, Donna and Theodore Kinni. (2001). Ayn Rand and Business. New York: Texere.

Hicks, Stephen R.C. (2003). Ayn Rand and contemporary business ethics. Journal of Accounting: Ethics and Public Policy 3 (1) (Winter): 1-26.

———. (2009). What business ethics can learn from Entrepreneurship. Journal of Private Enterprise 24 (2): 49-57.

Kirkpatrick, Jerry. (1992). Ayn Rand’s objectivist ethics as the foundation for business ethics. In Business Ethics and Common Sense. Edited by Robert W. McGee. Westport: CT: Quorum Books 67-88.

Locke, Edwin A. (2001). and J. Woiceshyn. (1995). Why businessmen should be honest: The argument from rational egoism. Journal of Organizational Behavior 16: 405-14.

Mintz, Stephen M. (1996). Aristotelian virtue and business ethics education. Journal of Business Ethics, no. 15: 827-38.

Paine, Lynn Sharp. (1994). Managing for organizational integrity. Harvard Business Review 72 (March-April): 106-17.

Rand, Ayn.  (1964). Objectivist ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: New American Library.

Whetstone, J. Thomas. (2001). How virtue fits within business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, no. 33: 101-14.


The Inventor Rag, Op. 18 (2002) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Ragtime composition by Mr. Stolyarov, originally created in December 2002. It portrays the radiant forward strides of the innovative mind.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 1, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.


Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – April 19, 2012

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Categories: Announcements, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TRA’s Resources on Indefinite Life Extension page has been expanded today with links to several engaging articles, some describing recent groundbreaking discoveries in layman-accessible terms.

– “Group Set To Sequence 1000 Genomes By The End Of The Year” – Peter Murray – Singularity Hub – April 4, 2012

– “Nanostars Deliver Cancer Drugs Direct To Nucleus” – Catharine Paddock, PhD – Medical News Today – April 8, 2012

– “Human-machine interfaces: becoming one with our machines” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – April 2012

– “Fullerene C60 administration doubles rat lifespan with no toxicity” – – April 17, 2012

– “Eternal health and youth will soon be possible, scientists say” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – April 17, 2012


Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – April 15, 2012

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TRA’s Resources on Indefinite Life Extension page has been expanded today with links to several hours of highly engaging videos:

Cushing Academy: Panel on Aging – Dr. Aubrey de Grey – December 14, 2009

Aubrey de Grey’s Plan to Stop Aging – BigThink – June 2, 2011

Peter Thiel on “Back to the Future” at Singularity Summit 2011 – October 23, 2011

An Immortal Life? An Evening with Aubrey de Grey – October 26, 2011

Brave New World with Stephen Hawking – Episode 2: Health – January 2012

Brave New World with Stephen Hawking – Episode 5: Biology – January 2012

The false dichotomy of the afterlife – Video by Zinnia Jones – March 8, 2012


Waltz #6, Op. 49 (2007) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Waltz composed by Mr. Stolyarov in December 2007 and played in the Finale 2011 software using the Steinway Grand Piano instrument.

This waltz experiments with harmonies not found in Mr. Stolyarov’s previous works, while remaining true to Mr. Stolyarov’s conviction that music must be pleasant to the ear and convey a joyous, confident sense of life.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 43 (Fractal Snowflake-Gear), available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.


Thoughts on James Sterba’s “Liberty and Welfare” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2012
Recommend this page.

In “Liberty and Welfare” (2007), James P. Sterba of the University of Notre Dame makes an argument that a libertarian society, grounded in the principle of classical enlightened egoism, would be consistent with a government-organized system of welfare, or redistribution of wealth from wealthier to poorer members of the society. There are some areas where I am in agreement with Sterba’s premises, and some areas of difference.

Sterba’s argument, essentially, is that enlightened self-interest renders it legitimate for a person to take the property of another in certain “conflict situations” – cases where doing so would save that person’s life (or not doing so would endanger that person’s life).  I acknowledge that there may be cases where it is legitimate to violate the property right of another in order to save one’s life – but only to the extent actually necessary to save one’s life and only if proper compensation is made afterward. For instance, suppose Person X is ejected from a burning airplane onto the vast estate of Person Y, a wealthy landowner with plenty of fruit orchards. Person Y is an absentee landowner, and is not able to give permission, and it would take Person X several days on foot to leave Person Y’s land. In my view, Person X can legitimately eat some of Person Y’s fruit so as to survive his journey. However, the proper course of action after Person X has returned to his normal life would be for him to contact Person Y and ask whether Person Y desires to be compensated for the fruit that was taken. There is, at that point, a likelihood that Person Y would be generous and overlook the incident, recognizing Person X’s need to survive. But, if this does not happen, Person X could offer Person Y a reasonable payment for the fruit. It is unlikely that Person Y would, for instance, turn down a payment that is several times the fruit’s market value.

As the loss of life is irreversible, while loss of many kinds of property can be undone through adequate compensation, in true emergency situations, it may be justified for someone else’s property to be put to use in truly saving an individual’s life. But this can only be carried out if confined to true emergencies, if done with minimal interference, and if adequate reparations are made afterward.

That being said, what I am referring to are true emergency situations – which are, by definition, acute events that subside after the cause of the emergency has passed. An ongoing situation where one person or a group of people appropriate the belongings of others without the consent of those others is not a justifiable position within a truly free society. Sterba’s paper borders on implying that there exists some group right for “the poor” to expropriate “the rich” without regard for the circumstances of specific individuals having either of these designations or for whether individuals called “the poor” could, in fact, manage to survive without such expropriation. If there is a way not to take another’s property without his consent and to still preserve human life, then that is the course of action that should be pursued.

Ultimately, Sterba’s argument leads to the support of some manner of redistributionist welfare system. Such a system may indeed be justified in an unfree or semi-free society, where artificial political privileges result in a non-meritocratic distribution of wealth – and where, for instance, inefficient and customer-unfriendly firms can achieve market dominance or incompetent individuals can come to control vast resources. The overall level of wealth in such societies is lower compared to a libertarian society, and there may be many “worthy poor” in such societies, who are poor for none of their fault and despite earnest efforts at improving their position. Indeed, the United States at present, with its massive levels of involuntary unemployment resulting from an economic bubble inflated by the Federal Reserve, could be considered to exist in such conditions. Thinkers such as Sheldon Richman have argued that, in such situations, welfare systems can be seen as secondary or “band-aid” interventions to mask or mitigate some of the harmful effects of the primary interventions (e.g., corporate subsidies, barriers to entry into markets, and laws that limit innovation and progress). While the secondary interventions bring their own unintended negative consequences, a national government that only practiced the primary interventions (which benefit and enrich a favored and politically connected elite) would be much worse in its effects. The only aspects of the secondary interventions that might be justified are those aspects that would undo some of the harms of the primary interventions and more closely approximate a meritocratic, individualistic, market-driven outcome.

I contrast “band-aid” welfare measures in a mixed economy – which could be justified – with redistribution of wealth by a government in an otherwise libertarian society – which would not be justified. Such redistribution of wealth would infringe on the justly earned property of numerous individuals, simply because they belong to some arbitrarily designated category (e.g., “the rich” – as defined by some artificial threshold). In a libertarian society, occasional emergencies might arise whereby one or a few people might legitimately avail themselves of the property of another, but only if they compensate the owner fairly afterward. But, by definition, such emergency treatment cannot apply across the board and as a systematic, ongoing matter. Furthermore, unlike the emergency treatment I described, a welfare system by definition redistributes wealth from some people to others, and does not compensate the people whose wealth has been redistributed. In a fully libertarian society, where all wealth is acquired based on the principles of merit and consent, such redistribution would be unjustified and harmful. It would, further, be unnecessary, as practically all people would be massively more prosperous than the majority of people are in today’s Western societies.


A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Politics, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Even after SOPA/PROTECT IP’s demise, assaults on the Internet in its present form have continued on a variety of fronts. Some of these assaults are in the form of legislation, while others are deployed by nominally private entities that in fact thrive on political connections and special privileges. These attempts would limit harmless individual expression and create the presumption of guilt with respect to online activity — quashing that activity until the accused can demonstrate his innocence.

Mr. Stolyarov focuses on four of these assaults: H.R. 3523 – the dubiously named Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), NSA surveillance, ISP/trade-association cooperation, and Arizona’s House Bill 2549.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

– “A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” – Wikipedia
– “Stop Online Piracy Act” – Wikipedia
– “PROTECT IP Act” – Wikipedia
– “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)” – James Bamford – Wired Magazine – March 15, 2012
– “NSA vs USA: Total surveillance zooms-in on Americans” – Video from RT
– “RIAA chief: ISPs to start policing copyright by July 1“- Greg Sandoval – cNet – March 14, 2012
– “American ISPs to launch massive copyright spying scheme on July 12” – Stephen C. Webster – Raw Story – March 15, 2012
– “US ranked 26th in global Internet speed, South Korea number one” – Shawn Knight – TechSpot – September 21, 2011
– “Arizona bill could criminalize Internet trolling” – Chris Morris – Yahoo! Games – April 3, 2012
– “Arizona Wants to Outlaw Trolling by Banning ‘Annoying’ Comments” – Paul Lilly – Maximum PC – April 5, 2012


A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 11, 2012
Recommend this page.

           After massive public outrage and activism by major technology companies in January 2012 put an end to the draconian proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act, one might have expected the US political and media establishments to relent in their attempts to suppress Internet freedom. But the assaults on the Internet in its present form have continued on a variety of fronts. Some of these assaults are in the form of legislation, while others are deployed by nominally private entities that in fact thrive on political connections and special privileges. These attempts would limit harmless individual expression and create the presumption of guilt with respect to online activity – quashing that activity until the accused can demonstrate his innocence. Virtually every attempt is promoted under the guise of one of four motivations: “security” against “terrorist” online activities, copyright protection, protection against pornography, or the simple desire not to be offended.

            Consider H.R. 3523 – the dubiously named Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Like most of the worst bills, it is a “bipartisan” creature, sponsored by Representatives Michael Rogers (R-MI), C. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD), and 29 others. This bill is being advanced with the dual ostensible purpose of “protecting” networks against unspecified “attacks” and enforcing copyright and patent law. The end result of the bill would be a virtually unlimited power of the US federal government (or private companies that would be empowered to “voluntarily” hand over private user data to the federal government) to monitor any and all online activities at any time without a warrant – even if the activities have no relation to online attacks or infringement of patents or copyrights. Furthermore, there is no limitation in CISPA on how the information collected by government agencies and private companies could be used – and no guarantee that it will not be used for purposes other than “cybersecurity.”  Indeed, the agencies to whom CISPA would delegate authority over “cybersecurity” – the National Security Agency and Cybercommand – are military agencies that are permitted to operate in complete secrecy regarding their aims and protocols. This is a common pattern in attempts to gain power over the Internet: a specific series of threats is asserted, but the proposed “remedy” to these threats is so broad and general as to encompass practically every online activity – with no safeguards to preclude nefarious uses, even when including those safeguards would be a matter of basic common sense. This leads to the unsurprising conclusion that the specific threats are a mere convenient excuse for something else.

            The National Security Agency, in the meantime, does not believe that it even requires legal authority (much less Constitutional authority) to construct a massive data center in Bluffdale, Utah (see this article from Wired Magazine and this video from RT) that is intended to capture and store all e-mails, voice mails, online searches, and other Internet activities by all Americans, all under the ostensible aim of somehow enhancing “national security” – as if your phone conversation with a friend or business e-mail could somehow have any conceivable connection to terrorist activity! While this information will do nothing to prevent terrorist attacks, it will allow the federal government to launch investigations of individuals on the basis of information that has hitherto remained off-limits: sensitive health and lifestyle data, details of private lives that individuals would rather not share with the outside world, the misconstrued off-hand remark in an e-mail or text message, legitimate and peaceful entrepreneurship or intellectual expression that are disagreeable to some federal official, or the unintended violation of some obscure federal law that one did not even know existed.  Even today’s deeply convoluted and often inscrutable system of federal laws can be endured by most Americans, simply because the federal government does not have the ability to pry into the minutiae of each of their lives. Of course, there is so much information online that the NSA would not be able to focus on every individual’s activities in real time. But with access to the entire “electronic footprint” of a person, crucial information about such activities could be produced on demand – say, if a powerful politician wished to investigate a vocal critic for tax evasion (as Franklin Roosevelt often did to his political opponents), or if a federal agency sought to catch a prominent activist in an act of indiscretion (as the FBI routinely attempted to do with leaders of the civil-rights movement). Such surveillance will not lead to every technical violation of every obscure prohibition or mandate being recognized and punished – but if you stand out too much and attract notice for other (perfectly legal) reasons, beware!

          Much of the vast information that would come to the NSA would be automatically flagged for containing “suspicious” keywords or patterns of words – without the imposition of a common-sense filter of meaning. There is the real possibility that Americans might be subject to surveillance, investigation, prosecution, or worse, on the basis of a statistical algorithm. The NSA is even working on ways to break some of the codes used by individuals to encrypt their online communications – a deliberate attempt to bypass privacy safeguards which these individuals have intentionally put in place.

            The trade associations for establishment media interests, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have not stopped in their designs to limit internet freedom for people merely suspected of copyright infringement. Having lost the legislative battle (which they will surely attempt to fight again), the RIAA and MPAA have instead decided to partner with the regional-monopoly high-speed internet service providers (ISPs) in order to arrive at a “voluntary” scheme of graduated response against individuals whose usage of Internet bandwidth is deemed “suspicious.”  This arrangement is expected come into effect on July 1, 2012, and would, in practice, largely affect users of torrents (which could be utilized for entirely legal purposes, such as an independent artist or game designer freely “seeding” his own work). The first several times, torrent users would be given warnings and asked to attend RIAA/MPAA-sponsored “educational” courses. Ultimately, after repeated suspicions of “infringement,” the ISPs would be required to severely limit the user’s bandwidth – although it is not clear whether they would be permitted to terminate Internet access for the user altogether. All this would be done without recourse to legal due process, without the presumption of innocence, and without the opportunity for the accused user to demonstrate innocence to a body whose Executive Board will be comprised of RIAA/MPAA leadership anyway.

            While this arrangement may superficially seem like a consensual deal among private trade associations and private ISPs, this is far from the underlying reality. Neither the RIAA/MPAA nor the American ISPs are close to free-market entities. The RIAA and MPAA have routinely attempted to use the force of legislation to limit competition and protect the market dominance of their members – the large film and recording studios whose greatest fear is the open, free, decentralized culture of creation emerging on the Internet. The ISPs grew out of telephone companies with local or regional monopolies on service granted to them by law – a legacy of the breakup of AT&T, which until 1982 was the coercive telephone monopoly in the United States. While the AT&T breakup legalized some measure of competition, it did not provide for a market of truly open entry in each jurisdiction; rather, each of AT&T’s pieces (many of which have since re-consolidated) became a mini-AT&T and has used its monopoly profits to artificially bolster itself in subsequent rounds of technological evolution. As a result of their legal privilege, many large ISPs have been able to engage in quasi-monopolistic practices, including the capping of bandwidth on ostensibly “unlimited” plans, the requirement that customers rent modem equipment which they could easily purchase themselves, byzantine phone “help” lines which seem more designed to deter consumers from calling than to actually offer assistance from real people, and frequent reluctance to improve Internet infrastructure despite the ready technological means to do so. The coercive monopolies of the ISPs have resulted in the United States being in mere 26th place in the world – just slightly ahead of the global average – for Internet download speeds. In South Korea, typical Internet speeds are about four times faster – a tantalizing hint at what a freer, more competitive market could accomplish for consumers.  Some of the greatest harms of unfreedom come not in the form of direct legislative or executive action, but rather from the creatures of unfreedom – the politically privileged entities that would not have existed in a free society and that use their power to make deals amongst themselves at consumers’ expense.

            For those who do not understand that freedom of speech includes freedom to offend, there is a new possible recourse in Arizona’s House Bill 2549 (see here and here), which has already passed both houses of the Arizona Legislature. The bill is intended as a way of deterring online bullying, but it would, among other prohibitions, render it illegal to use “any electronic or digital device” to “annoy or offend” anyone or to “use any obscene, lewd or profane language” – punishable by six months in jail for violations that do not involve actual stalking. If you make a controversial comment about a political or religious subject – or simply offend someone’s tastes in art, sports, or food – you will certainly “annoy” someone and be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. And as for that First Amendment and its guarantee of free speech – bring that up, and you will surely have annoyed someone, so off to jail you go. And if you think that “profane language” is limited to words relating to human bodily functions, a religious fundamentalist might have a rather different understanding of that term, which might involve your disbelief or less fervent belief in the principles of his religion.

          The pattern is clear: a seemingly limited purpose with at least some public sympathy is used as a rationale for unprecedented, sweeping powers of surveillance and punishment – designed to transform the Internet of today from an engine of creativity and individual empowerment into a tamed arm of the establishment. The Internet envisioned by the politicians and lobbyists championing CISPA, NSA surveillance, ISP/trade-association cooperation, and Arizona’s House Bill 2549 is a glorified and technological version of “bread and circuses” for the masses – providing them with plenty of entertainment but within carefully controlled and supervised parameters. The intellectual innovator, the independent artist, the small-scale technologist, the do-it-yourself researcher, the electronic activist, the open-source software designer – all members of the “read-write” Internet culture of individual hyper-empowerment – have no place in the centrally planned world of these political and media elites. The old world in which these elites thrived is rapidly succumbing to the broadly uplifting possibilities of electronic technology – but they will not let their power go without a fight. As the downfall of SOPA and PROTECT IP showed, only massive public outrage can defeat ongoing efforts to limit Internet freedom, the last bastion of largely unfettered liberty that exists in contemporary Western societies. An Internet that continues to be predominantly individualistic and unrestrained can catalyze technological and cultural progress that will make freedom and prosperity in all other areas possible within our lifetimes. An Internet that is placed in shackles will become a mere tragic tool for surveillance and social control.

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