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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: December 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Words of Wisdom from Morgan Freeman

I didn’t catch the 60 Minutes interview between Mike Wallace and Morgan Freeman when it aired, but I heard some highlights of the interview on The Larry Elder (Radio) Show. I later did a search on the web to find the interview and fortunately, the CBS News website has the video of the parts of the interview that piqued my interest. I have always appreciated Morgan Freedman’s talent as an actor, but I had no idea of his philosophical views on life. I’m sure that this is only a small look at what Morgan Freeman is all about, but from what I have heard from him so far…I am very impressed. I felt that these words of wisdom form Morgan Freeman deserved to be repeated here if nowhere else.

Mike Wallace:

“Black History month you find…”

Morgan Freeman:

(Interrupts) “Ridiculous.”

Mike Wallace:


Morgan Freeman:

“You're going to relegate my history to a month?”

Mike Wallace:

“Oh, come on”

Morgan Freeman:

“What do you want me to do with yours? What, which month is White History Month?”

Mike Wallace:

“Well ahhh…”

Morgan Freeman:

“Well, come on.”

Mike Wallace:

“I’m Jewish.”

Morgan Freeman:

“Okay. Which month is Jewish History Month?”

Mike Wallace:

“There isn’t one.”

Morgan Freeman:

“Ohhhhhhh. Why not? Do you want one?"

Mike Wallace:

“No, No,”

Morgan Freeman:

“I don’t either. I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

Mike Wallace:

"How can we get rid of racism?"

Morgan Freeman:

“Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You wouldn't say, ‘Well, I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.’ You know what I'm sayin’?”

Freeman’s previous statement transcends the race issue. He doesn’t want to be known as ‘a black man’ he wants to be known as an individual…an individual named Morgan Freeman. How novel! How refreshing is this? In a time when many of us want to be identified as part of a group, one man stands up and wants to be seen as an individual.

The interview continues…

Morgan Freeman:

“There is racism…”

Mike Wallace:

(agreeing) “Right.”

Morgan Freeman:

“…but racism is not the end all. It’s not the reason for everything, ya know you cannot…I find it, I do find it convenient for a lot of people in a lot of areas to say ‘I couldn’t do this because of racism’. And I, ah, people say ‘Easy for you to say.’ Well yeah it is easy for me to say because of where I am. I mean, where did I come from…I just believe that, ah, if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever it is you want to do. I suspect that people who say ‘I would like to’. ‘I would like to’ is not ‘I want to’. ‘I want to’ means ‘I will’. ‘I would like to’ means ‘maybe…if it becomes convenient’.”

I wonder if Morgan Freeman will receive the same treatment as Bill Cosby for daring to preach such controversial messages as personal responsibility and personal choices?
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Salute to the Fearless Iraqi People

The Iraqi people have once again chosen to participate in the future of their country. Estimates of voter turnout by some reports are as high as 70%. These people have risked their very lives to participate in a process we all too often take for granted. According to a report from Iraq the Model, a 65 year-old disabled man by the name of Jasim Hameed arrived early to the polls determined to be the first in line to vote in Babylon. ITM quotes Hameed as stating: "I'm here at this early hour to challenge the terrorists who want to kill the democratic process in Iraq and I want to encourage the healthy people to vote”.

The historical significance of what is happening in Iraq cannot be overstated. This event that we are witnessing could rival the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolizing the collapse of the Soviet Union. Maybe President George W. Bush got it right after all? Maybe this is the ‘noble cause’ the anti-war folks have been asking about.

No one can say for sure what the end result of this election will be. Could the Iraqi people have elected a government worse than its predecessor? It is possible. I tend to think, however, that most people desire liberty over tyranny when given a choice. In time we will all know for sure what decision the Iraqis made.

For full coverage of the Iraq Parliamentary Vote, visit Iraq the Model.
Hat tip: Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade.
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Friday, December 16, 2005

Fearless Philosophy Flashback: Christmas Under Attack?

Originally posted 12/16/04

Over the past several years, a new phenomenon seems to have overtaken the country. What used to be Christmas trees when I was a boy are now referred to as holiday trees. Christmas lights have similarly become holiday lights and Christmas parties are now holiday or winter parties. You may have also noticed at stores such as Mervyn’s no longer wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’ but simply a ‘Happy Holiday.’ What’s going on here?

Many conservative pundits feel that Christmas is under attack. While there are some rather anal retentive scrooges out there trying to completely remove Christmas from the calendar, I don’t believe that most people and businesses such as Mervyn’s, who prefer to replace the word ‘Christmas’ with ‘holiday,’ fit into this category. Retailers have found themselves in a no-win situation. If they use the term ‘Christmas,’ they might offend customers who celebrate another holiday such as Hanukah. If they want to play it safe and wish everyone a ‘Happy Holiday,’ they run the risk of offending certain Christians who believe their holiday is the only holiday celebrated in December. Ultimately, retailers do not care what holiday customers choose to celebrate as long as they buy lots and lots of merchandise, particularly during this season; a season many of them count on to make the majority of their profits for the year. It really isn’t anymore complicated than that.

When it comes to the holidays, I think everyone should not take anyone’s ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ to heart; take it in the spirit the person intended. I know this may anger many traditionalists but the truth of the matter is that when you live in a country that is made up of many other cultures and beliefs, there will be people who celebrate certain holidays and will not celebrate others. You can not force someone to celebrate Christmas can you?

There are certain pundits who would like to do just that. I have heard certain radio personalities say that they are on a mission to put ‘Christmas in your face’. One of these pundits said that when someone wishes him a ‘Happy Holiday’ he’ll respond and say: “Hey pal, it’s Christmas! Just celebrate it okay!” Do we have to be that intolerant of how others want to wish us well?

We should be thankful that there are people out there who respect us enough to wish us a ‘Happy Holiday.’ Using this term is a way to express to others that you want them to enjoy the holiday season, whatever holiday it may be; not a way to express one’s disdain for Christmas.

At the risk of offending everyone, with the intent of offending no one, I want to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, a Festive Festivus, a Wonderful Winter Solstice (Did I leave anyone out?), and a prosperous New Year!

Related posts/articles:
Crucifying Santa Claus by Icarus Goodman
Christmas Should be More Commercial by Leonard Peikoff
Christmas or Xmas? an audio blog on the National Atheists website.
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Friday, December 09, 2005

Some Thoughts on the Death Penalty

The impending execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams has pushed the question of the death penalty to the front of my mind. As recently as four years ago I supported the death penalty 100%. My thinking at the time was ‘an eye for an eye’. After the execution of Timothy McVeigh, my thinking began to change. The execution of McVeigh was not by any stretch an eye for an eye. The U.S. government gave this home-grown terrorist the gift of a peaceful and humane death; a gift the same government is trying to deny suffering individuals who want to end the suffering and leave this world with a modicum of dignity. I’m not so much opposed to the death penalty as I am how it is carried out in the United States. I suppose if it were carried out the right way, I would be more inclined to support the death penalty but I think there are better ways to punish murderers and deliver a measure of justice to victims’ families that no execution ever will.

The Death Penalty is Too Humane
Maybe there are others out there who oppose the death penalty because it is too humane. Why do I say that? A person sentenced to death spends decades appealing his sentence wasting the courts time, is allowed to have visitors, and is allowed comforts such as books, magazines, televisions, and workout facilities. If and when the execution does go forward, he is visited by a clergyman and a last meal of his choosing. The execution requires little or no pain; sterile needles are injected into the arms and the lethal dose sedates the condemned followed by a tranquil death.

If it where up to me, this is how the death row inmates would be treated:

- An individual who is sentenced to death would have one automatic appeal; no other appeals would be allowed unless new findings of exculpatory evidence are discovered.

- The execution would be carried out within six months of conviction.

- During the six months, the only contact with the outside world would be from hand written letters until the day of execution. If he or she is illiterate or can otherwise not write that’s just too damn bad.

- No books, magazines, televisions, or workout facilities would be available.

- No visits from a clergyman and no magistrate would be allowed to say “May God have mercy on your soul.” Why do we want to help the worst among us find ‘salvation’ and make them believe they are going to heaven after repeating a few lines? Unconditional forgiveness (for lack of a better term) is one of my many complaints with religion; some things (such as murder and rape) are unforgivable in my view. The very thought that perhaps the victim of a murder commits a comparatively minor sin (such as telling a white lie) is sent to hell while the person who killed him goes to heaven after ‘finding Jesus’ on death row infuriates me (doesn’t everyone find Jesus on death row?). Or maybe the victim of the murder is ‘saved’ and meets his or her murderer in heaven (probably the last person the victim would want to see). Maybe I’ll explore the whole ‘unconditional forgiveness’ thing some other time. Fortunately, I do not believe in such things: this life is all we have, don’t blow it!

-The victim’s family would decide what the last meal will be. If the family does not want to make a choice, the soon-to-be-executed thug would be served a loaf of bread (no butter) with water.

-The condemned would have no more than one hour of visitation by friends and family immediately before the execution.

-Last words would be limited to five minutes.

-The governor could not commute the sentence; the governor should not have the ability to second-guess the jury’s decision.

-The manner of execution would be similar to how the victims were murdered.

Would Life Without Parole Be a Better Alternative?
Even if the death penalty was carried out in the way I described, I still would have my reservations. The basic moral question is: Does the state have the authority to kill? I am very hesitant to say the government should have any such authority. If even one innocent person has been wrongfully executed, that is too many. The only alternative I can see is life in prison without parole. Actually, I am quite fond of Bill O’Reilly’s idea: instead of sending the worst dregs of society to their death, put them in work camps in Alaska. Eight hours of hard labor everyday in the harshest environment possible. No visitation – ever. No contact with the outside world. No books, television, cigarettes, or anything a person might take pleasure in.

In the event a person was later exonerated by new evidence, not only would the state be required to release him, but the state would also be required to pay the wrongfully imprisoned person a significant sum of money (say $1 million for each year incarcerated?). As horrible as it would be to lose many years of life behind bars that could never be taken back, at least the state could try to set things right. Once a person is executed, there is no going back.

Back to Reality
Unfortunately, I am not confident that any such steps will ever be taken. Monsters like Stanley “Tookie” Williams will continue to have the ability to make endless appeals, write books ‘to prove’ that he’s a good person now and perhaps be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Sympathetic writers will continue to write screen plays and imbecilic celebrities will portray him in a positive light telling us simpletons why he was wrongfully convicted. Victim’s families will continue to be victimized psychologically, and in death the victimizer may even become some sort of martyr. Martyrdom seems to be en vogue these days with terrorists (which includes Williams). As conflicted as I am about the death penalty, I certainly hope Governor Schwarzenegger does not cave in to these sympathetic pleas for clemency. Though Stanley “Tookie” Williams will receive an all too painless death, at least he will be dead.
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Monday, December 05, 2005

Sometimes I Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me…

…or at least my blogging activity. Someone in The Watcher of Weasels Council Nominated my John Locke post to be considered among 12 other posts in the ‘non-council links’ category. After the final tally, my Locke post finished in seventh place. As much as I would have liked to win, I am very honored to be nominated among some other very fine posts. The winning post from the category is from American Future titled: The New York Times on Iraq, 1993-2005. So far I have only read the first couple of paragraphs but what I have read is very good and worthy of the first place pick.

On a related note, my Locke post was chosen by Carnival of Vanities #167 and File it Under host Hoodlumman as the “Top Shelf” pick of the carnival which had some 37 entries (my third place pick for the November Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month was also among the “Top Shelf” picks). I am very honored and I appreciate the recognition Hoodlumman. Thank you.

After putting so much time researching and relating my impressions of John Locke and his writings, I am very heartened by the positive response to my first post of the Fearless Philosopher series. I feared that the post would be too long for most people to enjoy but I have received mostly positive responses both on and off this site. I don’t know when I will have my next Fearless Philosopher post ready, but hopefully I’ll have it posted sooner than later (maybe sometime January?). After writing a post that long, however; I think I’ll give myself and my readers a break from long posts.

UPDATE: Marty at Speckblog is working on his own series on John Locke. Marty's series compares and contrasts the philosophies of John Locke vs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. So far he has completed part one of the series titled: Locke and Rousseau, Round 1. If you want to follow the rest of the series, I'll leave that up to you.
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Friday, December 02, 2005

Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month (November 2005)

There were a number of extraordinary posts in the month of November. Take a look at Carnival of Liberty XIX, XX, XXI, XXII and the newly-minted blog called The Liberty Papers and you will see what I mean. After much consideration, these are the top posts I came up with for November 2005.

Third Place goes to Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog with his post Statism Comes Back to Bite Technocrats. The Democrat Party had control of the federal government for the better second-half of the 20th Century. In this period many government institutions were created. Those in the seats of power believed that they knew better how to regulate the lives of the average citizen; the individual could not be trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions. As long as the ‘right’ people remained in power, everything would work out fine. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, do Democrats wish they had left more power in the hands of the individual? Unfortunately the answer is no; they only wish that they were micromanaging our lives rather than the Republicans.

Meyer writes:

I am reminded of all this because the technocrats that built our regulatory state are starting to see the danger of what they created. A public school system was great as long as it was teaching the right things and its indoctrinational excesses were in a leftish direction. Now, however, we can see the panic. The left is freaked that some red state school districts may start teaching creationism or intelligent design. And you can hear the lament - how did we let Bush and these conservative idiots take control of the beautiful machine we built? My answer is that you shouldn't have built the machine in the first place - it always falls into the wrong hands. Maybe its time for me to again invite the left to reconsider school choice.
Not only should ‘the machine’ never been built, it should be destroyed. The question of how is a matter of tactics: should we continue to follow the Libertarian Party’s all-or-nothing approach to reducing the size and scope of government or do we dismantle the machine one piece at a time? The second place submission is an analysis of this very debate.

Second Place goes to R.G. Combs of Combs Spouts Off with his post: Rothbard, Rand, and real politics. Combs’ answer to my question is that those of us who prefer a smaller government should incrementally work toward change. I have long ago reached that same conclusion: the government we have today was not created in one day by one statist party but was created over many decades by two increasingly statist leaning parties with the support of a largely apathetic public. This machine will not be brought down in one day either. Unfortunately, those of us who have higher ideals (i.e. individual rights, personal responsibility, and limited government) often find ourselves so beholden to our ideals that we are no longer dealing with the real world. As difficult as this is, I try to keep my eye on the real world and it seems that Combs does as well (though I wish I were as optimistic as he is).

Combs explains:

I think the intellectual climate has moved fairly significantly in the direction of liberty in the past 40-50 years…


I think there's plenty of evidence that collectivism has retreated dramatically among intellectuals. Unfortunately, altruism still completely dominates ethics, but even there, I see signs of progress. Discussions of self-esteem and self-fulfillment -- even "enlightened self-interest" -- have chipped away at the view that our primary goal should be to sacrifice ourselves to others...
I suppose there has been some movement in the right direction. Combs goes on with his post in an attempt to prove this is the case. Combs’ case-in-point: the liberalization of concealed carry laws over the years.

Combs continues:

When the modern concealed carry movement began in the mid-80s, I believe there were only six states in which any significant number of persons were authorized to carry a weapon concealed -- and most of them were retired cops and cronies of politicians and police chiefs. Today, 37 states have "shall-issue" laws, meaning that anyone meeting minimal qualifications (no criminal record, maybe some type of training) must be issued a permit…

But look what these incremental, state-by-state gains over 20 years have accomplished. When Florida led the way in 1987, the anti-gunners predicted blood in the streets and Wild-West shootouts over traffic altercations. Such nonsense no longer has any credibility…


So, do you think libertarians arguing for a "Vermont carry" system, with no permit required, are more or less likely to be taken seriously today than 20 years ago?

This is Combs' second appearance in the top three (Combs first appeared in the top three as the July 2005 second place selection).

And the winner is…
The Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month for the Month of November goes to Francois Tremblay of The Radical Libertarian with his post: Anti-consumerism and the war against the poor. If you are anti-consumerism then you are helping the poor right? Not according to Tremblay:

This belief is that consumption is an inherent evil, a product of unnecessary greed, which is bad for our moral fiber or religious fervour and can only be tempered by some form of economic collectivism or social engineering. However, this belief, while being explicitly an attack against the most prosperous amongst us, is really part of the war against the poor. While all these collectivist belief systems preach equality, they promote radically assymetrical systems with strong ruling classes. Sacrifice religions have their clergical ruling classes, communism and nazism had their dictatorial ruling classes. Both stand to benefit the most from the suffering of the masses, in that they can channel that suffering for their own utilitarian ends…


The masses are the most vulnerable to economic conditions and the availability of cheap products. Take health care, for example. Socialists in Canada always say that a capitalist health care system creates a "two-level" system that is bad for the poor. And yet that is what we already have in Canada today : friends of the state and celebrities get VIP treatment, and the rich can always go to the United States for treatment. The social elite can compensate for bad economic dynamics better than the masses can. Joe Sixpack need Wal-Mart, but Kevin Costner doesn't. Once again, this comes back to the notion I already discussed of capitalism being a boon for the masses more than for the ruling classes.
Congratulations to this month’s winners! Since the first and second place posts touch on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, I would like to encourage those of you who haven’t already read my post The Virtue of Selfishness to do so. I’m sure many of you are very well versed in Objectivism but for those of you who are not, the idea of putting one’s own selfish intersets first may seem radical (and it indeed is since most of us believe selfishness is immoral). While I am selfishly promoting one of my posts, I think it might also help explain where Combs and Tremblay are coming from.

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